The Saturday night opening at City With Out Walls was the one I was really looking forward to, mostly because it was at a gallery that is right behind my house. They had an exhibit that was all pieces that paid tribute to Ntozake Shange’s For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf. Shange was there too, sitting on a chair near the entrance getting the star treatment from everyone who walked in. I hadn’t read the book by that point, but I have picked it up since then and, obviously, it’s great.
My son and I came outside through the back. I was thinking we would go straight there, but when he saw his friends at the park outside, which sits directly next to the gallery, he had to stop. Some of those kids, who are older than him (more in the range of 6-10), said that they wanted to go over there at some point too, so I said we’d go together in a little bit. It was a good thing I brought a book with me just in case. I had We Were Eight Years in Power by Ta-Nehisi Coates on me and sat there reading one of the essays on a bench.
Eventually, the kid I know best told me they were ready to go so four of us all walked around the gate to the gallery. Inside, we went straight to the tables with food and drinks. There were huge crowds of people in every direction it seemed. But there was also a lot of negative space. I went for a drink first. The bartender was pouring someone a white wine, so I just got that. To my right, these two kids were grabbing cookies and crackers with both hands. I was still holding my son and was really only there for the drinks. Mini banana puddings, or whatever it was, were doing anything for me that moment.
I walked away from the tables and told the kids I was going to walk around. My son and I did a little lap. They had some cool stuff in there. The one I stopped at was a collection of bottles that depicted a relationship starting, pregnancy, abuse, and sadness. It was perfect. Suddenly I felt dumb for having the book because it was just one extra thing to carry. I had my kid, my drink, and my oversized hard covered book. It was too much. I tried putting my son down so I could get a good look at these bottles, but he would not stand on his own with all these people around that moment. So I juggled around and got a better grip on all my items.
The wine was disgustingly sweet. It must have been moscato or something. I gulped it down just to finish it.
We went back outside because I didn’t see the kids anymore. I stood at the fence with a new drink. The two kids came running over to tell me that they got in trouble for being in there. I was like why? One said that they were supposed to be with an adult. We looked for you but we couldn’t find you. So they thought we were lying. I told them next time to just go in with me and stick with me.
After a few minutes, another kid asked me if I would go in there with him. I said let me finish this drink first. Finished that up. Went inside and saw a guy ordering a vodka tonic with juice. I said I’ll have what he’s having.
One of the first kids asked me to go in there. I was like we were just in there. You have to play it cool. We can’t just run in and out every five minutes. I told him too. Let me finish this drink. Eventually I called him over and just him and me went in. There was barely any food left. Someone was giving a speech. The kid took some cookies.
On line for a drink with two kids, one of the curators came up to me with a smile asking if they were with me. I said yes these are my son’s friends. She laughed and I was like what happened? She told me, while they were in earshot of everything, that the kids pretended that they knew someone else and when she asked that person if they knew the kids, they said no. I was like oh they’re good kids. They probably just got nervous and didn’t want to get in trouble. She agreed and walked away.
I told the kids to get whatever they wanted. I had already ordered a drink. This drunk guy was standing next to them to our left. He started asking them how old they were or something. Then he was offering to pay for their drinks and handed them a twenty. One of them complimented his hair, which was some crazy long dreads. He liked that compliment. When he looked over for his change, the bartender said he put it in the donations bucket. The drunk guy was offended by this. Na give that back I’m trying to pay for these drinks not make a donation. He didn’t realize that everything was free.
Then he turned to me to ask if I should pay for my drink too. I was like sure. Whatever. I’m thinking, dumbass. He put his arm around one of the kids and asked what they liked to do. I gently moved between them to get his arm off and told them to grab their drinks, which were now ready. I asked if they wanted to look around. They looked nervous and said no. I was like ok go. They scattered. Then he started asking me questions about what I was drinking and to stick around while he gets his drink. Before turning, he ran his hand down my back, touching my hair. I smiled and nodded and walked right out.
The next day at the park I sat with the one kid who I know well, he’s one of the kids who was in there with the drunk guy. One of the first things I said to him was that I kept thinking about that guy. I just couldn’t leave that hanging. He was like what guy? I was like the guy who came up to you and that other kid trying to buy drinks. He must have been drunk already. The kid nodded his head to agree.