The Zero Mile Post marked the meeting of two railway lines and possibly the beginning of the city of Atlanta. Zero Mile is a series of sometimes fictionalized and sometimes real stories based on life in Atlanta, Georgia.
By Nicki Salcedo, columnist
I am a child of the British Commonwealth. It serves me little good in America. I like the delicate flavor of Earl Grey with milk. Tea in Atlanta is cold and syrupy sweet. Tea, there across the pond, is always hot. French fries here, are chips there. Our chips are their crisps. As a child, my parents referred to cookies as biscuits. You can imagine our confusion when we moved to Georgia.
Back then, I was told I was not Southern or American. Black kids told me I wasn’t black enough. White kids ignored me. When I went to Jamaica, even though I could understand every bit of patois and slang, I was not Jamaican anymore.
I’ve spent my life being told all the things I am not, but never the things I could be.
Good thing I never looked to anyone else to write my story. But I pay attention to the stories and fairy tales around me:
The Boy Next Door
There once was a boy who lived next door. A girl had a big crush on him. She was shy and awkward and didn’t know what to do when the boy called her house. He would often call right when Star Trek: The Next Generation came on TV, and the girl would say, “I can’t talk to you when Star Trek is on.” So the boy would come over and watch TV with the girl. He would do nice things for her and be polite to her parents and kind to her cat. He would sit in her house afterschool and on weekends. The girl’s heart would overflow when she saw him. Then the big dance approached, and the boy asked someone else at school. The girl’s heart did not break for herself. She thought of him with sadness. She did not deserve a happily ever after, but certainly her prince did.
The Tale of Lisa Turtle
Lisa Turtle was the most fashionable girl at Bayside High. She was confident and savvy. Her parents were doctors, so money was not an issue for this princess. On top of everything else, her best friends were the coolest kids in school. Jessie Spano, A.C. Slater, Kelly Kapowski, and the perfect Zack Morris. What could be wrong in her life? Lisa was living the non-nerdy, non-awkward, non-outcast high school dream. Except when it came to matters of love, guess who they paired with Lisa Marie Turtle? Screech. A boy named Screech. An archetype of buffoonery and the butt of every joke. If Lisa Turtle couldn’t find love and happiness, how could I?
On the Matter of Meghan
True story. I had to google Prince Harry. Then I had to google Meghan Markle. She is an actor. The headlines told me she is a person of color. I moved on to read all the fun euphemisms for “brown girl” like bi-racial and mixed-raced. Am I supposed to be calling my kids that? Let’s just call her mulatto and be done with it. This is weird, right? It makes you uncomfortable, right? It should. Didn’t you just do your DNA swab and find out that you’re all mixed-race? So I pause. And I rage.
Why are we worried about race and royalty? Because it is fun and controversial? Or because the truth? Because being mixed is being black. Being black is weird. And weird, at the very least, is being someone not marriageable.
Heaven help you if you are woman and also strong.
There is a stigma if you are Serena with a powerful body and Meghan with Black heritage and Miss Jamaica with beautiful proud afro. Being resilient and independent is worse than being any race. Being strong in your own right will make you a pariah as much as your skin color. Confident women of any color should not find love, they tell us. We should live out our lives alone. With cats. How could we dare marry a prince?
I think back to that Homecoming dance and the strange feeling that my friend, the boy next door, was watching me from across the room. I was a lot of things. Awkward. Weird. But I was a confident kid. I remember that night knowing the boy next door was not brave enough to ask me for a dance or take my hand. Even though he wanted to.
I think back to every episode of Saved by the Bell that I watched with the hope of Lisa Turtle finding a worthy suitor. Lisa of TV was not worthy of love, but I knew I was.
I think of Princess Meghan for whom I only have one wish. Privacy. May you be able to go to the Stop and Shop for almond milk without anyone bothering you.
I think of all the times women are told to wish and dream for love. But what of men? Shouldn’t they think of love, value love, strive for love, do what they can to find love?
So I think mostly of Harry. Not a prince, but a man. My British cousin. Thank you, Harry. A guy who liked a girl. A girl who didn’t fit the mold. Everyone will say, “How lucky she is!” But it is Harry, the unafraid, who is the lucky one. I don’t wonder if Meghan is worthy of the royals, but hope they will do their best to be worthy of her. Guys like Harry might deserve a happily ever after too.
Nicki Salcedo knows the loops and the back roads of Atlanta. She is a novelist, blogger and working mom. Zero Mile stories appear on the Atlanta Loop on Wednesdays.