I am supposed to forget you. That is how this thing was meant to be. But, I feel . . . see . . . hear you every-damn-where and the moment I reach to turn you off, the volume only gets louder. I keep telling myself that I dodged a bullet. Hell, I ain’t ready to die anyway and you would’ve killed me.
I keep telling myself that I dodged a bullet.
But, here I am, digging into the past, trying to pull you out. Shouldn’t I be done with this shit by now? Shouldn’t I? I canceled my therapy appointment yesterday because you followed me all over my home and I really didn’t want you taking over her office too. Afterward, when night crept through my blinds, I told myself, “You cannot run away from the past, Tre. When it sneaks up on you, run into it head-on.”
Shouldn’t I be done with this shit by now? Shouldn’t I?
I’m thankful and grateful to have you here in my life. Stay forever, make me yours and we’ll love through eternity.
The deer run through the wood-chipped areas of my apartment complex, kicking up perfectly shaped triangles — their hooves marking the grass. I watch them gallop in sync and wonder if they have any baggage and if they do, how heavy is it? How often do they carry the extra weight? They look so light and free and that’s how I want to feel, light and free.
But, I won’t be. I know this . . . I also know that my therapist will have extra homework for me and perhaps, I will benefit from her wisdom — her techniques. I should have kept my appointment, but now I am here avoiding every imprint of you, shedding worthless tears.
They look so light and free and that’s how I want to feel, light and free.
I will never be free until I shake you out of me. In my heart, in my soul, you have made your home. There is no eviction notice big enough for me to issue to you. No variation of the color pink that would be bright enough. You have planted yourself in the depths of my being. Surely, someone knows how you can be uprooted without pieces of me leaving too.
I thought you were perfect. I was wrong. My previous manifestations of you are proof that I was foolish. I was blind. I am not without fault.
I’m thankful and grateful to have you here in my life. Stay forever, make me yours and we’ll love through eternity.
I am not without fault. And that’s what hurts the most.
“Welcome to living, baby. You ain’t alive unless you’re feeling something.”
If I had to describe her, I’d say she’s an eclectic superwoman with the ability to weave words into wonderment. She is captivating without trying and has done nothing but share connection and heartwork pieces in A Cornered Gurl and I, for one, am very happy to have experienced her work. We also share a birthday. She is our Featured Writer for the month of June. The piece selected? Tightrope. Just one read, and you’ll see exactly why I shared the description above.
A flash of lightning may one day strike me down but in that half-second of illumination, I can see for miles. Some doctors call it temporal-lobe epilepsy others call it PTSD and years ago, they called it a Dissociative Disorder.
I don’t answer to those names, anymore.
Thunderstorms, even tornados don’t frighten me as much as the dark stillness that falls just seconds before they hit. For fifty years, I have continued to walk leaning forward into the wind. My journey is inward. My head spins — I close my eyes — and after all of this time, my sleepwalking feet are steady. There is no tightrope too thin for me.
At fifteen, living with my mother had become unbearable. My father was residing in Moore, Oklahoma. I had not seen him in years. After the divorce, my brother and I were never truly wanted by either parent but we were used like weapons that could be withheld or inflicted. Child support went unpaid and visits were scheduled and missed in this monopoly. We had no other value outside of the game. Resentments festered. When I asked my father if I could stay with him, he saw it as a chance to strike back at my mother.
My brother remained in Los Angeles. He barely attended school anymore and spent most of his time with the boys we grew up with; friends who had turned mean under pressure.Despite their hand-hammered armor, they knew how to ease his pain. They shared a brotherhood through glass pipes and punches. My brother didn’t need me anymore.
Still, I was used as bait to lure him back to my father but my brother refused to play the prodigal son to the man who had abandoned him.
My father said that he went back to Nicaragua to fight in the war but I never really knew what side he was on. I don’t even know how long he was actually there but for four years, we waited for letters that never came. When our dad finally called from Nicaragua, he said we had a new sister and that he was coming back with his family to the U.S.
My father’s smooth-skinned wife had never scrubbed a toilet, washed dishes or done laundry. She showed me a rash on her hands and handed me some cleaning rags. She was reluctant to immigrate to the United States but soldiers had seized her family’s ranch. They tied her brother to his prized horse and sent him out to the desert to die. In her mid-twenties, she had no choice but to flee with the help of my father but she could never fully leave her memories of the cook, the maids, the gardeners, and good silver. She had nothing left of her former life but a depressive aunt and a nursing infant.
The hidden casualties in the Contra War were often apolitical citizens like her. She watched me from the corner of her eye. I was a terrible maid. She and her aunt hissed my name from a distance and hid their secrets in deep pockets of whispered Spanish.
Within two weeks, I was sent back to California — without warning or explanation. On the flight back, looking down through clouds, I watched the barren landscape shrink back. I wondered what it would feel like to be forced to leave one’s country, to lose an estate, complete with an equestrian center, in exchange for the small and charmless home of a factory worker. I thought about my stepmother serving my father his dinner and I remembered her weak smile. Without him, she may not have escaped but when my father boasted of her previous wealth, she seemed like a souvenir pressed under his thumb.
Sometimes, I can’t look at my face or hands without thinking of my father. He had a way of owning those around him. Few of us broke free — none of us entirely.
I don’t remember very much about that stay at his home but I remember looking out of a bedroom window. It was early summer and the sun was reluctant to leave me alone. I had never experienced such oppressive humidity. My hands rested under my chin on the window sill … my nose touched the glass but I could not see any sign of my breath. I scanned the red and gold field, it was flat and as dry as a well-ironed sheet. Then, suddenly, at the very edge of the horizon, I could see dust spinning upward. It twisted and gained strength like a dark and furious shadow. At that moment, I felt a fist strike my head, out of nowhere. It cleared everything in its path with a final blackout.
This memory became a recurring nightmare until six years ago when Moore, Oklahoma was finally destroyed by a horrific tornado. I watched the news on the television as I rode a stationary bike at the gym. I could no longer feel my feet and my ears hummed as bad as 80’s rock thundered over the sound system. I leaned forward and looked up at the screen. Sometimes, it is hard to believe my eyes but this time I recognized what I saw as a true memory.
a red and gold field is torn away through thin glass an angry sky twists
I am often too busy on most days after work to be able to just sit and be — to “listen to my surroundings” as my therapist puts it. I used to have time. I used to be in a position to take comfort in rest and relaxation after a grueling day of work, but of late, things at my job have shifted, and those moments are fleeting. I am taking them back and I am doing so by taking little trips to places that bring me peace and provide me with memories that I will not forget anytime soon. What am I hearing? What am I capturing? Am I learning anything? I am, at least, I think I am.
On my birthday, April 17, 2019, I had the opportunity to meet, spend time with, and enjoy the company of Crooked Little Flower in her neck of the woods. About two hours and thirty minutes away from me, but only about an hour from where I mini-vacationed, meeting Connie is sure to be one of the best things that has happened to me this year. Here is a woman I have known and loved for over three years on this platform and we have been close in proximity and had not met, but to scratch that one thing off of the to-do-list has filled my happy box with its much-needed ammunition. I basked in the beauty of nature near the place that she calls home and took in as much as I could of the sights, sounds, and tastes of the mountains.
I toured the studio where she creates her art and also shares it with the community. This place, not only is it the homestead of amazing artwork, it is a tranquil space where upon entering it, all that broke me down previously, faded from view. I could hear the voices of artists whispering to me, asking me to tread lightly and look at a space where thoughts, ideas, and heartwork come to life. I felt the presence of artistry and all that makes up a creative and what we have to do in order to maintain the abilities to continue to create. Not only was Connie welcoming to me, but she also opened up her door to my Little Monster too, Jernee, and she gave her sniff of approval of the studio and of Crooked Little Flower too.
Watching this little one romp about the space, learning her new surroundings, and trying to lay claim to every nook and cranny moved me to no end. Jernee does not know a stranger. Any place that we may visit, tour, or plan a brief stay seems as if it is mentally logged into her doggy brain and becomes one with her forever. She remembers every place we have been and it shows when we return as she gets excited, plops her tongue out, and races around those spaces and places with undeniable joy. I am taking cues from her as I watch her listen to these places. I am still in the learning process — it is taking time, but it is proving to be beneficial.
I could hear my therapist saying to me, “have fun, create new memories, and take what you need and leave the rest.” I did exactly that. I could feel the pressure in my chest breaking down a bit and suddenly, smiling felt natural again.
While listening and attempting to take in what I needed and leave what I did not, I could not stray away from the questions that have been plaguing me:
Why be overly sensitive?
What are you lacking?
What can you gain?
How can you be in a place so beautiful and still sense the ugliness of you?
And by ugliness, I mean — in my soul, in my heart. “We all have our demons” and how we deal with, struggle with, or overcome them is our personal testimony. There are a lot of things that I know I need to change and I also know that changing these things will take time. Taking the time that I needed away from my normal hustle and bustle was exactly what “the doctor ordered,” but in this case — what my therapist highly recommended. There will be shedding and as I continue to shed, I know there will also be more pain and tears and feelings of inadequacy and a bit of loneliness mixed in too and how I handle these emotions and various feelings as they come will dictate what I have learned.
For the next few weeks, I am making myself understand that although I am human and mistakes will be made, dwelling in the dark places does not have to be my end all, be all. I have more memories now to pull from and smile at on my down days. I have to thank nature, Connie, living to see another year, Jernee, and a few other remedies for that.
In the South, if you are somewhat of a loner and you do not surround yourself with what is new and improved or… what is, who is, and how things are trending, it is easy to fall deeper into the grips of loneliness. Ten years ago, I had a knack for busying myself with things that did not matter much, with things that seemed to fill a pressing void, but as I age, there is no nectar sweet enough to ease the ailments that I have grown prone to feeling.
I cannot lean back into the memories of what got me through the horny nights and draining days. Let me be frank, the other side of the bed is colder than a polar bear’s shoulder and I have forgotten how to right that. Every once in a while, I will poke my head out, look up, down, and all around to see if anyone meets my gaze. I cannot find my half. There is no Adam, no Eve, I am no one’s rib.
I am no one’s end-of-the-day highlight.
The older that I become, the easier it is to see that I have settled into a place where rejection often sends the damned for taking chances in trying to find love but have given up. The cause remains a cause but fighting for it weakens me. I want to feel sweet all over, taken… pressed into like a perfect pitch. I want to be a home run. I want to be sizzling bacon, the welcome smell of soul food in a packed restaurant. Is my tea no longer sweet?
Am I lacking sugar?
I want to be and I don’t want to be all at once. That is a conundrum that renders no solution. I have my own shoes to fill and they seem bottomless. Human beings want to love. We want to be loved. We want to share our lovely love with others who love. This shit should not be hard, but it is. And I digress. I want the taste of pineapple dripping from my lips, the delicate corners of apple slices sticking to my fingers, and buttermilk pancakes loaded with maple syrup. I want the ickiness of it all to drown me then pull me up and out of the water, and guide me safely to shore.
Black women are not attracted to me. Black men are intimidated by me. I am too this or too that to be loved by my own and I have no home anywhere else. I am trapped within the ins and outs of aging with no my place of sweetness to call mine.
I am nectar in waiting.
Someone whole enough will come around to take a bite out of me. I know this. I also know that when the heart is dead-set on shifting gears and loving, it wants what it wants.
In the South, I do not stand out. And what’s worse than any of this…
I have this thing for pregnant bellies. I love them! For as long as I can remember, I have been drawn to the wonder of a woman’s belly — how it can be home to a miracle growing inside. Currently, at work, there are two co-workers who are pregnant. Both are carrying boys. I have an army of boys in my family, little soldiers who get into mischief and carve out places in this world with their seeking fingers. I connect with children, even while in their mother’s womb, we bond.
A few weeks back, my co-worker (the one who is due in May) was walking up the hallway toward our front desk and I was heading back from the radiologists’ reading department and we sort of met in the middle. I calmly asked, “May I?” as I pointed to her belly and she smiled as bright as anyone could and almost shouted, “Sure!” I placed my right hand just above her navel and began talking to her little one, granting him blessings straight from my heart. I thanked her and shortly after when we were both settled back into the groove of our positions, she called me to let me know that her little one started to kick as soon as she walked away.
I laughed, then smiled. At the end of my shift, I welcomed a few tears. The beauty of something as monumental as bringing another human being into this world hit me without my knowledge. I said softly to myself, “I wonder if they know that history is beginning in their bellies — they’re carrying the world.” I think of how things would have been had I brought my own little one into this world — if I ever could and a variety of emotions hit me at once, from every angle. I used to think that I was useless, that if I was not giving this world a part of me, that I did not matter. I used to believe that without a child of my own, I was not fit to be called “woman.”
Now, when I see this co-worker, she smiles. I ask her, “How’s the little one?” and she always says, “He’s busy growing. He’s good.” Her belly is shifting from a basketball to a combination of a football and beach-ball. She’s all belly, at a quick glance, nothing else seems to be shifting.
My other co-worker has baby written all over her. The sweet boy growing inside of her is making his presence known. It seems as though the little one is saying, “Get ready, world! I am going to be nothing you expected, but something that you need!” I have not given her belly a talking to, not yet, but I will — if allowed. I look at my own belly, wondering if it is fit to grow a miracle like most women — if it can create change. And, I think it can, it is the completing part of it all that I am told would be problematic. I want to reach out and call to the little soothsayer, sage, or savior nearing what will be my co-worker’s last trimester. I want to tell him to be all that he can be and so much more.
I watch her, my co-worker (her due date is sometime in April), she races about our work-place on a mission. It is hard to catch her in slow motion. She has so much energy and I cannot help but feel like instead of exhaustion and swollen feet and frequent bathroom breaks and odd tastes in food, her little one is far more mature and is simply settled in the womb until he is called away. I have never seen someone still as active for ten straight hours at six months pregnant before. She is nonstop. I feel as though her little boy is saving the best for his debut. He will be a reckoning. He will be a force.
We better get ready.
Both of these women are doing something I have chosen not to, that I, in the grand scheme of things, cannot. To say that I am moved each day that I get a chance to see them would be an understatement. I have an incredible amount of respect for them. After all, they are carrying their own little worlds inside. Each of them preparing for motherhood at their own pace.
Each of them preparing to share with all of us, the gift of life.