musical selection: cherrelle|everything I miss at home
She placed her cold hands on the blue of her fur coat — enraptured by the clouds’ sadness, she felt her heart move in and out of time. He was supposed to meet her there. They agreed. Time. Date. Place. She was there. He wasn’t. Where could he be? She thought to call him, maybe he needed a reminder — a nudge. The wind bit her cheeks with its presence — stuck in place, she dreaded the feeling coming over her. Is she being stood up again?
wrapped in stunning blue
her cold hands hugged her body
biting wind kissed her
The sun peeked in on her. It nodded in her direction, shone a powerful ray her way, and stepped back behind the clouds. She picked up her phone. She pressed 3, held down the number for three seconds, and watched his name appear on her screen. She’d call. He’d answer. They’d discuss things again. Time. Date. Place. He’d calmly explain how he was busy and seemingly forgot about their date. She’d hear someone in the background, a woman’s voice. She’d know — instantly, she’d know. There is no room for her.
the perks of speed dial
a convenience she needed
to find out the truth
An amusement park date. Just like during her teenage years . . . Danny Simpkins said to meet him there then. Bring a towel, your favorite sneakers, fireworks, and a flashlight, he said. She arrived fifteen minutes early. She had everything she needed and what he wanted. She waited. And waited. And waited. Danny Simpkins did show up, but with someone else — Tori Barksdale, the most popular girl in school. She watched him pepper the ground with his hot steps. Her eyes turning on her. Her heart, a sack of doomsday. She felt her world ending.
silly boys break hearts
unaware of life’s deep pain
girls pick up pieces
She thought back to those days and remembered how she vowed to never let her heart break into a million pieces again. She was older. She was stronger. She knew how to remove herself from a situation before it could shake her down and melt her into a puddle of pain. Around her, children cheered on the carousel. Their little voices loud enough to pop her eardrums. This was her place of renewal. She would be okay. She would go on. She would know another Danny Simpkins and Travis Calloway on sight.
a pact she had claimed —
to love herself so much more
and grow from the pain
Now, she watches the moon open its eyes. The night air creeps in coolly, nestled behind the sway of the trees. She pulls her coat tighter, presses the fur closest to her skin, and dreams of disappearing. “I hope she never feels the way I do. I hope he keeps his promises to her.” She thought this to herself — empathetic to the woman’s heart because she knows what pain feels like; what a broken heart needs in order to mend. Funny, she’s had to break herself down and build herself up over and over again. She was just like that amusement park.
each year, some new fun
gone again until the fall
amusement for all.
The Struggle Is Worth It
What does this picture say? I have an imagination that would bring itself back to life if it died, so instantly, I drum up a story. Who is this woman? What is her story? What is her struggle? She stands, book in hand, waiting for the train. What’s her background? I study her. I plant my eyes on an amazing creature and I think . . .
“What type of life can I create for her?”
She’s a graduate student, studying Socioeconomics with an emphasis on Urban Culture and the effects of gentrification on middle-aged people of color. She is working on her thesis and has fifteen pages of solid, stone-cold research that she can verbally back up in her sleep.
She’s fearless, the eldest of four children, and a full-time teller at the bank Uptown. She juggles school, work, and time-spent keeping her cousins out of the morgue. She does not complain. She struggles silently.
The promotion to financial advisor has been on and off the table for the last three years. She aims for it, going the extra mile: staying longer at work and arriving earlier than everyone else.
She does not complain. She struggles silently.
Her boss sees her but doesn’t see her. She stands out, but not in the way the company needs her to. She speaks four languages and can cuss him out in three of them. He wouldn’t know a thing. The offer on the table today: $16.25 per hour, 40 hours per week. A seventy-five cent increase.
He tells her, “It’s the best we can do.” She calls bullshit but with class. She knows Taylor, her window-mate, received a $1.05 increase and she trained her. The chick’s been clucking about it loud enough for the entire breakroom to hear. They don’t seem to care about her constant avoidance of company policies. Taylor’s untouchable. And since Taylor’s untouchable, she has to be ten times better at her job to receive less.
The chick’s been clucking about it loud enough for the entire breakroom to hear.
There is no one. She hasn’t been on a date in nearly four years. There’s never any time. Mark, her ex-boyfriend, calls regularly, says he’s “just checking in.” She entertains his advances for moments at a time weekly but he knows their ship sailed a long time ago.
There is no room for love. There is only time for work, school, writing her thesis, fighting for her rightful positions in life and society, and sleep. Everything else is on the back burner. Everything else will have to wait.
The guy standing next to her offers her the only seat left on the train after they enter. In exchange, he adds, for her number. She sighs, discontented with the constant barter and trade most men often dole out on a daily basis. She’s had a rough day. He doesn’t know it. He doesn’t care. His aim is to conquer, build up his ego, and slowly deflate hers. She declines.
She stands and reads the last chapter in her book on how to increase a company’s authorized share capital. She highlights key aspects and mentally preps a presentation. Tomorrow at work, she will turn in her resignation.
The guy standing next to her, offers her the only seat left on the train after they enter. In exchange, he adds, for her number.
Armed with a wealth of knowledge, ten years in the banking industry, and being multilingual, she remembers the job offer her classmate shared with her one week ago: Entry Level International Accountant for the International Financial Reporting Standards Foundation (IFRS Foundation).
She will leave her life to gain a life. She has her wings.
Starting now — It’s time to fly
Originally published as a metered paywall piece via Medium. I have included the “friend link” as it’s a paid piece via Medium, thus anyone who clicks on that link above can read for free.
Jackie Ann burst onto the scene via Medium at least three years ago now and when she did, I was right there eager to read her exceptional work. When she asked to be a contributor to A Cornered Gurl, it was a no-brainer for me. Her work fits the publication perfectly. She has a way of hitting you in the heart with uppercuts but delicately letting you down gently. She is the perfect combination of power and sincerity and I am happy that I came across her work when I did. And now, her featured poem . . .
An Outstretched Heart
I thought love
was a fragile thing, a leaf
in late September;
something you treasure
for a limited time
But my love was red
of joy and pain;
the summit of strength
then a tidal wave
crumbling the mountain
What could be stronger
than the creator
and the destroyer
I thought love
was destiny, a whispering wind
at your doorstep
and no doorstep is too far
to be found
But you were not born
to be found;
you were born
to seek —
to plant seeds,
to nurture the roots
and the leaves;
the emerald veins
from fertile ground
You were born
to be the sun
and makes them reach
for your open arms
Such a tender thing,
an outstretched heart.