Thursday, December 23, 2010

I'm not the Enemy

This post sponsored by this song and the letter L for LadyLee, without whom you would go a month without a post. lol

I don't know you; don't know those melancholy eyes I see
Do you even know me? Your scent is familiar…

I have a complicated relationship with returning home.

In the hours before my inevitably high-heeled feet step off the inbound plane, I am wrapped up in the giddiness of it all, the frenetic pace of the to-do list, the anticipation of seeing my friends and family and friends that are like family. But as soon as the “fasten seat belt” sign goes off on the other side of take off, I feel anxiety and a twinge of dread. I find myself strolling without purpose to the baggage claim, all the while checking the signs on the gates I pass to see if maybe I can just jump a plane back to my own life.

I could say it is because Atlanta is a city I barely recognize anymore though I was born of it and likely, just as with any parent, still a baby in its eyes. It is almost lost some of it's familiarity with each hole-in-the-wall eatery I loved replaced by some gleaming, shiny place with velvet ropes catering to those who consider themselves “elite”. (vomit, gag.) I could venture to guess that maybe it is the frustration that comes from recognizing that they have built another goddamn high rise condo right in the middle of a street that used to be my favorite back road. But really, it is that feeling I get below that frustration; the realization that I no longer know my way around my home, that maybe it is no longer for me.

Really though, it is the detachment I feel from the person I was living the life I was living there. I am no longer 17 and convinced that the boy I have dated since I was 12 is the man I am going to spend the rest of my life with. (vomit, gag.) I am not girl who must doggedly pursue good grades and elite social status and participation in every club outside the Asian Student’s Union and Men of Distinction on the off chance that every membership will get. Me. The. Fuck. Out. Of. Here. I am not the disenchanted kid forcibly sitting in church pews six days a week, internally screaming back at the messages shouted at me from the pulpit, that I know in my tiny heart are not true.

It has become my way, in the years proceding my flight from home, to pretend that person no longer really exists. Sure, I allude to my childhood in vague and sepia tones, keeping the colors to myself. But mostly, with the exceptions of a few artifacts of Then, as far as I am concerned, life started for me at Howard.

Certainly that is to say that life started over. But if I admit that, then that means admitting there was something that came before. And I prefer not to do that.

Your worries, your stress are both the root of your unhappiness; fueled by insecurities...

Sometimes I recognize that home is not the enemy; it has done me no actual harm other than the diminished ability to appropriately pronounce dog (said like “dawg” ‘cause that’s the way everyone is supposed to say it). Rather, it is the things I left there, dropping them curbside on my way out of town, that I have to trip over every time I (rarely) return. The relationships I didn’t mend or close. The issues I left handing in the closets of my old room, scattered across the floor like emotional debris. Those things continue to harm me. But I just can’t seem to convince myself it is worth shouldering, confronting. I hear the things the city whispers in my ear. The truths I just can’t seem to fathom, the lessons I should have learned back when I was young and flexible and easy to rebound.

We can't be happy until you’re happy with yourself
Come on talk to me baby; I’m not the enemy
You can't love nobody, unless you love yourself
Don't take it out on me baby; I'm not the enemy

No, instead I blame the buildings and the transplants that can’t drive. I blame the soul food spots shuttered and replaced with this season’s favorite fusion cuisine. I blame the ridiculously priced airline tickets who want to charge me internal organs and intimate bodily functions for a 2 hour flight. I blame the humidity and/or the cold, the noise and the pollution.

But really, Atlanta is just doing what I have been largely unable to do; tearing down the blighted monuments to misery, constructing something better, bigger, stronger, more beautiful in its place. My beloved city is evolving in ways that I have not been able to, because the way I have rewritten my story does not allow for a foundation from which to build.

So maybe in that way, I am the enemy.

Friday, December 17, 2010

This is a Story...

...about how I know I am now being punished for spending a previous life kicking kittens into lakes.

I went on a date. A real, live date. I was worried I would be a bit rusty after putting myself on a self- imposed hiatus through the rest of the year (it’s not hard if you keep a jump off), but I figured it was like riding a bike, except this isn’t as good of a workout and the slight bumps don’t feel nearly as good in your lady parts.

I met him in the sushi aisle at Whole Foods and was pretty much judging him for being a hipster douche who shops in the fancypants grocery store for smoked quail salad and other bougie shit 'til I realized, hey bitch, you’re in the Whole Foods too. (In my defense though, it’s where I buy some of my hair products.)

He was handsome, all the while managing to seem unaware of it. I put emphasis on seem ‘cause I can guaranfuckingty you there is no way a man this handsome, single, and childless has lived in Houston for any significant amount of time and has NOT been gassed up by the particular breed of thirsty female found here in the Texas desert. But he was charming and funny and he was wearing a Cowboys shirt (and sweatpants. A bitch LOVES a well hung man in sweatpants), so when he whipped out his Blackberry and asked me for my number, I obliged. And was delighted when he didn’t do that mildly stalkerish thing men have come to do where he calls my cell on the spot to see if I actually gave him the right number.

No seriously, guys. Don’t do that shit. It screams of insecurity. And it’s desperate. And creepy. And desperate. Take that fake number like a man, sir.

Anyway, he called, not texted the next day (score!) and we set up a date. He seemed intent on taking me to dinner at this Italian place he raved about, because I mentioned I hadn’t found any really good Italian here. But anyone who knows me knows that it is extremely rare to get me to commit to anything other than drinks on a first date because who wants to sit through a two hour dinner if I realize during appetizers that this isn’t going to work? I also politely turned down his suggestion to come pick me up. Nigga, I have friends who don’t know where my apartment is. There’s not a chance in hell you are getting my address off a couple phone convos and some BBMs.

Doing too much, table of one.

Come date night, I try hard to make myself presentable (somehow during my hiatus, all my cute date clothes disappeared), and meet him at the designated hotel bar for our date.

This bar in particular, all dim lighting, candles and live piano music, is a little more than necessary for a first date, a drinking first date at that, and smells desperately of eau de Trying to be Impressive, but I decide to give him the benefit of the doubt. Maybe he’s as out of practice as I am and didn’t think before having me meet him at what can best be described as the place you take your first serious girlfriend for Valentine’s day because you are 23, fresh out of college and don’t know any better. But whatever. I am a new me. A nice me. Not like this me.

He is there when I arrive, holding down a corner table. Five more points for him for not only being on time but beating me. He is just as handsome as he was when we met, if not more so, as now he has showered and put on cologne.

Zomg it’s Burberry. Swoon.

For an hour, we are all smiles and laughter, trying to outwit each other, generally hitting all the marks for first date impressiveness. After our great convo (and four dirty martinis for him) he leans over the table and levels his handsome face in front of my uncomfortable one.
“I have a confession to make.”

Oh, Jesus. Oh my minty, baby Jesus. He is fresh out of jail. He likes boys. His baby mama just had his kid today. He voted for John McCain. He’s going to call me exotic.
Jesus take the wheel.

“I have a bit of a…situation.”

Wait, what?
Nigga wtf is a “situation”?!

Struggling to keep calm because I refuse to be black girl who comes to the swanky downtown establishment and winds up on the news, I inquire about what exactly his “situation” is.

“Well, I have someone in my life. Kind of. We are taking a bit of a breather. Dating a bit and seeing what’s out there. And I wanted to be upfront with you and let you know. Because I am enjoying myself.”

Now what he doesn’t know, likely because he is too full of himself to give me this much credit, is that he has picked up no mere plain girl in front of the steamed dumplings. I speak fluent douche. As a matter of fact, I am writing a book on douche literature. It’s called You Aren’t as Great as you Think you are and your Dick Isn’t that Big. I will let you guys know when you can pick it up.

As I have been speaking douche for years, I recognize what he is really saying; “I have a girlfriend and I am still seeing other people but she isn’t.”

Some of my more gullible readers might think well maybe they really are on a break and taking time to figure out what they want. And I am guessing that he looked at me, standing there in my Howard sweats, glasses, messy curly bun and needing to avoid french fries and hit the gym and I assumed I would be one of those low self esteem girl that would take this admission as a call to action. It’s now a competition! I must PROVE to him why he wants to be with me, not his faux girl. Pick me! Choose me! Love me!

Naw, nigga.

And let me tell you how I can be so convinced, with barely a paragraph about it uttered from his lips; because NO MAN, NONE, NOT ONE, NOT A SINGLE SOLITARY MAN ON EARTH, MARS OR VENUS is ok with knowing a woman he is sleeping with/has slept with/will continue sleeping with in the future is sleeping with another man.


Especially one so self involved, so delusional that it’s not enough to keep a harem of chicks. Oh no; he must have them all compete for his affections to satisfy his ego.

It don’t work that way.

I ask him a few questions in the low, syrupy sweet voice I tend to use when I am setting someone up for failure. To his credit, he answers them all, with barely a blink or pause. His answers are perfection; they’ve been together since they were very young. Getting to a place where they want to decide if they want to make it forever or a fond memory. But both wanting to “see what else is out there” before deciding if they will only be with one person from age 15 to eternity.
It’s good. Too good. And I am not new here.

He is talking, all charming and sweet, and I softly interrupt his monologue to ask for his jacket. It’s gotten chilly. Does he mind? I am all doe eyes and hunched shoulders to the cold. And him, being the gentleman he has feigned to be for the evening, gets up and settles the jacket around my shoulders with a flourish.

And just like I thought he would do, he left his cell phone in the pocket.

Fucking rookie mistake.

It only takes another 15 minutes or so of waiting him out before he excuses himself from the table to go to the bathroom. His large frame is barely on the other side of a life sized vase before I have slipped the phone out of the pocket.

A tip for you all: if you have a touch screen phone, such as an i.fone, it is very easy to tell what your password is if you don’t keep your screen clean. The oil from your fingers will leave a trail that not only points out which numbers you’ve lingered on, but the direction in which you swiped, and therefore the order in which to unlock your phone. Other places on your phone will merely have fingerprints. It’s quite simple to hold the phone up to the light and see these marks.

You’re welcome.

In less than five seconds I am in his phone and, just as I suspected, his text messages are all from women in varying flirty tones. There is a Sasha who comes up repeatedly, the only one whose texts vary between the flirty and the mundane (“Can you pick up some salad on the way home?”). And just in case I couldn’t figure out that she is the main chick, he has conveniently put “wifey” next to her name in parenthesis. Apparently there is another Sasha in his phone who needs not be confused with wifey.

Their string of texts confirms that he has given her an alibi for the evening. And I know I have to act quickly because men don’t pee that long. I send her a text directly contradicting the last he sent;

“I’ll be there around 8. Miss you. Can’t wait to see you. If you wear that yellow thing I love, I promise to take it off.”

It should be mentioned here that there is an art to crafting the perfect Get This Nigga Caught text. It should be specific in a way that a woman can easily disprove (yellow is one of the least manufactured colors of lingerie; it’s highly unlikely she has yellow anything) and, just as a backup, should probably mention a something that he will fail to do (like show up at 8, as it is currently 7:45 and he probably isn’t planning on going anywhere anytime soon because he is not expected to be anywhere). For good measure, I put his phone on silent so he won’t hear or feel any of her confused and/or angry follow ups. I slip the phone back in the pocket and in just a moment more, he is back at the table.

For the next hour and a half, we laugh and talk, both of us fake but him because he fancies himself a player, and me because I hate his life. When we decide to depart, he walks me to my car. I hand him back his jacket as I climb into my truck.

“I really had fun tonight, La,” he says to me, leaning too close and smiling too hard.
“Me too,” I reply, “but probably for totally different reasons.” I’m smiling and I’ve dropped my voice all low to make him think that maybe I am referencing some sexy secret I have yet to let him in on. He kisses my hand.
“I’ll be calling you soon.”
“I bet you will.”

He stands at his car door while I start mine and put it in gear. I pull off just slow enough to watch his face change when he slips his phone out of his pocket and looks at the display.

Silly rabbit. Tricks are for ACTUAL pimps.

This was a waste of a perfectly good face of makeup. I slip my shoes off as I drive away and ponder what I’ve learned.

Don’t trust men who drink martinis.

And sure enough, just as he said he would, he starts calling me soon. And back to back. Like a psycho.

Dating moratorium back in place.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Love Letters and Library Books

I used to be a girl who wrote love letters.

Volumes and volumes of text, finding glory in every detail, capturing every stimulus of the senses. I was my life’s own historian, obsessively recording documentation of the beauty and brutality of it all.

I once wrote stunning love letters.

I wrote in searing detail of the rush of seemingly boundless freefall, of the lush colors sprung up from fertile ground coaxed forth with rainfalls of kisses down my spine. Every word served as tactile evidence that this thing, this “love” in fact exists.

And then I wrote of a different kind of falling just as endless, the bleak landscape of every heartbreak painted with tears and pain; of magicians’ beguiling a willing audience with smoke filled illusions.

Because we all want to believe, don’t we?

I still have them all, stored in the mental and physical libraries of my life. Sometimes, I even crack the dusty bindings of these volumes and read them.

It all reads like a police report to me now.

In every photo now hangs mental crime scene tape, Hi-liter © yellow marking off where some emotional violence took place. Every musing and dream, precise and detailed, each marveling at skin and muscle and bone and barely perceptible flaw are but bullet points, tiny pebbles paving the road towards inevitable conclusion. It is evidence. A victim's account of unforeseen violation at the hands of perpetrators they knew.

I don't write love letters anymore.

Now they are just words I read, detached from the feelings like I’m observing them in a museum. Every description seems almost scientific, one dimensional. They are hazy as though stared at from a distance on a hot day. Where once stood epic monuments to joy and love and promise are merely tombs encapsulating the life bound in the paragraphs.

I once was a girl who wrote love letters.

Now, I write this.