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The only girl in my group of black girlfriends who had a boyfriend was dating a white boy who was white enough to have a family that hated black people. We would sit squished in a row behind them with all of our smirks perfectly even as they drove us home.The year before I graduated college, black boys started dying on TV: Trayvon Martin, then Eric Garner, then Michael Brown, then Tamir Rice.It felt too ironic; the first black man who I dated had left me in exactly the way that I feared.He had grown tired of letting me pretend, I realized.We stood on the head of our warnings every day as we got to know each other. I knew I was a far away from the Latina girls he was used to with silk hair, milk-toffee skin, and sharp tongues: I had forgotten how vulnerable it felt to be black in the apartment building lobby of a potential love. Before every date I would always buy myself a new outfit or piece of clothing to impress him, as though being constantly new would distract from any shortcomings.I would stretch my hair every inch that I could, to make it appear longer. There were days when we fought and said things to each other like “That must have been from how you were raised.” We got assaulted on the street by men who would yell “Black and white don’t mix” and smash their shoulders into ours.Our portrait was perfectly hung and constantly dusted for shine.But whenever he would call, I would let my phone ring until the screen went black. ” “Soon,“ I would say, as though there was more urgency in believing it to be true.
The match wasn’t ideal, but we took to each other like people end up doing when left in a room alone.I didn’t date for two years following that breakup.I cleaned myself up: I got a well-paying job; moved to the city; got my own apartment and painted it yellow and got plants to place on the windowsill. I joined Tinder on a whim to break the routine of eat, work, eat, sleep.It was only when he started saying things like, “They’re all wondering why you’re with me,” while gesturing to a group of black men, that I realized he was doubting himself, too. We got stared down in every bar that we entered, and approached with unsolicited offers for company, as though our relationship could only be sexual, as though we needed more than each other to be satisfied.These were the days that he learned how to hold me when I cried.
It was only a month later that it struck me that it was over.