by essayan hart

Niko had an incredibly high sensitivity to electrical sounds. At night, he refused to charge his phone in whatever motel room or living room we shared. The noise, he would say, it’s terrible.  I never really got it.  I find myself vacillating between pride in my desensitization (i can navigate any environment without hesitation), and humiliation. Witches with cars and bicycles, attempting to hear the weaver weaving… who are we if we cant hear the whitest of white noise.  It’s a silence without silence. It’s deafening.

This hotel room boasts every possible convenience. The high thread count sheets are quiet. The lights, the television, even turned off, is loud. Everything is loud. It made me think of Niko, and then get a little uncomfortable, like I’d worn a shirt one size too small, or used the wrong shampoo. Old lovers are like that, sometimes even in reflection. They don’t quite fit. We eventually stop trying to make them fit, and then feel resentful when they look good on someone else.  They wander by and we wonder what their hair smells like these days. We hold them for a moment too long.

I wanted to stay in this hotel because of the pictures.  Orange, pink and lime green. Reminiscent, when well executed, of a citrus garden in full bounty. In poor taste, you might  end up feeling like you’ve slept inside a creamsicle.  It turned out to be less dramatic than expected. The curtains take a turn for the drab in olive and cream. It could be a psych ward, but I might need one soon, so I’ll stay.

I am, most likely, the only non-Christian here.

What brought you here?  They all ask.

1. It was a free vacation.
2. My school sent me. (Include a description of your school, and your own religion. Keep it short and simple.)
3. I’m curious to see what I could learn.

Tonight in the workshop I attended, they had some great ideas. They are worried about youth buying in to pop culture, but they frame it as a god-surrogate. I could agree. G_d and I are tight. Like a nightmare and the horse she rides. Stunning. Still I think they are missing the point, and I say so.

Advertising preys on our hunger for G-d. No doubt. But that guy up there just said that instead of Apple Computers, we should help them realize that they want the blood of Christ. Talk about branding.

I open my mouth around these faithful, and I am never sure what I will say.  Sitting at the dinner table talking with the girl next door and an indie rock outfit built for two, I hear my self sparring. The moment conversion is your aim in connecting with a young person, you might as well put a nail in their coffin.  The girl-next-door agreed.  Then I remembered that there are some Christians I like and took a bite of my salad.  Then I turned to my left, to 100 percent of the African American population of the room. She is laughing at her phone. My best friend back in Oakland texting me. I told her I was the only Black woman here and she said well baby, look around. Happy Black History Month. We laugh louder than the room is large, and finish our juice.

Look at those pretty pictures of brown people up there.
We wave our arms in fanfare.
. In theory.

When I’m sure someone might have issues with my own identity, I tell them everything really fast and sweet. I frame what is required to maintain my respect, covertly. For example, Oh, you’re Presbyterian. I was raised Presbyterian. We had an excellent youth minister who was queer friendly. That was so valuable to me and my friends. I smile broadly and look for the tell tale signs. The hunter knows when the deer will bolt. I hold their gaze and wait.

Oh, I need to find my friends to see if…. x, y, z.
It’s okay, you’ve told me everything I need to know. 

When the night wears me threadbare, I slip out the back door. I just heard reference to the book of Revelation. I heard something about putting limits on everything. Everything has its place. The keynote speaker is expounding on creativity and G-d in bullet point. She isolates G-d from Chaos. I’m laughing to myself, and figure that I’ve already made quite an impression.  I sing Belle and Sebastian songs on my way to the car. I slip the key card into this little asylum. Two dollar coffee, four dollar granola bar. I handle these items, one at a time, and take nothing.