A moment in time.

I didn’t expect to feel so enamored by you.

By definition, the spark I felt – and I can only speak for myself here, because who knows what you were thinking – was the true meaning behind “there’s no accounting for taste.”

You had a mop of curly, dark hair, and days-old scruff lining a strong jawline. You were dressed in that casual, semi-streetwear-but-not-quite attire that always gets me. You knew how to dance. You were friendly and possessed a specific kind of humor, the type of charm that I later told you makes people want to open up and share their deepest secrets. Though I felt the mutual physical attraction between us, you kept it cool and courteous with that completely genuine sense of self that I’ve lately encountered only among those outside of the gritty populace of New York City.

In other words: you were my type.

But it was more than that. Truth be told, I initially attached myself to you in order to flee from someone else. But in a surprising twist of events, I found a sense of comfort in your vibe, one that was palpable even in the depths of the musty, dimly lit venue full of people gyrating to 80s pop music. It almost felt unreal, like a movie, and God knows how desperately I’ve been chasing any reality that so strongly contrasted with my own.

We left the club with our group of friends. As they climbed into the Uber, I felt something in my heart protest at the thought of parting ways with you. To clarify, this wasn’t love or anything even remotely close to that: what it was is that deep, guttural desire to know everything about a stranger, to explore their mind and body and learn things about them that lay just below the surface, because this moment wasn’t real and it was fleeting.

I knew a part of me had been running away from real life for some time, and what I craved the most were these ephemeral experiences in cities so far from the one I knew, with people I would likely never see again. To imbibe the spirit of a stranger, because I’d rather limit it to one night than learn who they really were. I didn’t want to know their flaws, or whether they had a five-year plan or a good relationship with their parents or if they didn’t shower as frequently as they should have.

Just the one night was all I wanted.

Sometimes I wonder why I liked living in my own head so much, creating fairytales and choosing to live them out and pretend like they were real. It only really occurs when I travel, but I suppose that’s a thought to explore another time.

We arrived at your place: for someone who oversaw the,  er, art of importing and distribution of a certain herb for a living, you lived in quite a spacious apartment. Albeit messy, which was putting it lightly. But I digress; even in spite of your living conditions (and the state of your bathroom) I still wanted you. Ain’t that something.

We sank into your couch, and as you rolled that herb into a wrap that hinted of strawberries, I opened up to you like I knew I would. We talked at length: about you, about your life in the South and dual nationalities, about a number of things that I can’t quite remember because internally I was marveling at how completely at ease I felt here with you. A complete stranger.

I’ve been trying to get better at judging a person’s character from the get-go. I like to think I judged you correctly. I’ll spare the gory details of what happened next and instead skip ahead to where I fell asleep in your arms, my head cradled in the crook of your neck as if that’s where it always belonged. You even smelled like laundry, a little-known characteristic in the opposite sex that I always found irresistible. We held each other with an impossible comfort, a familiarity that I was sure would dissolve awkwardly in the morning when we were awake and sober. But to my surprise, it didn’t.

The following day was my last day in town, and I couldn’t get you out of my head. I tried to carry on and take in the city for the final time, but broke in my final hours; instead of leaving the experience as a memory, I wanted part two. And so I reached out.

That closing night in the city was quite the memorable one because of the way it unraveled in a manner that only happened in films. We got acquainted with one another’s bodies again: I can’t say it was the best I ever had, but the chemistry made it that much more special. Forget the physical part, I just wanted to keep my legs wrapped around you and my fingers running through your hair, forever.

I’m a sucker for late night adventure. Maybe it’s because I’ve read too many books or watched one too many episodes of Gilmore Girls,  but I loved that it felt like living out a high school romance. We drove around that upscale neighborhood, where you pointed out the mansions looming above us and houses with 3 car garages. I told you I wanted to see Austin from a vantage point, and so you drove us to the highest peak.

Admittedly, the thought that I could be murdered crossed my mind once or twice, especially as we held hands and climbed up the pitch-dark stairs to the top. But once I saw the city lights and heard the faraway chiming of live music somewhere out there, I knew this was where I needed to be.

We stood atop a table that offered spectacular views, one in which another couple had been perched but graciously gave up to us as we approached. That damn Southern hospitality. You slid your arm across my shoulders and I nestled my head in that same comfortable space in your neck and thought: there’s nowhere else I’d rather be in this moment.

I won’t forget that night. I’ll remember the 24-hour diner we went to after, the ice cream-topped brownie that we couldn’t finish, and your offer to drop me off at the airport at three in the morning. The context is key: I wonder if I would have liked you as much if I met you in another place or time, or in the city I call home. We’re too different, and when real-life is introduced, the magic is gone.

But for that night I carried on living my pretend-life, because I felt something that I hadn’t felt in a long time. No ulterior motives, no dishonesty, no negativity. Just a good time.

Yesterday, I was racially profiled by the police in my neighborhood.

I was dressed in a dark blue shirt, rolled up at the sleeves and buttoned over an aztec print red crop top. I was wearing black leggings, navy blue and brown oxfords, and carried a mini backpack on my shoulders, just spacious enough to carry the new J.K. Rowling book, my wallet, and a few makeup essentials.

The only thing I hadn’t voluntarily put on was my brown skin color.

I arrived at the train station just a few minutes early in meeting a friend, whom I will refer to as Jen. I glanced at the the cops that were stationed in front of the other entrance of to the subway. The uptown six train had just stopped moments before, and masses of people were exiting the station. I was the only one there at the time not heading out or upstairs to a train. Through a gap in the crowd, I met the eyes of one policeman, who held my gaze briefly before tearing away to look at something else. I noticed that the others were determinedly avoiding looking at me.

I felt uneasy.

In the back of my mind, I already knew what was going to happen. Since I wasn’t going anywhere at that particular moment, it hadn’t happened yet. Jen arrived only five minutes later, although it felt like I was waiting a lifetime. By then, I had convinced myself that it wouldn’t happen, that I was being paranoid.

We strode towards the turnstiles only feet away, and I was in the middle of pulling out my Metrocard when it happened: a man clad in a navy blue police outfit unfolded his arms and approached me.

“Excuse me miss, we need to check your bag.”

My heart sank. I felt the heat rise up in my cheeks, humiliated. I followed the man to the check station, where I dumped my bag unceremoniously onto the table. I started to open it up, and the security stopped me.

“You don’t need to open your bag”, he said shortly. I pulled the rope that seals the bag shut, and he proceeded to rub some sort of cloth over the bag. I’m no expert in security checks but I have no idea how a piece of cloth identifies whether there is a homemade bomb or drugs concealed inside a small backpack or not. A few seconds later, I was free to go. The cops thanked me graciously and bid me a good day.

Fortunately, my sunglasses were able to hide the tears of fury and indignation that had sprung to my eyes. It had struck a nerve when they thanked me; I only snatched my bag back and stalked away.

I felt targeted. I was reeling with the injustice of what had just happened and the feeling of despair that there was nothing I could do about it.

Jen had been carrying a handbag much larger than my backpack. Although sharing part of the same ethnic background as myself, her eyes represented a nationality that set her apart from the targeted demographic.

Why do I believe that this was an act of racial profiling and not a “random” security check? Simple: this isn’t the first time I was stopped. On another occasion about two years earlier, I was in my train station accompanied by a friend who is Caucasian. He was wearing a large sized backpack, I was carrying a purse. The police happened to be randomly checking bags that day. Guess which of us was lucky enough to get searched?

As I am typing this out, I realize with a heavy heart how easily disregarded my story will be, simply because it isn’t a story. This is something that happens to people of specific backgrounds on such a regular basis that it has become the norm. It is widely accepted that this can and will happen; that is the ultimate tragedy here.

I was browsing the website Reddit the other day, and a photo that was on the front page caught my attention. Submitted into the subreddit “r/funny”, the photo in question was taken by a Sikh male heading into a security checkpoint at an airport. The photo in question:

Image

Highly amusing at a glance, but when you get to the core of the issue, it starts appearing less humorous. This is real life for many, many, many people.

A more serious example: Seema Jilani, a Muslim and American doctor, experienced blatant racism at our very own White House Correspondents Dinner. Jilani, a physician at Afghanistan married to a noted journalist, shares a story that sends across one message: it is become increasingly apparent that no matter your profession or social status, your level of patriotism or lack thereof, one can and will be identified by one factor and one factor only: whether or not you fall into a certain category that is doomed to be discriminated against forever.

My personal issue may seem infinitesimally small next to much larger problems occurring in the world, but it all starts from the beginning. These are mild examples of the ongoing issue of racism and discrimination in a country that exhibits much more deep seated events like this one.

Change is a word that is often thrown about by people, especially when they experience something shocking for the first time. What exactly is change? How can we make it happen? How can we make people understand the pain of being racially targeted, when millions of people just like myself will never experience what I did because they are a different skin color from me? How can I stop the tens of thousands of men and woman, young and old, from being stopped at the police station, frisked in the street, for no reason other than being who they are? How?

I initially intended to relay my story as calmly as possible, but it ended up turning into something of a rant, so I apologize that. But really, I am open to suggestions for change. Anything.