CLXXV. I Don’t Know About You, But I’m Feeling Red, White, and Blue -
I certainly don’t feel like I’m 22, a month after graduating from college with the world laid out in front of me holding so much promise and yet, so much foreboding.
At 26, I crept out of my house, cold to the bone, as soon as my parents took off at 12:45 pm on the dot. I had to be back by 2:45 pm to eat lunch as per my schedule. Yes, perhaps the coldness was amplified due to not having showered, setting aside that down time for later when I didn’t have the house to myself and couldn’t part take in forbidden activities, like walking. I made sure to prepare myself to enter the cloudy world of winter. I packed on sweater leggings underneath fleece college sweatpants. I had on a pajama shirt - my dance team’s annual show shirt - underneath a University fleece crew neck sweatshirt. I had on my wool shelled, hooded shearling navy blue coat. I let my long hair hang on both sides of my face and entangled the silky locks into the threadbare plaid scarf my parents gifted me during my first month in college almost 5 years ago. Atop my head was a ribbed knitted Michael Kors beanie in forest green.
I had lost my Suede-fur UGG gloves - the only pair of gloves that kept my fingers from frostbite - but luckily my mom’s pair was lying around so I scooped them up to put on immediately after I locked the door from outside.
Earbuds in, despite not listening to any music and already having heard my downloaded podcasts, I just wanted to remain as handsfree as possible so that should a call come, I wouldn’t have to freeze my hands holding my overused, oversized, IPhone 6 Plus to my face.
I took off and observed my surroundings. The sky was completely overcast. Cars were trailing in and out of Church parking lots. It is Sunday, after all. It is also Super Bowl Sunday, and devotees of both a divine presence and heroic football players alike clogged up the main arteries of the neighboring Long Island villages and towns.
I enjoyed seeing the movement from a world larger than my own, but one that I also shared, one that I too inhabited. I walked in an effort to mimic cross-county training or a treadmill inclined walk, I strove to step on and off hilly terrain. I think the approaching couple thought I was trying to avoid them. I wasn’t and looked the older man in the eye, surprised that someone other than myself had initiated the “hi” with a smile, which I graciously returned. It was just enough interaction to keep my social animalistic instinct satiated.
I walked on. I smelled oil, chicken, and potato skins wafting from houses. I walked on and smelled freshly laundered linens. I walked on and saw cars lining up to enter and exit drive-thrus: the CVS pharmacy, the car wash, Burger King, the bank.
I walked on and passed by a bakery with Valentines Day decorations on the window front: pinks and red colored hearts. I saw Indians dressed in traditional garb enter a Persian restaurant, feeling a closeness to a culture and cuisine familiar to their own.
I encountered two brownies and their mothers hawking passersby to purchase Girl Scout cookies. My instinct was to avoid eye contact and dodge any verbal offer, but I was ambushed with a freezing cold momma bear. I smiled, said “No, thank you,” and then added, “but I was a Girl Scout too. Good luck!” We smiled.
I made my way against the wind and my energy was renewed. The sun started to peek through and I was warming up. If I didn’t have to eat - God knows I was not and still am not hungry - I could have walked on forever. I decided to turn around and entered the Stop & Shop on the way home. Lacking an appetite and sick of food in general, I was curious to see if people were flocking the grocery stores for last minute football food. Sure enough, the lines were lengthy. The deli counter looked as if Brooklyn brownstones were being auctioned off for mere dollars. A man was carrying a veggies-dip tray in one hand and a plastic container of ready-made chicken wings in another. I passed by the hummus aisle to see it less stocked than usual.
The crowd could have been part Super Bowl, part regular job- and school-going Americans who were simply prepping and stocking up before the work week resumes.
I felt so at home, in this place, this nation, because it is my home. I was born and raised here.
I am American and I am proud to be American. There is nowhere else I would rather be.
Yet I am unhappy. I want to be employed, to write, to report, to interview- I have so many ideas. I want to be wanted, just like all those universities had wanted me.
I want for good health, just like I used to have when blood tests weren’t prefaced by anxiety about whether or not the extraction of the blood would be an easy one or a struggle.
In some ways, I want my youth to return. I want to daydream again. I want to believe that hard work does pay off and that I will be successful. I want to remember how much I treasured and took care of my mind. I held my brainpower on a pedestal and honed my artistic creativity with the belief that these treasures would be appreciated and lucrative, as well as helpful to my community.
I was a Girl Scout, president of my high school’s community service honor society. Participated, ironically enough, in countless number of walks for different causes. I played piano and dabbled in violin, saxophone, and chorus. I traveled on subway cars and buses for unpaid internships.
I’m not owed anything, but I deserve something - a chance.
And as American as I am, I cannot for the life of me understand how this is the land of opportunity, the land where dreams come true, because all I see are my dreams crashing and burning. And it burns. Low white blood cell count or not, it burns, but they’re slowly healing, save for the marks, that according to my mother, look like “cigarette butts were rubbed in.” And that burns too, if only just a biting sting.