The Ripple Effect
This past week was a lesson in aloneness and how it can work against you. I’ve always been a loner and that could be attributed to the times I spent in my room as a child — finding ways to entertain myself. The first words I shared came in the form of poetry — even before I understood the stylings.
The sublet I’ve been inhabiting for about a year — suddenly became too small this past week — when I was up every night — battling a sinus congestion. We’ve battled the symptoms of very bad colds — that leave us restless for any level of relief. This time my nostrils were closing in on me with the audacity of something much more potent and deadly.
Around 11:49 pm on a Thursday night — I began to perspire with urgency as the panic attack of labored breathing and sporadic dizziness tossed me out of bed and into the arms of nothing but the air that I couldn’t breathe.
As I paced around the tiny studio in the dark — I started imagining a scenario that would put me near someone who lives for the moments of distress that call for that tender loving care. For the first time in like forever — I felt truly rejected and vulnerable to the inconsistencies of being conveniently single — until it’s no longer ideal.
The breathing exercise didn’t work and I was back at my bedside searching for my phone. I found it on the floor and picked it up as I turned on the light and noticed that it was way past midnight. The silence was deafening as my beating heart provided the soundtrack to my impending doom.
What if I died here — all alone — in my tank top and roomy underwear — with my eyes wide open in disbelief and my cold skin — damp with the sweat that I worked up for nothing?
We spend every waking hour keeping ourselves occupied with the tools that are tasked with that exact mission — and when push comes to shove — and we’re faced with the reality of our common existence — there’s a deep sadness that erupts at the prospect of suffering alone.
I survived the long and weary night with the growing suspicion that I was either suffering the effects of a mold-infested compartment — or my nostrils were chronically dried out from the over-indulgence of a favorite habit.
Either way — I needed to get out.
I found the exit via my one of my oldest friends who looks twenty-five but is actually much older. She got the call and readily answered — and so off I went.
Los Angeles isn’t New York City.
You can’t spontaneously hop on a train and end up where you need to be in record time. But, I managed to get the bus to appear just when I needed it the most — and the ride was a haze of stuffiness and the triumph of keeping my eyes open long enough to spot my stop at the bottom of the hill.
When the door swung open — the relief of familiarity overcame me as I stumbled in and plopped on the couch with no words and a face featuring a thousand words. Her adorable grandson — who was already used to me was in the bedroom — gaming.
The peace of not being alone in a time of confusion borne from a crisis that was unfolding into unknown territory was both comforting and loving.
Some people turn to social media for the attention of strangers that can possibly relate to the current storm that doesn’t seem to be passing by — regardless of time limits. I could’ve been sprawled out on my couch — heaving from the dry air — and posting threads of how and why I was still active — at an ungodly hour.
Instead, I chose to be around the support system of a a dear friend who made me feel like I wasn’t the loneliest girl in The Valley.
The next day — brought new adventures — as my physical calamity was still very much in effect — but not as stifling as it would’ve been if I were trudging along with no witnesses.
We decided to head out to the J. Paul Getty Museum — a gorgeously erected haven that caters to anyone with enough time and energy to spare. It’s an impressive spread that has enough charm to envelop the attention of amazingly hyper eight-year-olds.
The three of us entered the tram and watched the traces of our movements against the picturesque backdrop. Once we disembarked it was straight to the business of mid-afternoon exploration under the tutelage of a kid that reminded me so much of who I was when our ages matched.
As with most young boys — he wanted to stay outside — with the elements that he could dance with to our thunderous applause. Outside sculptors, pillared fountains and ornamented structures — glistened in the sun and provided the fanciful maze that we adhered to — with the assistance of a boy who was too young to comprehend how his privilege could possibly be handicapped — at short notice.
I couldn’t stop smiling outwardly as I nursed the renderings of Tamir Rice — and how he would have enjoyed a day like this — if only he hadn’t been sucked into the betrayal of his controversial demeanor.
My nostrils were slowly making way for some much needed deep breaths and the reassurance of an overdue break-through. My friend and I were eager to head inside — but her little one needed more time to make wishes — with the aid of coins and pebbles that needed to be dramatically thrown into the fountain.
When he ran out — I provided more and the ritual continued — only this time — I paid attention.
I gleefully mentioned “the ripple effect” and he immediately jumped into the contest of creating the best there ever was. His childish reaction only helped to intensify the imagery of hits. I could see the waves of love responding on contact — and confirming my healing disposition.
The security of family that can be man-made when the feelings are easy enough to define. I had to recall the first time I met one of the most important women in this boy’s life. It was a little over a decade ago — we were two of four Black women working at one of the top talent agencies in the business and she was the only one who stopped by to introduce herself.
I was sold after that. We bonded and even during trying times — we managed to forge a sisterhood that saw us through the periods of duress, which inadvertently created the seal of life-long commandments.
After the coin tossing stint wore off — we veered off to other pastures and during a short interlude — I observed my darling friend with the grandson who naturally looks like her son — and made the mental snapshot.
Family extends past the blood vows that are uttered without consent.
I have my people and I love them dearly — and even though they are far away — I still summon the validity of how they apply when nostalgia creeps in. But, when the present leaves you scarily breathless and in need of care — you are bound to a commitment that brews more satisfaction than a last minute booty call.
The ripple effect is no coincidence and it happens from learned interference and the openness of strangers who can’t wait for your ever-evolving profile to complete its desired numbers — before reaching out.
They choose to add you to the spreading virus of humanity and the possibility of a casual lunch turning into the building blocks of life’s offerings.
She had a child who had a child — and being able to partake in that joy was heart-wrenchingly symbolic in a way that evoked my feelings of dread as I ceremoniously conceded my inability to ever replicate what she has conceived.
Despite the regrets of not being impregnated at just the right time or not being able to recruit the crush from back when such a thing was my thing — I was still able to breath again with the help of open spaces and the two champs that surrounded me with tender loving care.
At the end of the day — the lowered sun led us to separate places and I was controlled by the calm of knowing that no matter how alone I will feel when I step out of the car and wave goodbye — there was no escaping the effect of being embedded in the memory of the boy — who created a masterpiece when he threw the pebble in the water and walked away with pride.
The love continues without me and when he remembers I will be alive again — and it won’t require millions of dollars or million dollar installations.
It’s the ripple effect. It’s art teaching art how to be artfully humane. If you ever need to perfect the technique — let the love flow past blood and into the crevices of an eight-year-old boy who has already mastered the ties that bind.
The effects are staggering.