This is a continuation. Part 1 is found here.
It was March 29th, 2014 when I was kissed by Nichelle Nichols. I was 33 years old.
I promised a friend that I would help out at Emerald City Comic Con; I would be a steam punk themed assistant and joyfully help the staff at Girl Genius enrapture the world with mad science and perfectly brewed tea. I stood, corset cinched, boots primed, and goggles prepped. I love working cons…I don’t know why; I’m just weird.
Mid afternoon, a customer came to our table and she had an autograph in her hand. I recognized the red dress immediately…it was Nichelle Nichols. It was Uhura. The world slowed to a crawl, the vibrant colors of cosplay frills and meticulous placed make up grayed to bland, neutral strokes. Though the woman, cheerful and exhilarated with her prize stood a table away, I was back on the couch…in my Father’s house. My adult voice projected clearly, but within the caverns of my mind, the squeaky adolescent voice , once long gone, returned. The inner child, battered, bruised, jaded and barely held together with the twine of pure will, stood up and desperately asked:
“Where did you get that?”
I didn’t know Nichelle Nichols would be here. I didn’t know. My heart painfully ached to the point I could feel the blood spurting through my skin and dyeing my corset in shades of crimson torture. I borrowed money and I ran upstairs to what would possibly be the last time I could possibly see the schematics of my life’s design.
Memories, vivid and surreal rushed through me. Did Dad know that his death would leave a wake of destruction? How the sins of Father would have to be paid by the child? The women whom he hurt would spend their every moment trying to claim a piece of him through me…through force? Did he know about my black eyes from school with more fights lost than won? Would he know how hard I tried to rebuild myself after the constant weathering of typhoons aimed to make me give. Would he know the death I saw, the danger ground I tread lightly on. Did he know that the young lady he did his best to groom was too dirty, too scabbed, too twisted in insecure knots to be worth anything to anyone?
Ms. Nichols had to be my barometer. I had to know if I was worthy enough to fulfill my promise. The autograph meant nothing…it was her I came to see. And I prayed. I prayed for the pain of my past to stop…just for a little while.
I got there early. My feet ached from standing all day. I ignored them. Trekkie fans milled into line, talking about the Kirk/Uhura kiss and other senseless, worthless trivia. I felt vulnerable, empty, frightened, as girl trussed for sacrifice…knowing that her loss would be a gain for her village. I studied my hands. I secretly wiped away my tears, but I stood fast. This line didn’t matter. I didn’t matter. Only my Father’s legacy and Nichelle mattered.
When she came out, lukewarm claps and cheers erupted. I was forced myself to look away from my shoes and peer through the crowd to get a glimpse of her. She was glorious. A timeless sage engulfed in a sea of pure light. Her silver hair shimmered brighter than any platinum bauble and her eyes saw both future and past. She was a goddess amongst mortals. She is what my Father pined for his daughter to be and I felt desperately unworthy.
I nearly ran out of the line, but something told me I owed it to my Father to see if I was on the right track. Despite certain circumstances, I remained chaste until I graduated college. I never dabbled in drugs during my adolescence. I paid my way through school. I worked long nights. I endured the racism and sexism ladled on my shoulders alone and gladly. Dad told me this would come; so I prepared for it. I prepared for this moment and I could not walk from it.
It was my turn. I stood before her, my soul naked, young and ashamed. I gazed upon her black sweatshirt, glittering with sequin stars and reading ‘Brown Derby’, her chunky jewelry, and her immaculate hands. I looked at my own hands, callused, dirty, and ragged from work. I hid them. She greeted me, but when our eyes met, she saw everything.
I mumbled my name; she had a line of people and who was I to take her time? I would not grow to be this heavenly, this graceful, this strong. I was a mere mortal, fallible, wretched. I was not Zoe Saldana. I was not Jada Pinkett – Smith. I was a big hipped nerd from Wisconsin.
I failed my father.
But she stopped me. “Who are you? What’s your name? What’s your story and I love your corset.”
I touched it and began to take it off.
“For what you’ve done in my life, you can have everything I own.” I tearfully replied, no longer caring about the tears streaming down my face and dropping down to the dingy convention carpet. She stopped me and I dropped to my knees there on the convention floor, in front of hundreds of people.
“I lost my father very young and he told me to find out who you were and to model my life after you. Not as Uhura but as Ms. Grace Nichols. And I have tried, but I’m doing everything late. I’m learning to dance in my 30s. I am programming in my 30s. I’m learning to find my truthful voice in my 30s. I’m learning to be black and beautiful and proud in my 30s. I am trying to be great, Ms. Nichols…because my Father said you were my North Star. Your image was the closest thing to a mother, to a woman, that he deemed worthy.”
And I wept. Her agent, moved by words, wept. The crowd behind us stood in awkward silence.
I was so angry that I couldn’t meet her as an equal, not as a legend, but a nobody. A nobody trying to be great, try inspire, trying to be a North Star to other black girls, no, other girls like me who can’t be compartmentalized by the world. The women deemed bitches and feminist just because they say ‘No’ readily and mean it. The women who are too large in spirit to be sexy and can only be deemed sensual, dangerous. The women training their entire lives to be emissaries of the Sun and the Moon. But I had fallen short. I fa-
“Get off your knees, Jada. Stand up.” her voice slightly wavered, but it held fast, strong for my sake.
A pair of soft hands encompassed my face, drawing me close, intimately as a mother to a wayward child. Her thumbs grazed my tears. Her fingers moved my dreadlocks aside and she kissed my cheek with assurance, strength, wisdom, sensuality, beauty and scars healed from long ago but still throbbed given the right circumstances. The smoothness of our faces drew my from the quicksand of my despair. We locked eyes, dark pupils talking in light years that words could never encompass.
“You are almost there. Keep going.” she whispered.
She caressed my face again, wiping fresh tears from it. The picture found its way to my open hands and, knowingly, she smiled. I quietly thanked her and walked away, not looking back, fearing I would lose my nerve and the moment. The silent stream of tears continued, whipping those around me in a state of disdain and confusion. I did not care.
I finished my shift. I left the con. I sat on the bus. The tears still flowed, ambivalent to my pounding headache. Adjacent patrons removed themselves from my presence. I didn’t care. When I returned home, the Seattle rain turned to hail and beat around my head and shoulders. I didn’t care, until my husband came out to meet me with an umbrella and a warm bear hug. I told him what happened; and he smiled.
“It looks like you’ll be seeing her again, but on your terms next time.” he replied, handing me a bowl of soup, knowing I didn’t eat the entire day.
“ I hope so. I want to do my Old Man justice.” I replied, my voice hoarse and tired.
“You already have. But the world is your oyster, love. Why stop if you don’t have to?”