This headline may shock you, but it didn’t make me bat an eye. I want to share a story that I workshopped and performed in my Storytelling Class this summer. The class was taught at the Unified Scene Theater by its amazing cofounders, Shawn Westfall and Kathy Baird Westfall. You can check out class offerings here. If you live in the DC area and have not seen these two perform or taken a class with either, you need to remedy that ASAP. You have not lived until you’ve been yelled at by Shawn. Just kidding, kind of. 😉 Everything the theater offers that you can be a part of is creative, therapeutic and refreshing. Art will be part of the revolution, so get in on the ground floor now.
It was literally the morning after. I drove to a two story strip mall at the corner of Park and 75, across the highway from the mall. I got a premier parking spot in front of my destination, somewhere between a Bed, Bath and Beyond and an Aveda school. I walked into a sparse but clean lobby and filled out my information on the clip board. When the matronly woman called my name, I followed her into a cramped but homey examination room. Not the abortionplex I had been warned about. She read the reason for my visit and I sheepishly confirmed that yes, I needed Plan B. She provided it without too much judgment, offered me some birth control options so this wouldn’t happen again and explained to me that I’d need to eat a big breakfast in case these pills didn’t want to stay in my stomach. I thanked her and left. I drove thru at McDonald’s and got two bacon egg and cheese biscuits and a hash brown, taking her medical advice as gospel. How did I even end up here, shame eating McDonald’s breakfast outside of my internship?
I was a student at a wealthy, white, Christian university in Dallas, Texas. Sure it was not the place you’d expect to see someone like me, but I had grown up in the area and I was happy to be closer to my family for graduate school. Texas isn’t all closed-minded gun-toting rednecks like you might think it would be. I remember moving there when I was five and complaining to my dad that I didn’t want to ride a horse to school. But when you live in a proper city, Texas is no different than say Virginia. The topography is a little flatter, but it has proper cities, plumbing and paved streets. But try as I might to fit in, I never quite did. Maybe because I was brown, and not necessarily the same kind of brown as every one else. Maybe because my parents were immigrants. Maybe because I didn’t worship in the same places as my school friends.
Dating was just as difficult. While I had all kinds of male friends, none of them ever seemed to be interested in me in that way. So after a year and a half in graduate school, I was surprised to be approached by someone we can call Blah. Blah was Josh Hartnett Black Hawk Down era look alike who tall, mostly silent and super mysterious. When he finally asked me out, he admitted that he’d been interested in me for a few months, but was trying to think of a reason to talk to me that wouldn’t seem fake. Blah was kind and funny and once he finally found a reason to talk to me, I couldn’t get him to shut up. It was like all this time, he was just as lonely as I was. Somewhere 5 or 6 dates down the line, Blah told me about how he ended up in Texas for graduate school. He was from Missouri and had grown up in a strict Baptist family. His brother was the rebellious fuck up and he, while he partied hard outside of their line of sight, was the studious and ambitious one. He was the one who worked hard, played hard, and didn’t report any of his activities home to the fam.
One night, thing were feeling really good. I mean really really good. Like too good to be true. And we both realized at the same time when we looked down and saw that the condom had broke. We shared about 7 seconds of terror together before he got up from the bed, got his wallet and asked “How much will it be?”
“What?” I asked, thinking, you paid for drinks, so the sex is free. I mean, I’m not a prostitute.
“Whatever you need to do at Planned Parenthood.”
“Oh.” For some reason, my heart sank. I was 24, I didn’t want to have a baby with this guy, but it didn’t seem like his reaction was the same one I was having. I told him I’d figure it out and call him later. That was the first time I noticed a bible in his bedroom. Sitting under his desk, keeping the printer from burning a hole in his carpet, the edge of it covered in a thin layer of dust. Being the consummate gentleman, Blah helped me find my panties (they were stuffed under the pillow). I tried to collect any leftover dignity and I went home. I went to Planned Parenthood the next morning and got a prescription to end our relationship.
But that didn’t end it. I left that week to be a camp counselor for a week between my two internships. This was a camp for children with congenital heart defects, almost all of whom had open heart surgery as babies. I watched these kids ride horses, fish, shoot arrows and swim with giant vertical scars on their chests showing where their hearts had betrayed them at such a young age. Being in the middle of the country (the actual Texas you might think of), there was no cell service. For whatever reason, I couldn’t wait to get back to see Blah again.
When I got back to civilization, Blah was too busy to see me. He had plans or was studying or something else trivial until finally, he told me over the phone that he was breaking up with me. He said that I wasn’t Christian and that I didn’t have Christian values. Well, no shit. My name is Rashee, I have dark brown skin, and he knew all of these things before even even found a reason to talk to me. Blah the Baptist had the nerve to try and offer me a fistful of cash to go to Planned Parenthood. Blah the Baptist had the nerve to tell me that my values didn’t match his. Blah the Baptist had the nerve to kick me the fuck out of his apartment to get a fucking abortion. And that did it for me. That picked the ingrown hair of never being good enough.
The hole of loneliness is so deep. It took me so many years to realize that I didn’t fit in anywhere that once Blah the Baptist said it, the bell couldn’t be unrung. The hot searing pain of loneliness was so intense that even after going to broken heart camp, I came home and still wanted to be in the familiarity of this complete monster’s arms. How could I have let myself fall so far down into this place? And how the hell could I ever get myself and my self worth back?
It took a lot of years to realize that I’m perfectly good enough. It took years of self discovery and Saturn returning to realize that I can belong in Dallas, Texas if I want. Or I can belong anywhere in the world. It’s my choice. It took the wise counsel of actual Christians to see that Blah the Baptist is one of the full of shit Christians who makes all of the other ones look bad.
I think because I grew up Hindu, I must be going to hell. And hell for me will be one more place where I don’t fit in, one more place where I try to hard and compromise everything only to leave empty handed and broken hearted. But maybe the cool part will be seeing Blah the Baptist there, holding a fistful of $20s, wondering where he left that bible with its layer of dust and what his Plan B should have been.