I hang out with these nannies at the beach a couple of times per week. Me, because the sky is clear and there are no distractions from the home part of home office to threaten me. Them, because they are responsible for a pack of little ones while their parents are out working. Over the course of the summer we’ve become friends.
My BFF of the nannies is named Ariel. Yes, like the mermaid. She is hilarious, and feels like it’s perfectly reasonable for the youngest of her babies to be named Luke Skywalker. She calls him Luke Skywalker every time. You know, “Come down from there, Luke Skywalker, and eat your lunch. Naptime comes soon.”
She told me when I asked her about his name, “If they’re fool enough to name him that, I’ll be fool enough for them to pay me to call him that. Him a good boy.”
Then she offered me a peach. I took it, and had a seat, and now we are buds. I fit in with them pretty well, the nannies, because we are all brown and patient and keep snacks in our bags. They are taking care of little ones, and me? I just like snacks. They want for me to write the story of the inside of the lives of the wealthy here in our part of the world, but I refrain. I just feel like the wealthy get enough attention, and more than enough power.
They want me to write about the help, and leave the White folks out of it. I have had enough of the Magical Negro stories to last me a lifetime. Invictus, Batman, The Help, The Secret Life Of Bees, Bagger Vance, Bruce Almighty… need I go on? I tell them I want to tell our story, from our side of things. Not a National Geographic exploration of the Other, but a sharing of Us.
So we meet up and talk, and I write, and watch the children grow.
“Don’t be afraid.” My friend tells me today, and she is smiling. I stare, a test pattern. Then, she leans over and pokes my leg. “Don’t be afraid.”
Huh. This lady is someone I’ve grown to trust. She could know what she’s talking about. She has never once said a harsh word to me, or about anyone else.
“I’m not afraid,” I told her. “ I’m…”
She almost starts to laugh. She reaches in and takes my hand. “The perspective problem you’re trying to work out? That story you want to foster? Go and get it. Don’t be afraid.”
“Why are you telling me that?”
“I don’t know. God speaks through all of us. You must need to hear it.”
She might be right. I might have needed to hear it. And no, I don’t think that Ariel is magical. Hey listen, everyone who works in the service industry and is Black does not need to have an extra special connection to the divine. My friend saw trouble in my face and reminded me to be unafraid, and that is all.
But the encounter does remind me to listen carefully to every word that everyone says, in case they really are my magical Negro/Caucasian/Latina of the day. I wouldn’t want to miss it.