July 4, 2018 | By Arah Iloabugichukwu
“When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.” It doesn’t get much more cliché than that, but our love affair would follow a similar journey, banalities in the form of edicts.
“One nation, under God,” I proclaimed to you, hand over heart. “Indivisible, with liberty and justice.” And justice? Our whole relationship was built on a lie and it seemed like everyone was in on the joke except me. But I couldn’t see that side of you, I wouldn’t allow myself to see the ugly side of you. You were my America too and I didn’t care who didn’t want me in your life. What was understood didn’t need to be explained, right? Over the years, life would supply us more clichés as we grew together. And it was no mistake that all of my plans revolved around you. See, before we even got together back in ’87, you had already groomed my destiny. Predetermined what spaces I could occupy in your world. Looking back at things, I should’ve known you were incapable of loving me. But I was blinded by your bright lights, your seemingly endless possibilities. You were far more experienced than me so I trusted your advice, I believed that you would steer me, steer us in the right direction. After all, I was your future. We were in this together, that’s what I thought.
I thought wrong. Or maybe I wasn’t thinking at all because I was warned about how conniving you could be. I loved you for decades, wanting nothing in return but your validation. I just wanted to finally be enough for you. Was I crazy for wanting your approval? Imagine, growing and hearing stories about how far my father traveled to meet you. Over 6,000 miles in search of something he’d never even seen, can you believe that? As many times as I wanted to give up on you, I couldn’t. I was convinced that we had to make this work America, we had people who believed in us. And why couldn’t we make it work when I did everything you asked. You said you liked smart girls, I ignored the hefty price tags and busted my ass in school. I knew I didn’t stand a chance with you if I didn’t stick it out and so I did. All the way across that stage only to see you sitting there unimpressed. You could be so damn cold sometimes, I wondered if you realized that. You said you liked pretty girls, I drowned in tutorials trying to master sculpting a more socially acceptable nose. You said you liked thin girls, I hit the gym 5 times a week. You told me not to be weak and now I’ve grown so strong that it’s killing me. You told me to help myself, I bootstrapped my way through my 20’s eating ramen and working dead end jobs. All the while, you sat there and watched me struggle, looking completely unbothered. Didn’t you see what I was going through to prove myself to you, America? Did you care?