Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Brick Wall

I awoke this morning, stretching luxuriously in my comfy bed and smiling at the prospect of a day off. My waking head full of dreams, I gradually noticed that Tama and Ita, my parakeets, were uncharacteristically quiet. I stumbled to feed them.

Tama sat close to Ita, quiet and nervous. Ita had one foot on a perch, the other on a hanging treat stick. I put food in their dish, and Tama edged up and down the perch but didn't make any move toward the food. Ita didn't move at all. I saw why, and my stomach lurched. They love to shred things, and they had turned the ends of the nylon string holding up the treat into a fuzzy cloud. Ita's foot was tangled in the poof. How long he'd been there, I could guess from the state of his foot. All night. His foot was swollen and blue, his leg raw where the thin strand of nylon had held him while he tried to free himself. 

Ita has never liked to be handled. Tama will perch on my hand, but Ita? Never. His leg was going to need some close attention, so I found winter gloves to save my hands multiple peckings. I cut him free, then grabbed him in one hand. He unleashed an angry wood-packer act on my finger within the reach of his head. My heart sank at the sight of his leg. The fragile thing looked almost nearly severed, the nylon almost totally embedded. 

Talking constantly to keep Ita calm, I armed my free hand with tweezers and nail clippers. Little by little, the fibers were extracted while I tried not to think about how my proddings with metal must feel in the wound. Suddenly, Ita flexed his foot, which had been frozen in an extended position. It was free! 

With great relief, I returned Ita to the cage to rejoin Tama, who had squawked his resentment at my removal of his inseparable cagemate. Happiness reigns again, and I think Ita's foot will heal just fine. 

I love putting things right. (And I will never again allow my parakeets to play with nylon strings.)

I hate when things are not as they should be, and my attempts to rectify things are futile. Like running full-speed into a brick wall. Repeatedly.

Every morning, I greet her cheerfully. She glares in return. She doesn't talk to me any more than absolutely necessary, and I often hear a hissed "b****" thrown in my direction. 

She hates me. There is nothing I can do to change it, because I can't change the color of my skin.

I've seen racism, and I hate it. I've often taken pains to value people who assume I might discriminate against them, to make sure they know I love diversity... that I find beauty in the range of color we all wear.

No one has ever been racist against me. 

Until now.

I want to scream sometimes. Can't she see beyond my skin? Can't she give me... ME, not just "the white b****" a chance? Is it my fault my skin is so pale, not a beautiful ebony like her own? 

Every day, greeting her cheerfully. Every day, finding compliments to give her. Every day, trying to show her I love her. Every day, met with silence, glares, and hissed hatred. I'm starting to feel cheesy and stupid. 

But I've read her story. She has a right to be angry. She has seen enough pain and hatred to last ten people each a lifetime. It's alright if she's chosen to hate me for my lack of melanin.

But this is not how it was meant to be.

And I still wish I could change it.

No comments: