Dream of December 4: MOO-LATTA
"Committed to penning images from the annals of my slumber, no matter how weird or personal." By Luisa Casati
I AM SKATEBOARDING through the empty streets of New York’s Financial District. It is a chilly November morning. It is freezing, and I can see the vapor of my breath. In real life, I have no concept of balance, yet I am somehow deftly weaving in out and of multiple construction sites, skating over questionable wooden planks, potholes, and pits. I am in black sweats, white platform Doc Martens, a black toque, a black thrifted fuzzy velour overcoat. As I am skateboarding, I am somehow managing to balance and carry a casserole dish with basbousa and a plate of my famous zucchini and parmesan latkes.
I end up at a hospital. I’m here to deliver the basbousa and latkes to a sick man weaning off of a liquid diet. Muted tones on this floor. Beige. Puke green. Dull lavender-ish and aubergine colours. Wide spaces for the handicapped. I approach a lady behind some plexiglass, and ask where “S” is.
“Oh, he’s on the eleventh floor, room seven. To your right once you get off the central elevators. 1107. Just sign in please,” the nurse informs.
I sign in, skate to the central elevators, leave my unpainted wooden skateboard by the elevator doors, take my basbousa and latkes, enter the tiny elevator, and press the button for the eleventh floor.
The elevator is wonky, and the eleventh button refuses to glow. Instead, the button for the thirteenth floor is lit. The doors open, and I’m on the thirteenth floor. Oh no. That’s not good.
I see an unassuming portly, short black guy in navy blue sweats and beanie mopping the floor.
Waving the man down, I ask him, “Hello sir, yeah, do you know if the elevator is working? I’m trying to go to the eleventh floor. Are there any stairs here so I can go walk down to the eleventh floor without getting locked out? I wanna drop off this-”
Cutting me off mid sentence, “Oh baby girl, don’t you know? Once you are on the thirteenth floor, you can only go up not down. There are no stairs. Come with me to the fourteenth floor.”
I follow him to where the central elevators should be. I notice my basbousa and latkes are nowhere to be found. It looks different too. The hallways are narrower and the space far more labyrinthine. The walls are painted in all sorts of bright primary colours. It looks like Almodovar and Le Corbusier had a field day and decided to decorate the hospital. The only pictures framed are NatGeo pictures of aquarium fish in cheap black photo frames. Everywhere. Angelfish. Lionfish. Clownfish. Triggerfish. Moorish Idol. Parrotfish. Betta fish. You name it.
We go in the elevator and end up on the fourteenth floor. We step out, and I see three young women. I assume these women are the man’s friends. Like the fates. They all look different from one another, don’t get me wrong, but there is a trend. They’re all ethnically ambiguous and perfect for scouting in this day and age. More specifically, clearly “mixed” black and white. They all have golden or red “textured” hair. They are all olive skinned. All three of them have coloured eyes. In fact, I’ve met all three of these ladies before in real life at castings and shoots and shows.
All five of us meander to a tiny room down these winding corridors, more pictures of fish hanging on the walls. We are now in a tiny, dark room. I can’t see shit till the man starts lighting a bunch of Byredo Bibliotheque candles, at least eight of them.
I can finally see a hospital bed and an unused IV drip and a monitor for vitals. The girls are now balancing on a large unpainted, wooden surfboard. They motion me over to sit on the board with them. I oblige. Why the fuck not? We are all sitting on the board criss cross applesauce.
The man now speaks after a period of silence.
“You are now part of the mulatta coalition. Congratulations! How does it feel to be acknowledged?” he says.
“Umm I’m sorry, there must be some sort of misunderstanding. I’m not a mulatta. I’m technically North African. Not from the Maghreb but I am not a ‘mulatta’ though,” I gesture, air quoting with my fingers when I say mulatta, “I mean I may have a Nubian or Ethiopian ancestor from way, way back but I’m not a mulatta. I can’t be part of this coalition. I’m sorry.”
He looks upset with my self identification or whatever the fuck, “What do you mean you are not a mulatta? You just said you are a North African. You are from Mother Africa. You are an African woman. You live in America. You are African American.”
“No, no, no. You can’t just impose your American racial constructs onto me. I’m the daughter of two brain drainers from a very endogamous ethnoreligious minority. I am not even close to descending from anyone who had ancestors subjected to TransAtlantic chattel slavery. I’m not Sub-Saharan in the slightest. It doesn’t make any sense. Anyway, none of this shit matters. We are all part of a rootless and deracinated blob, some of us better looking than others,” I say.
The man and the girls look shocked to say the least.
“You are incredibly disrespectful and churlish,” the man retorts, “here we welcome you to the mulatta coalition to atone for the sins of your white half, to intercede in Yakub, and yet you spurn us.”
“Can you not ‘we wuz’ me? I’m sorry man, I’m not a mulatta! I can’t help you with your project. It’s stupid anyway! Why can’t you just like yourself? All of yourself?”
I’m screaming at this point and standing. Definitely not on the surfboard anymore.
The three fates, all holding an individually lit Byredo Bibliotheque candle in hand, chant some strange incantation:
YOU ARE A MOO-LATTA
YOU ARE A MOO-LATTA
YOU ARE A MOO-LATTA
YOU ARE A HIGH YELLOW SNOOTY ASS BITCH
YOU ARE A MOO-LATTA
NOW YOU MUST TATTOO FRECKLES ON YOUR FACE
JOIN THE AMERICAN RELIGION
EMBRACE OUR THEODICY
EMBRACE THE GNOSTIC DEMIURGE
YOU ARE NOT A KIKE
YOU ARE NOT AN EDOMITE
YOU ARE NOT A CAUCASOID
YOU ARE A MOOOOOOOOOO-LATTTTTTTTAAAAAAA
WITH A BIG BOBBLE HEAD LIKE YAKUB
I can’t do this anymore. Time to wake up. fin. ☗
Luisa Casati is an international woman of letters.