Bright & Dark (Essay)
Words by Tania Peralta.
I’m the girlfriend of a Toronto musician. Our home sees and hears the darker secrets of this industry. We have a baby. Her name is Xylo. She’s the happiest person you’ll ever meet. Even when Mami and Papi are breaking dishes in the other room, she smiles. All she knows is love. In the mornings, we make café and go to the library for WiFi. We don’t have internet at home. Some days we worry about what will be for dinner tomorrow, and other days we’re dining like we’ve already made it.
We teach Xylo about Frida and we teach her about Malcolm. She’s only 9 months old but she wants to be included in everything. During the day, Papi’s listening sessions have to be smoke free. She likes to crawl back and forth from the home-studio to her nursery. Whenever she hears her favorite songs playing she rushes back. She sings to the vocals of her uncle Danny‘s unreleased music and starts clapping for joy when she spots any “Black Sheep Nirvana.” All she knows is love. All she knows is this dream.
Our story is bright and it is dark. Some days are like standing at the opening gates of heaven: Xylo takes two steps on her own. Some nights are like a lifetime spent in hell: realizing we’re going to be late on rent again. On paper, I’m the common-law wife of my common-law husband. At the employment center, they’ve got us defined right down to a few sentences each. It reads: 24-year-old black male. Under occupation they’ll write down something careless and incorrect like “Self-employed Promoter,” beside it they’ve written down “musician” followed by a bunch of question marks. The papers basically say he’s a local rapper. They have me down as a writer and student. A few boxes have been checked off here and there. The papers basically say I got knocked up and never graduated. We fill out all these forms and answer all these questions just to hopefully get the little bit of money we’re entitled to get for having baby Xylo in our family. The money never comes. They tell us it’s because we haven’t updated our taxes. Furrowed eyebrows and deep sighs, it’s obvious they are unimpressed with who we apparently are. And though we are happy and healthy, they make us feel like we are unfit to be parents. In this stop-making-art-and-be-a-good-parent world, I’m just a girl with messy hair that should have stayed in school. He’s just a black-punk motherfucker that needs to get a “real” job.
We live in the basement of an old house in Parkdale. It’s nothing fancy, believe me, but it’s exactly what we need in this chapter of our story. The living area has an open concept right next to the kitchen. Depending on what time of the day it is, it serves as a play area, a living room, and my office. Our bedroom has one very bad coat of white paint on it. The mattress is still on the ground from the day we moved in and the air is always a bit too chilly, but I’ve had some of my best nights in that room. The tiny bathroom exposes the age and state of the house. Scrubbing it for hours makes no difference, but the water pressure is strong and its hot-boxing abilities are incredible.
The studio is the main attraction. It has writings on the walls and self-portraits of the people we haven’t realized we are becoming. The two barbershop stools leave space for Xylo to crawl and climb around when she’s in there. This room has been occupied by your favorite next-ups from the city. Its got a single-seater couch. Three of us girls can make out there quietly while Papi records.
On the far end of the apartment is the nursery. When the hurricane around us becomes too much to face, we go in there and listen. There’s almost always rain playing. It’s the safest place I know.
We haven’t been here long and we won’t be here long, but I already miss this place. We’ve chosen to live this way. We’ve chosen to believe in our ideas. We’ve chosen to take this on. We choose this chapter everyday. We choose to be a part of this story everyday. All in the name of art. All in the name of being art.