Tuesday, June 06, 2006

someone struck me with a star...and that shit hurt.

courtesy of bridge and tunnel club
date: saturday, february 18, 2006
time: @6:30 p.m.

place: la guardia airport

he was 6'3, dark-skinned, and attractive.

and at least 60 years old.

i had just dragged my luggage to a table located in the food court where i promptly plopped my exhausted ass into a seat while i considered my next move. nobody was there to pick me up from the airport, so i could either take a cab to brooklyn which would have cost me a friggin' GRIP or take the shuttle bus to the train to brooklyn which would have been a major hassle because i'd be towing a large samsonite with a week's worth of clothing in it, a laptop case, and my purse. folk familiar with new york's subway system will no doubt remember their isn't an elevator to be found in any of the stations, just staircases that seem to go on forever in both directions. in other words, i was fucked.

i'm marinating on the fucktosity of my situation when brotha steps up and asks me if i need assistance. it was obvious from his attire he worked there at the airport.

"i've gotta catch the shuttle bus to manhattan," i answered a bit exasperately, "do you know where i need to go?"

"i'll take you there if you'd like."

"thanks so much, sir."

the strap from the laptop case was cutting into my shoulder and i felt an acute pinching of pain in my lower back. i'd been dragging my luggage around since 8 a.m. that morning when i'd rushed to hartsfield airport thinking i was running late for my 9:30 flight only to find out an hour later i'd misread my ticket. the flight was scheduled to depart at 11:30 a.m. then at 10:00 a.m. i found out my flight was delayed and wouldn't be there until 1:30 p.m. oh, and this wasn't a direct flight. i had to go to milwaukee, wisconsin to catch a connecting flight to new york. UGH.

so by the time i get to la guardia, i'm beat down like bread dough, my impatience hovering around me like a white cloud of flour in the wake of a vigorous punch to the yeasty mass. airport dude was looking at me with what i hoped was fatherly concern.

"let me take that suitcase for you." he reached over and grabbed the handle of my suitcase and started pulling it behind him. "the shuttle stop is this way."

i attempted to stretch the muscles in my tired limbs as i walked behind him, hoping to release the fatigue clumped within the fibers like georgia red clay. unfortunately, it didn't work. i couldn't stretch it out or shake it off so i just yawned and prayed i would get to my granny's house in brooklyn before dawn.

"so you're a student?" i heard him inquire from in front of me. i wondered why he would ask me that question before belatedly remembering i was wearing a ga te.ch sweatshirt.

"yes sir."

"what are you, a junior? a senior?"

"junior, sir." just the task of opening my mouth was becoming a soul-draining chore.

"i have a daughter who's a junior in college," he responded with pride. i was watching his back as he spoke, noting the way it straightened as he made that statement. i imagine his chest was puffed out like the proud papa he no doubt was.

meanwhile, i was too tired to even continue with small talk. i mean, i could have asked him what school his daughter attended, what was her major, you know...all the stuff that qualifies as small talk between two strangers during a short time together. i just couldn't. it was requiring too much energy just to pull the few short answers from my mouth.

when we reached the bus shuttle (which by the way ended up being just a short distance from where we'd initially been standing), he turned around to hand me the handle to my bag. and that's when i saw it. that glint. that "you hot young thang i wanna get up in them panties" look. aww shit.

"thank you, sir," i said quickly as i took hold of the handle i made to step past him.

"you know, i've got my own business," he stated, a few strands of hope dangling like participles from the end of the sentence, "this is just a side job. i happen to live very comfortably."

i just looked at him, a vacant expression crawling into my eyes as i played dumb.

"really? how awesome for you."

"if you give me your number, i can take you around town during your visit here. you know, show you the sights and everything."

i was wearing the day's fatigue like a neon-colored windbreaker with bricks loaded into the pockets. my shoulder was sagging beneath the weight of my laptop case, my back was hunched over like an osteoporosis patient and my face was pulled down like that of a bloodhound. all this, and i was still cute enough to be hit upon. yeah...cute enough to be hit upon by an older cat eager to get his 'walking cane' stuck in some 'young' crack in the sidewalk. oh yeah...i was feeling good about that one.

"uh, that's alright, sir," i responded with a frustrated sigh, "i have family here. i'm sure i'll find a way to get around."

he stood there a moment longer, watching me as i tried shifting my bags to a more comfortable chaos around my person.

"you sure?" he asked, then i noticed him pulling out a card to hand to me. "if you change your mind, you can give me a call. here's my cell number."

i thought about it for a minute. actually, my mind was sluggish so it was probably more like five minutes. finally i reached out and took the card. whatever.

"thanks, sir," i replied, "if i change my mind, i'll give you a holla."

then i turned and walked away. i looked back to see him making his way back into the airport before i crumpled the card in my hand and tossed it in the trash bin next to me.

my luggage had become even more cumbersome now that i was thoroughly tired. it seemed like the suitcase was no longer able to stand upright and was consistently falling to its side. my laptop case, evidently in a competition with the suitcase to see which one could fall faster, was mimicking the moves of the suitcase. every time i moved, i heard a scraping noise and for the life of me i couldn't figure out what it was, although i suspected it was my ass. this on top of some really cold winter winds shredding whatever warmth i found in my inadequately thin suede coat and i was a shivering, clumsy mess by the time the bus finally arrived. as i stepped onto the bus, my luggage banging loudly against the entry steps, i was siezed with dread as i suddenly remembered my cash-strapped status. i had no money.

the bus was packed, too. packed full of tired black folk just like me, only these folk were living in the ny and were probably not born with the "give a helpless stranger bus fare" gene. i stood behind the bus driver and gathered my luggage as tightly to my body as i could as other folk made their way onto the bus. what was i going to do??? it was getting late and if i exited the bus, i'd have to find an atm machine and THEN make change and THEN come back to the shuttle stop to wait who knows how long for the next shuttle. it was becoming painfully clear i wouldn't make it to brooklyn before the ny jets won a super bowl (and you know that shit's at LEAST a decade away. i mean really...pennington's as brittle as words uttered in clipped fashion from a cat with a british accent. the jets suck.)

"uh, sir..." i directed my fear at the bus driver, "i don't have the fare for this trip." yeah...so i didn't actually tell him this until after the bus had already started moving. i figure i'd have that in my favor. surely he wouldn't stop and put my ass out on the street, right? RIGHT?

he glanced at me in the mirror, noted the embarrassment and fear painted on my face in twisted strokes, and turned his attention to the road before him.

"don't worry about it, miss."

"thank you soooo much, sir," i whispered to him, relief in my voice.

i slinked into the seat across from where i stood and pulled the suitcase to sit in between my legs, stacking my laptop case on top of it. i squeezed my purse into the small space next to my right hip. i felt like a bulging piece of luggage with arms and legs and a head sticking out of it. there simply wasn't enough space for me and my shit but i had to make do.

he made a series of stops around the airport and with each stop of the bus, my laptop case would slide off of the top of the suitcase to swing in front of it before pulling it down to the floor. too much SHIT. i yanked the case off of the top and plopped it onto the empty seat next to me. people had to squeeze past my stuff just to get to the seats on the bus. i was fervently hoping i'd spontaneously disappear.

at the last stop a couple of people got on the bus. i paid no attention to them as i put on my earphones and turned on my ipod, trying to erase the fret i was feeling with some hip-hop. it wasn't until i the body heat from the people standing directly in front of me that i realized i needed to move my case from the seat next to me so that someone could sit down. it wouldn't be a comfortable seat cuz there was a pole right next to it, but i figured i'd at least make it available just in case someone needed it. i looked over and reached for it.

and found myself staring into a pair of brown eyes. familiar brown eyes.

talib kweli's brown eyes!



i know what you're thinking... what is a hip-hop star of his caliber doing on a damn shuttle bus? believe me, i asked the same question. i'm wondering "is brotha's mercedes in the shop? is he on the bus so he can stay 'real' by hanging with the 'po folk'? is he really that unassuming and uncaring about all of the material posessions he could surely afford with the money he's pulling in now?"

then there was the other series of questions i was asking myself...

"how am i looking to him right now??? do i look like some kind of bedraggled freak with a suitcase distended from her belly like a bloated second stomach scarred with c-section slices? is my hair now reminding him of a mass of frizzy shoestrings run recently through the mud? do i smell like sweaty ass? does he know i'm not listening to him on my ipod right now??? lawd, why is he sitting just two seats over from my disheveled, discombobulated ass???"

my next move was predictable. i grabbed my ipod and frantically started searching through it for either some talib kweli or black star shit. i figure if brotha hears the music at least he'll know i'm a real fan and not just bandwagon material. initially i was gonna play 'get by' but decided against it cuz that's like the theme song for a bandwagon kweli fan. i finally landed on one of my favs...

"Against the canvas of the night
Appears a curious celestial phenomena
called Black Star, but what is it?...

Black people unite and let's all get down
We got to have what? We got to have that love..."

i admit it. i chose it cuz i knew the lyrics by heart and i could mouth them in front of him to show him i've been a fan of his since before kan.ye was producing for him. i wanted him to think "oh, she's down with the OLD shit...she's REAL."

yeah. nikki's a punk.

after setting the music choice and putting my laptop on top of my suitcase, i relaxed as much as i could considering i was sitting next to one of the few celebrities i actually admire. i tried to look at him on the sly with sideward glances but my vision was too blurry. that's what happens when you wear glasses. all i saw was a brown blob. a famous brown blob.

then the bus makes a sudden stop as the driver avoids hitting a car that had just shot out in front of him.


yeah, that was the sound of my laptop flying sidewards, taking my suitcase with it.

i swear, if i could have cut a hole in that seat and fallen through the floor to get crushed to death by the wheels of the bus, i would have done it. it would have been less painful than the embarassment then pinching my muscles as i clinched my body in response to the loud noise. i stared at my stuff now laid across the floor and was too stunned to move. slowly i started to reach down to pick the stuff up. talib got there quicker. he had already set my suitcase upright and was putting my laptop in the seat next to me.

"i'm putting your laptop right here, sista."

what? huh? uh, what?

i blinked a couple of times. this is SURREAL. i am NOT sitting here looking talib kweli in the mouf. he is NOT putting my laptop next to me. he is NOT speaking to me. this is a dream. i'm dreaming.


perhaps i was just a bit star-struck.

the muttered 'thanks' fell from my mouth like saliva, leaving drops of spit all over my composure. i was done, folk. done.

the rest of the ride went by uneventfully. by the time we got to harlem where i'd get off to catch the train, i was feeling a little better. the embarassment was a mere throb of anxiety as opposed to the previous full-blown spasms of distress i experienced earlier.

the bus stopped and i stood up and grabbed the handle to my suitcase.

"let me get that for you."

okay, so that was talib kweli speaking to me again. i didn't say a word (cuz frankly, i was speechless) and i watched him take my suitcase and carry it off the bus for me. he stood it upright and waited for me to step onto the sidewalk.

"thank you." i remembered to smile and look him the eyes when i said that. a miracle, for sure.

"you're welcome." he smiled quickly before turning and walking away.

i stood there three minutes in the cold, freezing my ass off, grinning like an idiot.

then i called a friend and was screaming in his ear about having just met talib kweli. of course i made it seem like i was more couth than i actually was. come on...who's gonna admit he or she acted like a idiot savant in front of a celebrity?

date: may 22, 2006
time: @11 p.m.
place: the roots concert

talib kweli has been on the stage for 45 minutes, doing all of his popular cuts and some new ones from his most recent joint. my mind keeps revisiting the time i sat next to him on the shuttle bus and every now and again i can feel the embarassment and humiliation scratching my skin with splintered fingernails. luckily, his muscianship was so tight i eventually forgot that meeting and got caught up in his voice and those wonderful lyrics. he finished off his performance with his most popular joint. by the end of the song i was jumping hysterically in the air, my voice hoarse from all the yelling i'd been doing over the last couple of hours. i was starting to feel a little tired but i still had energy to finish that song.

"This morning, I woke up
Feeling brand new and I jumped up

Feeling my high's, and my low's

In my soul, and my goals

Just to stop smoking, and stop drinking

And I've been thinking - I've got my reasons

Just to get (by), just to get (by)

Just to get (by), just to get (by)

Yoyoyo, yo
Some people cry, and some people try
Just to get by, for a piece of the pie

You love to eat and get high

We decieve when we lie, and we keepin it fly

Yoyoyo, yo

When, the people decide, to keep a disguise

Can't see they eyes, see the evil inside

But there's people you find

Strong or feeble in mind, I stay readin the signs..."

that song had me feeling brand new like that first month of first love.

more to come...