Sunday, February 19, 2017

The Mausoleum

Coming back to New Orleans is like walking the graveyard of all the women I used to be. 

Who I was when I was young and dumb and deliriously in love. When I was chasing my food with laxatives. When I was broke and struggling at a dead end job. Before the dark years. Before the girl. Before I lost my aunt.

I try not to focus on that as I powerwalk down Bourbon.

I purposefully don't give my eyes to the balcony where I once kissed the person I thought was the love of my life and promised him forever. I cross the street when we get to the restaurant where my aunt taught me the proper way to shell a crawfish.

I'm working. I'm busy. I can't.

I'm on both phones, maneuvering people and beer cups and beads. I lend space in my head to the tasks at hand, to the unique musical roar of the Quarter. I'm killing it at work.

I'm sitting at the office when I hear the trumpets and I can feel my heart seize in my chest. In my mind, clear as day, I can see the second line, my aunt joyfully waving her white handkerchief in the air. It hits me that this is the first time I've ever been to this city without her and I can barely lurch out of the room before I start to cry.

I call my best friend, choking on the words as though they're fingers around my throat. 
"Everything just reminds me that she isn't here and I still don't know why." 

Why is futile, of course, but I still want to know.

I go back to work. I'm busy. I can't. 

I'm killing it at work. I spend 16 hours on my feet, then 12. I unravel every impossible knot my work gets tangled into. I'm exhausted and sore and content. I fall into bed and starfish across it's king size, scissoring  my legs through the moonlight coming through the big window and making the shadows dance. 

At once I am back to another time I'd done the same in this city, only this time tangled around my most favorite human in the universe. 
"We should do this every year."
"We do do this every year. You're always welcome to come."
"I mean, even if your family doesn't, we should. We should keep doing it even after we have kids."
"Okay. It can be our annual no kids trip."
"And we should always stay in this hotel. In this room. So we can keep coming back and remembering when we decided it was gonna be me and you."

I curl up in a ball, suddenly cold and stiff. I'm too tired to get up and work until distraction. But I want to. Instead I fall asleep.

I've been so many different women. And for the most part I'm glad to not be them anymore. But sometimes I'm reminded of who I buried while I was becoming. 

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Here

"Make a living or have a life, guess that I gotta choose..."


We're doing the part I usually hate, but is actually going pretty well... kinda; trying to make future plans.

After "hey, you're in my city!" drinks turned into dinner, turned into more drinks, turned into cannolis, we're sitting in a tiny dive bar, oversized chairs pulled close, each with two phones spread across our laps.

"What about brunch next Saturday?" he asks me. 
"I'm working. Can you do dinner?" He checks phone number 1.
"Have a dinner already. You can meet me for drinks after."
"Come to the city at some undetermined time whenever it is you finish dinner? Nah. What about Thursday?"
"I leave for London Wednesday night."

We go back and forth awhile, checking calendars and projects and before we know it, we've made it to February.

"I don't mean to be presumptuous, but, Valentine's Day?"
"I'm on the road. What about the week after?"
"Can you do Tuesday? I have a late meeting but should be done by 6."
"I've got a 5:30. I could maybe come after that."

We stop and look at each other a moment and burst into laughter.
"This is fucking ridiculous. I just wanna buy you dinner," he says shaking his head. I giggle at his incredulousness but deep down I know this is The Moment.

I'd been wondering if, when, it might come. It's been waiting in the wings, listening for its cue, patiently hanging around backstage through Act 1 at Job That Was International and 24/7/365 and all the crazy up and downs therein. There was a brief reprieve at intermission, at Regular Job With Regular Workload on a Regular U.S. Schedule Doing Regular Shit. 

But now I'm in Act 2. And Act 2 is Crazy Rare Dream Job You Landed Against all Odds Where You Get to Do All the Things. This is when shit really gets real. Where most days are a 10 hour or more day and I only unplug to sleep and I'm on the road for weeks at a time. 

And I love it.

But it brings me Here. Here is where I always wondered if I'd end up. When I was young and arrogant and stupid, Here was something I just knew I'd manage perfectly, finding a way to Do it All™ and make it look easily. When I got older and less stupid (still stupid, just less so), I wondered if I'd have to choose between my Everest professional ambitions and my personal life.

And Here I am. I can't even manage to schedule a fucking date. 

The irony of course is that I'm finally, actually trying. After purposefully not dating for 6 months (which turned into 7 because it got REALLY GOOD) I am finally being intentional and deliberate about how I spend my time and with whom I spend it. I'm being open. I'm putting myself out there. I'm fucking trying

What has it gotten me? 

A string of amazing dates 5 weeks before I picked up my whole life and moved it 800 miles away. One guy I stopped talking to because it was clear he was going to be trash in bed. And this, needing to schedule dinner 6 weeks in advance just so we'll both, you know, be there.

We find a random Saturday at the end of February that works for us. He'll make the plans. And because I am trying, I will try not to become so consumed with my work that I don't match his effort to away connected in the meantime or become uninterested. 

But the truth is, I don't think I'm at a place where I want to prioritize my love life over my professional one. Here, landing my dream job and standing on the precipice of everything great I've ever fucking wanted, I don't know that I'm prepared to take any energy away from that pursuit. I'm already so far behind.

"I look forward to it," I tell him with my most endearing La smile, and while that's true, everything in my body is telling me we'll never make it to date #2.

Because sometimes no matter how hard you try, the game is the game.

I'm driving home later, winding through the city, back over the bridge, and thinking about Here. Here is where I've always wanted to be. And lord knows I've worked so hard and suffered so much just to get here. And so much of this next chapter of my life is blank pages; I never knew to write this far because I don't know that I ever actually believed I'd make it. This is the only part of my life I've ever thrown myself into without a plan. 

And it feels like Here is a choice; I can be all in or all out, but I can't straddle the fence of something truly big and amazing and more than I ever imagined and wondering if I should have settled for easy, quieter, more secure.

I'm all in, I decide somewhere halfway over the bridge. I'm all in for me, for this job I've been circling and working towards for ten years, for being twice as good to get half as far.

 I've made my choice. I just have no idea what that looks like.
But maybe that's the whole point. 

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 a salty wave 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 Platis Gialos 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.