I am at a doubtful time in my life. I doubt whether or not I will ever be a wife and mother – something I’ve wanted since I was three. I doubt I’ll ever be able to set aside teaching and write full time. I doubt I have the ability to write full time. Hell, I doubt the sun rise in the morning, truth be told. So in this doubtful period, I – master of linguistics – have a hard time speaking. Really. I stumble, repeat myself and leave important things out.
Yesterday I had the pleasure of meeting two of the most inspiring writers of our time – Nikki Giovanni and Junot Diaz. Needless to say, I didn’t get the right words out. As I floated around Ms. Giovanni while she was attempting to make it to her signing post, I was beside myself with the want to tell her everything. So of course, I told her nothing. I got some words out about her being my biggest muse (why do you think I go by Nikki the Muse?), told her my father introduced me to her stuff and some mumbo jumbo about my being a poet who gets off track into the world of fiction and well – hell- i don’t even know what I said and I could tell by her “I’m-too-sweet-to-tell-you-to-piss-off-you-no-sense-making-fool-of-a-girl-face” that I was talking too much. I took my signed book – which, in retrospect, I may have too comfortably placed in her hands to sign, and moped off.
Then I spotted Junot Diaz. Maaaaaaaan he so cool I forgot to tell him how cool he was. We had a brief chuckle over the fact that I was Black and Korean with a Pinoy name – Miami life – and he was super cordial and warm and gave me a hug and kiss, but I didn’t get a word to him.
As I sit at this laptop, at my desk in my classroom feeling that the walls are closing in on me, feeling as if I don’t write something and get published soon I’ll implode, I realize that though I didn’t want to say “hey, read my stuff” I did want to say the right thing.
WHAT I SHOULD HAVE SAID:
Nikki, I mean, Ms. Giovanni,
I breathe your work. When I fall in the dream of love or find myself stirring as I wake from love it is your poetry that becomes my soundtrack. When I was 14 I read your stuff for the first time and thought, man oh man this is a Queen. I respect you, revere you even, for all that you are – militant, vibrant, and all that you are not – dull, conformed, and I have looked up to you like you are some dead white male writer – which, in the world of “respectable literature”, means a lot. I have dreamed of meeting you so often that they feel the reality, and this the fantasy. You showed me that a woman can be, hell, should be, sexy, strong, articulate, intelligent but not condescending and real – earth shatteringly real. And I love you for all you have given the world.
Junot, – I won’t say mister ’cause you seem like one of my boys –
You fly. You so fly. We can go down the colonial languages’ dictionary and find many, many words whose denotative definition can describe you but I’ll choose fly because we know that it’s a colloquialism that can hold so much more power than any fifteen syllable compliment. I regret not having read your stuff sooner, but I am a fan. Through and through, and I am inspired – not just to be a better writer, but more intelligent, informed. I love how you see yourself and by offering such a clear image, allow others to use you as a mirror when defining themselves. You are what Tupac calls a rose, one that grew from concrete of course. Thank you.
Alas, why is it that we only think of this stuff later?