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.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Lucky

"Hey there. Mind if I sit next to you? I don't much get to sit next to pretty girls anymore."

I look up into the smiling, friendly face of an older man with twinkling gray eyes deeply wrinkled at the corners.

"Of course. If for no other reason that I am a sucker for compliments from handsome men."

I move my bags off the chair next to me so that he can sit. 
"Where ya headed?"
"Home. Just helped my best friend move across country."
"Oh, where'd she move?"
"Northwest Arkansas."
"Beautiful up there. I once went camping in the Ozarks."
"How was it? That sounds amazing."
"Incredibly stupid. I shoulda died out there half a dozen times. But I never woulda known that if I hadn't tried." He laughs a full, jovial laugh, that makes his eyes crinkle even more.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Moonlight Becomes You

I walk into the bar, paying special attention to the clickclickclick of my heels on the slick marble floor, because while these heels and this dress make me look and feel amazing, they will not have the same affect if they are sprawled out on the floor where I've slipped and fallen. 

I stop and look around, nervously fluffing my hair before I approach the bar and slide on a stool next to a handsome brother in a gray suit hunched over what looks like an old fashioned. He's absentmindedly making amber circles with the stirrer. 

"Are they any good?" I ask him and he jumps a little.
"What?"
"Old fashioned, right? Are they any good?"
"Oh, yeah. Um...pretty good. Yeah."
"That wasn't convincing at all."
"No, seriously. It's good," he says, his eyes sliding up my thighs until they meet my raised eyebrows. "I'll buy you one. That way if you hate it, you can blame it on me." He mentions to the bartender with his glass. "For the beautiful girl."

Once it's placed in front of me, I take a tentative sip.
"Well?"
"It's good. Not better than my favorite. But it's good."
"What's so special about your favorite?"
"Magic."

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Outside Your Door

It's 2am and there's no good reason for anyone to be knocking on my door. Granted, I'm not asleep but I should be, as usual. And I'm not expecting anyone.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Wake Up Alone

2007

I'm crying before my fingers can find the alarm clock in the darkness.

The tears are an every morning ritual, so I've at least gotten to the point that I can control them. I can't keep them from coming- there's too much to cry clean for that- but I've learned to cry them softly so that my deep, heaving sobs don't wake up the rest of the house or send me into the throes of a panic attack. 

I lay my head back on my pillow and cry, hot, sticky tears sliding back into my hair. I reach for my phone. Radio silence. The tears come harder, faster.

Never a word from his side of the world.

Monday, July 6, 2015

The L Word


"Hey."
"Hey."
We look at each other, awkward in a way that we usually aren't. We aren't sure who should go first.
"You called."
"I called."

Thursday, June 18, 2015

No Church in the Wild

I first found out I was black when I was about eight. To be fair, I knew that I was black before then, but I didn’t know that it meant anything. Certainly nothing bad.

But it was at eight when, upon meeting me, the parent of one of the friends I’d made at my very exclusive, very white private school looked at me in shock that someone their kid had grown fond of, with a name as plain and “acceptable” as mine, was also a little black girl with unruly ponytails and penny brown skin. I don’t know what happened after my friend was hustled into their waiting car, but I do remember we didn’t seem to play as much after that. 

There weren’t many invites for sleepovers or birthday parties. And there was the assertion- at that same school many years later- that I had to have cheated on a science test because “you people usually aren’t this good at science.” There was the time I wrote a paper so good that my teacher was sure I plagiarized it because she couldn’t believe that I was smart enough to write it. It wasn’t until a black teacher’s aide I’d had the year before came to my defense that the ‘A’ I’d earned was allowed to stand. All these years later, I still remember the stinging humiliation of it. It would be years before I ever wrote another thing for pleasure.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Roots

I am often consumed by the desire to lay waste to my life and start it over again. I don't mean some overly dramatic Eat, Pray, Love kinda reset. I don't see me setting fire to my world just to watch the flames. But sometimes in the morning, when I turn the key in the lock on my door, I imagine that this might be the last time I do it. That I could, if I really wanted to, leave this apartment full of things in this city that I love and simply walk into a new life.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Hunger

It feels like there's an invisible cord linking us. Each minute that slides by cranks the tension a bit tighter, pulling me toward him or him toward me, or both. I can't tell which anymore. But the distance between us, the minutes he spends not touching me feel like agony. 

I'm talking myself down off this ledge, calmly and levelheadedly telling me not to jump. But my body isn't listening. It too is winding tighter at every clock rotation. My breath has quickened and grown shallow, but my pulse has slowed down, leaving me disoriented and foggy. I can feel every single fine hair raise to attention on my arms, up the back of my neck, the goosebumps like Braille across my skin that only he can decipher.

I'm coaching myself, and I'm succeeding, but I'm weakening. Just breathe, I tell me. Keep talking. Keep your hands busy. Don't let go.