Niggapino: A World of Color

As most of you are aware, I’d like to write an autobiography of my life someday (perhaps after I achieve my Master’s Degree?). My most recent/3rd assignment has allowed me the freedom to write a narrative essay, so I decided to briefly describe some defining moments in my life.

I basically had to take a minimum of two events that occurred in my life, and write about how they interconnected with one another in a nonchalant kind of way. I’ll be turning this in tonight, so there probably won’t be time for you to critique it, but I just wanted to share it with everyone. Let me know what you think. I was only able to get two events in. I’ll expand on areas some more, when I get the time. I hope you like it. :]


Niggapino: A World of Color

“Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending.” – Maria Robinson

The orange sherbet-flavored horizon gleamed through the window, next to me on the 747. I gazed outside for a moment to be introduced to a cloudless sky, and an endless body of water swaying back and forth, miles and miles below us. The water’s rhythmic pattern of swaying continued, as if it were a dancer trained to hypnotize me. Minutes passed by before my eyes became so barren dry that I couldn’t resist blinking. It wasn’t until after I blinking was I able to regain mental control, and shift my eyes away from hypnotic view of the Pacific Ocean, and look around at the people around me. Due to my prolonged gaze outside the window, my vision had become distorted from all of the orange hues that flooded into my eyes. All of the colors within the cabin had a very vivid hint of peach, or some sort of variation to the color.

The young girl sitting next to me stared with familiarity and smiled. Her skin tone resembled the shy undertones of mahogany wood with blended tones of burnt orange.  Her dress was white as snow, and puffed out like a ballerina’s tutu. Her bleach-white stalking hosiery went at least thigh-high, and she wore white patent mary jane shoes that matched. She even had a milky white headband to match her entire ensemble. It was almost as if she was dressed up to resemble a princess on her wedding day. I tried to recollect her name, and everything I knew about her, but all I could understand was that somehow we knew each other. As a matter-of-fact, after looking around even more, I came to the realization that she was the only person I knew on the plane.

Several stewardesses continued to check up on us, but every time they did I turned my head to look outside, feeling uncomfortable talking to these ladies that I didn’t know.  The orange color continued to drown out all of the other colors outside, and the waves continued to rock back and forth in a soothing motion. Moments later, I felt myself swaying like the ocean. After noticing this, I broke my captivated gaze for the cabin again, but the only problem was that the swaying didn’t stop. The plane hit a couple turbulent areas, but I could feel the plane rocking. In order to control this uncomfortable feeling I turned my focus onto my neighbor, Marie. “Yes, Marie,” I thought to myself. “My cousin.” She looked at me and smiled, but it didn’t help.

The plane continued to experience turbulence and I could feel my stomach wrestling with itself, like I had mixed vinegar and baking soda together and ingested it. A strong desire to burp came over me. I could feel the pressure beginning to build up at the bottom of my throat, as I just couldn’t control it anymore. I could feel a rush of air push up and passed my esophagus, and out of my mouth. Little did I know, there were chunks of a previous meal and plenty of liquids that quickly made their way up my throat to follow my burp. Facing the direction of my cousin, a very pungent, tangy-smelling, peach-colored concoction projected out of my mouth all over her, once beautiful, white dress. The sound can be reminiscent of water hitting the ground with a combination of plopping noises from the food and drink, hitting the fabric covered seats.  The smell was repugnant and unbearable. I could taste a mixture of sweetness, bitterness and sourness, laced with the smell of recently digested airplane food, juice, water and milk. After seeing my cousin drenched in my vomit, the second and third waves continued as I proceeded to puke all over myself, and onto the floor. You can trust me when I say that escape is futile when you’re seated by the window, and you’ve just finished puking in every direction around you.

“Accept no one’s definition of your life; define yourself.” – Harvey Fierstein

Art projects were somewhat torturous for me throughout elementary school. For some odd reason, whenever I saw, or even smelled a peach-colored marker  or crayon, I would begin to feel queasy. There had even been a few times when I occasionally dry-heaved, or vomited in my mouth, after seeing the color. I can still recall my mom coming home with new boxes of crayons for me, and every time I would get a new batch I would immediately throw away the peach-colored ones. This made it difficult to color in people, as I methodically associated the color peach to the color of most of the other kids I interacted with. I was a professional when it came to drawing and selecting colors. If I was going to draw someone, I would take the box of crayons and compare the colors that I had with the color of their skin, their shirt, their pants, and even their shoes at times.

White and black were two colors that were almost-never necessary. Actually, come to think of it, black was a relative color, because I used to think my eye color was black. My teachers often tried to correct me by telling me that they were brown, but I was pretty confident in what I saw in the mirror. I was pretty incorrigible back in those days, when I was still an only child. Back in those days my only worry was a broken crayon, lack of paper to draw on, or a crayon that needed to be re-sharpened. In a way, I always knew I was different. I knew this because almost everyone around me could easily be represented by the color peach, but I had a different tone to my skin.

Brown was too dark to represent me; however, it fit my complexion perfectly during the hot summer months, after spending hours upon hours outside in the sun. Sometimes, I’d even recognize when my skin would turn shades darker than the color brown in my crayon box!  It wasn’t until crayons started coming out with abstract names and colors, did I find the one that best illustrated me. Living in the Pacific Northwest, it was raining or cloudy most of the year, so naturally my complexion stayed the same color two-thirds out of the year. The color that I finally came to associate myself with was burnt sienna. It was similar to the color brown, but lighter, with a dash of orange and some yellow. It’s a color that represents warmth, unlike peach which was kind of bland to me.

I grew up in a predominantly white neighborhood in Southeast Portland, Oregon. My elementary school was the type of school that labeled itself diverse even though it wasn’t. My elementary school decorated its hallways with warm hues and commissioned someone to draw pictures of various ethnic children holding hands. My elementary school was the type of school that took pride in its multicultural youth, but didn’t have any colored teachers among their staff, except for the janitors; but who counts them anyway? My school probably did.

Color didn’t become such a huge factor in my life until one of my classmates in 5th grade, made it known to me. It must have been close to summer, as I can vividly remember the crisp green grass illuminating the ground and the bright green leaves swaying in the breeze. We were all out on recess, and had just finished a round of kickball. I was never any good. I can still recall the kids all “moving up”, as I was never able to kick the ball far enough. There was one day, however, when I surprised everyone, including myself, and kicked the ball so far that I was able to make it all the way around. It was a great feeling of accomplishment.

The kid’s name was Neal. He was kind of weird in my book. He had a mouth full of metal, and made you feel uncomfortable when he smiled at you. Not uncomfortable in a way that he made you feel uneasy, but uncomfortable in the sense that you wouldn’t want all of those brackets, rubber bands and gizmos remotely near your mouth, let-alone being surgically attached to your teeth. He had dirty blonde hair, green or blue eyes and freckles around his cheeks. He often wore dark colors, grays and just never seemed very appealing. He was the type of person that I avoided, just to avoid for no particular reason. That and he often got answers wrong, during class discussions.

After a game of kickball, I proceeded onto a grassy knoll, near the kickball area. Instead of our entire playground being a concrete slab, they left an area where the grass grew freely, but not-so-freely as they cut it down often. Some other kids followed me and I cannot recall too much of our conversation. It must have been about kickball, as I felt a huge confidence boost by their presence. Neal, stared at me for a while as he began to ask me a slew of various and different questions.

“What kind of music do you listen to?” he asked.

“Whatever’s on the radio,” I replied. Granted, up until this point, I didn’t know there were other radio stations. Every time I would see people in other cars, I would come to the quick assumption that they were listening to the same music as we were listening to in our car. I can still remember the vivid radio jingle that went something along the lines of: “You’re listening to 97.1 KISN FM, the station that brings you the oldies, but goodies.”

“Do you listen to The New Kids on the Block?” he continued.

“Who’s that?” I inquired, as the kids around me looked at me with horror-filled eyes. They proceeded to describe them, but I just tuned them all out. I knew of the Beach Boys, The Beatles, and other various bands from the 70s, so surely they couldn’t have been that different.

“Don’t you listen to rap?” Neal probed.

“Wrap?” I responded. “What’s wrap?” At this time, I had become more of an enigma to my peers, than the concept of nuclear energy.

Neal looked at me with shock-filled eyes as he continued with comment, after question, after comment, as he says, “I can’t believe you don’t listen to rap. Aren’t you black?”

“Finally,” I thought to myself, a question that I knew how to answer and respond to. “I’m not Black. I’m brown.”

The conversation ended, shortly thereafter, as did recess. This event, however, is an event that clings onto the very fiber of my being. This moment changed the course of my life, as it opened the doors to the idea that color was not just a form of describing an object, a memory, a feeling, or filling in the lines of a white sheet of paper, but a way of describing an entire demographic. I was no longer the burnt sienna in a box of crayons. Instead, I was Black. A color I would have never associated myself with. A color that doesn’t absorb light. A color in the darkest part of my room at night. A color that I used to describe my eye color. A color that doesn’t accurately describe the pigment of my own skin. A color used in a derogatory sense. A color that causes others to hate me, label me or make assumptions about me. A color that limits, but also expands my horizons.

But this color doesn’t define me. I define who I am. I am the color red, angry at the world for its oppressive behaviors and hate. I am yellow, for my cowardice and my lack-luster of a voice. I am green, as I was always jealous of the different things white people could do with their hair. I am blue, for those days when I thought they were better than me because they were lighter skinned. I am orange, because I am bright, smart, and intelligent and I shine. I am white, as I shine the light on those in the darkness. I am Black, because I am all of these things and more.