The interaction gave me something to dwell on. Running into him felt surreal and exciting, and the latter confused me. We were never close during my year at Best Buy. Despite having a few mutual friends and working in the same department, we spoke infrequently. His snarky cynicism made it difficult to talk with him, and because of that our conversations were short and impersonal. I can recall Aaron wielding racial jokes with a confidence, which could only be nurtured in the suburbs. He took a high-minded stance on equality through being equally offensive to all people and worshiped a form of logic which boiled down to the sentiment: that’s just the way things are.
Things change though, right? Opinions mature, I knew. I shuddered abashedly at the thought of myself at twenty-one: longhaired, outspoken, and prone to emotional debates over a society I’d yet to enter. Would it not be ironic to condemn a kid’s immaturity after years of no communication? Was it time to move on?
The run-in brought back memories of Scottsdale. I spent my adolescence in a monochromatic suburb. I was taught a deep appreciation for European history, Capitalism, the necessity of war, and above all: Individualism. But I quickly learned that part applied only to whites. Time and again I was referred to by my race before my interests or hobbies, as though the latter triumphed in spite of the former. Those were lonesome times, and the scars still pock my memories. I remember the year American forces entered Afghanistan and the term sand-nigger graced my classrooms. I remember when a girl in Economics denounced affirmative action claiming, “Well, it’s our country isn’t it?” My teachers met this bigotry with silence.
It would be an exaggeration to say these moments were the bulk of my experience, but a decade’s passed and I’m still unpacking. These memories leave me raw and make it difficult to look back at my time in the desert with any sort of rose tint.