“You have to travel with people who want to explore
otherwise everything is constructed, pills ”
She pauses to nibble on her pickle,
and contemplate those frequent trips
she has made to visit her family in Barbados.
The last time she went down there with non-explorers
they whined every time they left the hotel, find
“Can’t we just take a cab?”
The non-explorers carefully followed their itinerary,
rushing through the locations of designated interest
and afterwards they would state,
“We’re done now. Can we go back to the hotel?”
Louise was appalled,
“American people traveling,
they don’t get it.”
She prefers to take it slow,
by walking or bicycling,
discovering the unknown island.
When she returned to Milwaukee she felt,
“I had to take another vacation.”
Just to counteract the energy she expended
on frustration with her boring companions.
“It costs too much to go to Barbados to sit in the hotel room!”
But I think she feels the same way about life in her own city,
having lived in Detroit, Chicago and Milwaukee,
she tells me with confidence that she has never seen a city
more segregated than Milwaukee.
“You can’t just stay in that little neighborhood you live in.”
She talks boxes
she talks fears and safety
that make the boxes
that we call our neighborhoods.
She believes that the east side of Milwaukee is the most diverse
but even then it is all young people,
“And brown-skinned people are less likely to be seen
walking along the lakefront,”
where Louise bikes on a regular basis
amongst countless light-skinned people
who do not notice the lack.
“I think people as they move around the city
they need to open their hearts and minds.”
She tells me the best way to expose yourself
to variety in Milwaukee
is to attend gallery night
“Here in America it’s like,
what race are you?
You can’t just claim one,
I always check the box that says ‘other,’
and write ‘black-Indian-Island-Scottish-French.
Nobody’s white, you’re light skinned.”
Louise pats the marble under her plate,
“I’m not black, this table is black,
I am brown.
But we just need to get past it,
we won’t in this lifetime
but I go to Barbados and Trinidad a lot
and they don’t talk that way there.”
She waves her French fry in the air,
“Go somewhere and get lost,
just walk and explore.”