Sometimes, all I need are the small reminders in life to let me know I’m still living and grateful to be alive. Sometimes . . . this is what I love most about living–the little things.
Part I: A Snapshot
“Davie Boy, pull that branch away from the main walkway, please. We don’t need anyone tripping and breaking their neck … The last thing I can stomach is a lawsuit, especially during a damn global pandemic. And while you’re at it, see if you can take a proper photo of the Jane Magnolia trees. I wanna showcase them in the new magazine for the shop.”
Starla beckoned from behind the desk of her family’s bed-and-breakfast. Davie Boy, her younger brother, helped to keep the place up and running. He was what you’d call a “handyman,” but he was more man than he was handy.
“And where is that God-forsaken niece of mine?! CHLOE! CHLOE! GET DOWN HERE, ASAP!”
The walls of the shop creaked. Starla was a loud woman. Always heard. Barely seen. She made the lives of everyone around her miserable. She now lived as a divorcée who owned two cats, a dog, and hundreds of handmaid quilts from the elder women in her family. And … part of the bed-and-breakfast. Buddy, her older brother, is the other owner.
“Starla, I don’t get paid enough for this. I threw my back out messin’ ‘round with them branches and those magnolia trees aren’t half-bloomed yet. Be a pity to waste good film on them in that state. Probably best to wait another week.”
Starla listened to the saucy words of her kid brother, knowing full well he was half-right. A lump formed in her throat. She swallowed hard.
“Whatever. Thank you.”
Buddy didn’t stick around much. The only things he had on Starla was age, favored gender by their dad, and the uncanny ability to lie in the face of danger. He could talk himself out of trouble and talk himself into bed with anyone. Starla, if she were truthful, envied him.
“I’ll just see if Buddy can do it the next time he swings by this way. He should’ve dropped the deposit off last Friday, haven’t seen the fool yet. Don’t worry about any of it, Davie Boy. It’ll get done. Can you collect your daughter and run to the store? Here’s the list.”
She handed Davie Boy the shopping list and watched as her niece came bouncing down the stairs in a revealing top and some short-shorts — Daisy Duke short.
“No, ma’am. No, ma’am! Head right on back up those stairs and put on some more clothes, young lady! What in the name … Have you lost your mind? Davie Boy, you let her dress like this? Showing her business to the world? You will march right up those stairs and find something else to wear.”
Starla rubbed her temples and sighed a great sigh. Her head throbbed. She needed a drink. Davie Boy’s voice snapped her back into focus.
“You know I can’t do anything with her, Starla. Since June died, Chloe’s been acting out — talkin’ back, breakin’ curfew, smoking weed — ”
“She’s been doing what? Aw, hell no! Leave her here with me. She can help me with the B & B and the flower shop. Don’t you fret, Davie Boy. Things’ll be back in order around here soon. Just you wait and see.”
Chloe descended the stairs just as her aunt finished her speech. This time, she had on a mini-skirt, a halter top, and some thigh-high boots.
“Davie Boy, go get me that vodka and some ibuprofen.”
Starla shook her head in disbelief, tutted the air between her teeth, and shot her niece a devil-filled stare.
“Tomorrow. I’ll deal with you tomorrow.”
Haiku, 3 Parts
where are you going today?
to heaven and back
or just someplace safe?
can you take me with you, please?
I’m good company
I’ll offer you peace
as you become my savior
Said blue to the flower, “If I were you,
I’d scatter my petals across the nation–giving
everyone a piece of me.”
The flower looked on, bent its stem,
and scolded blue. “But, you are not
me. You are in the sky, of the ocean,
and the feeling of broken hearts.
I am what people pick when
they want to see a smile on
their loved ones’ faces. I am
fresh pine in the midnight hour,
A statement for a dying soul. I am
lilac & jasmine, clover & rose–the
depth of beauty on a toddler’s fingertips.”
blue listened, eager to understand–yearning
to know just why the flower was so special.
“I am God’s explanation for tears
buried in the sand. You could never be
me, not even if you tried endlessly.”
And with that, blue sat alone with its thoughts.
Its heart beat faster and its eyes grew tired.
The sun tilted its head, leaned over blue’s face,
and lit up its life.
“Maybe I can be the sun,” blue thought.
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
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.