Tempted to Leave in the Midst of Mixed Emotions

Flash Fiction

Photo by Alex Iby via Unsplash

Locked in the basement of their home, she waits. Years of feeling used and unwanted hang at her side. He has a crazy way of showing he loves her. She feels love, though. Is it indeed that? When he caressed her cheek lightly after she cooked his favorite meal . . . When he held her close to him in post-coital bliss . . . When he showed her off at public affairs . . .

This is their life. A back and forth of safety and danger and defeat and peril. She is at the center of a damaging storyline. Can she turn the page? Will she shift the plot?

He doesn’t like his story yet he carries it with him.

He is a burly man. A tall, lumberjack with a thick red beard to match his thick red hair. His voice is a boombox set to the highest volume. He bleeds disruption. Deep inside, there is this gentle boy who spent hundreds of nights trapped in a closet — put there by his drunk father who didn’t like the way he breathed.

At the age of ten, he was tasked with being the man of the household. A paper route and bottle cap hunting became odd jobs with little pay. A breadwinner. A means to an end.

His mother wrapped herself in blind intelligence and sulked her life away in the folds of a Tempur-Pedic mattress while her children played house. She died on his fifteenth birthday.

He makes sure she’s fed. The fattened calf. The precious lamb.

He doesn’t like his story yet he carries it with him.


She pulls the small window latch towards her, calls the winter breeze inside to feel something other than the pain stuck to her bones. She knows he’ll come downstairs soon to offer a plate a food. Maybe spaghetti tonight. Or stewed beef. 

He makes sure she’s fed. The fattened calf. The precious lamb. He was a chef in his former life. She fell in love with his alfredo sauce. It was bait.

There are no children. Her mother said to be thankful she did not have the extra baggage. She can leave without tethers. She can bolt upright and out of her life with the right tools. Does she have the right tools?

He weighs the rice before plating it. A cup full. Steamed broccoli. Baked chicken bathed in homemade gravy. Scratch honey cornbread.

He walks the plate down to his wife. His prisoner. His catch. He loved her deeply. He hopes she knows this. This is for her own good. No one else will leave him. No one else can try. She is all he had.

“I made your favorite tonight, babe. Be careful. It’s hot.”

The scent of the food overpowers the fresh breeze outside. She closes the window. She looks at her husband. He stands before her with sad eyes. An even sadder smile. He places the food on a tray five feet away from her.

“I made your favorite tonight, babe. Be careful. It’s hot.”

Was she careful? Could she be? It isn’t love when you start thinking about throwing a hot pot of grits on another human being. It isn’t love when you imagine their face melting off right before your eyes.

She tastes a spoonful of rice with gravy. Her body remembers the comfort she was lured to in the beginning.

“Tomorrow, I’ll leave,” she says under her breath. “Tomorrow.”

Does she have the right tools?


Originally published via Medium.

Un-fixable


Flash Fiction

Photo by Tyler Lastovich via Pexels

Readers: The following fictional piece is one of abandonment, frequent miscarriages, and self-harm.


My body decided to terminate my pregnancy. The phone calls won’t stop. Everyone says the same thing. Everyone thinks I can just pick up and start anew. It doesn’t work that way.

I’m broken. There’s no fixing me. This is the third time. It will be my last.


My name is Clara De Jesus-Mendez Moses. I am an only child to older parents. Friends say, maybe it’s my DNA. That I am full of codes and clues and puzzles that only lead to trauma. My mom was forty-two when she had me. Dad was fifty.

I grew up in a stuffy, one-percent, melanin-robbed neighborhood. Piano lessons. Debutant balls. Beauty pageants. Cozy Camp Lassiter. Passing . . .

My family denied our heritage. Mom, half Black & Israeli. Dad, half Mexican & Black. I fit somewhere in the middle as a conglomerate of all things and no things.

They married me off at a young age — 19. Todd Ramses Moses. Yes, it’s a weird name. But he was beautifully breathtaking. He was a God. My God. I worshiped him. I was his temple.

We tried for children immediately after saying, “I will.” No “I dos” for us. Our first time, I’d just turned 20. Nine weeks in. I lost the baby. Our second time, 22. Thirteen weeks in. Again. The last time, a third — I couldn’t make it to six weeks. That’s when I told Todd I was broken and if he wanted children, he should find someone else.

He found someone else.

The cutting started. I’d scrape my wrists with razor blades lightly. Just enough to see blood. Once a week or whenever I felt inadequate. I felt inadequate all the time.

I’d managed to leave that stuffy neighborhood, immersed myself in a diverse community, and taught at one of our schools. I decluttered my home. Anything that reminded me of Todd, I tossed. That didn’t stop the cutting.

I was supposed to be happy.

I have a huge attic. It’s quiet and dark and has great acoustics. I sit with my legs crossed early on Saturday mornings and strum old love songs on my guitar. It helps. I get through the day after seven or eight songs.

Every few weeks, a family member stops by. A friend. Someone from our church. They mean well. They want to be sure I’m eating. I nibble on plates of food but never finish a meal.

“Don’t name them.” That’s the advice my therapist gave me after my second miscarriage. “Don’t name them.” I named them. I mourned. I grieved. I’m still mourning. I’m still grieving.


Todd has three girls now. A set of twins, five — and a two-year-old. I saw him at the market with his mighty fine family one Sunday. He waved, cautiously. I nodded casually. I pushed my cart as fast as it would go.

I wanted to get back home as quickly as possible. The urge to cut again had taken over. I was remembering who I was — who I’d become. The woman who couldn’t have children.

My body decided to terminate my pregnancy. The phone calls won’t stop. Everyone says the same thing. Everyone thinks I can just pick up and start anew. It doesn’t work that way.

I’m broken. There’s no fixing me. This is the third time. It will be my last.

I throw myself at my door, crash into a chair in the kitchen, and dig deep into my skin.

The pain rushes over me instantly then stops. I feel nothing.


This piece began as a response to two different Twitter prompts; vss365 (anew) & vssmurder (terminate).


Originally published in The Junction via Medium.

Featured Poem of the Week

Florence Wanjiku is an exceptional writer with a voice that cannot be matched. She is purposeful in her presentation with her work and she is also rather explicit with details. When she emailed me finally (we’d talked previously about her being a writer for A Cornered Gurl) to say she was ready to jump aboard, I had to hide my insane amount of giddiness. I mean, truth be told, I’ve got a writer’s crush on her words, so I am happy to host them in ACG. Florence’s debut piece, “A black woman’s body” (is vogue) is killing it on Medium and I am sure it’ll do the same here as well. So, without further ado, Ms. Wanjiku, everyone . . .


A black woman’s body

is vogue

They manufacture parts 
of a black woman’s body.
Place her under knife and chain
and watch how naturally anesthetic she is.

A dose of her melanin eludes pain, suffering,
and loss

The attraction to her otherness 
has always been so intoxicating
Her soil forms the earth 
making mountains, deserts
and streams places in which her 
body has traveled 
or being left to dry when she can’t
ward off bees for wanting to colonize
and steal her nectar.

Her body will put women under knife and pain 
just to look like her

Her lips didn’t always seem so appealing 
but of late they make billionaires out of lip kits

Her skin didn’t always seem so appealing 
but of late makes economies 
out of spray tans and tanning salons.

Her body has been hated, paraded, used and abused
It was once used to justify why black women
don’t make Vogue 
but now, they are Instyle,
they are the Covergirl.

Now, they manufacture parts of a black woman’s
body and place them as crowns on others.


Originally published in A Cornered Gurl via Medium.

Reflections of a Lost Love that Will Never be Found

Flash Fiction

Readers: This fictional piece has content that reflects upon depression and briefly mentions suicide.


I don’t know where we went wrong — don’t know what I could have done. I thought everything was fine — everything was okay. She’d been hurting, I tried to step up. It was hard loving her — hard trying to constantly fill in the spaces that had holes bigger than my heart. There were locked up voids — galaxies of pain unfit for undoing. Everyone said, “Don’t do it. She’s damaged goods.” I wondered what in God’s name would make people say some of the things they said about another human being.

Everyone needs love. EVERYONE! That was my response — to all of them who thought they were going to shift my position or move me toward a different path, I never flinched. I stayed until she left. I knew what I was getting myself into. I knew she was hard to love.

She was a wall — brick and mortar, impenetrable, but I broke through. Years of listening to her and learning her ways and loving her and being there for her got me through the thickest wall I have ever met. But she left. Six years — six long, sufferable years — she left. I feel fine. I am fine. I will be fine.

I AM OKAY! I say this to my younger sister who never liked her. She asked if she could stay with me for a few days or weeks or months, just until my eyes looked normal again. Just until I got up out of the bed without any coaxing from anyone else. Just until . . . She’s not a nuisance. I know she means well. I would probably want to be around her too if her heart had been plucked from her chest, flaunted in front of a hateful public, and stomped on.

She was a wall — brick and mortar, impenetrable, but I broke through.

I know I would want to protect her. But I would give her space. Would I give her space? Did I give her space? She used to say, “You know all the right ways to love me without smothering me. You grant me peace. I need that. I love that.” I thought I was in the clear — I was making headway. She didn’t even say goodbye. I got up on a cold, Saturday morning, rolled over to her side of the bed, pressed my hands into the space she used to fill, and lied there. She never returned.

Two days later, I received a text message that said, “I am holding you back from finding a partner who can love you much better than I can. I won’t do that anymore. Deena, I won’t be your burden — I won’t wear your shoulders down. I love you. I always have. I always will.”

And just like that, I found myself listening to Anita Baker, Michael McDonald, Patti LaBelle, Aretha Franklin, James Brown, and a list of other artists who have a plethora of open up your heart and come back to me songs. One thing was certain — she wasn’t coming back. I could tell when I read the message — she definitely wasn’t coming back.

My mom came over on a Monday morning while my sister was at work. She called herself tidying up the place — but I’m what they say is “a neat freak,” so there wasn’t anything left to tidy up. She opened up the curtains and blinds in my bedroom and implored me to get out of bed. I turned to my right side and continued to lie still. I wanted the comfort of my covers. I wanted to pretend I was being shielded by her — loved by her.

I got up on a cold, Saturday morning, rolled over to her side of the bed, pressed my hands into the space she used to fill, and lied there. She never returned.

No one prepared me for the day the dam would break. No one told me heartache would feel this tormenting. Everyone thinks you should move right on past the pain and get back to living. But, shit . . . don’t I get time to mourn my failed relationship? Don’t I deserve my grief? Don’t I get to say when I am ready to move the hell on without being told to?

A long-time friend, part-time lover called me one day when I was sulking. I looked at the name and number as they flashed across the screen. Something deep within me told me not to answer. I did.

“Hey . . . If you want to talk, I’m here. I know you — I know you’re over there thinking it’s something you did and it isn’t. You only know how to love all parts of a person even when they’re truly hard to love. Sometimes, people just have to find their own way and it has to be without anyone else tagging along.” I held the line. It was so good to hear her voice — to sit with her words and remember who we were. She had a point, right? It wasn’t my fault. I thanked her for calling and found my way to the kitchen.

I splashed my favorite bowl with some homemade chicken noodle soup — filled it to the brim. I slurped every mouthful, enjoying the flavors — deeply experiencing the calming powers of comfort food. The phone rang as soon as I licked my lips and wiped them clean. An unfamiliar number . . . A call I probably shouldn’t take. I did.

A long-time friend, part-time lover called me one day when I was sulking. I looked at the name and number as they flashed across the screen. Something deep within me told me not to answer. I did.

“Deena! Deena, you there?! Please, say something!” I couldn’t I just sat there. A hollow space in my soul sunk even deeper. It was as if I’d known what would follow next. “Deena! *sighs* You’re listening to me, I can hear you. Parker was found dead this morning — slit wrists, in the tub, by her next-door neighbor. I’m coming over.”

Why’d my sister call me from a number I don’t know? Did she say Parker is dead?! Is she coming over? I slapped the spoon from my bowl, turned on the water from the faucet at the kitchen sink, and slowly — the tears began to fall again.

I knew she was never coming back.


Originally published in A Cornered Gurl via Medium

166

spaghetti strap-sized scoldinggirls used to get sent home fortheir sunburnt shoulders why would we make it so easy to oglewhy would we make it so worth looking at how often were we taught thatsomeone else’s wandering gazewas our fault

166

If you’re not reading Elle, perhaps you should be. This poem is a gut-punch and will remain with me for quite some time.

Let it marinate. It’ll stick with you too.