This is a story about aliens, ghosts and hybrid creatures.
Ada was a cultural misfit who carried around in her pocket several identities. The term “alien” is often used by people who find it difficult to interact with anyone who appears to exist in a space unknown to them; a space outside of their static reality. Harriet described the foreign plant sprouting outside of her home as invasive. A “non-native” species. For this reason, she found it beautiful. Perhaps this is our story also. Invasive, non-native, beautiful in a seeming strangeness.
Where are you from?
How can you be from nowhere?
I am from everywhere, so I am from nowhere.
That doesn’t make any sense.
Neither do I, but there are many of us.
All of Ada’s life was one ongoing movement; never sleeping in one place long enough to call it home. In the formative years, this was difficult and isolating territory to linger in; constantly losing people, meeting new ones, constantly explaining why she knew nothing of the land. But along the way she met others; transient, kindred hybrids who flirted between borders and assumed no singular identity. The reasons for their being were as varied as they were. Choice, circumstance, adventure, curiosity, necessity, desperation, freedom, escape, boredom, angst, work, play… She understood these creatures, and finally felt as if she belonged. Not in a physical place, because one was as good as any other, but surrounded by others who, by their lack of cultural uniformity, formed a new country where being many things all at once was the norm.
Are you still an alien when everyone around you is also an alien?
No, you are only an alien when you are “thrown against a sharp”1 homogenous background.
You are always a hybrid, but alien only sometimes.
What of ghosts?
Ghosts are coming.
So many of us go through this world straddling space. It is not necessarily about being uprooted, although for some, “roots” are as abstract as aliens. Yet even within any semblance of belonging, however temporary or permanent, there is always an underlying angst for somewhere/something else. The here and now tend not to suffice because there is more.
There is always more.
We know this because we are comprised of so much…
A hybrid is slightly different from an alien. It moves in space and transcends boundaries more easily than an alien. To its advantage it is equipped with what biologists would call hybrid vigor; pulling strength from multiple, heteroclite sources.
We are hybrids of that place we grew up, the language that Mom speaks, the country in which we once spent a decade before relocating to the next [quite unlike the first], to perhaps partner with a fellow hybrid and debate at dinner where to eventually raise the multilingual children.
Children suffer if you keep uprooting them.
That’s what you said.
But maybe the children will be okay?
You can’t listen to everybody,
But some people are just so loud.
Looking for more, Ada ran. Ran away home.
Where is home?
I really wish you would stop asking me that.
To that place where she was born, but of which, she knew so little. It was there that she became an alien, because everyone else seemed the same. Despite the discomfort, there was an inherent sense of authenticity. Of belonging, if only in her head. If you feel as though you have a right to be somewhere, then you do.
No one can take that from you.
Remember that, Ada.
Suddenly it ended and Ada returned to her other home with her perspective in flux. Her eyeballs had grown large. They held more light, and saw more magic—because one cannot move around and yet remain the same. Hybrids have this thing about compartmentalization; the ability to separate all the parts they adopt. There is room for you to stay and amalgamate with me, maybe because one day I will leave.
Now she floats in between these spaces, suffering daily from hallucinations. At one point, some of her only existed in theory. Going “home” solidified these abstractions, upsetting the balance of everything she thought she knew. In one blink she is here, wherever that may be. In the next blink her mind has gone to that other place, the one that became real.
Learning to fly was the most necessary skill to acquire. To be okay at living in between, it was imperative that she remain light, leaving as gentle of a mark on the surface for fear it might crumble beneath her. This is how she became a ghost. Always a hybrid. Sometimes an alien. Borders are just pencil lines.
How can you divide something that is fluid [space]?
The whole world is mine.
Title inspired by Glenn Ligon’s (b. 1960), Untitled (I Feel Most Colored When I Am Thrown Against a Sharp White Background) (1990), Oil stick, gesso and graphite on wood.
- 1. Saul Williams and Musa Bailey, “Penny for a Thought,”
from the album Amethyst Rock Star, 2001.