Monday, January 9, 2017

What do the Lonely do at Christmas?

This is the loneliest Christmas I've had in a long time.

It's not foreign to me of course, having spent a significant number of years in exile from home, first self-imposed and then because the universe willed it for far longer than I preferred. I shrug off the familiarity of it, determined not to sink into the comfort of the loneliness I know.

I clean my place. I watch videos and scroll through countless pictures of the people I love with the people they love, laughing at giddy children and exhausted parents. I watch the food network and get ideas for elaborate meals I want to cook in my new kitchen. I send texts wishing people merry Christmas that are more happy than I feel.

And then I just can't anymore.

I crawl into bed exhausted, wondering why I so often find myself here; on the brink of something great but standing at the precipice alone.

I miss my grandmother and my aunt, their absences cold, dark, empty places I feel like I can reach into myself and touch. The day passing without the punctuation of talking to them, seeing them, feels so overwhelming that I feel like I'm drowning. I'm torn between being glad I'm alone with this melancholy and wishing I weren't, all while knowing that everyone I know is preoccupied with their own lives at the moment. So I just surrender to it all. 

Perhaps the last three years lulled me into a false sense of security that the lonely years of my life were over, only to catapult me into more isolation than before. 

What a fucking curse.

I fall asleep, suspended in the purgatory of twilight sleep, my body going through the motions of being asleep, but the constant echo chamber of my anxieties on surround sound in my mind. I jerk awake time and time again, fleeing from something in my subconscious, feeling like I'm suffocating in my waking body. 

I should lean into it, I suppose, the perpetual loneliness that follows me around like a stray. It certainly seems intend on hanging around. Maybe I've wasted too much energy fighting the inevitable.  

Later, after traffic and an awful flight, I'm in a cold hotel room, sprawled on my back, tears marching furiously into my hair. It's quiet and dark and I'm alone, a stranger in my own land. I curl into a tiny ball and make myself stop crying like I used to when I was a child, because this is life and I'll be fine just like I've always been, I tell me. I stop crying but I don't believe me.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Fine.

The truth is, you need an ordinary girl.

You need someone beige. You need a girl who takes vitamins everyday and is in bed every night by 11pm no matter what. A girl that doesn't have a taste for whiskey and lights candles every time you make love and loves a "we." "We loved the movie." "We think that..."

You need a girl that's comfortable. Who's never been in a fight and doesn't raise her voice and doesn't conjugate her curses. A girl that thinks heels over three inches are extra and cooks dinner every night because she never works late. Someone put together by the threads of Supposed To Be. You need a girl not pestered by the itch to run barefoot across every inch of the world.

You will have a fine life. You'll have a perfectly ordinary courtship, and you'll follow a predictable course towards engagement and marriage and you'll have two kids and a dog and a cat with a bell on its collar. You'll lead a perfectly peaceful, ordinary life. It'll all be fine.

How much of both our time did I waste for wanting you to not settle for fine?

The truth is, I have too often not risen to the occasion of myself. I have too often draped myself in the cloaks of softer, quieter.
Fine.

But I am not fine.

I laugh too loud and fight too hard. I cannot manage a low key entrance and instead show up to trumpets. I like my sex rough and dirty and my love right at the apex of peaceful and passionate. I drink too much bourbon and say too much when others have slunk into the safety of silence. I demand space be made for me in the rooms I enter and I don't know how not to be relentlessly ambitious. I work long hours and I stay up too late. I want the world and I go after it; I will not settle for whatever serendipity drops in my lap at its leisure.

I am fire and I am light and both can burn you if you aren't careful. But the truth is, you were never built for keeping me or caring for me. 

And that is no one's fault.

You need a girl content to sit in the front row cheering you on, and I am the main attraction.
You need a girl who will carefully string her life up around the corners of yours, ecstatic to join a life you've already designed rather than build one together, where I demand an equal, a partner, a star that makes me a supernova.

You will live a good, perfectly fine life.

I cannot be fine. 

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

A Change Gone Come

The funny thing about your life changing is that you often don’t see it until it’s happening.

There are some big changes that sometimes you get to plan and prepare for, sure. But when you’re me, life changes have been running in the background when you weren’t paying attention and weren’t expecting them. And then in a second, they jump out into the forefront like, “Blaow! Taddow! Watch out now! It’s the little one, and I’m not Bow Wow.”

(An aside: I find there is a quote from Lil Kim or The Wire that I can apply to my life on an almost daily basis. And Stepbrothers.)

I just got my life settled.

That is what I keep telling myself as I sit in front of my email, my mouse hovering over the send button on an email that will literally set in motion the next phase of my life.

I just did this. And I just got my life settled. I can’t. What in the actual fuck?

All of that is true and none of it matters. And when I can’t even think rational thoughts in complete sentences anymore, I just settle for holy shit, holy shit, holy shit. 

This is happening.

The truth is, I’ve worked for this. I’ve paid my dues. I have worked my ass off, and made moves. And after years of circling it, and knocking at the door begging to be let in, the universe is finally opening up to reward me with everything that waits on the other side.

And I am terrified.

After so long of thinking this might never happen for me, of managing my expectations even when the opportunity presented itself, sure it wouldn’t work out, now standing on the precipice of it all I cannot stop panicking.

Because holy shit. 

I hit the send button, my heart leaping up in my throat as it goes. That’s the first domino. This is happening. My whole life is about to change. 

Holy shit.

Let’s do this.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Cake

#NaBloPoMo

Ever since my auntie died, I've been obsessed with my family's recipes.

Maybe two days after she passed, I tossed my entire apartment, dumping out every drawer and file, searching for the scrap of paper I'd scribbled her gumbo recipe on one random afternoon I'd called her to ask her for the steps. 

After every place I couldn't find it, I lost it a little more, sure I'd tossed it in a fit of compulsive cleaning, arrogantly assuming I could call her and get it again. When the last place it should have been was turned upside down, I cried myself onto my kitchen floor, chastising myself for being so stupid, for throwing it away, for throwing her away, so carelessly.

I hate that I never learned to bake my grandmother's peach cobbler. I can't remember it enough to recreate it, just standing in the kitchen while she made it, the yellow painted walls sweating in the heat of her old oven. I remember flour on my nose, and dipping my tiny fingers into her mixing bowls. I remember the way the crust seemed to disintegrate in my mouth, the peaches ripe and sticky sweet. No one in the family makes it, and that little piece of family history died with her.

And so, when I found myself sitting at a Formica kitchen table emblazoned with yellow flowers I hadn't sat at in 25 years, in a town everyone is too fancy to call Scottdale anymore, I listened to how to perfect my pound cake. How to get the Crisco and butter in perfect balance, how to perfectly brown the outside while keeping the inside moist. I furiously scribbled notes in my mind, listening to the instructions peppered in with anecdotes about church and community and civil rights. 

I found my auntie's recipe. And one day I'll get up the nerve to cook it for the people I love, sharing her with them. I'll keep trying at my grandma's peach cobbler, until it's perfect. Along the way I'll cook the things I love, the things I've created on my own and the things I picked up from them somehow without ever being taught. 

I cook their recipes. I sing their name. 

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Danger

Here is one of the most ridiculous things about me.

Whenever something good happens to me, I wait for everything to fall apart. 

And I don't just mean I think things will take a turn for the worst. I mean I wait for my life to flame out in spectacular fashion.

When I paid my car off, I spent MONTHS anxious that I'd soon total it. 
If I come into money, I am certain it will somehow be stolen.
If I get a new job, I wonder if I'm suddenly going to be stricken with some form of aggressive cancer, leaving me unable to make it to my start date.

In short, I am fucking ridiculous.

I don't know exactly when this became a habit. It seems some extreme form of the motto by which I live my life; if you stay ready you ain't gotta get ready. And so I am always looking for the boogie monster under the bed.

The problem is of course, like with most things, when you go looking for something, you almost always find it. 

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Lovers Rock

(The one where I try my hand at #NaBloPoMo and see if I can stick with it.)




I come to bed, my hair still mildly damp and dripping down the thin material of my t-shirt. For a split second, I entertain the thought of wrapping it in a bun, but I know it's just going to become mussed in this bed anyway.

The sheets are cool and smooth, and slide across my freshly waxed legs with ease. I run them back and forth on the slick surface a few times, before bringing my eyes up to the other side of the bed.

I can't remember the last night I slept alone.

I turn on my back, restless but trying not to move, my mind hurdling and jumping somewhere off in the distance.

Just when I've managed to start slipping into sleep, I find myself wrapped up in a cold embrace, snuggling into its familiarity.

My fear spoons me like a lover, wrapping tight tentacles around my limbs and anchoring me to the spot.

Tomorrow I think to myself. Tomorrow I'll be better.

For now, I just sleep.  

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Baptism

Mykonos, Greece
June 2016


I find God in the water.

From the moment the water curls up the shore and hits my toes, I feel my life lifting off me. I wade in up to my waist, the water cool and refreshing and an impossible blue. 

I let the salty waves scoop me up in its palm and float. I splay on my back, letting the world around me go muffled as the water fills my ears. Closing my eyes, I let the sun warm my face.

And I pray.
I pray for wholeness. I pray for healing. That I leave this place better than I have been lately. That I leave behind the heaviness I've been carrying around with me the last few months. 

I remind myself that this is the living. That I am not defined by the triumph and tragedy that has befallen me but rather by the life I choose. And that this girl- wild haired and laughing and talking to strangers and baptizing herself in the sea- is the best version of me, the one I must carry into my everyday life. The one I must seek to recreate when I'm not in this place. 

In the quiet the Universe asks me a question;

What are you willing to lose to get what you want?

And instinctively I answer nothing.
Because of course nothing. I've spent so much of my life losing. 

Why require more of me? I ask.

Because I require more of you, It says, plainly, simply. 

I start swimming laps, out to ocean, back to shore and away again, letting in the din of the busy beach, determined not to hear anymore. I swim until my feet can't touch the bottom anymore, my lungs burning from the effort.

What are you willing to lose to make room for that which I have promised you? 

It stops me dead in my tracks. I starfish in the water, dipping my head back into the silence of the ocean. I close my eyes and breathe in and out, listening to my breath echo in my body. I feel present in my skin for the first time in a long time.

I surrender.

I find God in the water.
I love her as myself. 

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Pussy in the Rafters

We've gotten so deep into the adulting that we mostly see each other on FaceTime (where I spend most of my time gossiping with his wife and fawning over his baby girls) and when one of us is passing through the other's city on the way to somewhere else. This time, he's laying over in my city and we're getting him good and drunk before the next, longer leg of his trip because he hates to fly.

We've also reached that point of adulthood where we are mildly envious of the other's life (me of the wife he's still crazy about 10 years and 2 kids later, him of my ridiculous single exploits) but would never actually want to trade. Over our third round of bourbon, he asks me about A Thing I have been largely trying to avoid. But he is him and he knows me, and he knows he has to ask or I'll pretend it never happened until I forget it ever happened.
"What happened with ol' boy that had moved? The one I told you to stop being a fucking savage with."

I roll my eyes ridiculously far into the back of my head and sigh deeply.
"That... didn't. It just... Didn't."
"What the fuck happened?"
"He just... he acted like who he always said he was. I just finally listened."
"Damn, R2D2," which he took to calling me because he once said I was acting like a robot with some other person we've long since forgotten.
"It is what it is."
"I'm sorry though. I was rooting for him."

I shrug again, more noncommittal than I really feel and turn back to my drink. 

"So, who else is on the roster? Is Mexico dude still in the picture? Not to be confused with the Mexican dude."
"Both gone. And he was Brazilian, by the way."
"Same thing. So, who else?"
"No one."
"No one?!"
"No one."
"That's not like you."
"I know. That's why I did it."
"What's going on?"
"I've just been doing a lot of thinking lately and I think..." I let my thought trail off as I stir the amber waves of my drink.
"You think...?" he prompts.
"I think it's time I hang my pussy in the rafters." 

He chokes on his drink, which was exactly the effect I was going for. 
"Nigga, WHAT?!?!"
"Yeah. Yeah man. It had a good run, but it's time to retire. My pussy is Peyton Manning. Well, maybe not Peyton. It's probably not out the game forever. It's more like Tim Tebow. It's gonna be gone for awhile and come back to the game in a different capacity. So, it's not hung in the rafters but it's definitely in the locker room in an ice bath."
"Yo, what is wrong with you?" 
"I'm just sayin'. I think you gotta know when to take a knee. You gotta know when to not push it. My pussy is Derrick Rose; promising start but plagued by injuries so it's on the bench until it can shake back."
"Shut the fuck up, yo."

By this time we're both laughing too hard to continue talking or drinking and we are garnering more than a few stares. We take a minute to compose ourselves, wipe the tears from our cheeks and calm the coughs that have besieged us both.

"Okay, seriously," he says to me, turning his body towards mine and giving me the half smile he gives me when he's about to tell me about myself and hurt my feelings.
"You can't seriously be done. At 32."
"Nawl, shawty. My pussy is on leave. It's on hiatus. It's on mid-season break. Put me on IR."
"Stop cracking jokes because you're uncomfortable."

I hate him.

"Listen. I get it. I probably don't have a leg to stand on here 'cause I never really got to be out in these streets like you 'cause I got married so young."
"I'm not out in these streets!"
"You out in these streets."
"Yeah, I'm out in these streets." He chuckles and shakes his head at me.
"You're just comfortable not getting attached to people. And so you run through people like outfits. And then you stay picking all the wrong niggas to finally get attached to."
"You're not wrong."
"The fact of the matter is, you're already gonna have it hard out here. You're the kinda woman a man has to rise to the occasion of being with, and a lot of niggas ain't gone be up to the challenge. So you already starting out at a deficit."
"Is this supposed to be a pep talk or...?"
"Nope. This is a statement of fact. And I made that point to make the more important point; you can't be out here wasting time with men you ain't gonna get attached to OR getting attached to ones you know good and well ain't what you need."
"I'm sick of you."
"I'm just tryna keep your pussy out the rafters, bro. You gone need that one day. My girls need little homies."
"Can't I just buy them cute clothes and take them to their first strip club when they turn 18?"
"You're gonna do that anyway."
"You right."
"Look, La. Let's be real. If you need to ride pine for awhile while you get your shit together, that's cool. But be honest with yourself; you're not even trying. Not for real. You just doing shit you know isn't gonna work out and throwing your hands up like, told ya so. Shit is a self-fulfilling prophecy." 
"What in the Iyanla hell? I am so sick of you."
"I know. But you know I'm right."
"So, and, the fuck."
"Exactly."

We sip in silence for a minute, letting everything he just said settled over us.

"Derrick Rose though?"
"I was really, really unwilling to compare my pussy to Tony Romo. Unlike him, she always comes through in the clutch."
"Yo, WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH YOU?!?!"
"That's the million dollar question, isn't it?"

I order us another round, and turn the conversation towards travel. He's thinking of places to take his wife for their anniversary this year, now that the girls are old enough to stay with grandparents for a whole week. I vote for Thailand, and start searching for a resort I fell in love with during my own wanderlust research. We trade laughs, something about getting a hooker for their anniversary, as I send him details of my upcoming trip to Greece that he might want to steal. But in the back of my mind, his words are sitting there, whispering in my ear when the clamor gets too quiet.

I hate when he's right. 

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Lost.

No one ever says the words as I blindly scramble limp legged down the hallway,  breathless and trembling, my nerves jangling like loose change. No one says it as they pass me through an obstacle course of smothering hugs, whispering things in my ears I'm too deaf with panic to hear. I have walked into a wall of silence. I don't understand why I don't hear the reassuring orchestra of medical machinery beeps.

I hear the weeping first. The unbound, wide open wail of loss. It strikes me that "loss" is too paltry a word. That it does no true justice for the way losing carves you out, leaves hollow spaces where someone once dwelled. That the empty is permanent, in a way we like to pretend isn’t true because we simply cannot endure it.

The bladed sharpness of the weeping tapers off, leaving just the haunting silence. The sour cold of mourning settles over us like dew. I shiver, hollow and devastated. I can barely stand to stay in my skin with this coldness.

I pray to all the gods I've ever known. Please, I plead, my knuckles gone white on the fists clenched at my sides. Please. 

Every time I think I have no tears left to offer up to Saint Gabriel, fresh tears crest my eyelids and run rivers down my cheeks. The place she’s been ripped from feels exposed and raw, a wound too sudden, too deep to brace for. All of my flesh feels tender and pulpy, and I am too wounded to do anything but gulp in big breaths of air under the grief I am drowning in.

I hold her cheek in my hand, smoothing her hair and memorizing her face, making mental maps of her moles and scars, pretending not to feel her skin growing algid beneath my palm, the color draining from her lips. I try not to focus on the fact that this is the last time I'll see her this way, in this skin, close enough to touch. I kiss her and she doesn't smell like herself and I am heartbroken all over again. I feel light headed and wobbly, my legs threatening to abandon me as I set about this dirge. I don’t know how I can be expected to shoulder this. 

The minutes crawl by on concave bellies, cold and quiet, stretching into oblivion. I've lost track of how many I've lost watching for the rise of her chest, only to be devastated anew when it never comes.

When I can’t stand to stare wordlessly at her unmoving face anymore, I start to pace. Up one side of the stark white hallway, down the other side, careful to avert my eyes to the tiled floor when I pass the opening of her room. They keep the dead separate from the living as though death were contagion, like it might slip from her skin and slink- silent, black- down the hall, toppling the loved ones of someone else like dominoes. We are isolated, alone in our despair, silent ghosts haunting the corridors outside the makeshift altar where she lies in state. We cannot tear ourselves from her side, even as we are ground down under the weight of this grief.  

Please, I beg whatever God is listening to me scream inside myself. Please. I cannot do this. Please. 
No one answers.

After hours of sitting in the cold of her absence, stark still and quiet, I finally say to myself the words no one else would say.
She is gone. I have lost her.

She died on her mother's birthday. Like her mother, we will cremate her, and take her to the Gulf she grew up on. We'll let her ashes sieve through our fingers and return her to the God who took her from us.

Ashes to ashes. Dust to dust.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Mute.

His name is like candy in my mouth. Like summer fruit, ripe and sweet and delicious. I turn it over on my tongue, reveling at its taste and its texture. I lob it into conversation a hundred different ways so that I can hear it aloud, marveling at the ways it can shape itself to contain all the things I'm not saying.

I won't look at him because I will lose my shit. I look around, off into the distance, at the ceiling, at my lap, at my fingers he's braiding in his. And I pray. A prayer of gratitude that I've felt this way. And a prayer begging that I stop.

I make jokes because it's easier and pretend that the way he looks at me doesn't make me feel like magic.  

He shifts and drops my hand and at once my skin is lonely. His absence is a clever ache that nestles in places I cannot reach and blooms even when I don't water it.

I say his name. It too is a prayer.

I hunger for him in a way that makes me tremble. I could live on this, I think, this fire and magic of ours, without another thing to sustain me. It's foolish and it's true. I wonder if he can feel how badly I crave him, like its a thing he can reach out and run his fingers through. If- in the corner of his mind where I've come to live- if he strokes it and watches it purr and come to life under his command and reminds himself that this is his. That every kiss is a question; who do you belong to?
That every sigh that skates through my parted lips is an admission I won't even leave in confessional; Yours. How long have I been? How much longer do I have to be? 

We make love that is art, that is white hot glory and quiet ruin and I'm distracted by the specter of it even as I pray. I am insatiable. I am unquenchable fire. I squirm inside the longing of it. I want to tell him to take me like I'm his, to come inside me like I'm home.

He grabs my hand again and a thousand wildfires set themselves beneath the surface of my skin.

Please, I say inside myself, although I don't know who I'm praying to anymore.

I've lost count of how many hours I've spent watching him move through the world and being awed by it. How many nights I've pulled myself small to one side of the bed and stared at the empty valley across from me, missing him. How many times he's deftly laid me bare and valiantly licked the poison from my wounds. It's a silent tally, notches scratched into the wall of my cell with my fingernails, a thing I'll never share because I won't ruin him.
How many times I've cooked a meal for him.
Or made space for him.
Or said a prayer for him.
Or saw his face in a crowd where I knew he couldn't possibly be.
How many times I've said his name as I came, for myself and with someone else.
How often he rises from underneath the ruble I try so desperately to bury him under. How often I fail at dismissing him when he does. 

His name becomes a padlock on my tongue, the honied drupe turning poisonous in my mouth.
I love him too much to ruin him.
I love him to my muteness. 

Please, I say inside myself. I'm not even sure what the fuck I'm praying for anymore.