A blossoming truth-teller of Egyptian descent was recently added to A Cornered Gurl. She took a bit of a break away from Mediumand she was sorely missed. I remember hosting Nardine in This Glorious Mess, also via Medium, and since her return, the strength of her words are at an all-time high. Nardine writes from the heart and there is no shame in it. What she brings to A Cornered Gurl is soul-speak, the depth of the heart, and I am so happy that she is there. And now, the work that gained her September’s feature:
the girl in the frame
Late nights, red wine (I drank it hoping to be someone else)
Tall boy, sweet words (I felt his tongue against my lips and hoped he didn’t taste the insecurity)
Small house, big crowd (I wished someone would see me the way I saw myself)
(I didn’t want to go home because it was late and I’d face my mother, sitting under the kitchen light, looking afraid to find something on me she didn’t want to see)
(Sometimes I dream that the space between my body and the world has no shape and I bleed into everything, like a girl with no outlines)
On the kitchen wall of my parents’ house
is a drawing I did when I was ten years old.
The girl is sliced in half;
on one side, she smiles,
on the other, she frowns.
(How can I merge the two women inside of me? One who is daring and one who is submissive? One who is fearless and one who is afraid?)
I ask my mother,
why do you keep that drawing
of the broken girl up on the wall?
And she looks at me, alarmed, and says,
why in the world you would think the girl is broken?
John and Lenny stand outside the church drawing in on the butts of their cigarettes lamenting and gossiping about their friend Parker’s death. How does a fifty-five-year-old man manage to make his wife poison him? The two of them shoot the shit, unfazed by the crowd thickening in the pews for the viewing. The church bells ring and the small choir begins their rendition of ‘Nearer My God to Thee.’ They ignore the cues to be seated.
“You heard what happened to him, right?”
“No, I haven’t, just that he was in the hospital for three days before he died. You know what happened?”
“She’d been poisoning him . . . Preparation H in the cake icing every weekend for two years.”
“He did love cake.”
“He did . . . That’s a bad way to go, though. A hemorrhoid cream death. How do you explain that to your kids?”
“You think they’re gonna tell’em? The family?”
“I sure as hell hope not. I wouldn’t want my kids knowing I died a hemorrhoid cream death. Jesus! I ain’t going to the funeral. It’s sure to be a nesting ground for the media. Half the neighborhood’s here and it’s just the viewing.”
“Are you gonna send flowers to his family?”
“Think I’ll send them an edible arrangement and have Edith bake them a pie.”
“Good. I thought you were gonna say ‘cake’. So glad you didn’t.”
“Yeah, I’m pretty sure they don’t want any cake any time soon. Damn. Just, damn. Word on the street is that Janie caught him cheating with Elaine. Elaine of all people, Lenny! Can you believe that?”
“Well, Elaine could bake a mean cake. Wait a minute . . . Do we really know if it was Janie and not Elaine who’d been poisoning him?”
“Aw hell, man. Let’s go inside before folks get to questioning what we’re doing.”
“God. That’s still such a bad way to go.”
The two friends stroll inside the building, each of them finding their own wives, and seating themselves quietly. Neither of them mentions the words ‘cake’ or ‘Preparation H’ ever again.
Here lies Parker T. Overton. Loyal Husband. Loving Father. Faithful Servant of the Lord. June 12, 1964 — July 12, 2019. Death by Preparation H.
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.
The doctors rush towards me, they worry about my breathing. I am dying. I feel it. I know it. I have you. You will carry on without me — you will have my hair, my eyes, my wrinkly nose. You will even have my voice. My sweet girl… This is my love letter to you. Eight months and counting, but counting no more. I didn’t see that pick-up truck at the intersection. I had no idea it was right in front of us.
I thought I pressed the brakes!
My foot stomped viciously on the brakes, but I watched us fly into the truck’s chromed mouth and I prayed. I prayed…
“Save my baby!” I am shouting. I tell the doctors to save you, let me die. They will never know how I planned for your arrival, the gift of you to this world is much more than I can give it. “Save my baby!” I am shouting again. They hear me. There are tubes everywhere. I place my hands on my bloody stomach. I feel you. You are alive. You are kicking frantically, aware that it is time. I will die today. I will die today and this is my love letter to you.
You are the single most important thing to me in this strange world. I claimed your fingers. I already know your feet. You are perfect — my blessing. I used to pray for your father’s presence, for him to spend time learning you as much as I have. It is up to you now. I love you more than the open sea, salty to its taste, but refreshing on a hot summer’s day. I love you more than the lying lover trying to persuade his faithful mate to take him back. I love you more than… this last breath.
The lights go out, I can’t hear the doctors. I can’t see them. I only see you. I only see you — crying in front of shattered glass, windy trees, and the roar of the truck as it collides with us. I am dead.
You are alive.
They saved you.
You are here.
This is my love letter to you. This is my love letter to you. This is my love letter to you.
She never thought a woman could break her heart…
It started off playful, little gifts of love presented in cards, letters, and candy. Before the light of a new day, Fairy Godmother Honore fell madly in love with the forest’s most popular warrior. She fixated on her smile, her voice, her laugh, and her words. She imagined the two of them coursing through the Land of Timeless Hope, hand-in-hand. Camille…
Honore said her name and the flutters in her heart stirred without fail. Camille… the world stopped. Camille… everything that was meaningful faded into the background, was put on hold or canceled. Fairy Godmother Honore had found love. She found a reason to retire and give up casting spells that created a life of happiness for others. It was time to shine a light on her own. It was time for stepping into the center and being the focus. It was time for a welcomed peace.
But, her fantasy was one-sided. The hope of embracing love at the reins never matured for Honore. Camille was a bolt of lightning, busy luring hearts but never falling for them. She was a madwoman, casting spells of her own. With eyes of thunder, a head full of fiery hair, lips that summoned the seas, and a body brickhoused to perfection, Camille used what she had to engage others in indescribable ways. She was her counterpart’s downfall.
Unbeknownst to her, Camille’s ways were invisible until Honore wanted to reveal her feelings to The Warrior. She wanted to tell her of the love that danced around in her heart for months. She built up the courage, gathered every ounce of pride, and swatted away every question the village threw at her.
“But, she’s a woman. Why, Honore?”
“Are you THAT desperate?”
“Can your heart not find its true love in a man?”
Fairy Godmother Honore ignored their cries. Love was bigger. It catapulted her into a confident realm.
On a day when the sun sat highest in the sky, Honore wrote a love letter to Camille. She attached an old poem written in her honor and placed them both in a handmade basket where she added fresh fruits, a box of chocolate, and granola. Honore waved her wand over the basket, said the crafted love spell, and sent it on its way.
It arrived at Camille’s doorstep just before a break in the clouds. A knock cracked violently across the door. Camille was sitting at the kitchen table, eating breakfast when the knock shook her. “A visitor? At this hour?” She went to her door, pulled it open, and stared at the open forest with no one around. Her eyes shifted downward and there it was, Fairy Godmother Honore’s gift of love. Camille scooped up the basket and hurried inside. She tore into the contents and grabbed the letter.
As she read it, a boiling pit formed in her stomach. Her body ached. A headache tapped at her temples and caused her to blink quickly. She read the last words of the love poem wrapped in the letter. “If you will be so willing to let my love, love you, it would be an Honore.”
No signature. No other hint of the sender. But, Camille knew who her pursuer was… “an Honore.” She scribbled a few words onto the back of the letter. It was a declination of declinations. “You are a Fairy Godmother. Love… Love deserves more than spells or chants or being twisted into something it is not. I am not a project, Honore. I won’t be willed, least of all, by you.”
She summoned her errand boy and had him swiftly take the basket back to the Fairy Godmother. Honore met the boy just as soon as his hand began to tap the hardwood door. He stood there, eager to finish his task. Honore snatched the basket, gave the boy a shilling, and sent him on his way. In the silence of her home, she dug into the basket and pulled everything sent off back out.
The letter…It laid there, crumpled and out of place. She read the letter… But, what now? Honore turned it over to read Camille’s words. A fitful sting struck her heart and dollops of tears poured from her eyes. “I am not a project, Honore. I won’t be willed, least of all, by you.” Fairy Godmother Honore sat with those words for hours. She washed her hair with them. She cried with them. She lolled throughout the house with them.
But what about the gifts, the cards, the hints? Everything that Camille had gifted her, was it all a dream? And then it hit her.
Honore had been lured by Camille specifically for this reason–to learn that there are no spells for true love. Two hearts must meet, be in sync, and work together as one.
She never thought a woman could break her heart. But, she needed it.