But Will She Stay?

Or, Will He Go?

MUSICAL SELECTION|EMOTIONS: DON’T ASK MY NEIGHBOR

I did not budge. I was not going to call the cops because I have a fear of them now that cannot be described. I do not feel protected. I do not feel served. I would rather not have my mom and best friend collect my body from a holding cell at my local precinct because my conscience would not shut up.

But I listened . . .

I was having a relaxing bath, soaking my aching leg, while reading and it happened . . . A door slammed. Her trembling voice followed. His shortly after. It shook me awake from my jump into another world and I instantly knew what this was — an argument. My walls shook from the second slam of a door.

The bathroom walls are paper-thin. I silently prayed, “Lord, whatever is about to happen, please don’t let it be something that will make me call the cops.” My new neighbors found themselves in a twisted situation and this place is not kind to those disturbing the peace, but while things played out, it sounded as though they may have needed this to happen.

That may be an ass-backward statement, but what I mean by this is perhaps this thing could be the defining factor of their relationship — of if there will be a relationship after tonight. A woman’s voice when rattled can break you. If you have any peace in your spirit, you will feel every word falling from her lips.

“IF YOU WANT TO BE WITH ME, THEN SHOW ME!”

She was cry-shouting at him and she said this over and over again and I felt my heartbeat quicken and my hands began to shake. I had not been around a couple arguing in years and this stirred up a fear in me that I forgot existed. I wanted to cry, I felt like I was about to cry, but his voice powered through . . .

“I MOVED HERE FOR YOU!”

She did not back down. She yelled her testimony to him. She made her reasons known and the back and forth of it came right back to her original statement, “If you want to be with me, then show me!” He said something that made me cringe — that made me want to jump out of the tub, throw on some clothes, grab my steel bat, and call my cousins to let them know what was up, but I remembered who I am. It still did not stop me from tearing me apart when he said, “I AM A GROWN MOTHERFUCKIN’ MAN. I DON’T HAVE TO SHOW YOU SHIT.”

There was quiet. It became too quiet. The kind of quiet that shows itself right before the main event and I thought, “I have to make sure he does not hit her, that she does not attack him.” I had to wait it out. I know what a blow to the head sounds like by a closed fist. Or, how a back cracks when it’s slammed against a wall. I grew up in a home where violence was the frontrunner for many years until it was not. I had to be sure they did not physically hurt one another. But verbally . . .

The damage had been done.

It passed, like a storm . . . Like a kidney stone punching through one’s bowels shoving its way into the light. A mellow tune played, what sounded like another door gently closing introduced itself, and the night began to feel safe again.

I wonder if she will gather her things, relocate to wherever she ran away from, or if she will stay loyal — glued to his side. I wonder if he will step it up. If he will try harder, if he even needs to. I wonder if they know just how thin the bathroom walls are and how afraid I had gotten hoping and praying that I did not have to call the cops.

There will be that awkward meeting when we pass each other in the morning. That brief, knowing smile or head nod. No one will mention a thing and we will go on like it never happened. But I will look at her and I will know that her heart is breaking.

I will silently tell her that mine is too.


Originally published via Medium.

What Happens When We Don’t Say Goodbye?

A Tribute Audio Poem

This is how I will remember you:

silly, silly boy
chasing tail
laughing mouth, eyes full 
of summer.

the girl you caught,
you gave your child — 
left your name
and nothing else.

how can death take you so soon?
the mystery. the madness.
the way you are now a 
Facebook memory
for those still scrolling through
lost days they will never get back.

This is how I will remember you:

giddy, quick hands
storming legs, breaking through
a crowd, lips coated in
bubblegum cigarette powder,
begging for a kiss.

you never uttered a mean 
word to me, only those of love
and I brushed you off because
we were kids and running
around a field or in a hot
gym or lifting weights occupied 
my time.

you persisted and I said “Yes!”
the messages flood my phone,
and I want to stop the
influx of sad faces and weeping words — 
I want your death to disappear,
but the Reaper works overtime.

This is how I will remember you:

dancing down the aisle on
graduation day,
Sunday shoes shined, my face
on your wingtips,
a blue gown draped over your
broad shoulders.

pearl teeth poking through
your lips, your hands flailing
in the humid air.
us. them. we . . . 
children, no longer children
headed into a world 
that promised to 
swallow us whole.

you are not dead,
not today. 
I remember you alive.


Originally published 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.

Worn

Worn Out|Vincent van Gogh – 1881

beaten into defeat,
worn and torn, his
body cannot go on.
he leans into himself,
gathers the strength to
breathe out a sigh, and
tucks his sullen demeanor
into his pockets.

two more shifts before
night’s end.
will he make it?
can he make it?
he doesn’t know, but
he will try.

that’s all that’s left 
of him.