Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Novella In A Week: The Plan

We’re going to write a novella.

That’s right, I said we.

I know you’ve been telling everyone that you’ve got a book in you, for years. How many times have you told an amazing tale around friends and their eyes flew open in amazement? How many stories have you made up for your children, when they didn’t want to read any of the books on their shelves? How many almost manuscripts and phone notes do you have that could’ve been, and still could be, damn good books?

We’re finally going to do something about that because I’ve been there.

I’ve been to writing workshops like VONA and Callaloo. I’ve sat down with prominent authors who’ve explained the process with me and urged me to scribe without reservation. I’ve been given all the necessary tools to pen a masterpiece.

I sat in a dressing room, with a world-renowned patois-speaking poet, right before my HBO Def Poetry performance and she told me that Walter Mosley said to write two pages of writing a day. Every day. She also said not to let this “sh*t get to my head.” I was told by a Pulitzer Prize winner that I should aim to scribe at the crack of dawn when my mind its most clear.

& still…I couldn’t get it done.

These were all significant pieces of advice, but the most pertinent advice was via a young adult author that I did the poetry scene with as a youngster.

I asked, “How do you defeat writer’s block? Are you one of those “it doesn’t exist” writers?”

He laughed, “I am one of those writers. I don’t mind writing terrible sh*t. Just write badly. Awful is the only way through.”

I tell my students, every day, “The only way to become a better writer is to write.”

I have only recently started to utilize this advice. In the last six months, I’ve written some horrible stuff. However, I’ve also managed to write three novellas, while working on a novel at the same time.

Clearly, there’s an entire editing process and sometimes a complete overhaul that needs to happen afterward. However, you have to write the book.

This is the first step: WRITE THE DAMN BOOK.

We’re going to start small.

A novella is 17,500-40,000 words.
You might need less than that to tell your story—a novelette perhaps.
You might need more—a novel.

But for this week, coming up, I’m going to need you to at least get through a novella. Starting Monday, February 15th, we’re going to be well on our way to hitting the small end of the novella word count: 17, 500 words.

That’s 2,500 words a day.
That’s about two to three hours a day.

But it’s only going to work if you promise to write badly. Yes, I want you to write badly. You need to get the framework out. You need to lay the foundation. There’s more than enough time to mold the work into the perfection that it’ll be later on, but for this next week…you’re going to write with no holds barred, straight from the heart, and into the keyboard (or typewriter/notepad, if that’s your thing).

Every day, starting today, I’ll meet you here with an assignment. You’re going to spend your first three days outlining and planning.

Everyone has his or her way of beginning a book. Tayari Jones says she just lets the book pour out. However, some greats know exactly how the book is going to end before it begins. J.K. Rowling created an entire dictionary of wizarding terms before she wrote Harry Potter.

You can utilize whatever you’re comfortable with, during your next project. But since we’re doing a #novellainaweek, you’re going to need to plan.

You’ll need a few things:

·      Post-its
·      A notebook, just for this project
·      A wall in your house that you’re not afraid to plaster paper all over
·      Thumbtacks and/or tape
·      String

You can also do this digitally:

·      Microsoft Word’s Review Feature
·      Microsoft Word’s Notebook Layout
·      Scrivener

     I painted a chalkboard wall in my room so that I could get crazy with the planning process. I want you to do the same thing. Get messy, get crazy. Get all the plotting points, below, out in a place that will haunt you. You need to wake up to those chapters plastered somewhere in your home, every day. 

The first thing I’ll need you to do is to tell me, in four sentences or less, what your novella is about.


Example:

“Ella is a Brooklyn girl, in love with art and the undiscovered. Evan is a high society Harlemite, with a complicated family: Both convinced that they are from two different worlds. They couldn't be more wrong. "Boroughs Apart" is a story of love defying societal norms and history's habit of repeating itself.”

Now, you’ll need to give me three paragraphs that tell me about the beginning, middle, and end of your story. You’ll need five to seven sentences per paragraph. Each line, of each paragraph, is a pivotal moment that moves the story forward.

Example of a Beginning Paragraph:

“Evan works a nine to five in the corporate word, daydreaming about a non-profit that could preserve his beloved Harlem’s history. Ella is a rising art curator, obsessed with the Harlem Renaissance and its remnants. Ella and Evan bump into one another; one headed home and the other headed to work. Ella hurriedly rushes off to acquire the art pieces she’s sent to garner while Evan goes home to a wealthy family that doesn’t seem to understand him. Both characters are surprised when Ella comes to his house, as a final stop, to retrieve a piece for her gallery.”

Now, you’ll need to know your characters. You’ll need to know them well. Choose two of your protagonists (or antagonists) and spend the next weekend in their shoes. Write short journal entries, that “they’ve written.” Figure out their motivations, goals, conflicts, and resolutions.

Let’s imagine that every 2,500 words of your novel equate to a chapter. That means you’ll have seven chapters, in this novella.

(Note: There’s no allotted page or word count for chapters. It's truly up to the author. You’ll feel it, based on the plots ups and downs.)

Use your beginning, middle, and end descriptions to flesh out outlines for your chapters. You should end your weekend with a one-page summary of your novel, by chapter.

These tasks should be done over the next four days. We’ll meet back here on Sunday, for your Monday task. It’ll be our first day of getting to that first 2,500, and it won’t be easy.

You can do this.
Go forth.
Write badly.
Write amazingly.
Write like hell.
Just make sure you…write.

____________________________________

If you're doing the challenge with us, be sure to use the hashtag: #novellainaweek. We'll be giving out tips and tricks on all social media platforms. Follow us on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. 







Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Guest Fiction Series: Vinnie, Part 8




For a few months, Rivaflowz.com will be taking four guest authors #fromblogtobook. Each week you'll be able to read a new installment from unique aspiring authors. This tale is from R. Preston Clark. Enjoy!


_______________________________
                                                                    (Read all parts here.)

It smells like brimstone. Hell swims in my nostrils, explodes onto my tongue, and spits out venom. I do not want to stain the pews of this church. It would be unbecoming.

I stand here, with Walter behind me, in the middle aisle of a church I have not entered in five years. It stopped being a place of frequent visits when my mother realized her husband was not going to love her as Christ loved the church. He loved her as Christ loved his cross – you hang in there out of love and destiny, but you will die here.

My mother did not die here. She died somewhere else. And yet, days later, we must revisit her death as this fresh occurrence. Something to sink our grieving hearts into. And by all of us, I mean me. My grief is the only one that matters. Unless these others are willing to reach my level – the level of a son losing his best friend, confidant, security and place of rest – then no, you may not claim grief. Not now. Not in my vicinity.

Walter stands by my side now. I do not know when he arrived there, but he is there, like he always is. Funny how someone with seemingly no redeeming qualities can be such an outlet at a time when I am burying my mind’s focal point.

“Dude, this sucks.”
“Yes, that it does.”

“I’m sorry, man.”

“Just something else we have in common now.”

“I didn’t want that.”
“And yet…”

Time refuses to sit still…

The sanctuary is three-quarters full. Friends. Co-workers. Family members. Strangers. Each with their own reason for being here at this time. I just wish they would stop consoling me. Words can do nothing at this time. None of these others were there on my level while my mother was alive so how can they join me in grief? They could not join me in love so how can they join me in grief?

My eyes water. I hate this emotion. I hate that I cannot control it. It is the only way my body knows how to express itself. I wish there were another way. But there is not. I will spend the rest of my life trying to find another way.
I do not hear any of the words rendered during the service. I am sure they are nice. I sit here between my father, and his politically correct grief, and my friend, Walter, whose attire is just as renegade as my own.

The naked eye would deem my attire angelic. This beautiful black boy draped in light. But how these others look at me is what this color, this light, this white, deserves. Stared at in disgust, stared at with disdain, lost in this flood of black and grey. This light seems out of place in this darkness.
My skin crawls. The fake in the air stifles. I find myself watching as these others find it in their hearts to mourn. Their backstories each scream of negligence; showing their faces here now is just a means of clearing a conscience.
Oh, it’s my turn…

I find myself being called to the microphone. The expectation is for me to say something about my mother. Seems like a simple enough task.

I step to the microphone and turn to the crowd. Draped in my socially incorrect garb, it is difficult to ascertain exactly why the others stare. Nevertheless, they all expect words to leave my mouth. For them to receive some level of understanding, of the one relationship my mother had that no one else could quite understand. This bond was something unseen before.

But even as paragraph length stacks of sentences with Baldwin-isms flanking every precisely put together turn of phrase crafted with a seamless literary quality barricade themselves behind one another expecting to be released into the awaiting ears of the others – I cannot speak.

There are no words. I am incapable of expressing myself in this moment. So I stare into the audience, pick out one by one those that intrigue my eyesight. All the while hi-jacking the attention of all of those in attendance.

I’m so sorry… that I’m not sorry…
Angst fills a row with a divorced man on one end and a divorced woman on the other. It is palpable, the angst. It is clear that the angst is between them specifically. The angst is theirs. They know the angst all too well. It chokes their breaths as they attempt to mourn, but they cannot decide whether they are mourning my mother, or mourning the death that birthed the angst. Too bad they cannot go back and do it again. Too bad they would not know that they should try again anyway.

My mother tried to help them…
He has beaten her. Over and over. She stays still. Over and over. She refuses to move from beneath his iron fist to shelter. He uses her face as a launching pad for his insecurities. He marks his territory with black and blue bruises encapsulating the loathing of his mother, in her lack of a father. She never knew what the love of a man entailed. So she suffers a sick retribution for mistakes she never made.

My mother consoled her…
Muscular arms across his chest. He needs no seat. Just the vestibule. His jawline screams of past battles, both with himself and his demons. But he has won now. He has taken his innumerable mistakes in his youth and transformed them into a ministry, guiding young men of today away from the drugs, sex and violence that consumed his once frail psyche. I welcome his presence here, despite being unaware of his why.

My mother respected him…

An elderly woman sits solemnly, Baptist church-goer hat adorns her petite head. Her eyes, fixated on me. That matters not. All that matters is that she has been here before, too many times, yet this, is still, her first time.

My mother honored her…

A civil rights activist who brought me non-fiction upon non-fiction books to add to my colossal collection of literature. She saw something in me. She saw herself. I welcome her presence here.

My mother adored her…

A young girl, innocence drips from her eyes as everything that reaches them is new. She stares at her mother, engulfs the image of her scowl, her inability to feel, and packs it, only to be used later when her attitude blossoms and she needs a reference point for her immediate demolition of souls. She had to get it from somewhere. That somewhere is here.

My mother prayed for her…

I burst from my post at the microphone and back into the pew. The crowd incapable of gathering the proper response to such awkward emotion. I am an emotional embarrassment of riches as I struggle to find my place among the two men in my life.

Tears dart down my cheeks. My father to my right. My Walter to my left.

I rest to the left…

My father, rigid. He sees nothing. Blind to emotional dexterity. His natural inclinations muffle the silent cries of parental instinct. He does not recognize his child in need. He will, though. One day… if it’s the last thing I do…

Baldwin…

I stand at this, at this microphone. Make eye contact with a hoard of strange spectators gathered for sport. My stomach gurgles, pushes through my esophagus, creates a bile word vomit to land on the laps of those who dare to watch me speak. I do not apologize for such things. The taste, one of decadent souls and rotten relationships.

I speak.

“’No one can possibly know what is about to happen: it is happening, each time, for the first time, for the only time’… James Baldwin.”

The crowd hushed.

“’Love does not begin and end the way we seem to think it does. Love is a battle, love is a war; love is a growing up’… James Baldwin.”

Does no one understand this grief of mine?

“’Love takes off masks that we fear we cannot live without and know we cannot live within… James Baldwin.’”
Their eyes feel so violent against my skin.
“’It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, or who had ever been alive… James Baldwin.’”
Tears in my eyes. So necessary. As is my anger. My voice betrays me, crackles in the pool of pain in my throat.

“’To be a Negro in this country and to be relatively conscious is to be in a rage almost all the time… James Baldwin.’”

Each time I say Baldwin’s name, more and more of me is released into the air. I am relegated to a sounding board, a young man whose voice is no longer his own.

“’You know, it’s not the world that was my oppressor, because what the world does to you, if the world does it to you long enough and effectively enough, you begin to do it to yourself… James Baldwin!’”

They are scared now. They should be. They do not know how to handle my emotion. So they sit still. Soak in my breakdown with a sponge-like quality.

“’Children have never been very good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them!’ James Baldwin!”

Screeching. Shrieking. Howling. Face flushed.

My mother is dead…

My father stands up. Fixes his suit jacket. Turns to his minions first. Half smiles. Walks in my direction. He matters not.

“’The world is before you and you need not take it or leave it as it was when you came in!’ James Baldwin!”

My father attempts to grab me, wraps his arms around my waist. This is the closest thing to a hug he has ever given me…

I fight him at every step, my voice incapable of being muzzled. I feel like Samson when he got his strength back that one final time. No one could stop him. No one will stop me.

“’The most dangerous creation of any society is the man who has nothing to lose!’ James Baldwin! ‘The future is like heaven, everyone exalts it, but no one wants to go there now!’ James Baldwin!”

Within our struggle, my father finds my ear and coarsely whispers into it.

“You have effectively ruined your mother’s burial service. You have effectively ruined everything. You are effective. You are defective.”

“’People who treat other people as less than human must not be surprised when the bread they have cast on the waters comes floating back to them, poisoned!’ James Baldwin!”

Defective… defective… defective…


______________________________

R. Preston Clark is an educator, screenwriter, poet and open mic host with too much to say in too many ways.

There Are Levels to The F-Boy




My friends and I spend Sunday night, spooned into my new sofa deciding on what movie to watch. We all decide that "Trainwreck" is the right decision, considering the title correlates with most of our love lives, at this moment. 

One friend has a flashback, "Girl, my favorite movie is "Waiting to Exhale." 

We all burst into anecdotes that correlate with the McMillan novel. Some of us are old enough to nod the book, the others just the movie reruns. 

I search iTunes' catalog as they discuss how it never gets old. They have it. Everyone screams when I decide to rent it, instead of our first choice. 

We watch in silence.
We pause it to tell stories. 
We cry. 

We laugh. 

We are all amazed at how much a movie from over two decades ago still resonates.
We are all still waiting to exhale. 

But we all agree that exhaling is even harder these days, living amongst a generation that correlates vulnerability with weakness. 

A bouquet of roses, sitting atop my dining table is the elephant in the room. Upon entrance to our impromptu anti-SuperBowl, slumber party, everyone had inquiries. I answered, on the cusp of he's-aight and I'm-not-sure-what-he-is-yet,"They're from a new guy. He's inconsistent. I don't know what they mean, yet."

My friends exclaim their distrust and opposition:

"They always come back when they see the grass isn't greener on the other side."
"He wants some."
"Perhaps he's trying to renew his sentiment."
"Maybe his intentions have changed."

I'm writing from a place, post flower delivery, and sleepover conversation. I'm here to tell you that intentions evolve, with the flick of a wand or the bat of an eye in this digital age. 

See the nerd reference above? That was intentional, too. 
I want to believe I stand out. Screw it, I do. 
Although the world is now apt to merchandise the people and things I adored as a child/teen, even though these things are fads now...I am an originator. 

There is proof in my blood---my grandfather a Cuban jeweler and ladies' man. I am the child of a man who wooed his high school sweetheart with a frayed manila folder with poems and a woman that trekked through sleet and snow to save children. My mother took me to museums, and I ran my fingers on the cases displaying works that I reference in my writing. My predominate boy cousins and awesome dad took me to see superhero movies, bought my Sega Genesis/Nintendo, and didn't let me win at basketball, cultivating the tomboy inside of me. I watched my mother throw seafood into pans and turn pineapples upside down, creating restaurant style entrees in our home.


These items show up in my work, in the tales I tell at dinner tables, and in the way I carry myself.

I stand out, not because I've decided to adapt what is currently cool, but because I was brought up in that way. 

This is the beginning of the compliment sandwich that flower-giving boy (not man) sends my way before he texts the inevitable. 

"You 're incredible, inspiring, and so different, but you're just not for me."

I throw my phone into the sofa, bereft of my gals because it's the day after our gathering, and I've just endured a twelve-hour day with my students.

I'm clearly not in the mood for this. 

I respond, "Cool."

"I need to feel a different connection. I just don't. You're not my type."

He could've stayed silent. He had that option too. Honesty is incredible, but we're in a--hole territory now. 

"Okay."

"It's been cool, though. I hope you find a good guy. You deserve one." 

The flowers are still on the table. They're mimicking me. 

How do we go from petals exclaiming that you miss me to no interest at all?

In 48 hours. 

I want to ask this, but I don't.

I don't want to give him the benefit of my sadness. 
I find myself suppressing my responses a lot lately:

A teacher, from South Carolina, with a great smile and charm appears in my text messages after six months of ghosting. He sends a salutation with an attachment of his resume. He wants me to look it over because I'm good at this "type of stuff." He's trying to leave education for tech, and he knows I have "experience with these things." The items in quotations parallel the vagueness of his resume. I could help. I am good at this stuff, and I have experience with these things. I choose not to. 

Because how?
How?

How do you disappear for a half of a year in the middle of courting and expect a woman to help you land your next gig?

An ex-boyfriend, who cheated on me, reaches out to a close friend of mine for a photo shoot. He uses me, as a selling point to negotiate price. My friend quotes my ex, "You and I have Erica in common. You can cut me a deal." 

When my friend refuses him, he calls to complain about how much of a jerk he is. I sit silently and listen and then pretend my phone dies. I never call back. 

I see an ex-lover in a grocery store with his new girl. This is the woman he left me for. He doesn't think I know. He thinks I don't do my research. I'm quiet; that's all. He yelps and calls her over from the frozen food section, "Anna! This is my friend Erica! The writer!" 

Anna freaks and pulls my book from her bag. She was at my release; I recognize her face, "Can you sign this for me? I had to leave your event early, and I didn't get the chance to ask you."

I'm confounded. I sign her book and give her man the death stare. His eyes are pleading with me not to say anything. He's just picking up on how annoyed I am. 

& I am convinced that I've seen all the levels. 
I am sure that nothing can compete with the audacities I've seen crawl from men's throats. 

But I am wrong. 

The flowers are haunting me. They're drying up on my table. I want to throw them in the garbage, but they're my favorite color. I can't bring myself to do it. 

I have to ask, "Why would you send me flowers if I'm not your type?" 

He's quiet for a while. I am no longer sad. I've passed that stage; I'm angry and annoyed. He finally answers, "A parting gift?"

I've seen it all. 

I sulk for a second. 
I wallow in it before bed. 
I wake up in the morning to a text from my boy.
I must've texted him the story before I fell asleep. 

"Maybe you're just picking the wrong guys."

I get dressed for work while thinking about this. 

I've dated all sorts of men. I've gone into the situations with an open heart and an open mind. It's hard to decipher. Everyone presents their best self until their other self arrives. 

"No. I can't tell who's who. I'm not going to let that fact stop me."

My boy texts back a smiling emoji. 

I summon the emotions that I had the night before. They do not come. They have diminished. 

I've decided to keep dating, despite the numerous levels to the F-boy. I've placed the roses in water. They're blooming a bit more, each day. 

Kind of like me. 



Monday, January 25, 2016

Fiction Series: Free Verse: Part 10











To read all parts of this series, go HERE.

I could still feel the imprint of Damali’s kisses on my lips. I ran my fingers along them, closing my eyes momentarily, trying to bring back the moment. I sat in the park, with a journal and pen in hand.
      I tried to scribe about the onlookers; I wanted to write bits of Brooklyn into my work. I needed to apologize to my city for leaving it behind, by writing its beauty into immortality. As adamant as I was, about this, I couldn’t help but write about Damali.

brown
Brooklyn
Boy
What makes you so fly
You crawl under my skin, like
Summer sweat
And street lights
Got words that belong
In composition notebooks,
You hum my metropolis,
My world, so sweetly,
With your words
They should plaster the pages
On the brownstones,
So onlookers could remember we were here
            The park was filled with those without a care in the world: nannies, children, those with night jobs, those with trust funds and possibility. I’d taken the C-train and walked over to Ft. Greene Park, just to get out of my neighborhood. Hopefully, the change of scenery would inspire my pen.
            Two small boys, arms hanging from a jungle gym, in the distance laughed. Their sounds carried over into the area with benches and latched on to my memories.
            I often wondered what my son’s laugh was like. I pondered if he was pushed on a swing while his voice filled a park just like this one. I couldn’t help but imagine the wrong palms, pushing him higher and higher, palms that had no correlation with his own, palms that could never mimic his lifelines. When did he learn to swing on his own? How did his independence show up on his face? Were his eyes, like mine? Did he tell his "mother" or "father"…let go…when his feet became accustomed to bike pedals? Did he have a backyard? Did the grass end up in his hair? Did he run barefoot, wild, and free?
            I hoped that he was somewhere warm and loving. I prayed that he broke bread with a family that urged the smile from his lips, pushed his swing, held on to his tricycle and let go when he asked.

            I couldn’t help but think of the ocean when I thought of Kal-El. Even with all this concrete, brick, and stone around me. I listened closely to the rush of a nearby, broken fire hydrant. It mimicked the rush of the ocean, outside, as I was told to push, to let go. I held him briefly, as I watched his eyes flicker. He wanted to look at me. I couldn't stop looking at him. Before he could wail, before he could cry out for his mother, they pulled him from my arms. 
brown boy
who belongs to me
who belongs home
I hope you know beaded curtain,
Box spring,
Beat box,
Brooklyn,
I hope you know where you're from
My anxiety started to build. It’d been a while since I had an attack. They started in college, after my parent’s death, and I’d learned to control them with therapy. A feeling of panic rose from my stomach to my chest and my heart thumped like it needed a door to open. I closed my eyes and silently prayed it wouldn’t show. I could bring myself back to reality, be reaffirming my surroundings. I grabbed the rails of the bench, ran my fingers along my jacket, and pulled my nails across the cover of my journal.
I was here in the park.
I was here, writing my truth.
I was in the middle of Fort Greene, watching remnants of my childhood and newcomers interact.
I was only steps away, from where shattered pieces of my upbringing lay.
The anxiety started to rise again. My tactics were not working. I lifted myself from the bench and began to walk towards the exit, hoping no one could see my breath escaping rapidly.
“Jai, is everything alright?”
The voice resounded, behind me. It was deep and filled with concern. It traced my earlobe, calming me at once.
Malaki walked towards me, on the pathway out of the park. I couldn’t tell if my anxiety subsided due to his presence or if my fear of him seeing me unraveled prevailed. He was a walking dream. The type of man I imagined my mother slipping into her prayers and palms. He was secure, genuine, intelligent, and courteous. He wanted to know how he could help, in what ways he could make me better. He probably assumed that I was better, that I was his equivalent. He was wrong. I was the opposite, a multitude of sad stories and muddled anxieties. What did he see, in me?
“Is everything okay?”
I furrowed my brow, hoping I could convince him of usual stress. He could see right through me.
“Talk to me. I’ve been worried about you.”
I imagined him watching me from afar, seeing my sudden departure from the park, following me while I tried to find air,  “I’m okay. I’m just working through some things.”
“I usually come here to get work done. It’s a change of scenery. I noticed…”
“I was just leaving to go home and get some writing done.”
“Can I make you a cup of coffee? You can get some work done, in my office. I live right across the street, you can see the park from the window.”
Malaki was intuitive. He’d been checking in on me at work, bringing me coffee on my most tiring days, smiling when I needed reaffirming that I was doing okay. Could he see my sorrow, from where he stood?
I thought of the night before. I envisioned Damali’s arms around my neck and his thumb in the small of my back. His touch was a ghost, standing between my diminishing affection of Malaki. Malaki stepped forward and held my hand, I’d waited too long to respond, “It’s okay, we can talk when we get inside.”
I was standing in Malaki’s living room. It was standard bachelor pad d├ęcor: leather sofa, flat screen, and white walls. He had huge bay windows, installed in the front of his condo that I was sure used to be the site of a brownstone.
“When did you say this was built, again?”
“2012. I bought it and I rent a room downstairs to a friend of mine. It was a steal. It was first company bonus and I needed to make sure I invested in something other than New York City rent.”
            It bothered me that I couldn’t remember what used to be here. My old neighborhood was becoming a figment of my imagination. I watched the same kids I’d been watching earlier, run around the playground. I could no longer hear their laughter; it was replaced by the sound of Malaki’s coffeemaker and the sound of spoons against porcelain.
            “Sugar?”
            I nodded my head. I refused milk and stated that I liked my coffee black. Malaki smirked and raised an eyebrow, as if to infer something.
            Everything spilled.
            We talked until the wee hours of the morning.
            Malaki was easy to talk to. He was a true listener, interjecting only to prove that he was still listening. I told him about growing up here, my eroded relationship with my father, my parent’s sudden death, and the box that sat in the middle of my studio apartment. He stopped me, only to make more coffee and then he’d tell me to go on.
            My notions were on display and he stopped to admire each and every one.
            How did that make you feel?
            Do you still think about it?
            What’s next?
          We talked about almost everything. The one thing I'd failed to mention was Kal-El: the bud that flowered in my womb and was plucked before it blossomed. Malaki excused himself to go to the bathroom. I stood up, from the sofa I was sitting on, and stared out of the window into the now dark grounds of the park. Pitch: like my apartment with Damali beside me, bereft of light after our bodies found their way to one another. Amongst the inky shadows and the occasional sound of a passing car, I told him of my long lost love: a child too new to understand his meaning. Damali, too, listened and kissed my forehead. He sunk into my confession and sighed heavily, "You're stronger than you give yourself credit for." 
           Malaki came back from the bathroom and mumbled something about covers and a guest room. I turned to him, trying to figure out why I could not give him the same words I gave to Damali. 
               "I think I should leave. It's been good talking to you. Thanks, for everything."
               I left Malaki's home, refusing his offer to walk me to the train, waiting for the sable sky to swallow me whole, for my anxiety to rise.
Nothing. 
Nothing came.