Off the Grid
My "in case of emergency" contact is 1500 miles away. I’ve moved to a city where I don’t know anyone well enough to ask them for a ride to the airport. But there is something really wonderful about moving away from everyone you know to a place where you know virtually no one. This inaugural anonymity only lasts for so long because you can only be new to a city once. So I’ve been off the grid.
And I’ve been milking it for all that it's worth.
It’s like I’ve decided that because no one knows me, no one can see me….
For example, I run into the same people over and over in my building (also known as “my neighbors”). But I have refused to introduce myself...for three months and counting. I keep my earphones in at all times, even when I’m not listening to anything. And when some over-zealous neighbor who has ignored all social cues starts talking to me over my earphones, I pretend not to understand English. Sometimes, I even clutch my purse and try to look like I’m afraid of them.
It's an all out refusal to participate in society.
I tried to pull off my little invisible plot at my favorite brunch spot, which has bottomless mimosas every day from 11-4. (Every day!) But the manager decided to chat me up and get to know me. Boooo. Now that I've foolishly given him my real name, I’m too ashamed to show up by myself at 2 p.m. on Tuesday, sit in a corner with my hoodie on, and drink my afternoon away. I could have structured my whole day around bottomless mimosas. Thanks a bunch.
Kendrick Lamar, young savant that he is, recently explained it best, “Sometimes I need to be alone…”
My friends frequently come to town for various reasons and drag me out of the house for drinks or dinner so I can meet their friends who live here. I'm like a home-schooled child being taken on a play date. They’re trying to prevent me from becoming a sociopath, arsonist, or a recruit for some sort of sleeper cell. I get it.
But, my inaugural anonymity was thoroughly shattered last Saturday night when a couple I know from DC came to town and invited me out along with some of their other friends who live here. As I was asking this one lovely couple to whom I had been introduced about their “how we met” story, they mentioned that they connected at So-and-So’s Christening.
Pause. Wait. Whose Christening? (It’s a pretty unique name.) Damn, man. I know the kid’s dad. To avoid incriminating myself, I couldn't to tell them how exactly I know the kid’s dad. SMH. So I just told them how generally. "Through Mark,” which is a true story. It’s just not the whole story. Sigh. Thus, began the name game. “You know Mark too? Oh, so then you must also know Rebecca and Danielle?” Damn. "Yep." "Yep, and yep."
Side Bar: If you didn’t know, all black people with at least one college degree have only one degree of separation from all other black people who have at least one college degree.
Black Person Who Can Read #1: “Oh, you can read too? Oh, well you must know [insert the name of another black person who can read who has ever lived in the same broad geographical region as that person, e.g. the Eastern Seaboard or the Pacific Northwest].”
Black Person Who Can Read #2: “Of course, I do! We [insert any of the following: dated, dated the same person, dated five of the same people, made eye contact at a Starbucks once, were the only two black people at a professional conference so I invited her to stand in my wedding, etc.].”
If you’re on a date with a black person who can read, and you look across the bar and see another black couple who can read on a date, and you are the only four black people in the bar, within five minutes, you could be on a double date.
That’s how it works. We don’t all look alike, but we do all know each other. It’s true.
So on Saturday night, the world closed in on me. Not that I had big plans for “wilding” in L.A., but the option to twerk anonymously, to twerk in peace, if you will, was comforting, even if only in theory.
But just like that, I’m back on the grid.