Concerned that I do not have enough staying power, I am now forcing myself through Gender Trouble. It is not that I do not “like” Butler—I do. It is that this is not what I need right now, especially not in the way of sensation. Reading Gender Trouble right now makes me unhappy. Or sad. Or morose—yes, morose. I simply need other sensations to take me to other elsewheres.
I am trying to remember the last thing I read that gave me good sensations. Perhaps Mark Rifkin. I always like his stuff.
When I move to Arusha
I will be the most hated
faded gigolo in Nairobi—
“the production of a body less exhausted, alienated, and numb”
—Elizabeth Povinelli, Economies of Abandonment
“no eye-focus, no body-focus”
—Fred Moten, The Feel Trio
I wanted to write about reading “the” migrant body, but I’ve been failing at it. All I have is fragments of it, and I can’t suture them into one. Like how the yoga pant and the track suit become strategic when adorned by it. Or how “used up” transforms into “curvy” under Lycra as the cleaning ladies knock on the wrong door while speaking Spanish. Or my friend’s reduction (this happened over beers and snake eyes) of desirable white bodies in yoga pants and tight jeans into the Swahili word ufundi, harnessing those old country memories of duplicitous repairmen. Or how I now understand how a body becomes monolingual, making it easier for me to forgive Nabokov. Or how the bodies we desire disappear around corners as we try to remember not to find well to do people attractive. Or paper swag—the dream that the limp in the leg of the undocumented becomes a bounce in the step once one is documented. Or tendinitis of the iliacus in the right hip and the psoas in the left, caused by work we hate. Or the workers’ comp we never got. Or our unattended teeth and our epileptic bodies that go into “little drifts”. Or my other friend who wants to fly his mother over from Nigeria for medical checkups. Or our struggles to find clothes that fit. Meanwhile the store clerk makes references to Venus Hottentot, not Sarah Baartman. Or dead bodies we couldn’t repatriate soon enough or ever because “something happened” and statelessness continues to be our open secret. Or the sliding scale-priced acupuncture we never made an appointment for, even as our friends beseeched us to. Or the disappointment when the diagnosis is chronic instead of terminal, like stress-induced ulcer instead of stomach cancer. Or a fake North American accent. Or using kojic acid to “treat” the hyperpigmentation of our black skin. Or the black body that anarranges desire because it is right “in front of our eyes but outside our field of vision.” Or “where are you from, originally?” Or “you’re not black, you’re African”—a race to the hold, indeed to the very bottom of the sea. Or the black body in the hold of the ship crossing the Mediterranean (the darker your skin, the further down the ship you’re stowed). Or the dead bodies floating on the seas. Or being touched at four aiports. Or the viscous drag of the black immigrant body falling through white space, unable to assume terminal velocity. Or the body that instantiates the border, is the border, breaches the border, explodes it, multiplies it, haunts it, mocks it, declares it moot and immutable, strides it, and rubs up against it as the blood quontum frotteur who takes us to the edge, till we’re close—the border:body that is a bull’s eye for minute-men. Or the “I am drug and disease-free” vernacular that does not apply to the body from “over there”. Or the post-traumatic stress of a body that can never finish relocating because “the map is not the territory.” Or the body injured time and again by the non-sovereignty of the wound. Or the perennially low blood sugar of the body that finds the food “here” bland. Or the body whose diasporic disenchantment manifests as its inability to get out of bed. Or the exhausted body that does not portray itself as resilient, because it feels the toll. Or the hand that writes this—
“The gap in the data is reflected here.”
Salamatou died. I don’t know what to do with that.