At 4 am, She Calls for Comfort

Musical Selection: Patti Labelle & Michael McDonald|On My Own

Part V: Learning to leave anger in the past

A woman standing on the porch with a mug in her hand. Photo by Candice Picard on Unsplash
Photo by Candice Picard on Unsplash

“How dare that son of a bitch put our daughter in the middle like this?! I hated him before, but now?! Rena, I could gut that fool. I’m so angry right now!”

“I know you are. But we have bigger fish to fry now. Bree isn’t mad at you. She isn’t mad at me. She is still open to making amends and being a part of your life again. Cari, that’s big. That’s huge! The universe will deal with Marcus.”

The universe and everything good and beautiful will deal with Marcus.

The morning light peeks in and kisses Cari gently on her cheek. I look at her as she sleeps — so peaceful. So calm. Last night had been an interesting turn of events. It was Marcus the whole time, behind the crazy ploy of me not attending Bree’s graduation. Why would he even think that would work?

“Good morning, beautiful.”

Cari turns to me, looks at me sheepishly, and smiles. She is full of sunshine and elegance. All the years of drugs and pain and torture seem to disappear when I look at her. Her beauty is everlasting.

“Good morning, my love. Are you ready for today? You are coming with me to get our tickets to Bree’s graduation, yes?”

The thickness of her Dutch accent clutches me — reels me in and takes me hostage. I had been thinking about this, and it seems like something she and Marcus should approach as Bree’s parents. I don’t think I should be there for this.

“I’ve been thinking about this, Cari. Marcus has already shown us how he feels about me. This — this entire issue needs resolving and I think you should go at this one alone. While you’re away, I’ll clean up, pack us a couple of light bags, and after the graduation is done, we’ll take a short trip away from these last few days.”

Cari sits up in my bed, raises herself on her elbows, cups my chin in her hands, and steals my heart yet again with her words.

“I won’t let him make me . . . us uncomfortable. Marcus is a baby in a man’s body with plenty of unsettled issues. I will do this alone . . . this time. If he crosses us again, I won’t do it alone. Understood?”

“I hear you and I understand.”

I watch Cari, as she leaves my place. Everything in me feels like shifting — like maybe I made the wrong decision to let her do this alone, but I won’t waver. I’m sure there will be other times we’ll have to stand toe to toe with Marcus and his antics.

When we first started dating, we had some serious knock-down drag-outs with him, and since then, it has been a blessing — learning to leave anger in the past. Learning to live my life with a more Zen-like approach to things rather than raging through it uncontrollably.

Cari may be recovering from drug and alcohol addiction, but I used to be full of anger — that was my drug. That was my nemesis. I gave it up four years ago with the help of counseling, yoga, and taking on more clients.

Bodywork is where I release. Knowing that I can provide a peaceful and tension-free experience for my clients gives me an incredible sense of purpose — an understanding of how important my work is.

Cari will be okay. She’s got this.

I hate that Rena won’t come with me, but I understand her stance on this. Marcus has always been sly and cunning. It wasn’t until we brought a child into this world that I opened — truly opened my eyes to who he was and how he handled life.

And I hated it.

He was not the man I wanted to raise my child with. He could not be who I wanted — who I needed. He lacked the emotional wherewithal to sustain life with me. And after our divorce, the drugs took over, and he had a field day turning our child against me.

As I approach his home, Bree rushes out to greet me. I park the car, ease myself out of it, and walk over to my child. I cannot believe how much she has grown — how lively she looks — how beautiful she is.

Every inch of my body is shaking. She pulls me into the tightest hug I have had in years, and I step back to look at her once again.

“Bree . . . baby girl, you are so beautiful. I am looking at me!”

“Haha. Dad says that all the time, ‘You look just like your mother.’ I think sometimes it angers him — the fact that I look so much like you. Where’s Rena?!”

“She decided it was best for me to come and do this alone. So, I am here by myself to get the tickets and speak to your daddy.”

“He isn’t here. He’s been gone since I woke up this morning — not answering his text messages, either. I kind of figured he’d do that. I told him you were coming to get the tickets.”

I let out an exasperated sigh. He knows there is unsettled business — feelings that I need to get off my chest regarding how he’d been manipulating our child. What a coward!

“Okay, Bree. I will talk to him. He will know how I feel and also how Rena feels about his actions. Let me get these tickets and head back to Rena’s place so we can get ourselves together.”

“Okay, Mom!”

I watch her skip off happily in front of me toward their home. We settle into their kitchen, and she retrieves the tickets from her purse. She confirms the money had been received via CashApp. I hug her tightly, tell her I’ll see her tomorrow, and I head back to Rena’s.

“You should have seen her, Rena — all bubbly and tall and gorgeous! God, the child is the spitting image of me!”

“Haha. You’re kidding, right?! Sabrina has always been the spitting image of you!”

“How have I not seen it before? Seriously, babe. She has my entire face!”

“She always had your entire face! She has your heart, too. I think and I fear, though — the more she’s around her dad, the more he’ll attempt to influence her.”

“And that is what I don’t want. I can’t wait to see her tomorrow in her cap and gown. She has been through a lot — I put her through a lot, but she still got good grades and is going to an exceptional university!”

“She’s a brilliant kid, and I can’t wait to see her continue to excel in life. I’m also looking forward to the two of you building a bond once again.”

We settle into the afternoon sun. The two of us sit peacefully on my balcony, sipping iced coffee, and eating danishes. I take one look at this woman — the woman I love — the woman I would lose myself for, and I feel tears escaping my eyes.

We have the rest of our lives ahead of us — working on who we were, who we need to be, and growing away from our past.

I love her without fail and I will always love her until I cannot.

“Cari,” I whisper lightly in her direction. “Will you move back in with me?”

And as I wait for the answer, the silence in the pause causes my heart to race. She pushes her body up from the chair, smiles slyly at me, and whispers right back . . .

“My love, I have always been here.”

This concludes the At 4 am, She Calls for Comfort series. Thank you for reading!

Need to catch up? Part I, Part II, Part III, and Part IV.

Originally published in Prism & Pen via Medium.

Patti Labelle & Michael McDonald, On My Own, ©1986 Geffen Records

The Transition to Microlocs and My Hair Journey in Phases

Phase I: The beginning of microlocs and the end of 2022

A collage of the beginning of my microlocs transition. From the afro blowout to the grid, then plaits/braids, cornrows, and the finished product. Photo Credit: Tremaine L. Loadholt & Akua Montgomery
A collage of the beginning of my microlocs transition. From the afro blowout to the grid, then plaits/braids, cornrows, and the finished product. Photo Credit: Tremaine L. Loadholt & Akua Montgomery

I have wanted to dive into microlocs for at least three years, however, my stylist does not specialize in this genre of haircare. She can and will care for natural hair or hair in its natural state, but she cannot install, treat, coil, loc, or twist hair.

And since this is a journey I no longer wanted to place on hold to continue to be loyal to my stylist, I mentioned not having anyone to install my locs to my cousin, Akua, and my cousin stormed in to rescue me.

Ending 2022 this way is the best gift I can give myself, considering the bullshit this year brought my way. Now, I will sound off loudly and proudly, and on my terms.

Microlocs are an offshoot of dreadlocks. As the name suggests, they are tinier and a good option for anyone who wants to achieve a dreadlock look but would prefer to cut out the bulk. Deciding to get microlocs is a journey, with phases for each stage of hair growth. — Emilie Branch

Micro means exactly what the prefix states: small (exceptionally small). One does not simply jump from permed and chemically enhanced hair directly to natural hair or locs — the path is usually one many women (and some men) fight with themselves about.

I spent three months growing my permed hair out at the roots. There were no haircuts, no trimming, and no flat-ironing or processing of my hair of any kind. I was preparing for the arduous task of caring for my hair differently — naturally.

The questions I have heard many people ask when transitioning to locs are: “Will this work for me?” “Am I truly ready for this transition?” “How will I treat my hair afterward?” and “Will the loctician I find be the best match for me and my hair?”

I have asked myself every question mentioned above. I have tortured myself over these questions and wondered every single time I leaned into the thought of locking my hair . . . can I endure this?

I can. I did. I will. The photo you see above is a collage of a few snapshots taken by both me and my cousin on the first two days of this journey.

Stepping into a new phase of haircare

On Saturday, December 10, 2022, I began the transition to microlocs. Not only will this be a special day for me, but it is also one that my cousin and I will share, as she is the person who used her creative skills to make this happen.

What we, as Black women, do with our hair can invigorate us and start an entire movement with others. Most of us can be incredibly versatile with our hair and launch our crowns into various new styles that speak to who we are before we open our mouths.

I spent 8 hours (with 2 breaks) at her house sitting stoically in one of her dining room chairs as she began the grid pattern for my locs. The grid pattern is key because once this is parted and designed; there is no changing it. I knew I wanted clean, fine boxes in rows for my grid pattern. Knowing this, my cousin followed suit.

Microlocs grid pattern. Photo Credit: Akua Montgomery and Tremaine L. Loadholt
Microlocs grid pattern. Photo Credit: Akua Montgomery and Tremaine L. Loadholt

We completed all sections of my hair except one side in the back, which we finished on Sunday, December 11, 2022. This session took 5 hours (with 1 break).

I sat patiently, yearning to see each phase as my cousin completed it. She took photos so that there would be memories of this process. After she braided my hair into sections and the pattern was done, we moved toward cornrowing my hair to protect it.

Since I have had permed/processed hair almost all my life, growing out a permanent, chemically enhanced state takes longer than one can imagine. With that being said, in some sections, my ends would not plait completely to the end or stay braided. So, my cousin cornrowed each section, leaving the back out, but rubberbanded them to protect the ends.

Starter microlocs cornrowed protective state. Photo Credit: Akua Montgomery and Tremaine L. Loadholt
Starter microlocs cornrowed protective state. Photo Credit: Akua Montgomery and Tremaine L. Loadholt

And with the entire process completed and positioned, it is now my job to leave my hair alone for the next 6 weeks (or possibly more) to allow it to loc and take on its own look.

This is the part that is causing so much anxiety within me. I am eager to get to the fully microlocked stage; to flaunt my hair and lean into the beauty it possesses in a natural state.

But this is a process. This is a journey. There are paths that must be followed, adhered to, walked accordingly, and I am here for all of this!

Get it in a protective hairstyle and do not! Do not! Do not touch it until it’s washed and re-twisted. — Miss Kay Cee

2022, you have tried to knock me down, but I won’t stay down

I refused to allow this year to defeat me. From the very beginning, it has been one form of grief to another and another and another, and toward the end of this year, Jernee’s health began failing. At 14 years of age, this is to be expected.

We are now dealing with the decline of her kidneys, and I am moving through this loss as best as I can — the loss of a healthy, young, and in mostly good health dog. That part of our lives together is leaving — nearly gone, but I refuse to allow 2022 to take away the joyous occasions waiting in the wings for us.

We have many more memories to make — she still has a good amount of energy. And with my hair in starter locs, graying to perfection, and altered to the state I have envisioned for it for years, I am more confident in myself. I believe this will help me deal with the changes in Jernee, with my career, and whatever else God will pitch my way.

The finished product the next morning, Monday, December 12, 2022. Photo Credit: Tremaine L. Loadholt
The finished product the next morning, Monday, December 12, 2022. Photo Credit: Tremaine L. Loadholt

I decided not to let fear, loyalty, history, and complacency get the best of me toward the end of this year. And as time passes, I will continue to break out and break through some cruel happenings because . . . I am resilient, and I want so much for myself and for others, too.

Marking this event daily on my calendar as each day ends gives me so much joy. A smile crosses my face as I “X” out each day to signify another day’s end with starter locs that will eventually become microlocs.

The transition will probably not be a smooth one, but I am ready

This transition may not end up being all shits and giggles — laughs and happiness, but I am ready to endure it all. The gritty, the ugly stages, the OMG! what is my hair doing stages, and the OKAY! now, we’re getting somewhere stage.

I want to see what my hair can do. I also want to see what I will do as my hair sashays into a new phase.

Some people name their hair. I think this is a solid idea and can further build a connection between me and my hair as well . . . let’s be honest, we will both evolve during this process.

I will bring you along to share my story. This is the first installment of four articles devoted to my microlocs journey.

Ajá and I welcome you as we move from 2022 into the new year of 2023.

Originally published in An Injustice via Medium.

I Have Learned to Celebrate Who I Am

An audio free verse poem

I Have Learned to Celebrate Who I Am

I am content in my skin — took
me some time to be able to
say this without flinching, but I
have finally arrived.

I love how my hips sway
uncontrollably to the sounds of
the music of my people.
I have fallen in love with
my sense of style, my overall
sassiness, and my lack of fear
regarding speaking my mind.

I am strong in my stature and
my thoughts and I am grateful
for my ancestors before me;
they did not think twice about
who they were and what they
offered this nation.

I am carved from unbreakable stone,
washed by overflowing healing waters,
and motivated by a tongue that can cut
you down to size if a debate is invited.

I am not an “Angry Black Woman,” I
simply get angry when you don’t
understand me or worse — you won’t
take the time to understand me.

I have centuries of pain loaded
onto my shoulders — the cross I bear
you will never be able to carry.
It is made for me and my strength.
I am walking the path designed for
where I have to go.

I have learned to celebrate who I am;
every facet, every curve, every minuscule
thought that crosses my mind — all of it.
And with this celebration of self, comes
celebration of my ancestry.

And there is a sense of pride in this
fact that can never be, won’t ever be

Originally published in soliloque via Medium.

Introduce Yourself: Introducing Guest Author Ashton Smith — The PBS Blog

Today is a special edition of Introduce Yourself. Please help me to welcome Ashton Smith to The PBS Blog! Ashton is an amazing young woman from Fort Worth, Texas, with a powerful story. She’s a world-medal award-winning swimmer, author, and corporate speaker. She is legally blind in one eye and has difficulty seeing out of […]

Introduce Yourself: Introducing Guest Author Ashton Smith — The PBS Blog

I read this article above and was overcome with emotion. I would be lying if I said I was surprised because capitalism and the ability to take from others what’s rightfully theirs or prevent others from making sustainable income is the primal American way. But I am saddened, deeply saddened by Ashton’s story, and I abhor the entities/organizations/people who have placed her in this position.

But I know and feel as though, better days are coming for her.

Read her story via Yecheilyah‘s blog. It’s truly worth it.


A Haibun

Tina Turner, image from Smooth Radio

I have decided to give you your flowers while you’re still here. A wonder–a mystic amongst Gods and the ungodly. You have always been captivating. I never wanted to sing. I never wanted to dance. But I have always wanted to write, and you paved the way for me to have this voice–my voice in a world of chaotic flows and shiftless thoughts. You have conquered a sea of endless pain and lived to testify.

Millions of people sing your songs at the top of their lungs–breaths poured into the air that land at your feet. We still stand in awe of you; so incredibly in love with you, we speak your name . . . Tina.

Legends can be born
To be what legends should be
You are so much more

And now, one of my favorite Tina Turner songs.

Tina Turner, What’s Love Got To Do With It?