Responding to remembering Okwui Okpokwasili’s Sitting On a Man’s Head

Late March 2020.

I’m so tired. I can’t figure out why. I’ve sat in front of a laptop researching disaster grants all day, but the government website keeps crashing. I baked cookies. I walked down my rainy street, veering back and forth to maintain the distance between masked neighbors. These things should not make me tired.

I receive a message from a Danspace Project member who never got to go to Okwui Okpokwasili and Peter Born’s Sitting On a Man’s Head before the pandemic required we cancel the final performances. Weeks ago, he had asked me how long he should set aside to participate. I had sent him a detailed account of my experience at the dress rehearsal, from the writing, to the waiting, to the watching, to the walking. I waffled a bit on how long he’d need, but decided on “as long as you can.” Immersing myself in slow walking had been healing and cathartic, and I had never wanted it to end. I had written in that email (and many others) that I wished Sitting On a Man’s Head could happen every week for the rest of my life.

Today, he thanks me for my account, noting that my email will be his version of the work. My eyes rest on his words, and I want to be transported back to when we all could breathe in the same spaces, touch hands.

I remember with a start the secret recording I had made on opening night. I had forgotten that after I exited the tent and settled on a riser, I watched and listened as more participants seeped out. I had forgotten my impulse to press record on my phone, something similar to the way I write haphazard notes in the “drafts” folder of my email whenever I feel awash in emotion. Maybe more like how I never delete voicemails.

I send the recording to myself. I need to hear it through better speakers than my old phone. I hope it isn’t just mumbles. I press play.

I had forgotten that at the close of the opening night of Sitting On a Man’s Head the collective of people sang the words “I remember” over and over. I had forgotten that we were already remembering before it was over. That we all dip into past, distant, deep places to come together.

These voices chanting, affirming, confirming the memory of togetherness are exactly what I need, what we need. Let’s keep remembering.

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