Inquiry & Observation in 4 Parts
1) A couple weeks ago I had to go to the dentist to get my chipped front tooth finally addressed. I'd been putting it off and putting it off despite the cosmetic considerations, in part due to my laziness and in part due to my deep primal dentistry fears. There was a lag of a few weeks between making the appointment and the appointment itself so for reasons unremembered by me I scheduled it at 7 AM. God why? Probably thinking that I could pop in early and then head off to work. Exhausted and one-quarter awake I pulled into the parking lot, thinking of how I'd be the first or among the first appointments of the day and - as I am prone to do reflexively (maybe b/c I'm weird or maybe b/c I'm a writer and filmmaker or maybe due to some mixture) - started thinking about the people who worked there and the building turning on for the day and other operational considerations. What time did they have to arrive, 6:45 AM? What personal situations and emotions trailed them in at the crack of dawn before the dental apparatus began humming and demanded their focus? Did any of them regard their job negatively or at the same pitch and register as I regarded my day job? And so on. It was at this moment I noticed a young black woman at the back corner lot, yawning as she beeped her car key. Barely beating the receptionist in I thought. Why so GD early? Across the lot another poor soul walked from his car to the front door. Inside, I overheard him at check-in: Wisdom tooth surgery. Fuck. Mine can't be that unpleasant, can it?
Moments later I was in the hallway being led to the back by the dental technician. She made small talk as she led me to her station, put me in the chair. I responded in a rudimentary way to her as I was seized by pools of panic, thinking about all the ways this could go wrong, all the problems with tooth and gum they'd find, all the steps and iterations required to fix a chipped tooth, what are they all? what if this is complex as fuck? what if this takes 3 visits? And so on. It was at this moment the young black woman I saw in the parking lot entered. "Ah" said the tech, "Here's the dentist"
A burn began to rise in my belly.
"What do we have on tap this morning" the dentist said
"Chipped front tooth" the tech responded
"Oh, those are fun" the dentist said. Then she looked at me and said "Why are you here so early?"
"Good question" I responded.
40 minutes later I was in the car headed home with a new tooth and a feeling I couldn't shake. Like I was outside myself, watching an innocent movie character suddenly realize his implication in something dire and malignant.
I pulled into the driveway at home.
2) This weekend at Washington Park playground with M and the kids. We'd just been on walk at Hoyt Arboretum and the playground was promised fun after they agreed to the non-fun of the walk. Set free, N began running around like an insane 4.5 year old and F headed straight to the swings, her natural preference. On the swing next to us was a small black boy being pushed by his white mother. My mind went instantly to the vagaries and details of adoption. I recalled the years of trouble M and I had conceiving, the moments we thought/knew it wouldn't happen and begin exploring the actual facts of adoption, the bureaucracy, the classes, the money, the plane flights. Was that this woman's journey? Was it joyous and free of entanglement, this path to her adoptive son? Or did it eat at her, did it consume her, was she still harboring resentment at the process not happening naturally? And so on. It was at this moment her black husband walked up to her, touched her shoulder and whispered something to her the easy, mundane way of a long-together couple.
A familiar burning feeling rose again in my belly, that sleeping man in the movie again, given sudden window to deep, multi-generational corrosion and his unwitting but malignant participation.
The young boy and F were both cute as hell, swinging side by side but out of rhythm. One forward, one back. Then reversed. Then reversed again. I kept focus on their faces, their unconstrained joy, wondering how soon until they drifted into parallel movement.
3) Alton Sterling
4) Philando Castile