no energy

a senryu (2 parts)

Pictured Poem created by Tremaine L. Loadholt

Cleveland

Part III: Searching for a new home

Flash Fiction

A black and white image of a Black couple standing back to back.
Photo by 1MilliDollars on Unsplash

We are tasked with finding another temporary residence while my building undergoes renovations. His parents are kind enough to usher us in on such short notice, but I don’t feel welcome here. I know we won’t make it for the next eight months. That’ll be impossible.

I see the look in Cleveland’s eyes — the intensity — the strain. He wants more than anything for us to be in our own place without the looming gazes of others beating down on our backs.

I want that too.


To say that I am blessed to have Ruthann would be an understatement. She’s been by my side for the last three years, and if I had to do them without her, I don’t think I could. My folks whisperin’ behind our backs. I can hear my father wake up in the middle of the night and press on our floorboards with the weight of his body — pacin’ back and forth. Pacin’ . . .

We ain’t causin’ no trouble. We’re just here — just here, tryin’ to make it. Ruthann’s been searching for a place that’ll house us for the next eight to nine months. We are hopeful her place will be done by then. While she searches and works, I work double shifts at my job and save up some money.

Her pops beatin’ down her cellphone with his text messages. Some of them happy. Some of them sad. Some of them angry. Ruthann just shakes her head, sends a simple and respectful response, and keeps it movin’.

Between the two of us, we’re gonna make it. We don’t need them. We got us.


Cleveland hasn’t been himself lately. I know this struggle — the one of us searching for yet another place to stay is overpowering his strength. He hates imbalance. He is always centered. He is the only man I know who meditates before the sun rises and runs two miles before he showers, kisses my head, and rushes off to work.

When we talk, we have meaningful conversations. He is fluent in expressing himself about various artworks; both literary and visual, music, construction and engineering, and the current state of our roller coaster economy.

Being that I spend most of my days conducting research on authors, science, and the best way to make our library stand out in our city, I love delving deeper into things outside of this realm. Cleveland gives me that.

I think I may have found the perfect temporary spot for us. It’s a place not too far from my oldest sister. She sent me the landlord’s information. I’ll meet with him tomorrow after I talk to Cleveland about it tonight.

I am crossing my fingers and toes for this space. It would be a ten-minute walk to the library and about a fifteen-minute drive to Cleveland’s job. Talk about convenience! Wish us luck!


Before I started dating Ruthann, I dated an older woman named Val. She may have been older, but she was not wiser. And her folks loved me! Her pops took one look at me when I first met him and said, “Now, Val, if you can’t stick with this one, what are you going to do? Come on over here, son!”

Her folks instantly accepted me. I didn’t have to jump through any hoops — didn’t have to mourn my dark skin while I’m still livin’ — didn’t have to constantly prove myself.

We didn’t work out. And it had nothing to do with her folks, nah. She had other plans for the future — plans that didn’t include me cuz she started messin’ around with her mechanic.

After I shook the weight of that relationship offa me, seven months later, Ruthann appeared. And here we are.

It’d be my demise if Ruthann dogged me the same way Val did. That’d be the kinda wound I wouldn’t be able to heal from quickly.


I just got a text message from Ruthann. She may have found the perfect spot for us. She sent some photos my way — place looks great! I’m excited to see it. Maybe, just maybe, we’ll be out of my folks’ place soon and into one we can call ours — if only for a little while.

The stink of being unwanted is travelin’ along with us and lemme tell you, it’s not a welcoming stench.


Originally published in Lit Up via Medium.

Part I and Part II

Cleveland

Part II: Ruthann

I don’t know why my parents are the way they are — why they think better of themselves when compared to everyone else in our community. Their senseless thinking over the years — impressed upon me and my two sisters and has shaken us in ways I cannot describe.

I have always felt the need to empower myself — to grow outside of the box they fought to pin us in, and I hate that things have taken this turn. But if not now, then when?

I love my father. I idolized him growing up — he was and in some ways is still my everything.

I can’t pinpoint one thing. There are many reasons my love for him is as strong as it is. I attended the most prestigious schools. I am well-versed in using my mental power to gain leverage in situations that require debate or negotiation. He instilled in me the need to be financially stable, so I would not rely on anyone.

The irony of the last statement isn’t lost on me. The bulk of my savings came from him, ensuring I would have “the perfect life” with or without him around.

He has crossed a serious line, though. I doubt we’ll ever be the same again.

I work hard at what I do in order to have the life I envision for myself. I had recently moved back home because the building where my loft is caught fire (electrical issues and the like). The fifth and sixth floors were the most affected. I live on the sixth floor.

Those floors are being gutted and renovated, and rebuilding will take about thirteen months. So my being back at home was a temporary thing.


I met Cleveland three years ago at an outdoor music event two neighborhoods over. A benefit concert. Proceeds were to be distributed to the city’s children’s club and rec center.

Cleveland had been the DJ, and something about the way he looked up and smiled at me was beyond appealing. I think — at that very moment; I yearned to know more, and I pursued him.

Yes, I walked up to him after I noticed him step down for a break from his booth and introduced myself. I had every intention of learning more about him, and I did. So, here we are …

Two young people in love and fighting to stay in love regardless of our parents’ feelings toward it.


Cleveland has his struggles with my parents, and I have my struggles with his. Our families outside of our homes, though, simply want us to be careful, yet they support us.

I know sometimes he looks at me and sees a woman who has it all — one who has never had to bend or break herself for much. But if you walked a mile in my shoes, you would see things differently.

From jump-street and at first glance, I am labeled as a Black woman who can get whatever she wants because of my complexion. No one knows the battles I have fought to do what I do.

I have been called every name in the book as it pertains to light-skinned Black people, many of which, I will not repeat, but a few echo without ceasing: Light bright, red-bone, and high yellow.

I am the Content Researcher for the university’s library and I did not land this job when I first applied and interviewed for it.

I have a dual master’s in history and political science and got my undergraduate degree in marketing when I was 20 years old. It took me three attempts at this career choice to do what I love doing.

The first and second interview processes had been tainted with microaggressions and subtle attempts at belittling my character and accomplishments.

The third time I applied and was called in for the interview, there had been a different director. I wondered why, but as soon as the first few questions during the interview were asked and answered, I knew.

Racism, when in terms of Black people, does not see the complexion of a Black person. It sees a Black person.

I have struggled with the color of my skin, as God has gifted it to me. I had many feeble attempts at getting darker. I would tan for hours on end to appear a light brown color for two weeks to only return to my natural state.

If you hear “You’re passable” enough, it sticks, and trust me, you want more than anything to belong amongst your people, so you do what you can to … gain their approval.


It wasn’t until Cleveland said something to me one day that made me recognize how beautiful I am just the way that I am. I came home from work distracted by an intense argument between me and my co-worker. He stated he was sure I’d climb the hierarchal ladder at the library because of my skin tone.

Not because of my credentials or exemplary work ethic or stellar attendance, but because of my skin tone.

I was seething from the discussion and as I told the story to Cleveland, he said, “Ruthann, he’s jealous. And jealous people use their anger to hurt others. You’re hurt now, aren’t you? So, right now, he’s winning. Don’t you give him that.”

And after I heard him say those words to me, I stopped crying. I looked at him and knew I didn’t want to be with anyone else. I only wanted to be with him. He pulled me into his arms and I stayed there for the night.


We are tasked with finding another temporary residence while my building undergoes renovations. His parents are kind enough to usher us in on such short notice, but I don’t feel welcome here. I know we won’t make it for the next eight months. That’ll be impossible.

I see the look in Cleveland’s eyes — the intensity — the strain. He wants more than anything for us to be in our own place without the looming gazes of others beating down on our backs.

I want that too.


Originally published in Lit Up via Medium.

Part I

Cleveland

Flash Fiction Musical Selection|Erykah Badu: Orange Moon

Photo by Julian Myles on Unsplash

Me and her pops had a big fight. I’m talkin’ — the kind that makes a brotha take a step back and think about what’s about to go down before it goes down — that kinda fight. I respect my elders — I got manners, you know. My folks raised me right, but I was just so damn tired of him puttin’ thoughts into Ruthann’s head about me — how she can do better than me.

I mean… Ruthann loves me. She ain’t tryin’ to hear what her pops is sayin’, but I hear him. I see the look on his face when I walk through their door. He hates me — literally hates a brotha.

And listen, I don’t normally feel that intensely about what other folks think of me — but this means something to me. I can’t put my finger on it just yet. But having her pop’s approval is at the top of my list.

Ruthann looks at her pops like he made the damn world. He is the sun, moon, and stars — hell, the entire universe to her. He has her heart and for three years; I cracked at the wall around it and I finally got in. I can’t have him reversing that shit, you know. I’m in there now, and I plan to stay there.

I ain’t stupid. I have my wits about me, and I got plenty of sense. Her folks don’t want her settlin’ down with me — don’t want us intermingling. My people — her people.

They can all pass. You know what I mean, right? They’re light as hell. They are the lightest Black folks I know. Ruthann is sugarcane colored — gently kissed by the morning sunlight. Her eyes are emerald green. Her lips are two finely sliced pieces of sweet flesh added to her face for effect.

When I first met her folks, her mother didn’t even say hello to me. She said, “Boy, you are the color of burnt molasses,” sucked her teeth, and walked off. Her pops looked me up and down — measurin’ me with his eyes. Dude ain’t need no ruler. I knew exactly what he was thinkin’.

I looked around their home — noticed the fine china, the furniture that didn’t come from IKEA, the barely walked-on floors, and the chandelier that dangled above our heads.

Somebody’s blood was royal, and it wasn’t mine.


I never thought I’d fall in love with a girl whose folks hated other Black folks. How much do you have to dislike yourself to look at people of your race like you want to sic the county dogs on them and skin them later just for fun?

Ruthann memorized this quote from Toni Morrison, she tells me sometimes. She tries to get my mind off the drama of her family, but I can’t stop thinkin’ about that shit. It consumes me. She’ll just say it as smooth as her lovely mouth can form the words, and I kid you not — I feel better.

“The function, the very serious function of racism is distraction. It keeps you from doing your work. It keeps you explaining, over and over again, your reason for being. Somebody says you have no language and you spend twenty years proving that you do. Somebody says your head isn’t shaped properly so you have scientists working on the fact that it is. Somebody says you have no art, so you dredge that up. Somebody says you have no kingdoms, so you dredge that up. None of this is necessary. There will always be one more thing.”

And she’ll go on further, “Baby, it ain’t racism in our case, it’s colorism. And I don’t give a damn about who’s lighter than who or who’s darker than who. You know what I give a damn about?” And I play into this every single time, like the man in love that I am. “What, Ruthann? What?”

“I care about you. I care about us.”

The anger leaves me just as quickly as it seeped its uninvited self into my bones. I sink into the tightness of her embrace, and I allow her to be my peace.

She is my peace.


Photo by ziphaus on Unsplash

The fight started because I asked Ruthann’s pops for her hand in marriage. Ha! Listen, I was scared shitless! I sat down in their “main room”, across from the old man, and rubbed my sweaty hands together. My breathin’ was off. My heart was racin’ at the speed of light. I kept stutterin’.

He just sat back in his chair, chest all puffed out like he was some damn washed-up Avenger waitin’ for the call back into action.

“The Shield Family is cut from a different cloth, boy. Ruthann will not marry into one as simple as yours. We have standards. I want what’s best for my daughter, and Cleveland Mabry, you are not it.”

I don’t know what happened — I just saw red. And before I could stop myself, I raised up out of that chair, charged toward her pops, and lunged at him with an anger I couldn’t pull back.

He jumped up, took three steps away from me, and looked like the last days were pouncin’ on his heart. I thought the old man had seen a ghost the way he removed himself from my line of sight.

Ruthann had been standin’ on the other side of the room — just outside the doorway. She heard everything. She had tears in her eyes that were streamin’ down, linin’ her dimpled cheeks.

I hated to see her cry. I told her when we first met that I would never do anything to make her cry — not intentionally. The last thing I wanted to do was make her so mad that tears left those beautiful gem-colored eyes.

I walked over to her, placed my hand within her personal space, and she stopped me. She held up one hand, looked at her pops, then looked back at me. What she said next… floored me.

“Daddy, you do not decide who I will marry. You don’t get to approve or disapprove. You don’t get to design your life around mine to further infiltrate your beliefs into what I deem beautiful within this one life I have to live. If Cleveland wants to marry me. Then we will be married.”

There’s something about a woman standin’ up for you without your consent — without your awareness before it takes place. That night, I fell even more in love with Ruthann.

What the hell were two twenty-three-year-olds going to do on their own without her family’s financial support?

We were going to survive.


She moved out of her folks’ place and we carried everything we could to my house. I’d called my mom on the way over. She wasn’t happy, but she wasn’t mad, either.

We have a spacious, fully furnished basement. It was nothin’ to turn the area into Ruthann’s room.

My pops looked at me like the world had landed itself on his shoulders when I got outta the car. It was like he was tellin’ me something without sayin’ nothin’. And after the day I’d had, I just couldn’t play mind reader.

I walked past Pops and into the livin’ room, placed Ruthann’s bags on the floor, and led her downstairs to the basement where she could get herself ready for dinner.

When I came back upstairs, Pops was standin’ right there — arms folded — body language sayin’ a firm, “There’s only one man in this house, boy,” and I heard him loud and clear.

This wasn’t gonna be our home, either.


After dinner, I walked Ruthann down to the basement. I told her exactly what I knew I needed to. I watched her dancin’ eyes, her radiant smile, and her regal presence lean in to give me her full attention. The room smelled like her — like jasmine and fresh rain — like sage and Nag Champa. I choked on my words.

“We… we can’t stay here. Ain’t nobody said anythin’ yet, but it’s comin’. And Ruthann, I’d just rather not be here when it does. I’m tired of runnin’ into storms because we love each other. I’m so damn tired. Tomorrow, I’m gon’ pick up an extra shift at work for however long it’s gonna take to save up and get outta here.”

“So, you think you have to do this on your own? You don’t. We are a team, Cleveland. I’ll pick up a few more hours at the library, and I’ll make a significant withdrawal from my savings account. We are going to be okay.”

At that moment, I knew I’d made the right decision. I knew the woman who stared back at me with eyes of emerald green and skin matched by the glimmer of first light would be with me forever.

Because it felt like the right time, I slid the ring from my pocket and got down on one knee. I looked up at her — a lump formed in my throat — my hands got sweaty. I took a deep breath in and said, “Ruthann, I would like it very much if you chose to stay with me for life. Would you marry me, please?”

I could feel a smile growin’ on my face — one that settled there longer than it probably should have. I was safe. She said, “Yes.” Actually, she said, “Come here, silly! Hell, yes!”

And every time I wonder what will happen to us — who will try to separate us because of where we each come from …

I sink into the tightness of her embrace, and I allow her to be my peace.

She is my peace.


Originally published in Lit Up Magazine via Medium.

Smooth as a Fresh Cup of Pour-Over Coffee

Musical Selection: L.T.D.|Holding On (When Love Is Gone)

Flash Fiction

I didn’t think he’d see me staring at him. I tried to fiddle with the People magazine in my hand — darted my eyes over the cuckoo clock above the Barista’s head.

He spotted me. And I couldn’t backpedal, couldn’t turn away fast enough. He was the color of pre-evening with onyx eyes and a James Earl Jones voice.

My entire body convulsed when he said, “I think you dropped this.” I looked down and he was holding my pen. I had been tackling a crossword puzzle, and the sleek writing tool must’ve escaped my grip when I saw him.

“I, uh … Yes, that’s mine.” I started tripping over my words. What was I doing?! Where was my head? I dragged the pen from his grip.

“I’m Loyal.” He extended his very manicured right hand to me.

“Um … I’m trustworthy.”

He giggled. I heard cherubs singing. I hadn’t caught the humor until he casually said, “No. Loyal is my name. Loyal Manor.”

His hand was still waiting for mine. I slapped it nervously, cupped it, then gave it two quick shakes.

“Oh! Oh! Haha. My apologies. I’m Grace … Grace Baron. It’s nice to meet you, Loyal.”

I glanced over at the Barista, who flawlessly prepares my order daily, and she flashed me a wink.

“Well, I’ll let you get back to your puzzle, Grace. Will you be here tomorrow?”

“WILL I?! I mean … Sure, I’ll be here.”

The dimple in his left cheek made my acquaintance, and I became as giddy as a schoolgirl. Everything about Loyal was smooth as a cup of pour-over coffee, and I wanted to learn more about him.

“Okay, then. I’ll see you tomorrow, Grace Baron.”

“Uh huh. Yes. Yes, you will.”

He turned to exit the building, and I knew it was rude to watch, but I wanted to be sure I wasn’t dreaming.

The Barista tipped her hat in my direction, and flashed me another wink. The server bought me a second cup of coffee and patted my hand. A piece of paper bounced off my knuckles.

There, on a strawberry-scented blueprint piece of stationery, was Loyal’s phone number.


©2022 Tremaine L. Loadholt Originally published in soliloque via Medium.