I have resolved to collect as many stories as possible when traveling, talking to everyone everywhere, and listening, listening, listening. As a result I've heard amazing things—and I'll collect them here on my blog for future reference, as many as I can. Here are four stories of the four women I met in Atlanta, with their four dreams.
I'm geographically challenged, so even though I have my phone with a gazillion apps and the map printed out on top of it, I always feel lost until I can visually tell where I am. I did somehow find my way to the train from the Airbnb house, but the platform was deserted save for a woman with a high hairdo, bright red knee socks, and a clear plastic bag. We gazed at one another for a moment, I asked her what station I should get off to get to the World Congress Trade Center, and since that moment we couldn't shut up. Taken in by a sudden throng of shouting people also dressed in red (later I found out it was the Falcons colors for the game), Tia companionably hooked her arm into mine and told me she's a little tipsy, but hell, it's Sunday and her day off and it's a game, and she can make herself feel good if she wanted to. Tia is from Alabama (I hope I remember that right). She works at a bakery, the night shift, baking bread and pastries before it opens, and she turns on loud music and dances to it, but now they're moving her to the morning shift, and she doesn't like that, people and loud noises and all. "That's slavery," she said. She explained she meant that it was all about "them" getting rich and her getting none of that, and "them" not showing respect to her. "I want to open my own bakery." She smiled, showing a pair of golden teeth, and I was reminded of Russia—the golden teeth was a sign of wealth, and their owners proudly displayed them, grinning. If not for Tia's brown skin, I'd start talking to her in Russian, swearing and all. "I want my bakery to have a no-cell-phone hour, mmmm-mmm," she nodded to me. Tia's dream is to get moms and kids to talk again. I told Tia I'm a writer, and she called her friend of 20+ years, a single mom who wrote her first book. I encouraged her friend to check out my blog and email me for self-publishing help. And then I had to get off the train and was swept up by the game crowd.
After seeing lovely Biblioboard and IngramSpark folks at the ALA MidWinter meeting, I sat on a couch in the lobby to figure out what to do next. A woman sat next to me, and we got to talking and ultimately went for dinner together to Mary Mac's Tea Room (fantastic southern food restaurant, if you're ever in Atlanta). Tracy is originally from England and she's been a librarian for many years. After we did away with the niceties, we got into the dark stuff. Tracy's parents were alcoholics, and she ran away from England to America just like I did from Russia. She said, "There is this floor board in the house, it creaks this particular way..." When she went back to England, that floorboard made her shudder—it brought back memories. Tracy had married a Cherokee man (they're divorced now), and they had two boys who, growing up, started pestering her with questions on why they're so dark—their skin, their hair. She explained that they're half-Cherokee, to which one of her sons replied, "I don't care what skin color anyone is, black, brown, white, or..." he poked his mom's arm, "freckled!" Since then Tracy said she was a special class for her sons—red-haired and freckled. We laughed at that. If only it were so simple. Tracy said she loves working as a librarian—the money is scant, but she gets to travel, and every morning she walks to her library, the feels like the Queen walking to her castle. Her eyes sparkled as she said it. "I'm old now," she said. "Bullshit!" I said. She laughed. "My body is old, but inside I'm young." So that's her dream, staying young. We walked back to her hotel and took wild rides in the elevator up and down the shaft of floors that looked like the set of Rogue 1, and we giggled like we both were young, like we were two excited little girls. Tracy gave me $3 for a tip to give the Uber driver as I was out of cash. And that is how I met...
Tiara was the first woman Uber driver I've taken a ride with in Atlanta. Tiara is young, in her twenties, and adorable as fuck. She filled the seat with her softness that made me stare, especially because of Janna—I try very hard to look at brown skin closely to be able to describe it accurately later. I told her I'm a writer and that I hope she doesn't mind me adoring her and her voice. She broke into smiles. Turns out, her dream is to be a radio personality, and she has the voice for it, too. "My mom was so scared about me driving alone at night," she said. "At first I drove with a friend, but now I drive alone." She said she's been driving for two months now and is making good money. We picked up another rider, and I told Tiara about my books, how dark they are. "My friend wrote a book!" she exclaimed. "Eyes Without a Face. It's based on a true story. He is gay, and he was abused badly. His partner beat him up all the time, he had to walk in braces, it was that bad. Then he wrote a book, and now he's doing better." So we ended up talking books for the rest of the ride, and the idea of a rose garden eating people made Tiara giggle, so I told her she's my people. She promised she would never lose sight of her dream to work on radio. She's a customer service representative with Verizon right now. We parted then, as she drove me to the Airbnb house I was staying in. Did I tell you Tiara wore a beret? Just like Lilith.
The next day in a cafe a woman sat at a table next to me. She ordered the same seared tuna I ordered. "This tuna is great," I said. She picked up a piece and put it in her mouth. "It is!" she nodded. So of course, we got to talking. Joanna told me she is originally from Poland but has been in US for over 30 years. Her husband was a linguistics professor at a university, and he couldn't find a job when they moved to America, so he had to study computer programming, and she went to work at—you guessed it—at the library. Librarians are my favorite people, did I tell you that? And of course with Atlanta hosting a giant librarians meet up many librarians where circulating around town. Joanna told me she knows Russian—growing up in Poland she was "required" (forced, really) to study it in school just like the rest of the Polish children (one more reason for many folks from the former Eastern Block to chuck Russian as soon as they could; in East Germany kids were required to learn Russian in schools too, that's how far Soviet fingers reached). Suddenly we were talking in Russian. She said she'd forget Russian if not for some Russian friends who got her to talking again, and eventually to reading books in Russian. "My flight keeps getting delayed," she kept saying and checking her phone. "I'll have to tell my husband to pick me up later." "You can take an Uber," I said. "Oh no!" she laughed and shook her head. "He'd want to pick me up himself." And her whole face lit up. Her story was that of love, and her dream was simple—she wanted to get back home.
That day, my last day in Atlanta, I heard one more story, that of Margaret Mitchell, of her only book that swept the world, and of her tragic death. I sat at the desk where she typed most of Gone with the Wind, and I thought, "I too have a dream. To write a novel just as great, a novel that will sweep the world." This is my story, then, all of it—this blog, my books, my travels...so I'll end on Margaret Mitchell's quote:
"She knew what she wanted and went after it by the shortest route."