How can I miss something I never had? How did I pick up that pencil and draw until the quietest hours of the morning, memories of a You and I without ever seeing you in the physical? I scribbled lines in a frenzy on a clean canvas, trying to capture your face before the smoke waltzed its way into my thoughts and took your spirit from me like the Holy Ghost. You had a deep voice and yet, the way you rolled your r’s and made words with double l’s sound like they began with a y, gave me a comfort. A small piece of the mystery. I was an Afro-Latina.
Yet no one believed me and I grew up, went to high school and heard things like,
You can’t be Spanish – not even half. Look at your hair.
So, not feeling accepted by the very people that were supposed to be my own, shattered my soul and not having you there to tell me to never let the words of another take away from who I was, made me feel incomplete all over again. I don’t even know you; how could you really be apart of me?
My crown eliminated me from being a Latina. Because it’s too tough. Because it takes more than a Dominican blowout to straighten it. Because I’m afraid of the consequences of hair and water combinations. Was my hair supposed to be bone straight? Was I to have a set of kinky curls on my head to properly place me into the Afro-Latina box? I broke the teeth of combs. I needed a perm every six weeks. I wore weaves and extensions for braids and how dare I take pride in saying I was a Latina woman when I wasn’t even proud of my hair?
(The person who said that to me clearly wasn’t aware of protective styles for women of color, especially in the winter, but whatever.)
And my skin? Please. I knew morena meant something foul before I learned of its translation just by how the side-eyeing preceded the word. I was too black to be beautiful. I was too dark to be down. What 7-year-old Jakiyah McKoy experienced in 2013, was how I felt at 16 in 2003. I knew that Black people came in an array of colors growing up; it was evident in my half-Puerto Rican aunt and dark skinned mother, but for some reason, being just half of a Latina would’ve “at least” made my skin a coffee color when you add just the right amount of milk.
There wasn’t enough creamer in my blood. I failed to make the grade.
There are people who will bypass me and go to the lighter skinned co-worker for directions or questions porque tu no pareces que hablas español. I’ll get looks of confusion when I speak the language and if I tell people I pledged for a Latina-based but not Latina-exclusive sorority, I can see the SMHs a mile away. Fluent Spanish speakers know that it’s not my native language.
You learned through the textbooks.
Do you know that every time I hear that, I wish that you were present with me in the flesh right at that moment to tell me, no te preocupes mi hija, tu no eres menos Latina que la otra (don’t worry my daughter, you are no less Latina than the next)? But you’re not here and I’m left with all these questions that have no answers and all these statements that I can’t give a reply to. I’m a lesser than because I can’t converse as quickly with the Dominicanas that do my hair and I don’t know what the hell is happening when I try to watch just one telenovela.
I just feel empty and honestly speaking, I don’t know if I’ll ever be whole because of that missing piece to my being’s puzzle. A father? What's that?