Clover

Part VII: Soulful Legs Dance Studio has a new member.

Photo by Ratih Siubelan via Redshot

The night before my audition, I break the nail on my big toe pretty badly. It bleeds heavily on my bedroom carpet. I stand amazed at it. I don’t even feel the pain. I had been dancing for a few hours nonstop and must’ve broken it while turning. Mama notices it and shushes me repeatedly. At that moment, I had not known I was breathing hard and loud. She asks me to sit down on the bed while she gets the first aid kit. I sit. I wait. She rushes to the bathroom in the hallway, rushes back to my room, and takes out the antiseptic and some cleaning cloths.

I watch Mama clean up my toe, wrap it in gauze, then place a large bandaid over it. She is careful but she is serious. She tells me to stay off my feet for at least an hour — this applies to dancing. Then she says, “tomorrow when I come in from work, we can practice one more time before the audition.” My routine is five minutes long. Mama would have to rush home from work, hop in the shower, run through my routine with me, then we’d have to get to the studio by at least 1:50 p.m. This is what she said.

I don’t like being rushed. Mama knows this. She doesn’t like being rushed, either, but her boss had already said she could not get off thirty minutes early, so this is what we have to work with. I know my routine like the back of my hand. I can jump. I can leap. I can even do the three dances in between. But . . . it hurts so much when I come back down on my feet. My toe stings — a burning sensation runs through my entire left foot. Mama says, “dance through the pain, baby. It’s nothing big. It’ll heal.” And I guess she would know. She’s danced through a lot of pain.

Mama is home. She presses me to stand in front of her, look poised. We do my routine together one last time and when we’re finished, there’s a tear coming down Mama’s face. She orders me to sit down on the bed. She rushes to get the first aid kit again and she begins doctoring up my toe. Some more antiseptic, gauze, and another large bandaid are placed on my toe. She wraps it securely with an ace bandage and tells me to do the last three moves of my routine. I do them and I don’t cringe.

“There. You’re ready, baby. You’ve got this. Let’s go and show them who their next dance member will be.”

I started school this past week too! I haven’t even told you that, have I?! I’d been so excited about this audition and preparing for it that I forgot to mention my first week of school. Well, first half-week. I like the school well enough. My teachers are nice. I have one I don’t care for, but the others are pretty cool. I’ve made only one friend so far — Selena. She dances for Soulful Legs Dance Studio. She tells me all the things to spot and look out for during my audition. I listen and learn. I want to be on this squad so bad. I take all her information with me and use it to my advantage.


I nailed the routine! Two of the instructors were there and three of the senior dance members. Everyone loved it! Mama was in the crowd. I heard her “Hoot” after I was done, then I saw her shoot from her seat, jump up and down excitedly, and begin clapping. I couldn’t believe I’d finished the routine and landed every turn, every dance move, and all of my lines were straight and perfect. I also think it helped that I had three of the best songs on the radio as a mix for my routine: Craig Mack’s Flava In Ya Ear, Total’s Can’t You See, and Method Man & Mary J. Blige’s All I Need.

The instructors were dancing. The senior dancers were getting down! Mama was grooving too. I had such a great time. We didn’t have to wait long. The instructors talked for about five minutes, then called me and Mama to their side and told me I made it! I couldn’t believe it! I made it! We hurriedly drove home so we could tell Daddy and that’s where we are now — home.

We get out of the car, Mama locks everything up and we hurry inside to search for Daddy. He is sitting in the living room watching college football. I half-smile at him and Mama leans in for a kiss and says, “Guess what, Paulie!” Daddy looks over at me, smiles wide, and says, “You did it, didn’t you, Sweetpea?!” He hops out of his chair, slides toward me, and lifts me up into the air. I feel like I’m flying — like I can touch the sky. I am so incredibly happy!

And then, my toe aches. It’s a pain that reminds me I probably overdid it during my audition. I signal for Daddy to put me down and sit on the floor. I take off my shoe, remove my sock, unwrap the ace bandage, and finally the bandaid and gauze. Blood has dried over my toe and half of two of my other toes. the gauze is yucky. Mama sends Daddy for the first aid kit and she goes through the routine one more time. She orders me to take a bath and leave my left foot hanging out while I bathe.


When I am clean, we have an early dinner — it’s 5:30 p.m. Daddy made lasagna, garlic bread, fresh salad, and sweet tea & lemonade combined. Mama calls it Arnold Palmer. Why? I don’t even know. Every bite of my dinner is delicious. I forget about the pain in my toe again. I slip into the mood of the day and relax in front of the t.v. while Daddy rinses the dishes, loads the dishwasher, and Mama tidies up the kitchen.

They join me and Mama gets up, places a tape in the VCR, and my face appears. My music for the routine plays. And she throws a smile my way. She recorded the audition, but how! She looks at me as if she knows what I’m thinking and says, “Todd, the other senior member you did not see, recorded the entire thing for us. I wanted your Daddy to see what you accomplished today, baby.”

I look over at Daddy, he’s dancing in his chair, Mama pulls him up, and they begin dancing together. I stand in the same spot — stuck, but happy. Stuck, but honored. Stuck, but connected to these two beautiful parents of mine who made a very, very happy Clover.


Originally published in Hinged.Press via Medium.

Part IPart IIPart IIIPart IV,  Part V, and Part VI

Bottled Anger Has No Home

Masked and staring into the great beyond? Photo touched up with Comica. ©2021 Tremaine L. Loadholt

A free verse poem

there are no ways of explaining
I want the bigots of the world
to feel something other than stacks
of money lining their pockets or
fantasies of distasteful uprisings 
at their command

I want them to feel . . .

I have lived for forty-one years in
skin that makes authoritative figures
overuse power — in a body that gravitates 
toward both men and women — 
and of a gender that loses every inch
of reward as the years pile on

I’m three-times hated by the bulk
of this nation and we want to talk
about anger — the type of anger I have is
bottled up, stored for the perfect
moment — you get used to saving
your energy when you’re living
the way I’m living — you know, merely
existing, trying not to die at the
hands of a racist misogynist
gone rogue — trying not to
lose a sense of hope . . .

a sense of pride

I used to believe that if I loved
another human being hard enough
that intensity of love would be
shared with another, then another, 
and again in strings of blissful
divination, but times are harder
now and love isn’t flowing freely
as it once did for me

now, I rage silently, afflicted by
a nation that would rather stake
my body to a tree and call the
hounds — feed my fragile flesh to
their young — tell them, “She wasn’t
what God wanted anyway,” and
they’ll believe it
they’ll even pass down those
tongued lies to their children and
another generation of putrid souls
would roam this earth

black. woman. bisexual . . . three
strikes before one foot leaves my
bed every single morning
you may think, “How does one
live every day afraid to be
who she is?” and I would say,
“I have been afraid of living since
the womb let me go.”

the eternally oppressed know of
no other way

we are damned in the beginning
and further damned as time
presses forward
anger? no . . . what I have in
me for what this world is
cannot be described as anger
there is no word for it
there never will be


We are all substantially flawed, wounded, angry, hurt, here on Earth. But this human condition, so painful to us, and in some ways shameful — because we feel we are weak when the reality of ourselves is exposed — is made much more bearable when it is shared, face to face, in words that have expressive human eyes behind them. — Alice Walker


Originally published in Prism & Pen via Medium.

Clover

Photo by Monstera via Pexels

Part VI: All the world’s my stage

When Mama hands me my plate of food, it takes everything in me not to shovel it down my throat quickly. The waffles are perfect; nice and fluffy. I eat my cheesy scrambled eggs eagerly the entire time. Mama looks at me, smiles slyly, and nods in approval. A happy belly makes a happy Clover. She knows this. Daddy knows this. Soon, my classmates will too. I have two more days before school starts and I want to be prepared.

Mama and I went to get school supplies and a few new outfits last week. I like what I picked out. Now that I am getting older, Mama lets me select my own pairings in outfits and shoes. I like my style. Mama says I look like a cross between Punky Brewster and Meg Murry when I get dressed up.

I dance. My specialties are Hip Hop and Tap. I’ve been dancing since I was five years old. Mama said it was “essential” that I learn something to do with my body — mainly my hands and feet.

I am a ball of energy, as you’ve probably guessed. But I was once what my mama said was, “quite the handful,” when I was younger. She tells me now, “If I didn’t put you in dance, you’d be bouncing off the walls. Dancing is a great way for you to use all that extra energy God gave you.”

When I’m on the stage, nothing else matters. Nothing else is. It’s just me and the music. My body moves rhythmically and I follow the beat, focused on perfecting the choreography issued to us during practices.

One of the first things Mama did when we got settled here in Hopeulikit was to find a dance studio. Luckily, there isn’t one far from where we live. Bulloch County isn’t the biggest county around, but at least, they’ve things to keep a kid like me busy and interested.

Soulful Legs Dance Studio is the place Mama settled on. She spoke with the head instructor on two different visits, got their pricing information, talked things over with Daddy, and now . . . I will continue what I had been doing in Summerville before we moved here — dancing. She brought home two pamphlets; one for me and one for her.

I stared at the photo on the front of the pamphlet; a huge stage with so many girls and boys and instructors standing on it — posing for the photo. I smiled hard at the image because I thought of myself dancing across that stage on Friday and Saturday nights. Mama says I have an audition on Saturday at 2:00 p.m. I am going to be sure I bring my A++ game. Mama says if I’m selected, I’ll begin practice the following Tuesday evening after school. I am excited but a little nervous too.

Just a few butterflies in my belly, nothing to get all crazy about. I know I’ll be fine. I know what I can do and Mama dances with me sometimes, too. She’s still got some great moves. She glides across the floor so perfectly. Her lines are symmetrical and she doesn’t miss a beat. Mama keeps time with every song we play and I just stare at her. Sometimes I whisper to myself while she’s dancing, “That’s my Mama.” Yep. She’s amazing.


Photo by David Hofmann via Unsplash

Before I was born, Mama danced for some big-time theater in Los Angeles, California for about five years. Dad likes to talk about this — Mama, not so much. Something about tearing her ACL and being forced to quit dancing. I don’t really bring up the subject — her face sinks into itself and it seems like the whole world could get sad from the power of her feelings. I think . . . and you better not tell her, either . . . I think she feels like she failed at it, you know? Since she can’t really dance like she should and as hard as she used to that she has failed at it, somehow.

I tell her all the time, “Mama, you’re my favorite dancer,” and I mean it too. She sits back and smiles a half-smile and her eyes get all teary — gives me chills. Daddy told me one time, “Sweetpea, when your mama took to that stage, no one uttered a word. All eyes were on her.” When Daddy talks about Mama’s dancing days, he lights up — he gets so happy I can feel the sunshine leaving his body. But he quiets down a little also when Mama comes around. It’s like the stage is an awful place for Mama and well . . . every chance I get, every place I go to, I dance. All the world’s my stage.

It’s just better not to talk about it too much around Mama, is all. I’m just happy she takes the time to dance with me — to still feel the music and try her legs out. They still work. They still carry her. She can even balance her whole body on one leg for ten minutes! Can you believe that?! TEN WHOLE MINUTES! I was excited to see it the first day she showed me and you know what she said? “Oh baby, your mama used to do this for twenty minutes a long, long time ago.”

I look forward to the audition, but I’m really just ready to get it all over with and start dancing with a new team. I miss my squad in Summerville, but I think I’m getting used to newer things happening. At least, I want to get used to the new things that are happening. Mama says there will be three judges. The piece we’re working on is a mix of Jazz, Funk, and Hip Hop and we’re going to have one of my favorite songs mixed in, Craig Mack, Flava In Ya Ear. We are working very hard — day and night. We have fun, too, though.

I’m just hoping they like the routine well enough to accept me. That’s my hope — my dream. I know Mama likes that I dance, too. I know it makes her happy. I see her sometimes when I’m dancing. She looks at me like she’s missing something bigger, but she’s happy to still hold on to a bit through me. I’m going to take to that stage and rip it up for my mama.

I am . . . I am . . . Just watch!

Originally published in Hinged Press via Medium.


Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV, and Part V

Writers: A Challenge

What makes you Unique? In “Five Words.”

Me and the crew. I’m missing one brother (Jontae) in this photo. It was our kid sister Bless’s high school graduation. This was nearly 5 years ago. It was the first time in an extremely long time most of us had been captured in a photo together. Left to right: Me, Joshua, Maurice, Bless, Michael, and TJ.

I was reminiscing a couple of days ago, thinking about how my sister is the last one to hit “all grown up” status in our sibling crew and it drew a few tears from my eyes. I am the eldest of seven children and I am also significantly older than all of them. No matter how many years pile on or what happens or who thinks they’re more adult-like or mature than me, I am and will forever be the first child. That makes me just a tad bit unique — just a smidgen. Just to give you guys an idea of the gap from the oldest to the youngest; I am 41 years old, my sister is 22. The boys (who are really men now but will always be, “The Boys” to us) are in the middle from 30–33.

So reminiscing sparked the challenge. Writers, what makes you unique? How are you different from everyone else? What special thing can you do that you believe no one else can do? Tell me this, but use five words only.

Here’s mine:

First born of
seven — always.


Writers, bring it! Please tell me what makes you unique? What is there so special about you that you believe is so different from anyone else? I’d like to know, in just five words.

This is the last challenge until the beginning of next year. I love you guys and how creative you all are. Peace and blessings.


And now, the music: Gabi featuring Missy Elliott from Vivo, My Own Drum

YouTube

Originally shared via Medium.

Clover

Part IV: Standing at the gate, waiting for Mama.

Photo by Shan via Redshot

We got settled into our new home within three days. Mama’s really determined about these sorts of things. She likes to have balance — complete and total Zen. We decorated my room exactly the way I had it back in Summerville. Thankfully, the space is about the same. Our kitchen is my favorite place to be. We have an open layout (as the adults call it) with a bay window. There’s plenty of bright sunshine poppin’ on through. There’s also an extended sill wide enough for me to sit on and read. I’ve spent every morning here since we moved in.

Mama begins work today and I have four more days of summer vacation before school starts. I went with her yesterday to get her keys, name tag, employee packet, and code for the alarm. This boutique isn’t anything like Mama’s shop back home. There’s this huge brick space with a teal or some kinda greenish-blue gate and anyone visiting has to be buzzed in. I asked Mama, “How in the world are customers supposed to come shop if they need permission?” She shrugged her shoulders. I’m almost certain she was thinking the same thing.

I am sitting in the bay window listening to the news as it plays in the background. Mama likes to catch up on the weather, the latest events, and traffic updates as she cooks breakfast. This morning, she offered a request — I choose blueberry pancakes and chocolate milk. Daddy’s been getting himself ready to work another ten hours down at the Statesboro, Georgia branch of Viracon, Inc. He left Amtrak when I was about four years old. His career path took a turn to the administrative side. He’s a Human Resources Coordinator by day and a “man with a plan” by night.

Daddy has this wild dream of owning his own tobacco & things shop. One thing he’s extremely focused on is making and selling unique smoking pipes and other tools used for smoking tobacco. This is the part Mama hates . . .

“Paulie, I don’t see why you have to make things that help kill people. Can’t you put that genius mind of yours to work towards something else?”

I just shrug my shoulders every time I hear this argument from Mama. Daddy’s got a dream. I hope he sees it through. Who knows? Maybe his pipes will become the most purchased pipes this side of Georgia or even bigger — nationwide! That’s what I see for my daddy. That’s what I hope for — I know he does too.


It is another blazing hot summer day. Sunshine kisses every inch of my skin and I have drunk at least a gallon of water already. It’s not even 10:30 in the morning. Mama typically works from 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. during the week and on Saturday, she works 9:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. There are clouds bulging up in the sky. Maybe we’ll get some rain today. Today is Saturday and to save on gas, Daddy drops Mama off to work and picks her up when she’s done. I tag along.

We get to the big brick boutique with the teal or some kinda greenish-blue gate and Daddy presses the numbers “1, 7, 2” on the call-box and instantly, Mama’s voice comes through the speaker. “I’ll be right out, Paulie.” He smiles down at me and we wait. And we wait. And we wait some more. Mama is running behind and this bothers Daddy. He looks at his watch and shouts to the air, “12:50 p.m. What is that woman doing?!” He presses the numbers to the call-box again and Mama’s voice comes piercing through. “Paulie, if you push this call-box one more time, it’s going to be me and you! I’ll be out shortly!”

I step away from Daddy and sit down on the bench. Mama means business sometimes and I don’t want to be in that line of fire when she comes high-tailin’ it outta the boutique’s door. Shortly after I’m seated, here comes Mama.

“What is wrong with you?! It’s my first week! Surely, you must understand I’ll have to stay around a bit after at least once or twice, Paulie!” Daddy stares at Mama, taps his hand on his right pants leg, and shyly comments . . . “I know, baby. I apologize. I was just missing you is all.” He plants a huge kiss on Mama’s cheek and takes her bags from her with one hand and places his other hand in hers.

Yuck! The two of them need a room! I think this. I do not say it. We pile up in Daddy’s truck and the first thing he says is, “I’m hungry. Who’s hungry? Anyone want some Vandy’s Bar-B-Q?” I lick my lips as I hear his offer and shout excitedly . . .“I SURE DO!” I look at Mama and she smiles while mouthing, “Yes” and we head Downtown for lunch that’s sure to make our mouths and bellies happy.


After lunch, the rest of the weekend awaits us. I come up with little games and indoor fun to keep busy. It’s too hot to go outside and play. Our closest neighbors are about a mile up the road, so I sure ain’t trekkin’ that far to see if they have any children. I’m certain I’ll make some new friends when school begins next Wednesday and I’ll get plenty of time to play with or get to know many of them during P.E. At least, I hope so.

I think about Mama and how her days go at the brick boutique. She doesn’t seem happy and I want her to be. I know Daddy wants her to be happy, too. It must feel like the world has come tumbling down on you when the place you spend most of your time looks like some sorta prison. Again, I think this. I do not say it. I just sit with it for a while and let it keep me company.

Maybe I’ll talk to Mama about it tomorrow.


Originally published in The Weekly Knob via Medium.

Part I, Part II, and Part III