We moved out of the city and into the yawning expanse of the suburbs a few days after my twenty-fifth birthday. My fiance, always one to guzzle the clear poison of mouth-numbing optimism, barely lamented the loss of our diverse Brooklyn neighborhood. Although I’d been raised in the nondescript and cloistered confines of small-town America, I knew that I would miss the liberation of anonymity. Walking the streets without feeling like a sloppy spectacle. Engaged in a community that was constantly reading, reading, reading; on the subway, on the bus, in coffee shops, poring over mildewed pages in the flat silence of the libraries. A member of a nomadic tribe, strung together by the thinnest of spiderwebs.
Small town living produced a needling sense of paranoia. The need to uncover the innermost details of a stranger’s life, right down to the veins of the secrets, because it was easier to judge thy neighbor than love thy neighbor. My parents still lived in my New Jersey hometown in the same house with a spruce tree that seemed to permanently shed larger clusters of needles than the year before. My mom was black and born in America, while my father was originally from Trinidad. They were quite the sharp pair, my mom dressing up just to run to the grocery store, my father believing in God and a good pair of genuine leather shoes, both always spotting new patterns, ticks, behaviors of anti-blackness. Yet no matter how much they complained, my parents had yet to make any plans of escape. They were rooted in place by the fear of further disappointment.
My fiance, Aaron, was a bona-fide city kid long disenchanted with his country, thoroughly sick of the scorched earth army of Wall Street-funded corporate office buildings and chain stores and luxury apartments with climbing rents that hit like a cheap sucker punch to the mouth. His father had died before we’d even met and his mother served as his curious example of reflexive idolatry. They were not the closest of mother and son, but Aaron’s love was unpersuadable, mere genetics cementing a spiritual bond, the fickle mistress with her voodoo-controlled child. Aaron wanted to eventually get his mother out of the city, though I didn’t know why because both of us knew that she would never leave. He insisted that the “peace and quiet” would do her good, that she could live in a place where she didn’t need a deadbolt on her door, and drug dealers weren’t loitering around the way. It didn’t bother me that Aaron wanted his mother to experience a change of scenery; it frustrated me that he’d elevated the suburbs to Holy Grail mysticism. Inevitably, it was something that sneaked its horned head into our conversations, whether we were discussing that night’s dinner menu or how we were going to scrounge together the rest of the approaching rent....Read More