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. 

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Charity Starts at Home

This post is part of Write Your Ass Off April, a Twenties Unscripted 10-Day Writing Challenge #WYAOApril. Today's prompt: Heal.


Sunday morning comes cloaked in silence. Inside, the bedroom is still, remnants of last night strewn about haphazardly. Outside, there is not a bird chirping or a truck roaring by. It feels like someone pressed pause on the whole world. 

And isn't that what we've tried to do these last few days?

I roll over, half lying on his back, pressing my bare breasts against his exposed back, kissing his shoulders and tracing the script of Invictus etched into the skin.

I am the master of my fate
I am the captain of my soul 

My fingertips pay special attention to my favorite part.

He stirs slightly underneath me, mumbling something into the pillow, and reaching behind him to touch my bare skin. We lay that way for awhile, afraid to move and break the spell, and knowing that we must. 

He moves first, rocking me off his back, turning, and pulling me into his chest in one movement. He rests my jaw in his hands and leans his forehead into mine.

"This is it, you know."

It's not a question and I don't have to answer because whether he's talking to me or himself, we both know.

We both know.

He lifts himself over me, kissing my eyes still fluttering with sleep, and the bow of my lips and the curve of my neck. He trails nibbles and licks down my torso before throwing my legs across his back. He's painting lines of art across my flesh and I am purring.

He takes me slowly, quietly, methodically. He's learned our melody and he's playing it perfectly. He stops to kiss me, to look at me, to kiss the freckles on my face. He's studying me, as I am him, so he can take this with him when he leaves.

We stay in bed for hours, tangled around each other, whispering and moaning, drifting off to sleep. 

Late, way too late, in the afternoon we stumble into the kitchen, famished and exhausted. We share cold Thai from cardboard boxes without bothering to turn on the lights. We fall back into bed, back into each other, back to sleep.

When we wake up, it's time.

He gathers his things in silence, while I sit cross legged on the middle of the bed watching. He does it the way he does everything, deliberately, precisely, moving at the intersection of grace and masculinity. When he's done, when every trace of him is packed in his leather duffle, he leans against my dresser and looks at me. Wordlessly he holds out his hand to me, meeting me at the foot of the bed. He hugs me, resting his head on top of mine and I can hear him sigh through the bare skin of his chest.

"I think it's time for me to go."

We dress quietly, handing each other things across the distance. When we're done, we reconvene at the foot of the bed. He kisses my lips, my nose, my forehead.

"Let's do this," he says.

We jump in the car and head south towards the airport, with me shuffling through music with one hand while absentmindedly tracing his fingers with the other. A song shuffles on that he turned me on to the first time we tried to do This.

"You know I haven't listened to this whole album since the fight in San Antonio?"
"Oh, Jesus. That was a bad one. But you shouldn't give up the album tho. This shit is classic."
"It is. It's one of my favorites. But I... I just couldn't."
"Music holds your memories."
"All the fucking time."

No pretending
Baby, I'm sending 
Sending all my love to you 

We listen in silence for awhile, both of us no doubt drifting back to when this song was new for us, when we were then who can't manage to be now. He grabs my hand. I stare out the window because I've cried enough. I'm tired. 

"I don't know if I'll ever understand why we don't work."
"You do. You just don't want to."
"Is that a bad thing? Not wanting to give up?"
"You don't wanna give up because you hate to lose, not because of us."
"Is there a difference? Does it matter?"
"You don't get it. If I have to choose between the peace and the passion- and I don't think I do- I'm gonna choose the peace. Every time. And you've never been able to bring me any type of peace."

He says nothing, and I hope I wasn't harsher than I meant to be. I'm just so ready to be done. We retreat to our corners, riding the rest of the way in the cool of the silence that has drawn itself between us. It's ironic considering we once thought we'd never run out of things to talk about. 

At the curb, he hoists bag up on his shoulder.
"Well..." he says and he trails off, never really sure how to end things because he's never the one that wants to.
"You're fumbling for words because there's nothing else to say, baby."
"Yeah. Yeah."

He drops his bag and wraps me up in an embrace so tight that my back pops in three places. 
"You know," he says into my hair, "I wouldn't be mad if you called me if you changed your mind."

And I don't know how to explain to him how this time is different. How, more than I am sad or scared or lonely, I am tired. Tired of ending up right back here. With him. With everyone. Tired of this particular brokenness. I am resigned. And for him, that may be worse than my fury or my weakness. Because that means I really am gone.

So I say nothing, because it seems kinder.

We stand that way for awhile, swaying back and forth before he abruptly lets me go, scoops his bag and heads towards the sliding doors separating us from security. I find that I have nothing left to say to his back.

I slide into the driver side he just vacated and drive north, numb and unaware, until the sun setting over my favorite view of the skyline catches my attention. The music has been playing on without me listening and as usual, the universe is talking to me and hoping I'm listening. 

Break bread with your fellow man
Show him love but look out for your heart
And always take care of home
Because home is where charity starts
Home is where charity starts...

Monday, April 11, 2016

The Silence

This post is part of Write Your Ass Off April, a Twenties Unscripted 10-Day Writing Challenge #WYAOApril. Today's prompt: Spill.


I don’t remember what happened. It was inconsequential, the kind of thing that no one noticed but me. But it was hilarious. And I knew it was the kind of thing you’d appreciate. I was halfway through the text before I remembered I couldn’t send it.

This part is The Silence. And it’s the part I hate. 

When the world feels like it’s been carved open wide, a chasm running between you and someone you used to know. The unlearning of including them in your day even though it feels second nature. Finding distraction when you feel the need to say things you may as well shout into the wind. When the rhythm of your whole day feels off because it’s not punctuated by hearing from them and you have to manage to find your footing somehow. When they may as well have been flung to the moon, they feel so far from whatever it was you used to inhabit.

You live in The Silence now. In here, there’s only distance.

Like most temporary things, it gets better, of course. To be clear, The Silence is most often forever, but it eventually becomes a dull ache from the sharp break it started as. And eventually, you won’t feel it at all. It will just become What Is.

But you have to get there. You have to inhale every minute of every sleepless night and swallow them down on top of the words you don’t get to say until you feel you might burst. You have to sort through the thoughts that bubble up when you aren’t expecting them, even when you have nowhere to put them. And you have to arrive out the other side, somehow healed and whole though something you once thought was tattooed on your life has been washed away. 

If you’re me, the only way to get through The Silence is to smother it. To counteract every what if with a reminder that it ain’t. I delete all the pictures and the texts. Eventually the contact info altogether. I find something else to do with the time I took such great effort to carve out for you to exist in. I set about the work of forgetting the inside jokes and the places we’ve been and the intimacies I wish I’d kept to myself. I mentally open the box where I store All The Little Things About You, and dump them at the curb, letting the elements and time do to memory what I cannot force. You are a specter looming in my days, and I smother it until dies.

I work to forget you, and eventually I will. It is the kind of thing I have grown good at. Forgetting the details, forgetting the feelings, until they are so gone it’s almost like I never knew them at all. I will get there.

But now, I am in The Silence. And so are you. But I’m here alone. 

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Happy New Year

This post is part of Write Your Ass Off April, a Twenties Unscripted 10-Day Writing Challenge #WYAOApril. Today's prompt: Ascend.



Today looks nothing like I thought it would.

That's my first thought when my eyes snap open. 

I lay there with it for a minute, turning the words over and over in my head until they sound like gibberish even to me. 

Today looks nothing like I thought it would.

That's the truth. But isn't it always?

Each birthday brings with it a roux of excitement and anxiety and reflection. Each birthday, I am somehow caught off guard by where I am in my life, good or bad or ugly. I had plans, good plans, plans that made sense for what my life looked like when I dared hope them. Life wasn't really here for my plans, as usual. 

I burrito up in my comfy sheets and take stock:

There is no obvious way for me to advance at work.
My love life has imploded.
Three of the people I'm closest to in this city have moved, and for the first time in the last few years, I don't get to celebrate my birthday with them.
It's a Tuesday. Birthdays on a Tuesday kinda blow.

Surprisingly though, I'm okay.

Somewhere along the line I realized that this is what life is; a series of good years and bad years and meh years. And to be fair to my life, I'm never going to be "where I wanna be." Because I am impossible with myself. Because all I want is everything.

So, I keep my birthday rituals. I play Don't You Worry Bout a Thing at ignorant levels over and over. I make my list of 32 things I'm thankful for (one for every year I've been alive) and I say a prayer of gratitude that I never have to struggle to come up with something. I talk to my grandmother out loud as though she were in the room and tell her I hope she's proud of me. I'm doing the best I can. 

I spend the day with my best friend and her fresh baby and have dinner with my mama. We tell the stories we've told a million times before and laugh like they're new. All day I field calls and texts and FaceTime and WhatsApp messages from people literally all over the world who take a minute out of their busy days to wish me well. By the time I fall into bed I am so full I could burst.

Today looks nothing like I thought it would, but it is exactly as it's supposed to be.

I remind myself that this is the living: the trying and failing. The restarts and stalls and starting over. That implosion and ruins mean I can construct a life more beautiful than the last. And that I'm built for the building.

Every year, good or bad, is a clean slate. 
So, happy new year to me. 

Friday, April 1, 2016

The Magic Number

This post is part of Write Your Ass Off April, a Twenties Unscripted 10-Day Writing Challenge #WYAOApril. Today's prompt: Demolish.



Here is how you go from We to Me.

First, you have The Conversation. 
This is no mere mortal conversation. This is The Conversation. The one you can’t come back from. This is the conversation where you say The Things. The things that have been looming. That have been lurking in the shadows, growing, sucking all of the oxygen from the room as you slowly suffocate. These things are the dragons you have to slay before they kill you.

Because they will.

Our conversation happened at 3:27am, on one of many a string of nights I couldn’t sleep. 

“We’re not going to make it, are we?”

The Conversation usually starts with The Question. The one that one or the both of you has been choking on, trying to swallow down because most of you knows the answer and it’s not the one you want.

“No. We’re not.”

You talk it out. You fight it out. You say the right things and the mean things and the true things. You say things that, were this a thing that should work out, might draw the other closer to you. But because this is the drawdown from We to Me, it only inches them further away. There’s a last grasp, the Hail Mary, the last thing you say when you’re ready to go for broke. And that’s when you realize that The Things have pulled them just beyond the reach of your fingertips.

That’s when The Resignation comes. It’s usually easy to spot. It’s everything that comes after The Sigh. The Thing has been vanquished. It’s let all the air back into the room. And it frigid and still. You have to settle into it as though it were comfortable, but it’s not that it’s cozy, it’s that it’s permanent. The Resignation comes when you know you have to let go.

“I hate this.”
“I know. Me too.”
“I really thought-“
“I know. Me too.”

You lapse into quiet. The words running out isn’t because you have nothing left to say, it’s because everything you have to say is futile. There is no coming back from The Conversation. 

“I’m coming home in a few weeks. I need your undivided attention for the weekend. I’m not asking.”

You want to say no, because you should. It’s wiser.

But The Conversation leaves you raw and exposed in a way that you’d never choose to be. And every no feels like being stabbed with a hot, salted knife.

“I’ll make that happen.”

Then there’s The Goodbye. Which- even as it’s awkward and uncomfortable and hurtful- isn’t even the hard part.

Because the next part is The Silence.
And that’s what will kill you.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Itch

I'm wide awake. I woke up, cold and uncomfortable and unable to sleep in the way I sometimes am when someone else is sharing my bed. I resolve myself to listening to the soundtrack of his soft snores that sound like a lawn motor starting and wondering what the fuck we're doing.

I make terrible choices. That much is clear. And this codependent non-coupling is one long running mistake I can't stop making. I think about all the people I've loved to absolutely no fucking end. The people I've grown attached to knowing they wouldn't or couldn't be what I need. 

I want so fucking badly to stop doing this.

And this one, this vice I love, that I keep sneaking off to take hits of, this itch I keep scratching until it bleeds, he might be the worst of it. Because he and I? We Should Be. We are made for each other. We should be together. We should be, with our dazzling chemistry and ridiculous compatibility, the couple that people look at and go, "That. I want that." 

And none of it works.

I want to wake him up. I want to wake him up and tell him to move here. I want to tell him we should buy that house we looked at and we should get married and have babies and we should do this. We should. 

But we'd never ever make it.
Because we don't work. 

He would do it, of course. He'd find a job and break his lease and move his life back here for me. For us. He'd uproot his life to build one with me. And if I'm being honest, I want that. I need that. Someone willing to be as committed, as all in, as I am.

But we'd implode. We'd devolve into carnage as we have so many times before, despite us making so much sense, despite us wanting the same things, despite us wanting this to work so badly. We wouldn't. Because we don't. And we refuse to learn this lesson.

I don't know what I'm doing. Besides fucking up. 

I should stop calling him just because I know he'll come. I should stop picking up when he calls, and we should stop strategizing career moves for each other and venting when we have bad days and we should stop sending random texts when we're thinking of each other. I should end this, as gently as possible, before the next time we explode and do each other irreparable harm. I should let him go. 

I need to be strong enough to do this for him. For me. 

But I'm not tonight. Instead I throw my leg up on him and he instinctively palms my thigh and turns into me. 
"Love you," he sighs into my hair as he often does when we're sleeping.
"Love you, too."

And I do. But it doesn't matter. 

Monday, December 7, 2015

Safe Place

When I was a little girl, I had an irrational fear that someone would shoot me through my bedroom window. I have no idea what precipitated this fear, some combination of movies and neighborhood violence and my always overactive imagination. But in my mind, this was something I needed to be deeply concerned with. And concerned I was. There was no amount of reassurance, no house alarm or locked door or drawn curtain that could convince me I was safe.

And so, every night once my mama turned my light off, I’d create a wall of stuffed animals between me and the window to all my worries, pulling myself as closely as I possibly could to the wall, stacking rows and rows of stuffed animals between me and whatever evil might befall me. As I grew, it distressed me that I no longer had enough stuffed animals to properly insulate my lengthening body, and so I hoarded new ones whenever I could. And when that didn’t work, I took to just protecting what I figured were my most important places- my head, my heart- because I figured if I was hurt anywhere else it wouldn’t be pleasant, but I could survive that.

Figuring out how I was going to survive on my own was an early fixation of mine.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Move.

I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that if I stop moving I'll fall apart.

So, I don't.