In the same way I had plans to grow, to evolve, to discover myself in new contexts, so did the questions that followed me.
But, in that moment, I saw her as none of that, because I couldn’t see her.
As the questions multiplied, they took on more disturbing forms, especially since she, who just said “Nigger girl,” had met my mother, a Black woman.
Due to a foolhardy mix of “the wrong stuff,” I couldn’t sleep. I told her about how when my Jamaican grandmother came to America, she thought snow was cotton falling from the sky.
This woman, though she had work in the morning, remained awake, silent, listening to me.
All of this kindled a romantic fire inside of me that was white-hot before our lips ever touched.
I turned the phrase over in my mind, like when my high school girlfriend said “nigger girl.” But the incongruity between her words and smile didn’t paralyze me like the phrase “nigger girl” did.
At the time, I believed the experiences were not equal.
I may have said, “Oh, cool.” Or possibly smiled back at her. Years later, after more experiences as a white woman’s “first and only” Black man did I realize that those two moments are, not only different shades of the same problem, but also flat out racist. And though I was older, and more equipped to handle them, I couldn’t wholly ignore them.
I asked myself if I should feel guilty about being this woman’s ready-made racial starter kit; complete with one mocha-colored body, curly, but not nappy, hair, and a brain.
I tried to justify these experiences by claiming that everyone needed to start somewhere, and that being a first doesn’t mean you will forever be an only.
Months after the “nigger girl” episode, I left my old girlfriend behind and began college in New York City.