Conversation, Counsel & Communion: Still Sitting at the Table

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“Music was my refuge. I could crawl into the space between the notes and curl my back to loneliness.” ― Maya Angelou

No place has ever been more sacred and expansive in my life as The Table. An invitation to eat, a reckoning, a chance to sit with the adults, The Table is a master actor before its sitting audience. Counsel and escape, guilty pleasure and confession, we sit at The Table to learn and commune, to heal, and to bless all the things that we are intaking. With 52 minutes of sonically eclectic dishes, Solange passes the gravy boat stoking conversations between Growth, Conflict, Release and Celebration. Delivered as an exclusively broadcast event for black millennials, A Seat At The Table moves in a manner similar to a live theater recording, fully capable of resonating differently with each listener as a re-enactment of chapters of one’s life.  The cast, 21 tracks brilliantly positioned around her, play lead roles in both memoir and grateful journal to my memory, functioning as personal therapy session.

Fall in your ways so you can wake up and rise…

[Fade in:] Music starts. Camera focuses on a Rugrats comforter with a lump under it on a small bed. [Zoom in to: WEARY as 4-Year-Old Me with comforter over his head, trying to sleep in.] Enter RISE as Mother stage left. RISE drags comforter from WEARY’s head, telling him to eat breakfast. RISE exits. WEARY begrudgingly makes his way to the kitchen, mumbling something about it being Saturday. [Cut to: WEARY pulling chair from table.] WEARY stands in chair to retrieve box of cereal from the top of the refrigerator, pours cereal into bowl and plops into chair, humming. CRANES IN THE SKY speaks, voiceover.

CRANES IN THE SKY (V.O.)

I used to hang around the kitchen table way longer than expected. Circa mid-90s summers, when my wallet still had Power Rangers on it and I didn’t eat my cereal with milk, I sang the lyrics of TLC’s “Creep” like I knew exactly when the 22nd of Loneliness was. I could generally be found swinging my feet, pushing the milk-less Froot Loops around my bowl in the same chair for hours, to the annoyance of my family. Around that time, the adults looking after me always told me that I couldn’t leave until I had eaten everything in front of me.

Camera turns. Enter INTERLUDE: DAD WAS MAD as Angry Father cursing at unfinished bowl of cereal after 10 minutes, sitting across from WEARY. WEARY stops humming. [Cut to: RISE.] RISE, stirring something in bowl, adjusts glasses and sighs frustratedly. [Cut to WEARY.] WEARY shifts in his chair, spoon resting on his lip, rolls his eyes, and resumes pushing his cereal around. [Cut to INTERLUDE: DAD WAS MAD.] INTERLUDE: DAD WAS MAD leaves room in a huff. [Cut to RISE and WEARY.] RISE sits at table and pours two glasses of orange juice. Door in distant room slams. RISE and WEARY sigh in relief and share a laugh. MAD begins softly scatting in background.

CRANES IN THE SKY (V.O.) (CONT’D)

Never in a rush (and a bit defiant), I didn’t rise from the table until I had digested everything and made a regular habit of soaking in all that I could from the conversations that passed me. Call it curious or minding grown folks’ business, what have you, I took away more lessons and knowledge from there than could fill my half-full Froot Loop bowl.

[Slowly fade to black.] MAD sings more energetically in background. [Fade in:] One year later, WEARY, a bit taller, opens the front door. Enter INTERLUDE: NO LIMITS as Uncle with Unsolicited Advice That Actually Drops Gems with car part in hand, walking to kitchen. [Cut to: WEARY.] RISE and INTERLUDE: NO LIMITS begin talking about money and more car trouble. WEARY eavesdrops, walking from kitchen to living room with bowl of mixed breakfast foods, cartoons going. [Scene crossfades.] An 8-year-old WEARY is positioned at the table, sitting alone, stage right. Enter MAD, stage left, in a slight huff. WEARY and MAD eye each other warily. 9-year-old MAD, swaps chairs with him, MAD’s original chair off-screen. WEARY exits, stage left.. Exiting, WEARY sings. Music intensifies. MAD scoots chair to table and sits.

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I’m gonna look for my body yeah… I’ll be back real soon…

[Scene crossfades.] Late fall, 2 years have passed. RISE sits as kitchen table, overlooking bills. Enter MAD, 11, and a jubilant INTERLUDE: I GOT SO MUCH MAGIC, YOU CAN HAVE IT as 5-Year-Old Brother, in similar oversized flannels, sitting down at table. Only three chairs remain at the table. INTERLUDE: DAD WAS MAD’s chair is against the bolt-locked back door. INTERLUDE: I GOT SO MUCH MAGIC plays a GameBoy pulled from his pocket, MAD sits with notebook and pencil eyeing RISE rubbing her temples, glasses off. MAD and RISE begin discussing heating and how Christmas may be tighter than usual. [Cut to: MAD.] MAD scribbles short lines in notebook, frustrated but understanding.

CRANES IN THE SKY (V.O.)  (CONT’D)

I could always count on news and advice to be served over grits and eggs. Whether it was the neighbor around the corner that kicked her husband out or discovering just who drank the communion wine before service the Sunday prior, the table was forever a place of incoming headlines. I first remember pushing my brown and tan crayons to the side and raising the darkest one, skeptically, in learning that I was a black boy one morning over half-burnt bacon and apple juice. I found out 5-year-old me would be a big brother over meatloaf and dinosaur placemats. I heard, “You’re the man of the house now,” during a fridge raid just before the graveyard shift would turn into the 4th chair being placed by the door in hopes of creating security that a missing person couldn’t give. News wasn’t always good or nice here, just broken and when I was younger, so was my spirit.

WEARY sings.

But you’re facing the world.

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CRANES IN THE SKY (V.O.) (CONT’D)

Track 2 plays. The beat builds. I sway a bit, barely matching the bouncing rhythm. The hook repeats. I struggled to keep it together. Writing It away didn’t work. I slipped from my chair when crying didn’t work and found temporary solace under The Table, only to find more lessons written on the underside, bass lines of Track 6 swelling around Wayne’s verse playing as I traced the patterns on the floor. You could say I had a lot to be mad about.

WHERE DO WE GO coos in background. [Crossfade, begin scene montage.] [Cut to: INTERLUDE: DAD WAS MAD.] Ext. Beach. INTERLUDE: DAD WAS MAD remarries, MAD, 19 and INTERLUDE: I GOT SO MUCH MAGIC, 13, not in attendance. [Crossfade, Cut to: MAD.]  Int. Bedroom. MAD, 20, reads text from DON’T YOU WAIT, love interest: But I love him too. [Crossfade, Cut to: MAD]: Int. Living room. MAD, 22, seated at coffee table, reads email from INTERLUDE: PEDESTALS, as 30th Rejecting Employer, We love your work, but it may be a tad too ethnic for what we’re looking for. WHERE DO WE GO picks up energy. [Crossfade, Cut to INTERLUDE: TINA TAUGHT ME, grandmother.] Int: Church. 23-year-old MAD watches, open-mouthed, teary-eyed as INTERLUDE: TINA TAUGHT ME’s blue casket is wheeled past him. WHERE DO WE GO wails.

You gotta rehab yourself. But for us, you can’t pull the plug on us and tell us it’s over.

CRANES IN THE SKY (V.O.) (CONT’D)

I was forever a student and The Table had always been a substitute blackboard, fully equipped with colored chalk and different scenarios and word problems to solve, manifesting themselves as “It.” Often times, It, whatever it was, was disappointment. Sometimes, betrayal. Others, regret. Most often, It was darkness. I tried to drink It away. I tried to shave It with my hair. Sex didn’t help. Sleep didn’t help. Busying myself failed, and I wound up tired as hell and hurt. I was mad and when I wasn’t, I was hoping for daybreak, wishing to get away from it all. I came face to face with a cloud posing as Decisions—to face darkness for once and all. When light doesn’t come by avoiding problems, eventually you’re forced go toward them, especially when running doesn’t work.

[Fade in:] Int: Bathroom. 23-year-old MAD stands over sink. Clock reads 11:59pm. MAD wipes away fog from mirror. CRANES, the reflection, meets him eye-to-eye. They stare. Minutes pass. Calendar notifications read: Happy Birthday. MAD vanishes from the mirror. CRANES goes to sit in MAD’s chair.  INTERLUDE: THE GLORY IS IN YOU MAD beatboxes in background. DON’T WISH ME WELL coos.

Look what remains, pour ashes where they claimed my name. They say I changed, what a pity if I stayed the same…

CRANES IN THE SKY (V.O.) (CONT’D)

A Chair as the White Couch. Conversation as Clarity. Fellowship as Communion. I reflected on everything that wrought my mind with 70 states worth of reasons to run and stopped. I sat. The Table, masterfully poised as Counsel, heard everything I struggled with—rage, defeat, rejection, hurt, all of it—and made me an offer. What success comes after facing many nights of losing sleep with the past? Limitless release. I faced my metal clouds.

INTERLUDE: THE GLORY IS IN YOU loses it. DON’T WISH ME WELL belts over manic percussion.

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CRANES IN THE SKY (V.O.) (CONT’D)

For a near-hour, A Seat At The Table opens the floor for recovery. The drums balancing the strings,  the synth juxtaposing bass, carefully placed melody lines spinning counterpoint to motivational interludes in thoughtful workshopping, Solange and Master P alternate between instructors of this masterclass and commentators on my life. From the first through the final track, I continually warm up, flex, and move, always coming back to Track 4 as a sign of triumph. The Table, both actor and facilitator, looses a powerful performance, channeling both group therapy and family reunion. Solange, center-staged, passes a bit of affordable mental health care from her decanter for her young, melanin-filled company, inviting us all to The Table for another shot at healing. I drink up every drop, grateful for every second at a chance to relax, relate, and release.  In this moment, in this place, one can be tired, one can let go. One can be Weary, one can be Mad. One can grow, and one can flourish. Even for just an hour,  I replay the session over and over, as needed, and resonate with each succeeding line, finding a new chair to sit in each time, affirming the good to come. A month after being poured for me, I’m still engrossed with this place, I’m still seated at The Table.


Listen to A Seat At The Table on Apple Music.

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