“Our Father, Who Art In…”

I will never claim another

Gift Habeshaw | Unsplash

Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger by the way you treat them. Rather, bring them up with the discipline and instruction that comes from the Lord. — Ephesians, 6:4, NLT


The way my father looks at me is as if he is looking at the world in every color, tone, measurement, and description all at once. He takes me in — processes me, and tries to understand my words while I am speaking. He hears me. It is a blessed feeling to allow someone to dissect what you are saying when at times, those words have proven difficult to express. Given my father’s background and his marriage to the church as an elder and minister, listening is one of the things he does best. Coming out to my father was not as hard as I envisioned it would be. As a matter of fact, it was quite easy. He knew I had something to share, he had known for years — thus, he pressed forward with opening the door to our conversation about who I, his daughter, was. I touch on this just a bit in “Unconditional.”

Listen to me, baby. You are my child. I don’t care about anything else. I love you for who you are, you hear me? That will never change. Never.”

I could never have selected another man in this world to be half of what makes me whole. It would be pointless and an impossible feat. My father was made just for me at a time when roaming the streets, hanging out with his friends, and catching up on homework should have been the only things on his mind. To be a teenager, trying to bring a female mini-version of himself up in a crazy world, I am sure, was the last thing he wanted. But he did it and in his own way. I had enough years with my father in our home to know what I should know about life and understand what I should about right versus wrong.

You can come to me. I hope you’ll always remember that. I love you.”

He fathered the way he knew how. He stumbled. He struggled. He made a ton of mistakes. But one thing he did not fail at doing is loving me. It took me nearly fourteen years after my parents’ divorce to realize that fact. Today, I can call my father up and we can chit-chat about whatever, like whatever is the best thing since jelly on toastWe can hoot, holler, boast, brag, and commend each other freely without that awkward silence that used to layer itself around us.

I no longer have to wonder what my dad will say or do about his oldest daughter being bisexual. I no longer have to shelter, hide, or deny myself happiness thinking I will be shunned from the spirit of the messenger. After all, I am his child.”

I am grateful for a father who openly loves me and dotes on me around his peers regardless of how many of them misinterpret the Bible. He has not struck me down — with words nor his fists. He tries to guide me in his own way and sometimes it may come off a bit preachy (that’s a given), he notices the coldness before I can even utter a word and simplifies and coats his words with love so as to not break my heart. There were years when I did not mention him, would not mention him. He was there, but not there. Not to me. Divorce can cloud a teenager’s mind and when step-parents are introduced, it can do even more.

I think back now to many of the hurtful things I said — how I allowed myself to let my tongue walk all over him without apologizing for my crassness. My father, knowing who I was at my core, gave me the space to vent and be free with my words in my growing up years without causing me to shrink. One thing he would say often was, “When you are older, you will know all that I did for you, how hard I tried.” I did not recognize the importance of that then. Oh, but I do now.

I am equal parts Michael and equal parts Angela and with the two of them buried deep inside my veins, I am one person. I finally understand why I ached for so many years when I thought of, interacted with, and tried to hold on to a bond with my father — stubbornness. The older I get, the better I am becoming at understanding who he is simply because he has always tried to understand who I am. My eyes are no longer closed.


To my father, who never has to change . . . thank you for everything past, present, and whatever there is to come. I will never claim another.


Originally published in Our Human Family via Medium.

Open

When You Know You’re Not In Someone’s League

Young Woman With Ibis- Edgar Degas 1860-1862

There’s a league,
some know it, some are
bound to stay in their place,
but I am stubborn.
I know no league of my own,
however, I wouldn’t dare cross yours.

The door is padlocked,
no one has a key.
I’ll never be that lucky.
With all my rights, my wrongs
take over and they tell me that
I am not worthy,
I cannot open you.

I can sit and listen to
the ailments that come from
a broken heart, can lend a kind word,
send a tight hug, but I
deny you from my dreams.
You are sacred territory,
I am not fit to clean
the grounds
or roam them freely.

I know this.
The knowing introduces itself
at night, it comes cloaked as
an angel, but I know the Devil
even when in disguise.
I shake the hinges and chain
my heart.

There’s no room for me,
not now.
There’s no way for me,
not now.
I observe every league and count
the beings who are diamonds to
my gold.

My love,
I am not fit to shine
in your direction. I am a
hollowed wall, crumbling in
your midst.
You are what I fear.

Featured Writer for June

Noe

If I had to describe her, I’d say she’s an eclectic superwoman with the ability to weave words into wonderment. She is captivating without trying and has done nothing but share connection and heartwork pieces in A Cornered Gurl and I, for one, am very happy to have experienced her work. We also share a birthday. She is our Featured Writer for the month of June. The piece selected? Tightrope. Just one read, and you’ll see exactly why I shared the description above.

Photography also by Noe

Tightrope

A flash of lightning may one day strike me down but in that half-second of illumination, I can see for miles. Some doctors call it temporal-lobe epilepsy others call it PTSD and years ago, they called it a Dissociative Disorder.

I don’t answer to those names, anymore.

Thunderstorms, even tornados don’t frighten me as much as the dark stillness that falls just seconds before they hit. For fifty years, I have continued to walk leaning forward into the wind. My journey is inward. My head spins — I close my eyes — and after all of this time, my sleepwalking feet are steady. There is no tightrope too thin for me.

At fifteen, living with my mother had become unbearable. My father was residing in Moore, Oklahoma. I had not seen him in years. After the divorce, my brother and I were never truly wanted by either parent but we were used like weapons that could be withheld or inflicted. Child support went unpaid and visits were scheduled and missed in this monopoly. We had no other value outside of the game. Resentments festered. When I asked my father if I could stay with him, he saw it as a chance to strike back at my mother.

My brother remained in Los Angeles. He barely attended school anymore and spent most of his time with the boys we grew up with; friends who had turned mean under pressure. Despite their hand-hammered armor, they knew how to ease his pain. They shared a brotherhood through glass pipes and punches. My brother didn’t need me anymore.

Still, I was used as bait to lure him back to my father but my brother refused to play the prodigal son to the man who had abandoned him.

My father said that he went back to Nicaragua to fight in the war but I never really knew what side he was on. I don’t even know how long he was actually there but for four years, we waited for letters that never came. When our dad finally called from Nicaragua, he said we had a new sister and that he was coming back with his family to the U.S.

My father’s smooth-skinned wife had never scrubbed a toilet, washed dishes or done laundry. She showed me a rash on her hands and handed me some cleaning rags. She was reluctant to immigrate to the United States but soldiers had seized her family’s ranch. They tied her brother to his prized horse and sent him out to the desert to die. In her mid-twenties, she had no choice but to flee with the help of my father but she could never fully leave her memories of the cook, the maids, the gardeners, and good silver. She had nothing left of her former life but a depressive aunt and a nursing infant.

The hidden casualties in the Contra War were often apolitical citizens like her. She watched me from the corner of her eye. I was a terrible maid. She and her aunt hissed my name from a distance and hid their secrets in deep pockets of whispered Spanish.

Within two weeks, I was sent back to California — without warning or explanation. On the flight back, looking down through clouds, I watched the barren landscape shrink back. I wondered what it would feel like to be forced to leave one’s country, to lose an estate, complete with an equestrian center, in exchange for the small and charmless home of a factory worker. I thought about my stepmother serving my father his dinner and I remembered her weak smile. Without him, she may not have escaped but when my father boasted of her previous wealth, she seemed like a souvenir pressed under his thumb.

Sometimes, I can’t look at my face or hands without thinking of my father. He had a way of owning those around him. Few of us broke free — none of us entirely.

I don’t remember very much about that stay at his home but I remember looking out of a bedroom window. It was early summer and the sun was reluctant to leave me alone. I had never experienced such oppressive humidity. My hands rested under my chin on the window sill … my nose touched the glass but I could not see any sign of my breath. I scanned the red and gold field, it was flat and as dry as a well-ironed sheet. Then, suddenly, at the very edge of the horizon, I could see dust spinning upward. It twisted and gained strength like a dark and furious shadow. At that moment, I felt a fist strike my head, out of nowhere. It cleared everything in its path with a final blackout.

This memory became a recurring nightmare until six years ago when Moore, Oklahoma was finally destroyed by a horrific tornado. I watched the news on the television as I rode a stationary bike at the gym. I could no longer feel my feet and my ears hummed as bad as 80’s rock thundered over the sound system. I leaned forward and looked up at the screen. Sometimes, it is hard to believe my eyes but this time I recognized what I saw as a true memory.

a red and gold field
is torn away through thin glass
an angry sky twists

Copyright © 2019 Noe. All rights reserved.


Originally published in A Cornered Gurl via Medium.

Damaged

Flash Fiction

In the waking hours of a gloomy morning, Daniel finds himself searching for the hands of a wife who — just the night before, told him that she was leaving him for his older brother. It was during dinner at Giovanni’s, their favorite restaurant. The reason for such a celebration? Their 10th wedding anniversary.

He lies in bed, caressing the space next to him designated for his wife, his fingers running over the hollowed area of her body’s curves buried into the mattress. His brother Robert coyly mentioned the keys to keeping a woman satisfied to him millions of times before but Daniel found the sound of his older brother’s voice repugnant.

The moment a word flew from his mouth, Daniel would process every other word into the function of selective hearing then slowly tune his brother out. This was a practice he perfected years ago when they were just teenagers.

“Robert, though?! Any other man in my family the bitch could’ve had and I’d be okay. I’m sure, I would. But this numbnuts, Godforsaken, know-it-all, doted on, Teacher’s Pet of an asshole, Robert?! Why!?”

Funny that Daniel would mention, numbnuts as a description of his brother, for he was surely the one with numb nuts. Recently diagnosed with erectile dysfunction, Daniel has been battling the changes to his manhood and trying to relearn how to release pressure and relax when you’re married to a part-time nymphomaniac is an impossible feat, but he would do anything for Sarah.

He turns away from glancing at her side of the bed, rubs his chest lightly, and rolls out of the comfort he has known for the last hour and shuffles his way to the record player. Hall & Oates, the vinyl medicine of choice rests on the turntable. He gently picks up the needle, sets it down on the vinyl, and the crooning guitar riff of the opening melody for “Sarah Smile” fills the room. This, his morning ritual for the last two weeks.

“When this shit gets out, I’m gonna be the laughing stock of Seaside Drive. Robert?! I mean, Robert?!”

Daniel opens the blinds, yawns, places his right hand down his pajama bottoms and over his penis, and calmly says, “It’s just you and me, buddy.” The music coats every corner of the bedroom, drips from the ceiling fan, down to the floor, and bounces off the walls.

Baby hair, with a woman’s eyes. I can feel you watching in the night.


Erectile Dysfunction occurs when a man can’t get or keep an erection firm enough for sexual intercourse.” As a woman who had a brief stint with a past lover who could not perform sexually, I witnessed someone all but shut down because he — we could not understand what was happening. A shift in his job that created more work, more responsibility, longer hours, and the same pay was just one of the many stressors weighing on him.

At the time, I was not as supportive as I should have, could have been. But, I learned to be. I had to. He needed that even if he did not vocalize it. Thank you for reading.


Originally published in The Junction via Medium.

The Journey Back to Mental Wellness

Cairn, Bakersville, NC — In front of Crooked Little Flower’s studio|Photo Credit: Tremaine L. Loadholt

Part III: Listening To My Surroundings

On my birthday, April 17, 2019, I had the opportunity to meet, spend time with, and enjoy the company of Crooked Little Flower in her neck of the woods. About two hours and thirty minutes away from me, but only about an hour from where I mini-vacationed, meeting Connie is sure to be one of the best things that has happened to me this year. Here is a woman I have known and loved for over three years on this platform and we have been close in proximity and had not met, but to scratch that one thing off of the to-do-list has filled my happy box with its much-needed ammunition. I basked in the beauty of nature near the place that she calls home and took in as much as I could of the sights, sounds, and tastes of the mountains.

Studios at High Cove, Bakersville, NC|Photo Credit: Tremaine L. Loadholt

I toured the studio where she creates her art and also shares it with the community. This place, not only is it the homestead of amazing artwork, it is a tranquil space where upon entering it, all that broke me down previously, faded from view. I could hear the voices of artists whispering to me, asking me to tread lightly and look at a space where thoughts, ideas, and heartwork come to life. I felt the presence of artistry and all that makes up a creative and what we have to do in order to maintain the abilities to continue to create. Not only was Connie welcoming to me, but she also opened up her door to my Little Monster too, Jernee, and she gave her sniff of approval of the studio and of Crooked Little Flower too.

Jernee, posing for a “studio shot.”|Photo Credit: Tremaine L. Loadholt

Watching this little one romp about the space, learning her new surroundings, and trying to lay claim to every nook and cranny moved me to no end. Jernee does not know a stranger. Any place that we may visit, tour, or plan a brief stay seems as if it is mentally logged into her doggy brain and becomes one with her forever. She remembers every place we have been and it shows when we return as she gets excited, plops her tongue out, and races around those spaces and places with undeniable joy. I am taking cues from her as I watch her listen to these places. I am still in the learning process — it is taking time, but it is proving to be beneficial.

I could hear my therapist saying to me, “have fun, create new memories, and take what you need and leave the rest.” I did exactly that. I could feel the pressure in my chest breaking down a bit and suddenly, smiling felt natural again.

“Wide Open Spaces,” Bakersville, NC. How can you see this and not be moved?|Photo Credit: Tremaine L. Loadholt

While listening and attempting to take in what I needed and leave what I did not, I could not stray away from the questions that have been plaguing me:

Why be overly sensitive?
What are you lacking?
What can you gain?

How can you be in a place so beautiful and still sense the ugliness of you?

And by ugliness, I mean — in my soul, in my heart. “We all have our demons” and how we deal with, struggle with, or overcome them is our personal testimony. There are a lot of things that I know I need to change and I also know that changing these things will take time. Taking the time that I needed away from my normal hustle and bustle was exactly what “the doctor ordered,” but in this case — what my therapist highly recommended. There will be shedding and as I continue to shed, I know there will also be more pain and tears and feelings of inadequacy and a bit of loneliness mixed in too and how I handle these emotions and various feelings as they come will dictate what I have learned.

For the next few weeks, I am making myself understand that although I am human and mistakes will be made, dwelling in the dark places does not have to be my end all, be all. I have more memories now to pull from and smile at on my down days. I have to thank nature, Connie, living to see another year, Jernee, and a few other remedies for that.

And, my therapist too.


Originally published in A Cornered Gurl via Medium.


Part I

Part II