There are times in New York when I feel alone, anonymous, and it is the most exhilarating and liberating feeling in the world. I feel strong and powerful, alive and full of possibility. I feed off the energy of strangers on the street, recreating myself moment by moment.
But every now and again, I feel alone in New York, and it is the most empty, existential feeling in the world. I become aware that I will die alone. I count the people who do not care if I exist at all. It gets quiet, and I start to hide. I call friends. They don’t pick up. I wait to be recognized.
When a bird flies by, I check to see if it is Teka, but it is not. I stand amidst concrete streets and concrete buildings waiting with my heavy backpack and white dress pants for a train to work. I press my coffee mug against my lips and imagine Lynn’s face. Asha’s laugh. I look for a gazelle with graceful hind quarters and stoic, winding, regal antlers. But there are none here.
I walk down Ngong Road and see Kenyans– tall, thin, dark, proud. They walk, walk, walk to work to life in wrapped hair and colorful skirts. Not far away a zebra grazes in a valley as vast as God’s imagination. There are bananas hanging heavy, browning, next to pails of charcoal, gritty and black. Matatus struggle through traffic as shillings are exchanged.
I walk down 125th Street and see Americans– tall, obese, dark, sad. They wait, wait wait for buses and iced coffee in baseball caps and high heels. There are incense sticks and CDs outside pawn shops and Little Caesars. There are no spears or shields on our flag.
I see forced diaspora, pain of conquerors at every turn. Beautiful, powerful cheekbones and jaw lines under the pull of dark skin. Reaching for freedom, for identity, a life in his bones that got taken from him generations ago. Can he feel the gazelle running at his side? When he looks, he sees graffiti on concrete. He drops his eyes to the sidewalk and continues to wait.
I know I am supposed to do something, but I have no idea what.