She’s married to the idea of loss. I sit with my tongue waiting to savor the depth of her beauty. I will pay for a good thing, just like the $0.25 most fast food restaurants charge for extra sauce. They know we’ll want more.
Supply and demand . . .
Our culture thrives on greed licking the last bits of this and that for as long as we can. We’re motivated by the sound of our sins — how loud can we be in the face of God as we mock him?
Boisterous, manipulative Homo sapiens.
We think we know everything there is to know about life and we know nothing at all. The curtain falls behind us. We hide under the covers shifting from one form to the next.
I’ll be her grapevine in the middle of a dirt road, rumors spreading like wildfire. She will come to me before I ask after her. That’s her way. She appears when I disappear.
Punctual but untimely . . .
I have gathered all my confessions for the pastor to review. On his pulpit, he’ll stand and applaud me for my efforts. She’ll take pictures. Memories of my coming out. Scrapbook worthy.
I will tell her my life isn’t up for sale but if she’s humane, I’m willing to let her spend time on me. But she’s married to the idea of loss . . .
They’d tried to warn me, but I didn’t listen. I was drawn to her, like bees to honey — connected without thread and I knew once we kissed, that’d be the end of me. I remember the day we met. Her wild hair was blowing in the wind, her lips quivered and I wanted to place a single finger on them to steady their tremble.
It was a cold, blustery day, the sun decided to sleep in longer than usual. We met on the A-train. She entered from the platform and scanned the guts of the mighty beast headed East towards Grove Street. Her eyes landed on me. I moved my backpack from the only free seat remaining and she plopped her mother’s gift of an ass down next to me — thighs thick and welcoming. I tried not to stare. We were too close not to talk. I broke the ice.
“I’m Cash. What’s your name?”
“I’m Stormy. Weather. Stormy Weather.”
My eyes widened. I thought she misspoke or maybe I didn’t hear her correctly.
“You heard right the first time.”
“No shit!? So, there’s a story behind this, right? There’s gotta be a story.”
“If you wanna call two teenagers high off Quaaludes and weed, bumming it out in my dad’s bungalow, who named their firstborn while listening to Jefferson Airplane a story, then yeah. There’s nothing moving about it. They were young, high, horny, and there was a storm. Factor in my dad’s last name — Weather, and you’ve got ‘Stormy Weather.’”
I watched her mouth as she spoke. She had a chipped tooth. Her tongue also looked pierced. I didn’t wanna stare but I did.
“Stare harder and I’ll have to charge you.”
She smirked in a sexy, inviting way. I wanted to know more about this woman sitting next to me on the A-train. Where was she from? What did she like to do? Why did she smell like the first day of summer back in ’88?
So fresh and new . . .
“Anyway, enough about my name. Who gets branded with a name like ‘Cash’ and doesn’t talk about it?”
“We can talk about it. ‘Cash’ is short for ‘Cashion’. My last name is ‘Day’. If you want me to take it a step further, I’ll share my middle name too. ‘Free.’ So, ‘Cashion Free Day’ at your service.”
She was now the one staring and I gotta tell you, something in me stirred up quicker than I could tame it. She smiled and I noticed two deep dimples crown her cheeks. I waited for her to speak.
“Okay, so there’s a story, right?”
“Touché. My parents are hardcore activists and human rights officials. They spearheaded a non-profit organization, the whole nine . . . When I was born, they cashed in on their loan approval and sought freedom from the average 9-5 everyone else seemed to work. Thus, the names ‘Cashion’ and ‘Free’ were given to me. I have my mom’s last name. They never married, but they’re still together.”
“Well, what’s your dad’s last name?”
We laughed. A few people on the train looked up from their devices to catch us locked into each other. They quickly went back to ignoring us.
“Well, Stormy. The next stop is mine. When’s yours?”
“It’s mine as well. You wanna grab a bite to eat? My treat. I know this little soul food spot — a hole in the wall, but the collard greens and mac-n-cheese are heaven-sent.”
“How do you know I don’t already have plans?”
“I just know.”
“Oh? Is that right?”
“That’s right, cuz whatever plans you have, they’ve now been changed.”
She winked at me, that same smirk covering her face. I was gonna fall for her and there’d be no stopping it. The train came to a halt in the station. The squeaky doors opened and we exited. I turned to look at her in full view and that’s when it happened. She kissed me. Not just a peck on the lips, but an open-up-your-damn-mouth-and-let-me-in kiss. I fell in sync with her. My hands strayed away from my sides, finding her mid-back, then resting there. Her tongue was definitely pierced. I was in trouble.
“Here, lemme put my number in your phone.”
“When we’re done with dinner, you can call me to set up our next date.”
“You don’t waste any time, do you?”
“I don’t, especially when I want something or someone.”
She wanted me and I wanted her and all we had in common so far were crazy names given to us by our parents. Still . . . I was caught up and there was no turning back now, not even if I tried.
“Be careful. I might bite. Aren’t you even a little scared?”
“I bite harder. And no, I’m not scared.”
I am sitting in this god-awful butcher shop, waiting for the cuts of meat my mom ordered and a woman who looks just like Stormy walks by. I got a glimpse of her profile — no deep dimples. She stops to look into the windows — pork’s the special for the afternoon. Larry, the butcher, always puts a huge sign out with a list of specials and a bonus $3 off, if you can guess what the next day’s special is. This woman, although not Stormy, struck up so many memories of her within me.
I thought back to that first day on the A-train. How she moved fluidly — one with the world, without even thinking about it. And I smelled her. I could taste her. I remembered everything about each moment we shared.
Three years later, she left me for a woman she met on the #2-train named ‘Dawn Knight’ and I’ve had this damn dark cloud over my head ever since.
*Ping* “#15! Order up! A pound of steak, a pound of pork chops, and two pounds of thick-cut beef bacon.”
I have drowned myself in work — work that I love, work that makes me happy. And it is in the evening when night slithers its way in that I feel the pain of having loved so many years ago and lost. I know the heart is stronger than the credit we give it, but I’ll be damned if it doesn’t take forever to free itself from pain.
And I am tired of waking up to thoughts of you, tired of feeling your lips pressed against mine, tired of wondering what you’re doing, how you’re doing, and if I still mean anything to you. I do and don’t want to be a factor. Why is it so hard? There shouldn’t be a plethora of questions on this subject. I should have a degree in broken hearts and delayed healing —
Love’s Recovery, 101.
You have moved on. You did so effortlessly and I am still steering a wretched ship that has no sense of direction without its captain. Throw out the life rafts. Man the exit points. I was bound to hit a few rocks along the way, but I am still out to sea.
Battered and unmanned.
I stare at my phone. I want to take a chance on sending you a text message but every alarm within me is set and red flags pop up whenever my fingers go searching through my contacts. Leave well enough alone.
And I do. I settle into the nightlife, ease myself into an escape route of books and words that are not my own, and remember that spells can be broken.
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.