Hell in a Handbasket, but There’s Still Time for Autumn

One of the last trees to still sport its autumn leaves. Photo Credit: Tremaine L. Loadholt

This nation, as I see it, is going to Hell in a handbasket. It will be carried by the same naysayers who believe the all-knowing and loving God is for their hypocritical ways and do not oppose their actions. The God you serve is not the God I serve. My God is more than likely weeping as he watches His children carry on like fools, senselessly taking the lives of others, running amok without fair cause, and denying human beings basic rights.

You are playing a flute that holds no sound, yet you want me to listen. Where is your melody? How does it benefit me? When will it actually do something worthwhile?

We elected a president who, when it all falls down, has sided with a judicial system that purposes a select few. He has said out of his mouth, to respect the system, to acknowledge what has been done peacefully. For real? Like, for real . . . real? Acknowledge a system that has NEVER worked in anyone of color’s favor? Acknowledge a system and respect it that could not bring forth a verdict that actually makes sense?

It is 2021, yet we are reliving days of Antebellum. There is no escaping this. This is what they want. And to get to where they intend to seek refuge, they will continue to whittle us down like pieces of wood.

I’m so tired of people making excuses for America. America has ALWAYS been this way. She isn’t changing. Her ways are not so distant from the 1800s–they’re only slightly different.

I walked through my neighborhood today, still seething in anger from an unjust system. I tried to remain calm. I tried to look to Jernee for some semblance of peace. But I found it . . . in the last leaves of autumn.


**I don’t intend to argue or go back and forth with anyone about my thoughts, feelings, and opinions. I know what I’ve lived, witnessed, been forced to do, and experienced. Racism is still alive and well. I don’t need anyone to tell me what is and isn’t.

Clover

Part VIII: I think we’re going to be all right.

Photo by Angel Eyes via Reshot

I close the door to Daddy’s truck. It lands with a loud thud. The hallway monitor stands by our lane and eyes me with a look that could slice sin. I wave goodbye to Daddy and begin my day. After landing a spot on the dance squad for Soulful Legs Dance Studio this past weekend, nothing can pull me down from the clouds.

Just before I enter the front doors of our school, I spot Selena. Her older brother is driving her to school today. He has on a weird mask — something like a cross between a monster and a rabbit. She waves goodbye to him and rushes over to me. I get goose skin.

“Hey, Clover! Little birdies all around town tell me someone made the squad! That’s great!”

It’s not like I’m not grateful. I have manners. I know when to say, “thank you,” but I can’t get the image of the monster-rabbit mask out of my head, and I make this known.

“Um . . . thank you. That was your brother driving, right? What did he have on his face?”

“Oh, the mask? He works for Sloppy Carl’s. It’s a sloppy joe restaurant/playground for kids. The getup he wears is the spot’s mascot, Carl the Rabbit. I hate that thing, but he needs the money since he’s trying to go to college out of state in two years.”

I hear her, and I don’t hear her. Her lips are moving. I see them flap about her face. I still have goose skin. Why would her brother drive around in that mascot uniform? An even better question I ask myself is, Who thought this type of thing would be welcoming to little kids?! I know one thing, I’m not going to Sloppy Carl’s.

“Oh. So, he wears it before going to work and not change when he gets there?”

I am still so bothered by this — my focus cannot go anywhere else. I feel my legs moving. I know we’re entering the school. I know we’re walking down the hall. I know we’re turning onto our wings for class, but I just . . . I am stuck on that freaky mask. Please don’t tell Mama I said the word freaky. She’ll have my hind-end for sure.

“Yeah. Sometimes when he’s running late, he just puts it on and takes a set of clothes with him for later. I don’t like it. It scares some of my friends, but I can’t do nothing about it.”

She shrugs it off and turns down the path leading up to her wing. We say our goodbyes and that’s that.


I am anxious and the day couldn’t end fast enough. Although Daddy drops me off in the mornings, sometimes I take the bus home in the afternoons. Today’s one of those days I take the school bus. It’s quiet. Our bus driver’s name is Ms. Chelsea. She’s sweet. She has hair that smells like peppermint and penny-colored eyes. She kinda reminds me of Mama. I nod hello to her as I step onto the bus.

She is what Daddy calls “no-nonsense.” On her bus, you will follow her rules. I sit in a seat near the back of the bus. There’s a group I’ve gotten used to seeing — three girls and four boys. A couple of fourth, fifth, and sixth graders. I sit close enough to hear them but far away to not get involved.

My stop comes and I bolt from the bus fast enough to shoot lightning from my feet. Mama’s home. She’s snapping beans for dinner. She asks about my day — if I enjoyed it.

“Selena’s older brother dropped her off this morning. He had on his work uniform — it’s a scary monster-rabbit mascot type thing. It scared the bejesus outta me, Mama.”

Mama looks at me, stops snapping beans, and stares at me square in the eyes. I feel like I’m on fire. My heart races and my skin gets all sweaty.

“Don’t you take the Lord’s name in vain, Clover. Now, what’s got you all in a hissy about this getup that child had on?”

I know Daddy will understand. Mama’s not the best person to talk to about this type of thing. She loves horror movies — goes insane for them, really. Halloween is her favorite holiday, and she gets a great kick out of dressing up and handing candy out to the neighborhood kids. This year will be different, though. There aren’t any other children around for miles.

“I just . . . it was creepy, Mama. I can’t describe it. It was like looking at something both alive and dead at the same time. Something that shouldn’t be what it is. And he works at a children’s restaurant and play space! If it scared me, I know it scares others.”

Mama smiles sweetly at me, pats my leg, and simply says, “Do you know there is someone under that getup, Clover?”

I pause before speaking. I know what she’s trying to do. I do. But like I said, it’s hard talking to Mama about this kinda stuff.

“I do. But that doesn’t make it any less scary.”

She snaps a few more beans, wipes her hands on her apron, and begins humming softly to herself. And now I’m thinking about how I know someone was behind that mask — in that uniform, and well . . . I feel a little better.


Daddy is home. He asks about my day and Mama cuts him short. “Clover had a bit of a fright today, Paulie, and we don’t need to get back into it right now. Let’s enjoy dinner. Will you say grace, please?”

At this very moment, I am truly thankful for Mama — for knowing what to do. I really don’t want to think about that freaky monster-rabbit mask again.

Daddy says grace and I shove a forkful of beans into my mouth. I think we’re going to be all right here in Hopeulikit.

I really do.


*This concludes the Clover series. Thank you so much for reading.

Originally published in Hinged Press via Medium.

Part IPart IIPart IIIPart IV,  Part V, Part VI, and Part VII

Universe, Do Your Worst

I promise — I can take it.

Photo by Ernesto D. via Reshot

The workers come. They drill into the concrete in front of my building. I hear them cut through the ground. A drill here, some digging there. They disturb the dog.

She wakes up from a sound sleep, eager to locate the demons responsible for the momentary interruption.

As they carve into the ground below us, I think about you. Are you entertained? Did I make a good first impression? Was I too much — too little? Is my personality what you thought it’d be?

I didn’t have to think about things like this two years ago. The pandemic has me this way. I tell my therapist I am forever changed. She agrees. She says I’m not the only one. I know I’m not.

Universe, do your worst. I promise I can take it. It’s a statement I thought should be on a t-shirt. I’m still here. After all the damage — all the calculated drama — all the premeditated bullshit, I’m still here.

You speak of wanting children — a life with someone who holds his crotch every thirty minutes. I know this isn’t me. I feign not hearing you. I change the subject. We talk about beating the odds as black women, instead.

The workers tag the concrete. A yellow sign issues caution. The newness of their act intrigues me. A small leaf pokes through the wet-work. What does it mean?

The dog falls back to sleep.


Originally published in CRY Magazine via Medium.

The Eyes Don’t Lie

Living with keratoconus and the treatment I’ve sought.

Important things. Photo Credit: Tremaine L. Loadholt ©2021

I had my follow-up visit with the Duke Eye Center for my recent diagnosis of keratoconus on Friday, October 22, 2021. The news my ophthalmologist/corneal specialist shared was good. There is no scarring and no significant change in my eyes — no additional con-caving or coning of my corneas. This is good for multiple reasons, but I’ll just mention two of them. 1. Negative progression of the corneas is minimal. 2. It keeps me out of the tunnel with surgery (a cornea transplant for both eyes) as the light at the end. If you remember, I mentioned not wanting to even think about surgery, so I am ecstatic about this recent news.

My ophthalmologist wanted the same tests done as my previous visit, but two more had been recommended as well. One process required a numbing agent for my eyes. The nurse’s assignment was to assess the pressure of each eye. She announced her need to get near me in order to do this — as she rolled on her stool closer to me, my breathing halted. I am not a person who cares for people in my personal space, however; I recognize sometimes; it has to take place in certain situations. As she dropped the numbing agent in the first eye, I stopped breathing and she held her hand up to go to the other eye and said, “I need you to breathe, Tre. This doesn’t work if you don’t breathe.”

I instantly exhaled and inhaled as I normally would. I apologized — informing her it was simply my body’s natural defense and reaction to someone getting so close. She smiled and said, “It’s absolutely normal and expected, but you still have to breathe.” And breathe, I did. After the numbing agent had been applied, she said softly, “Blink. Blink. Blink.” I did as instructed. She announced coming closer to me again and this time, there was a device in her hand (it looked a lot like this, I failed to ask what it was and I beat myself up for it when I left the building) and she rubbed the tip of the device on my eyeball rotating it in small circles. She did the same thing for the other eye.

The look on my face caused her to giggle. She said, “Wasn’t expecting that, were you?” I most certainly was not! To have someone rub some type of device which captures the pressure of your eyes on your actual eyeballs was clearly not on my list of to-dos that morning when I awakened. Afterward, I saw little black dots for a few moments. It took a few more minutes before I could see clearly again without the little black dots and swirlies, and then we were off to yet another room where I would wait for the ophthalmologist.


I appreciate my ophthalmologist. His bedside manner is one I’d rank a 10 out of 10 and he’s also pretty funny. He entered the room as he did six months ago — ecstatic and noticeably happy to do his job. We elbow-bumped, and we were off to him asking me a few questions to which I had the answers. He began by telling me about the numbers collected at the most recent visit versus my previous one. He also showed me the slight change in my corneas by using the cornea model in the exam room. Just in case you’re wondering, a healthy cornea model looks like a huge contact lens and a cornea model deformed by keratoconus looks like that same huge contact lens bent bottom-up as if it were going to tear in half and come clean off the eyeball. *shudders*

He was pleased with the numbers, and images gathered from the testing. The reassurance I received from him about my current status eased my nervousness and worry as well. I am in a good place to still be a candidate for scleral contacts, however, no surgery is needed at this time. The scleral contacts are supposed to help sharpen the blurry images and my need to squint (natural reaction) to try to see small writing or images far away. To have a sharper vision will be a godsend and I await it like the day awaits nightfall.

Taking into consideration the fact I am severely near-sighted, have astigmatism in both eyes, and have also been slapped with keratoconus, and my vision has not changed drastically in the last six months, was paramount. The news was the best I had received all morning, and I could not contain my elation. Before leaving, they had advised me to continue with the changes I have made, keep up the Pataday regimen, and take as much time as I can away from devoting my eyes to the blue light of electronic devices.

Listen, I appreciate the $5.00 off coupon the center gives for the Pataday eye drops. That mess is expensive for a teeny tiny bottle. But, I digress. It is necessary, and it works.


As it stands, I have an appointment with my optometrist on Friday, February 25, 2022, for my annual eye exam and the fitting of the scleral contacts. I will follow up with my ophthalmologist/corneal specialist on Friday, May 20, 2022. He wants me to have at least a few months under my belt using the scleral contacts before coming back for additional testing. The flip in visits between the two of these doctors for my eyes will take place for as long as my ophthalmologist deems necessary. Keratoconus is lifelong and currently, there is no cure (outside of surgical procedures), so I’d better get rather comfortable with the entire process of it all.

I am thankful for decent vision insurance — I could not afford this level of care without it. By stating this, I am not flaunting the value of my healthcare coverage, but the truthfulness of the aspect to the level of care of which I am receiving. The care is not an inexpensive one and my pockets do not run deep. Take care of your eyes, beautiful people.


Originally published in soliloque via Medium.

Read more about this: The Beginning and The Follow-up.