The Burning Never Stops

We can’t put out the fire

Art by Victor Garcia as “happytunacreative” via Instagram. Used with is permission.

The drunk lady up the block slips me $20.00 to get her some Newports and a case of Budweiser. The stink on her lips follows me. I fan the stench with my right hand but it still lingers. I enter the corner store, tell Javier what I need, and ask for two Chick-O-Sticks, a bag of Cool Ranch Doritos, and an Arizona Tea — Peach.

He moves like molasses leaving a mason jar. I summon a quicker pace from him that lets him know the drunk lady is waiting. Her money is good here. She’s a faithful customer. Everything she buys is killing her, but Javier doesn’t care. He’s got six mouths to feed.

These products have warning labels. He’s not responsible for what people do and don’t read.

“That’ll be $17.89.” He shouts at me. Spittle forms on his lips. Little white globes of foam huddle in the corners of his mouth.

I give him the $20.00, collect the change, and get back to the drunk lady on my stoop waiting for her daily vices. She is paper-thin.

Her hair is wiry wisps of auburn that doesn’t move.

She coughs and her chest rattles. She begins ranting about our rights. Her speech is slurred but I understand every word.

“He ain’t no leader. You see what he’s doing?! He’s taking everything he can from us. I haven’t seen someone try so hard to suppress the vote in all my years. This year is the first of many I refused to let slide by without my say. I registered to vote on Thursday. I gotta voice, you know. I wanna be heard.”

It’s Saturday and I hear her. Mama — on her deathbed, told me to listen to the rants of the drunkards. They’re deep within their moments of truth. So, I tolerate her. I listen. She tells me about her son who has been locked up since 2007 — a drug charge. Weed possession and over $5,000 in the side panels of his car doors.

I haven’t seen someone try so hard to suppress the vote in all my years.

“He was seventeen when they got him. Come through my backdoor, busted it down. All I could hear were shouts of ‘Freeze’ and ‘Get Down!’ Men in blue shuffled their way throughout my home. I used to tell him to stay off them corners. Corners in the hood are trouble. But he saw fast money and brotherhood. I couldn’t give him anything else. All I had was love for him. Love and heartache and tears and fear. The streets had everything else. Twenty-five years ago, I studied law. Passed the bar. Met this fly guy who promised me an escape from the slums. Tell me, why am I back here?”


Night falls. She raises her rattling body off the stoop, clutches her bag of goodies close to her, and waves goodbye. I ask her for her name. Months had passed and I never once asked, but tonight, it seems important that I do. She’s still talking about voting, inept leadership, and racist bastards, and how she meant to change the world as she wobbles down the steps.

“Lorraine!”

She shouts it back to me. I catch it. I tuck it in my jeans’ pocket to reveal later. I watch her zig-zag slowly up the block. Her hair clings to her head. She pats her pockets, searches for her keys — finds them, she quickens her pace.

There is a burning in my chest as I watch Lorraine. I breathe slowly. Inhale. Exhale. I calm myself with a meditation method I learned from my boyfriend. He’s zen-like, a D-list Gandhi. I breathe and fire stings my lips.

I am swallowing the heat of this nation and Lorraine, formerly known as the drunk lady, is the only person I can think of at this moment.

Speak of the devil and he will appear. He will have anything you want and will fight you at every turn to get you to take it. “Be smart. Don’t take anyone’s shit. Everyone is a bullshitter if they try hard enough.” Mama had so many words of wisdom.

I remember them now . . . Right at this moment of my burning chest and fiery mouth. I can’t stop the burning. I can’t stop the pain. I gulp down my Arizona Tea, peach flavor sticks to my insides.

I belch out the cries of a dying nation.

Speak of the devil and he will appear.

I feel better, but it doesn’t last. The burning, it’ll come again. It always does. Black people stand in pits of fire — not merely of our own doing. Some of us are thrown there. Others are planted there at birth and expected to find our way to safety unscathed while more obstacles pop up at every turn. Lorraine was planted there. She’s still scraping. Still attempting to reach the top. Still struggling to find her way out. I owe it to her to listen. I owe it to her to fan the flames away from her direction. But even after all of this . . .

The burning will never stop and no one can put out the fire.


Originally published via Medium.

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Please, Let My Brothers Live

A plea to the United States Justice system

Photo by nappy via Pexels

As an older sister, one who is significantly ahead in years, I fear for the lives of my five brothers. That fear never dies. It lingers in the pit of my belly — boiling over into a never-ending pain. I worry about them; their well-being is a constant focus of mine. I pray, without ceasing, worry, and then pray some more.

I know, as a believer, I am not supposed to worry. Once I’ve given my cares over to my Lord and Savior, those worries are not my own. But tell that to my heart. Tell that to my questioning mind. Tell that to the constant survival strategies that pop up throughout every day as I think of ways to keep them safe from afar.

Our lives are meaningless to the ones meant to protect them.

There is a long list of dangerous encounters and acts of police brutality that layers itself in and around the United States of America. We are losing brothers, sisters, and valuable members of our crumbling nation. The louder we scream in protest for change, the more we are muzzled.

I cannot watch many of the videos that have circulated, leaving us with the vivid details of some of these acts, but I can read about them. I feel a sense of incredible loss when I do.

We depend on a system that claims to act upon evidence presented and provide a favorable outcome. One that is justified. One that states those responsible for these heinous crimes will be dealt with accordingly. However, the system is beyond broken.

Justice is a concept of moral rightness based ethics, rationality, law, natural law, religion, equity and fairness, as well as the administration of the law, taking into account the inalienable and inborn rights of all human beings and citizens, the right of all people and individuals to equal protection before the law . . . — ScienceDaily

For generations, there has been no justice for Black people and people of color. 2020 will be over in four months, and the United States of America is dealing with the same issues that quelled the love for our nation back in the 1950s-1960s. We are struggling to have our voices heard. We are fighting a forever-fight and we are growing tired.

This is the same fight and we’re outnumbered.

I think of everyday occurrences, events that my brothers take part in and I start my prayer with, “Dear God: cloak them in your love. Please keep them safe in their coming and going and let them find their way home when their day is done.”

I know they’re aware their sister has been praying for them since their births, but now I pray because it feels like there is nothing more to do. We march. We organize peacefully. We shout. We speak eloquently. We fight harder. And to no avail.

We are struggling to have our voices heard. We are fighting a forever-fight and we are growing tired.

This all feels like some god-awful dream that plays on a loop, and no matter how hard I try to break free from it, I’m shackled with nowhere else to go. I am being forced to watch the demise of my people and made to fear for the Black men and women in my life.

I want to believe their lives matter just as much.

I have to. Deep down, I know there’s a priceless value to human life. I want to feel like my brothers’ lives matter just as much as their white counterparts. I want to believe that when they set out on a journey around their neighborhoods for whatever reason, they too, will get a chance to go back home . . . alive and unharmed.

Given the history of various police forces across this nation since their inception, I fear more for my brothers’ lives than the actual protection of them, and that should not be.

How many more will America maim? How many more will we see hanged from trees by the hands of their evildoers, then labeled as suicide? How many more cases will the courts treat as meaningless, pulling their weight for the killers vs. the victims? Will we ever have justice?

I want to feel like my brothers’ lives matter just as much as their white counterparts.


There have been so many tears. So many cries for help, understanding, and for our voices to be heard and still . . . there are no impactful results of which to speak.

I hope that if ever there is an encounter soon with “the law” for any of them, they will be protected and served. That there will be no immediate or long-lasting harm. That their character is assessed and the situation for which an officer has stopped them, would not end in their deaths.

I have one plea, please let my brothers live.

Please.


Originally published in Our Human Family via Medium.

Non-fiction Saturdays

Photo by Eye for Ebony via Unsplash


Motivation
Getting Uncomfortable with Complacency

This year, I have taken a step outside myself, so to speak, to further look deeply within myself. The purpose has been to connect with and somehow tweak what I have or could be missing regarding my life. During many of my sessions with my therapist, we focus on how I can move from one way of doing things (the way I have always done things) to trying new ways, even if these ways frighten me. The one thing I have found to be at the center of holding me back is fear. I touch briefly on this in The Building Blocks of Me and Hello, Rejection.

When I comb through many of my missed opportunities, I allowed myself to dismiss them solely based on not knowing what the outcome was going to be. This is to say that I feared an unfavorable outcome. I counted many things in my memory bank and shook my head at just how easy it was for me to not see something through based on how I felt. In some instances, I felt a strong sense of not being able to move— my mind would not let me. Physically, I was planted in place on many occasions — unable to get myself going because I was afraid of not succeeding. I was incredibly afraid of failing.

Recent experience has taught me that in order to accomplish my goals, I must first take the necessary steps toward reaching them. If I am unable to take those steps, my goals will not be met. This brings me to motivation . . .

Motivation is 1a: the act or process of motivating. b: the condition of being motivated. 2: a motivating force, stimulus, or influence: INCENTIVE, DRIVE. — Merriam-Webster Dictionary

Essentially, I would categorize myself as a decently motivated individual, however, this is so because I am disciplined. I find it easy to rise in the morning, do my daily work, come home and walk my dog, feed her, prepare myself for the next day’s tasks, and edit & write with any time I may have remaining before winding down to read shortly before going to bed. All of these things are embedded within the characteristics of me and have become ritualistic over time. These are not things in which I need the motivation to complete.

What I am finding hard to begin doing are the different things that shift me away from my comfort zone. I operate on a schedule that has been the same for at least fifteen years and veering off course makes my heart race. It causes me to tear up sometimes and refuse to take a chance because again, I do not know what the outcome will be. To pull a paraphrased remark from my therapist, You are prone to your most anxious moments when it challenges you to change. You have become complacent.


Photo by Kat Yukawa via Unsplash

So how does one move from being complacent to being open to making the changes necessary to get him or her wherever they wish to be? How does one know when those changes need to cease? This is not something that will happen overnight. Most of the things I have given myself free rein to tackle will take a few years or a decade, at best. But I am moving forward and in the right direction in order to see these things take place.

What is scary is the fact that I had blinders on, unaware that my complacency was and can continue to be dangerous with regards to my growth. Which brings me to list two definitions of the word complacent:

Complacent is 1: marked by self-satisfaction especially when accompanied by unawareness of actual dangers or deficiencies: marked by complacency: SELF-SATISFIED. 3: UNCONCERNED. — Merriam-Webster Dictionary

As you can see above, the first definition is what I have endured — what I am enduring. The third actually prompted me to apply more thought to my ways and question myself: “Am I really not concerned with how I operate and how comfortable I have become with not changing to better suit me? Is my comfort zone so important that any shift from it, breaks me down?” I am saddened to say that yes, I have become complacent. However, I am not the only one.

Americans are becoming more complacent. People socialize with similar folks on Facebook and get food delivered through Uber while sitting at home streaming Netflix. Folks medicate themselves more, keep to themselves and move less often. This isn’t the same restless America whose grit helped transform a British colony into a major superpower. — Tyler Cowen, The Complacent Class, 2017.

I would say that I am among good company, but I am not. The focal point for me is to shift from my comfort zone to a more formidable one, allowing me the freedom to further pursue my goals. I know that this form of change starts with me. I have to be the one willing to lift my feet up and trek forward. There is no one else on which to depend for this to take place.

Every single day, I say something encouraging to myself — something that will alert me of my strengths and help me leap over a few weaknesses that have held me back. What do I look forward to in my immediate future?

  1. A shorter workweek — preferably from 40 hours to 36 hours per week. This will allow me more time for editing, writing, and submitting to literary magazines and journals both online and in print.

2. Pursuing a career that will not only provide an environment for my skill-set, but allow me room to advance and grow with the company without being made to feel like an underpaid, underappreciated, and unseen workhorse.

3. Create, enhance, and build a brand linked to writing, editing, and creative literary works. (A Cornered Gurl is the start.)

4. Move and settle in another part of North Carolina, preferably, Western, North Carolina. (Particularly, Arden, NC.)

When I step back and examine these four goals — visualizing them, I know I can do this. I have it within me to accomplish each one, however, I dread the potential death of each without even given them a chance to live. I am at an age now that is a constant reminder for me to “get it in gear” and do the work required to attain the aforementioned.

I am tired of the same old thing — the revolving door stops now. I am taking a stand against myself. This is my personal pact and it will be until I have accomplished what I intend to.

My motivation? Complacency will not be the death of me.


Originally published in The Startup via Medium. The link shared is a friend link which will allow anyone who clicks on it to read it for free via Medium as it is behind the paywall.