Let's pretend today is like yesterday: two mugs of coffee in hand and a smile so raw it stings. Let's climb a mountain in our minds and press our thumbs into the skin of our cheeks and laugh until our bellies burst out colors. Because we are going to have rules soon and misplaced trust and cowering backs. And then there would be lighted matches and a whisper that can't hold our hearts.
Let's pretend we are Tony from Benin. Let's pretend we don't know our mothers and who our fathers could have been. We will take an umbrella and sit out on the patio just like he did and we will twist our necks because we want to stop existing. That's what he used to do; how he used to feel when life was still perfect enough to be a tsunami of pains.
Now let us talk about him.
The story behind his closed eyes is the same as the one we will tell our children when they are all grown up and we find condoms in the back of their pockets. We might not fully grasp everything as it happened to him but someday when our children who we fear have started to hate us, decide to ask us about it, we won't stutter and feign disbelief.
His story is in the half-torn diary we found buried underneath a sea of dirt. It's exhausting, really, to have to talk about a man we didn't know until he was seated in the darkened bar, trying to indulge the drunken travelers with a sort of fairytale. But still, we'll have to talk about him as we bury our blood in coffee and diet cokes.
We found his diary and we laughed like selfish teenagers until the sun was up in the sky and the ocean was lifeless. A lone bird flew past us, oblivious to the sound of patched up memories. Olivia pulled open the diary and coughed twice. That's what we will tell our children's spouses when they come home for Christmas and end up sitting with us out on the patio with pizza and whiskey. That Olivia coughed up blood from all the waiting.
Let us pretend we are married now with kids who masturbate under clean sheets. Because he had a child once, a girl who used to do just that. We know because we found it on the first page of his story, like a rerun of our past lives.
In his diary, he said her name was Judy. So let us call our first daughters Judy. When we find her looking past the windows and whispering to the guy next door - the one too old to catch our fancy- we will sit her down and tell her about Judy.
The dog staring at us from across the street should not fear us. And the man in a plaid shirt with a smile that looks too weak should not fill us with regrets. Because things are about to change with the world we are beautifully caught up in. The smoke that pulls out of the fireplace will soon divide into two, like ragged lines around our eyes. Someone will betray us, a friend will die at childbirth and the world will rest against the pool of our skins.
Tony used to believe in the universe. He said the world was crayons, colorful and sharp, and broken. We can call him naive later when our children have deserted us and married people who are smart enough to know we are uneducated and poor. But he isn't naive now. And the diary is still burning with unholy recognition.
He was married before. Then he had a daughter. But long before that, he couldn't get his wife pregnant and when she finally did, she woke him up in the middle of the night with a scream and a scratch. There was blood on her dress and knowledge in their hearts. He said they would try again. They did. This time when the blood appeared, they were seated in the living room watching daytime Tv. He didn't say they would try again. He hugged her for the silence in her tears.
The daughter they had was beautiful. He called her Judy. We don't know if the child was pretty but when we have children, we will find them beautiful and we will call them Judy.
Halfway through his diary, we find out he loved her more than he loved the world and the pictures he drew. He told her he did too. The changes that appeared later took them by surprise. That is why we must prepare for the life we will soon have. She grew up. That is the change as we see. She grew up and loved a boy. Then they found condoms in her bag and they, too upset to think, slapped her and locked her up in her room. Page twenty if we counted. Our children will love us when they are sixteen and young and depressed. But we will prepare ourselves with fancy stories and warm embraces. They will call us when they are twenty-five and pregnant for their third child.
She ran away from home. When they went to her room, they found nothing except the open curtains and an old box of photographs. Every picture she had ever taken looked at him, taunted him, and the wife who was still crying as she ordered soup. He burnt all the pictures four months later, under a camouflage of tight smile and an awful joke.
When the world has changed and there are no self-defense and our brothers are no longer sure about our sanity, we will read this last page out and bend our eyes to the ground until our fists are raised upwards into the sky. Later we will burn all of our children's photographs and drink coffee and smoke cigars. Because he has taught us the courage of the world pressed against our backs. He has told us about the shortness of breath when we will want to sleep and our children are not home.
We will spend some time pretending to be someone else so that in ten years, our conversations will matter and if we want, we can get elected into Congress. Our children will call us up about a burnt dinner and we will hang up because we've learned how to. Because we are pretending to be someone we are not.
So let's pretend today is like yesterday; two cups of coffee and a worn-out diary that should not have been read aloud. Let's pretend there is no mountain to climb and we are seated on the sand and listening to America scream our names and call us childish. That way, we won't grow up to have children who will cover their backs with tattoos and tell us that we don't pay attention to detail. If we sit down here where the sun paints the sky black, we won't grow up to be like Tony. We are waiting to be different again.
So let's wait here. And if we want, we can pretend for the rest of our lives.