I keep thinking about sex in the context of love and love in the context of survival and survival in the context of leading a full, happy and safe life. I am not in a relationship because I haven’t met anyone I feel a connection to, also because I think I’m still in some sort of love with my ex-boyfriend. Usually I would feel some twinge of longing and loneliness, some sort of nostalgia for a relationship, but in the past year my gratitude grows that I don’t have a man to share my life with. If I had a man he would probably be black, and judging from my size he would definitely be tall, and possibly be big. Judging from my tastes he would have dark skin and he would be smart, interesting, and aware of the world around him and why it is how it is.
He might also be shot. Or roughed up by the cops, or thrown in jail on some flimsy pretext or forced to stand there and watch while some cop molests me under the guise of patting me down, like in the movie “Crash”. He might stop being safe the minute he leaves my arms and he might hold his tongue to avoid being brutalized and be called shifty or insist on his rights to avoid being victimized and be called threatening. He could have every permit, every license, all the registration, all the credentials, all the degrees, all the stuff we think will make us a little more human in their eyes, and still not make it home.
If I had a man I would be scared to death, all the time. I’m already scared all the time. For my brother, for my cousins, for my uncle. It is draining. It makes me wilt with hopelessness, the fear for them. And if I had a man I would love him…differently. Greater, perhaps. More fervently, more personally. The extent to which it would break my heart if something happened to him, the desire to protect him and never let him leave my bed, would be…intense. My love for him would be…sticky, in a way that it isn’t for the men I’m related to. And him getting hurt would wreck me. First it was Trayvon Martin then it was Eric Garner then it was Michael Brown then it was Akai Gurley then it was Tamir Rice then it was Walter Scott then it was Freddie Gray then it was Alton Sterling then it was Philando Castile and now some crazy people are going around picking cops off like deer. How do you love a black man in a world like this? How does he love you when he is filled with fear and rage and disappointment? What do you tell the sons who are born of that love?
When my friend told me that what happens on some street somewhere with some cop somewhere has nothing to do with her personal relationship with her man I told her she was wrong. We live in a world with external stimuli, we move and breathe and function in spaces that are so much bigger than the sum of us. Every time the person you are with is terrified, that fear is in his touch, every time he is incensed, that anger is in his kiss, every time he is lost, that desolation is in his love. It’s not that he is bringing his baggage home or taking things out on you, it’s that what he is holding is not luggage. He’s not carrying it in his hands, he’s not keeping it in his pockets, it’s embedded in his skin. The weight of the world is inside him and every time he is inside you what is happening in Louisiana and Missouri is too. The hope is that what he feels is something he gives you access to, something he lets you carry some of, something he uses to hold you tighter instead of to push you away.
Somewhere, sometime, when I was in college, I read something that said that for a black man and a black woman to love each other, in a world that seeks to make us hate ourselves, is an act of revolution. I believed it then but I would swear by it now. So I remind myself that I am part of this revolution. I remind myself that though I cannot keep a black man safe I can keep him loved. I remind myself that black men can love me in a way that let’s me see my fullest self in their eyes, and in loving them back I find in myself the very best of my ability to protect and adore and hope. I can sign petitions, I can write my representatives, I can march, I can contribute to the Kickstarter for Alton Sterling’s kids. Though it doesn’t seem like it will matter I can do something. I can love my brother, I can love my cousins, I can love my uncle, I can love my male friends. Fiercely, with abandon, as if the world were ending right now and I might not get another chance.
I can call them and cry with them and make them laugh and remind them of their power and their strength and their grace. I can remind them that black women aren’t immune from danger, from a system that kills, and that we hurt for their hurt but we also carry hurt that is entirely our own — and as we comfort them they must comfort us. But most importantly, I can give them the space to feel. The permission to shake their fists at the sky and burst into tears at the injustice of it all. I can give them the right to cry, the right to not have it all together every minute of the day. That is what I can do for the men I love. And if I was in a relationship with a black man I could be kind to him and patient with his pain.
I could take him to an amusement park, or to an arcade, or to ride bumper carts, or to the beach, or anywhere else where he can be a kid again and life can be uncomplicated and something close to free. Then I could take him home and put some music on and wear my sexiest lingerie and fuck his brains out. I could find us just one minute where we have the space to forget that the world is not a fair place and the darkness around us is deep.
F.N. is a thirty something Ghanaian free-lance writer who alternates between Accra and Washington, DC.