Summer in the Bronx

Musical Selection: Harry Styles|Watermelon Sugar

Summer in the Bronx

And love, unspeakable love.

Photo by Kaique Rocha via Pexels

For what seemed like countless summers of my upbringing, I’d be shipped off to my family in New York, specifically, the Bronx, in order to find some semblance of relief from boredom and the murderous heat of Savannah, Georgia. I’d count the days toward the middle of May and flaunt my happiness to my friends as much as I could, however, I knew I’d miss them.

I knew I’d want to know what their days would entail without me.

In the summer of ’98, I had two crushes: Joel & Mackenzie. Joel was Puerto Rican & Black and Mackenzie was Jamaican but was raised in Queens for the bulk of her life. (Every other weekend, she’d visit her aunts and cousins in the Bronx.) I lusted over them— would do anything for the heat of their presence to sway my way, however, I was not out then, so Mackenzie could never know my true feelings.

I paraded around my Grandma’s neighborhood, tossing back coconut icies, running through fire hydrants, and staying out late in the park. Bronx heat was a bomber; a killer, if you will. We’d have blackouts that’d last for days and I would find myself yearning for the sunlight just to get a glimpse of Joel and his smile or Mackenzie and her long legs.

I used to think she walked on clouds and I wanted to know just how soft her steps were.

She’d call me “Tree” with a hint of her Jamaican accent slipping through and she’d ask me to turn the ropes when we played Double Dutch. And what a damn honor that was — what it did to and for my ego . . . *Mac wants me to turn again. Maybe she knows.* But I was just hella good at turning the ropes and going with her flow and although I wanted to flow with her in other ways, I settled for our daily games.

Joel came and went. He was fluid, like water. I couldn’t catch him and even if I could, my hands weren’t big enough to hold him. He’d slide through every single time. Enigmatic — that’s how I described him.

He would sit near me on the park swings and just talk. Just talk . . . He had a gold tooth and a fat herringbone chain and my Grandma used to yell from our fifth-floor window for me to “get my fast ass upstairs” and I always ran away from him. Authority was our downfall — I never truly felt his heat until I couldn’t have it.

Summer became my favorite season that year. It was the year I’d compare all others to. It was the year I searched for the heat I loved and the heat I lost. I often wonder how both of them are doing; if Mac still walks on clouds and if Joel is still hard to catch.

I wonder, sincerely wonder if they knew about my heat.


*Author’s Note: Names changed for privacy. Originally published in Prism & Pen on Medium.

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I do not want to forget . . .

LightScripture
Courtesy of YouVersion

I don’t want to forget I am called to be a light in this world. I am called to move others in any way I can and at the highest level of my ability. I am called to gift people with love. I am called to uplift others when they are down. I am called to converse with, build with, grow with, and understand others. I am called to put in the work of opening my arms when my arms need to be opened. I am called to lend a shoulder when a shoulder is needed.

But, I am not called to endure empty rhetoric, words filled with hate, and people who do not wish to understand what they do not understand and be open-minded regarding the plight of others. I am not called to stand for what I do not believe in or to respect actions deeply rooted in harming other human beings. I am not called to profess anything that doesn’t shift or change one fiber of your being. I am not called to hate. I am not called to harm. I am not called to be an enemy.

I will be what I am called to be and I will not allow you to steer me in a direction in which I am not called to go. I am not led by your hand. I am not led by your heart.


“You are like light for the whole world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid.”
Matthew 5:14 GNT

Young Minds of Medium Featured Piece #2

Our second challenge of the year for the Young Minds of Medium was themed: What Do You Miss Most During This Pandemic? The young ones came through as they always do and I wish to feature a few from that challenge. This post focuses on the second featured piece which is from one of our most recent contributors added to A Cornered Gurl.

Bebongchu Atemkeng is a twenty-year-old young man unafraid to share his thoughts, feelings, and heart’s work with us. He is a regular in our A Cornered Gurl Six-Word Story Challenge hosted every Sunday and he encourages others by reading their work and responding. He is a joy to have in the publication and I am happy he’s around. His piece, Two Sides of Silence hits straight to the heart of the matter and leaves the reader feeling connected and (un)alone. Everyone, encourage his heart. I am hoping I’ll have him in YMOM for the next five years. He brings such a bright light to our community and I am sure you will feel it as you read his piece.


Two Sides of Silence

Young Minds of Medium Missed Things Call

Feeding goat|Photo by author

I miss the solace within these walls; the peace and quietude that used to reign here was one of quintessence. Those nights with just me, my book and pen, and a warm cup of tea at my study table were truly special. The sight of my bed neatly made up after a long and tiring day at work was enough reason to still find happiness and courage to carry on in a world that drains you of more than it gives; the bed didn’t complicate life—it only demanded that you lay down and rest in its embrace, satisfied to have satisfied you. I miss that comforting silence.

Within this space, I was free to be me. It was just me but I didn’t feel alone—I felt at home. I was free to dream and to explore my being. I discovered the things that made me happy, that sparked that zealous fire in my bones. Writing is one of them. The words always seemed to come easy then. Writing out my truth, I wasn’t scared of the prejudices of the world. It was just me and mini-me writing our souls out hoping that it inspired someone, somewhere, somehow to break the chains holding them down and to live out this passing existence free as the blowing wind—at peace with self and with the world. The tranquility was my source of healing.

That was a different time, a different world; that was six months ago when the world was still sane. The confinement within these walls doesn’t feel all that blissful anymore. Now, a different silence seems to beckon from beyond, from the most unexpected of places, telling of a peace I had but failed to see. The solitude is poisoning; the silence, deafening.

With all the time I have to myself now, I seem to be doing nothing. The bed has grown weary from carrying my weight; she doesn’t say so, but I know. Mini-me keeps reminding me of all that I said I’d achieve during this quarantine but haven’t started. He reminds me of the books I wanted to read—Chimamanda Ngozi’s Purple Hibiscus; Chinua Achebe’s Arrow of God; Virginia Woolf’s Three Guineas. He reminds me of a zeal grown cold. The stories I have not written haunt me—I want to tell them but the words don’t come easy anymore. WhatsApp has had its fair share of uninstalling and reinstalling. As I fall deeper into this lonely void, I wonder if this place ever really made me happy. Where is that harmony I once shared with life?

Now I realize that there was order in the chaos, poetry in the pain, music in the noise, comfort on another shoulder, and lessons to learn from the mishaps of life. Isolated from the rest of humanity, I am nothing more than walking flesh and bones; my room was never enough of a world. Within the walls of honking cars, boring lectures, singing birds, dancing children, open skies, swaying leaves, humming bees, feeding ruminants, and busy humans is a serenity of its own, a silence more profound. Now I know it was from all these that I found the inspiration to write and the courage to live.

I miss my friends. I miss the long, warm hugs and brotherly handshakes, the heartwarming smiles we shared over a plate of hot fufu and eru, the toasts we raised our glasses to, and the wishes we made over fine wine that our good God would bless us with happier days. I hope that he’s still listening.

What is left of me is emptiness and restlessness. There was an existential equilibrium I failed to appreciate: that between my world and the world. One cannot be beautiful without the other. The interweaving of the two strings produced the sweet symphony of life. I believe that better days lie ahead; I believe that after this pandemic, we would be more grateful for the opportunity to still be alive.

I miss the balance between the two sides of silence.


Originally published in A Cornered Gurl via Medium.

I Mother No One

I Mother No One

Part V: Yearning To Hold My Mother In My Arms.

Photo by Anna Shvets via Pexels

I mother no one. There’s no one for me to mother. To hold, to kiss, to shelter away from every storm . . . I want the one thing I cannot have and this damn global pandemic is making it worse. I missed the opportunity of spreading love to my own, of carrying on a bloodline that would have my eyes for years after my death. What it felt like to learn, to know, to be told that had I pursued attempting to have children, I would not be successful: I had no words. But my mother — she took a chance on bringing me into this world. No one had a say in if she would or would not do it. She wanted to. I hear my mother’s voice — the phone is an okay replacement, but it doesn’t give me the full view of her.

There’s no surround-sound Angie.

I want to see her in animated form, in her bold and “say what I want to say” presence. My mother doesn’t care about the thoughts of others — how one may view her, viewed her, will view her . . . She has always been matter-of-factly, no-nonsense, and vocal. She is a spark — she’ll light up any room.

Every year, I am given another three hundred sixty-five days to grow with her and learn her too. She is sometimes fearful of what to say around me, though, of how to say what she wants to say. She tells me, “I can’t say things the way you can. It won’t sound the way I want it to sound.” I encourage her to “just say it, Mom.” And she does, no holds barred.

I envy that — the courage to speak without fear. To be brave enough to open my mouth and say what I truly want to say, but most times, I cannot. I have to write it, instead. And the thing I want most is the opposite of what my mom wants. If we traded characteristics and did things differently, we wouldn’t be who we are. I lift her up when she needs it. She makes me laugh when I need it. Have you ever heard anyone cuss better than a sailor? You haven’t heard my mother . . . She can hopscotch with shit, plant marigolds with fuck, and damn anyone from North Carolina to Texas without flinching.


It is not her use of vulgar language that I want to highlight. It is not her boisterous ways or her inability to care about the thoughts of others when pertaining to her, no . . . it is her undeniable source of strength and never-ending love for me. To have a child who ventures out into the world to a job that exposes her to a threatening virus daily and not lose your mind takes resilience. It takes a healthy dose of sanity and resistance to breaking. I will never know the pain she knows. I will never feel the emotions piling up on her wondering, praying, and hoping for her child — for her children.

I am ordered to call or text her when I get home. If I am off, I am asked to let her know this. My whereabouts are simple; work, home, and the occasional errand run if needed. Before this downward spiral of our world, we spoke almost every day — her calling more than I would. Now, I make it a point to pick up the phone to let her know when I have made it home and when I plan on venturing out again (if I need to). I am covered by her love. I am surrounded by her prayers. I can feel her tears. They are all a part of every breath I take when I step outside my door.

I have not seen my mother since mid-March. I have not held her. I have not hugged her. I have not dwelled in the welcoming fragrances of her home in two months and I would be lying if I said it is not affecting me. It is. I have lived farther away from my mom than I do now, but that was by choice. I needed to be away from her. There were circumstances then that had proven best for the both of us for me to be as far away as I was. Now that we have grown and significant changes have taken place on both our parts, I would not want to be that far away again.

The simple act of a hug, an embrace calls to me more than it ever has before. I yearn to hold my mother and I cannot. I yearn to stand near her, to welcome her into my home, and I cannot. The last thing I would want to do is put her in any semblance of danger given my place of work and what I do. If I did not have my wits about me, I would pull my hair out. I never thought I would miss something as small as a hug — the physical act of showing someone you truly care . . .

This Mother’s Day, I cannot do what I want to do most — hold mine in my arms.


*For mothers yearning to hold their mothers. Mothers who have lost their mothers. Mothers who are mothering their own without being able to mother them. For mothers yet still holding on to the power of not letting go. Happy Mother’s Day.


Originally published in P. S. I Love You via Medium.