Day-Dreaming of Fish. Or, “Teaching Her How to Swim Good” (The Prelude)
Lately I find myself startled by my stuckness, staring at the ceilings, daydreaming of fish. Fish would normally lead one to believe a birth is on the way. I mean, there is a bump and a baby in it, who is already riding the water wave of breaking, finding her little grip on the world with a balled fist. I think all of my dreams are now flying inside of her chest. But maybe it’s more than that, than this. It feels like the fall will last forever, like the leaves will stay on the ground with the rain wash that normally follows this kind of weather in New York City. The temperature kind of calls for it.
Anyway, the fish. I see them on the platform, dangling over the train tracks, with the lovers waiting for the express ride and in need of coffee and me in need of something or someone to come that is bigger than what I’m in. And what I’m in just ain’t big enough for me feet anymore. Ha…I actually meant to say “my” and now I feel more Caribbean than I have in a minute. My momma would smile. I’m outgrowing the growth, and maybe the person that brought the fish is the reason I see the fish. That person being ladybug. Like the sea is already flowing through her. And I can taste the salt but can’t feel my hands so I must be swimming or drowning, or whatever hood niggas do when they wear their gym shorts to the community pool because their mommas couldn’t afford those cool little lessons the 92Y offers. I took an advanced poetry writing class there and was all stoked because I was the only Black face in there, like that’s some accomplishment to be the only one, like you get off on knowing you’re special, maybe not because of your gifts, but because of your color, your ever-present and flourishing melanin, which is kinda a gift in its own way. I was using it to prove to myself that I deserved the distinction to be in a space that I know we don’t always get a seat at. Look at you, finally afforded the opportunity to sit at the For Whites Only table. You go boy! You run a victory lap in your head over and over, “All About the Benjamins”, Jada’s verse on repeat on the treadmill your brain is made of. All those synapses, snapping off.
You think you made it, but you haven’t. So you read more books from more lists made by White people about other White people who are all dead or who are snarky and reek of old America and establishments and distilled hubris because this is what they taught you in that school built by White hands with White teachers with those books with all those White people in them and you take that list after you leave the White school and head to your Black home with liquor stores owned by Latinos and bodegas run by Indians to eat food from the Chinese restaurant run by Koreans and walk by the homeless Black man and the angry Black man and the corner full of other angry Black men and you hug your West Indian mother who is a Black mother by default cause you and I know the census don’t mean shit and you try to make sense of all these colors that seem to look so amazing in the spectrum that is a rainbow but are dulled when put against White, pale (haha, pale) in comparison to White; colors whitewashed by Whiteness.
You're thinking maybe the fish are a symbol of a certain kind of freedom that doesn't really exist in your flesh, that never really existed before she announced her departure from the sky and floated into a womb. The room she'll be birthed in has a tub. I don't know how she'll come, and when, but she'll be here. And I'll count the toes and legs and hands and fingers and listen for her and wait for the skin-to-skin action I've been dying to get in on. I see fish but she has a stuffed bunny in her bassinet, and I imagine elephants all over her palace. But, fish. They're the signal, I'm guessing. Because of the water. Water purifies and cleanses. And there will be lots: puddles, and rain boot trying on and bath time and swimming lessons at 92Y because she will have a swim suit and will know how to swim, and will know the difference between the Atlantic and Pacific, both in mass and shape and will have seen both because you and her mom have both agreed she will have more than we would have ever know what to do with when we were her age.
Love is not enough; neither are dreams. But, I will support both in her, my little starfish. When my brothers and I were younger, mama used to say "Turn off all those lights! You think I work for Con Edison??!" or the classic "Ma Bell ain’t my mother!" when it came to my brother D jonesing on the phone with hunny dips. Love isn't enough. I'd eat the ends of the cold fried chicken from the Chinese take-out my big bro would leave in the fridge, and I'd chew on those grains of yellow rice when there was nothing else but corned beef and Spam and Vienna Sausages. Love is not enough. No heat, so you opt for your winter coat in the house instead. Again, the need for more. But, she won't have that kind of worry. Because I am transfixed by the waves, the ones she will emit when the floating gets done. And I loved through it, and dreamed a little too, and now she'll have choices and options. And fish. And that will do. It must.