TL:DR – The most power you’ll ever have is in your passport.
“How do you feel, as a black woman, about Iggy Azalea?”
I didn’t balk at the question, surprisingly. It had a vintage of unlearned youth, a mouth feel of protective complacency but a sharp twang of irony since it came from a gay male.
I wanted to rebuttal with a snarky ‘How do you feel, as a quasi-passing gay white man, about RuPaul?’, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it. One would think in the age of the internet where information flows freely as the polar ice caps, that ignorance wouldn’t be so…obvious? Rampant? Excusable? I don’t rightly know and I can’t rightly say, but my tongue slathered honey atop its venom, propped itself all dignified like and cheerfully twittered:
“Money makes the world go ‘round, so she better get some while she can.”
A pair of sky blue eyes, as blue as the gentle lace of sea foam sparkling in morning sun, quietly observed as I made my laugh easy and returned to my glass of palatable bar level Cabernet. I noticed them immediately when their owner, a wiry young man with bleach blonde hair…so blonde that it nearly looked like white tufts of gossamer creeping under his camo ball cap, walked in without a sound, quietly ordered a rum and coke and joined me in feigned interest at the hockey game that lacked any sort of intensity.
He wasn’t bad looking, but his hands enamored me the most. They didn’t fit his tiny, ‘squirrely’ body. They were massive, scarred, calloused…older than their host. They didn’t match the youthful face, but the eyes rippled ‘old soul’.
He wasn’t American, or if he was he was certainly second generation, by the angular shape of his face. When he ordered another rum and coke, the Australian accent confirmed it. It also attracted a rotund, clean cut, Seattlite office jockey who whipped out his iPhone 6 with white collar flourish and commenced mocking him about his Australian ignorance since he didn’t know who Cody Simpson was. The Australian, later introduced as Steve, internally fought between being polite and punching the guy’s face in.
The wonderfully oblivious bartender chimed in (omg, Cody), yet I toasted Steve’s glass, slyly commented on the absurdity of a salt of the earth, hard working man knowing anything, or actually caring, about pop stars. Iggy Azalea came up, I responded, Steve and I found temporary comradery in the storm of flippant ignoramuses and there, at this high end bar trying its best to be down to earth, we bemused over travel.
No one seemed to know, or care, that Steve was a 22 year old construction worker who took a bank loan to travel. No one even asked that this was his first time outside of his home continent, nor did they ask about his road trip up the West Coast from LA to Seattle and how he would leave again to Austin and finish his tour in New York before going back to the heavy labor and debt that patiently awaited him.
He was a ‘Other’ despite his pale skin, blonde hair and blue eyes. I marveled at his treatment as an oddity, a ‘Down Under’ novelty to practice horrible impersonations and bounce off archaic Crocodile Dundee references. Suddenly he smiled and what came from his lips cranked down the bar from veneer gloss of fake laughter to shamed beer sipping.
“ Where can a man go to get unprejudiced fun in this country?” he snickered loudly.
“You’re asking me?” I replied, tossing my dreadlocks back “I can tell you where you can’t go, if that’s what you mean!”
And we laughed.
The black Midwestern Girl and the Australian blue collar construction worker laughed heartily.
Laughed at what we endured; at Cody Simpson, at Iggy Azalea, at the Australians who are spiteful at their Asian and Aboriginal population, the fear mongering Americans, the media and, most of all, at the people who had enough money to purchase a one thousand dollar phone, but not enough to get their passport and experience empathy from another perspective.
“Those who stay still, die where they stand.” He stated as I wrote names of places he should frequent while he frolicked in Space Needle land. My husband came in, shaking his hand hardily as a fellow traveler would. We parted ways, wishing each other ‘Bon Voyage’ as I will travel to the UK when he returns home next month.
I’ll see you soon, Steve, where ever you are. If your wanderlust doesn’t wane as you get older, I’m certain we’ll bump into each other again.
Adventurers are few and far between.