Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Guest Fiction Series: Vinnie, Part 9

For a few months, 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 must pain him to sit back here without the distraction of driving. Without the immediate excuse of needing to watch the road that prevents him from making eye contact with his single fatherhood. Our limo driver took that away from him. Rid him of his ever-so-useful excuse. Now he must make eye contact with the one thing he has never attempted to understand.
I stare at his face. The muscular ridges of his jawline. His cautiously furrowed brow. His flared nostrils. His stern chin. All attributes he held back from me. He could not imagine giving me something that was so integral to what made him, him. What gave him the ability to walk into any room and garner the respect of all those that entered, all those that stayed. His expressions were that of a man who beat pain into submission, hurdled obstacles with grace and dignity, who did not put his failures in the laps of others, rather he just refused to fail at all. Made it easier that way.

He is fighting an unnatural feeling now. That feeling of failure. He failed as a husband. A protector. A lover. He is failing as a father, though the latter is not a psychological locale he will rest in just yet. It is still up to me to invite him to his inevitability. Do not worry. I am working on it.

“Are we almost there?”

Nothing. I knew this would happen but I still felt the need to question him in some way, even if it was of the small talk ilk. At least he could never say I did not try. I try. I have tried.

“Do you know why they call it a repast? Seems like a word with a lot of meaning behind it. Traditional. Historical, even.”

He looks left. He looks right. He looks down. He looks around. He never looks at his son.

“I’m hungry."

That inhale-exhale was earth-shattering...

“Shut up. Just – shut your mouth. I do not want to hear you. I do not want to see you. I do not want to breathe you. I want to rid you of the half of you that is me so I can stop blaming myself for who you have become. For you are my fault – at least in part.”

He looks at me now, with a sacred disdain only used for a certain kind of hatred. Derived from a place of love. One cannot hate something as strongly as something they once loved. That thin line is through and through. I do not return his eye contact. I wanted it only a moment’s prior but it is now unnecessary. He said what he said. I heard every word, every enunciation, every syllable.

The limo slows to a stop.

“Your answer.”

He opens the door. Sunlight floods the interior, burns where he once sat. I sit there for a second, wait for the heat to evaporate my father’s scorn. The seconds become minutes as the palpability of such an emotion proves itself steady. It will not dissipate by simply being patient. It will not fold simply by my own sheer will. It will need to be destroyed, brought to its knees before ever considering an attempt at its rebirth.

But first, I must exit.

Sunlight bounces off my pearly white garb, blinds onlookers as their black skin and attire absorbs every ounce of heat it can. They starve for what already nourishes me.

I enter the facility that holds all the remaining funeral goers as they await to partake in the repast. In normal surroundings, I would question the necessity to eat food following the burial of a loved one, but funerals are selfish occasions anyway. They are for the living. The loved one is dead and gone. Sometimes for over a week of time. The grieving has begun well before we take the time to bury someone. Yet, we still gather together to celebrate a life. It is done only to be seen. We want others to know just how much we cared. How much devastation we are enduring. It is odd, in the least. It is scary, at the most. It is tradition, in the end.

Eyes find me. I have not forgotten what just transpired at the burial. I am aware of what I have done. Glares pierce my every step. I will not be alone again as long as we continue the celebration of my mother’s life. I will be a target. This I accept.

I take my place in line. A few elders motion me to the front of the line. Tradition states that the family of the deceased eat first. I listen to tradition. My plate reflects all that is black about this occasion. Chicken. Mashed potatoes and gravy. Ham. Green beans. Collard greens. Buttered roll. A plate of celebration. It was supposed to replace the sadness of the day with the small talk of the hour. Here, at the repast, I was supposed to engage my fellow mourners in conversation that either further mourned my mother, or completely forgot she died in the first place. Either way, I was supposed to slowly start putting a smile on my face. My mourning ends with this meal. That is the only reason I could come up with for me to be eating right now.

Oh, and tradition.

I take a seat one spot down from my father. This was an odd selection on my part but necessary. I stare at my plate. Everything looks delicious. If only I were hungry. Only thing I starve for is understanding. Why was I still here and mother was gone? Why was I left here to deal with my father on my own? Why was this food in my face like it was going to satisfy any level of my grief?

Anger builds in me at a steady pace. Confusion chokes my sanity. I cannot eat this. I move my food back and forth. It mixes together into a farm boy’s slop. Its aesthetic ruined.

“Anger builds in me at a steady pace. Confusion chokes my sanity. I cannot eat this. I move my food back and forth. It mixes together into a farm boy’s slop. Its aesthetic ruined."

Eyes never left me. More eyes join in. My father moves his food around as if he did not hear me. He heard me. He listened. Intently. And what he heard was worrisome. But I doubt he is worried about the proper thing.

I must not partake in this conclusion of my grief. I must not. My grief is not over. Your grief might be over. Their grief might be over. But my grief is not over. You cannot tell me to eat this.

“I must not partake in this conclusion of my grief. I must not. My grief is not over. Your grief might be over. Their grief might be over. But my grief is not over. You cannot tell me to eat this!”

I realize I am standing. I have been standing for some time now. My mind and mouth no longer singular entities.

My plate. In my hand. Launched at the wall. Its remnants splatter amongst the shock of my action. I was not shocked at my actions. Nor was I surprised at the rising stench of my father’s fury piercing my nostrils, his loathing soaked in his inability to pass me off to another person.

My mother is dead…

I am his problem now. This much is true.


R. Preston Clark is an educator, screenwriter, poet and open mic host with too much to say in too many ways. Find him on Instagram & Twitter

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Teeth Like Confetti: An Ode To Lemonade

What's black, white, and red all over? 


It's 2 am. The accents of our living room are black and white. He'd told me that I could take liberty with how I adorned the place. In fact, I was told to take liberty with most decisions about "our" life. This was a clear indicator that he did not intend to be a factor, he wasn't here to stay. 

But I was blind. 

I was in love...lust, like...something. 
I was too excited to be in a relationship.
Too ecstatic at the prospect of a prospect. 
Too infatuated with an idea, instead of a person. 

I was red all over. 

Black and white pillows propped by back, while I wrote my latest freelance article for an outlet that sent checks with the speed of a tortoise. We needed the money, however late it might've arrived. I was making up for two incomes, a lack of stamina, the dependency his mother wove deep into his spine. 

He lay on the sectional, next to me, fast asleep. He'd spent the day perusing the internet for potential positions in his field. Full stop.

I'd spent the day running curriculum, from building to building in Harlem, conversed about National Common Core Standards over martinis at the end of the day, wrote a brainstorm in my iPhone notes on the train ride home, and wrote our way into groceries and rent, until the wee hours of the morning. 

I'd come home at 11 pm, and he was still asleep. The garbage was still in the bin, the dishes weren't washed, the painting I asked to be hung sat on the floor. I had finished the tasks before I headed to my computer to write. 


I was finally writing. 

I was writing a dating series about past lovers and wrongdoers.
I was pushing a pen cap through the parts of my box braids, trying to conjure a story. 
I needed to make magic in this Wordpress template.

This was a difficult task because I was in a relationship. I wasn't single and roaming as the column implied. The stories were true, but they were happening in the past. I was building a time machine with my words. 

I wasn't lying. 

I wasn't a liar.
Someone was a liar, but it wasn't me. 

1 am. 

His phone rings. 

I ignore it. 

I keep writing. 

I was writing about this military boy named Carlo I'd met during my tenure at my HBCU. He paraded the campus with a bookbag and a smile like he attended with us and not the Naval base nearby. He had Jamaica tatted down the side of his abdomen and a slight patois accent. He reminded me of home but was the furthest thing from it. 

My boyfriend insisted that I take the writing job to tie up loose ends. I asked him if it bothered him that I was writing about other men, like Carlo. He said no, "You went on dates with them. That's it, for most. I think it's dope that you're getting paid to delve into your nostalgia."

I took the job.

I wrote until my fingers were numb and our fridge was full, and our love wasn't in danger because of financial instability. 

I keep writing.

Carlo's name was changed before he was introduced to the world. He saw me as a "friend," someone he'd prompt, like a shuck-and-jive in front of onlookers, "Yo, read a poem for my boys. She's like a famous poet and sh-t, listen y'all."

This made for good context. 
I wrote that, too. 

Full fledged.

I reread the document and made my edits. 

I ended it with something powerful, something that made it seem like the wound was closed.

His phone rung again. My ex slumbered.

1:45 am.

1:50 am.
1:55 am.
2:00 am.

He did not rise. He was a heavy sleeper. I shook him. Still, no answer. 

So I answered it, "Hello? Hello? Who is this?"

"Hello, is Terrence there? This is his girlfriend."

I had no desire to wear her skin, but I understood warsan shire's metaphor dripping from Beyonce's tongue. It was sour and sweetly familiar. I'd been there.

What did she have, that I didn't? 

"If it's what you truly want ... I can wear her skin over mine. Her hair over mine. Her hands as gloves. Her teeth as confetti."

"Time" was his reason. 
He wore it proud, like a crown of f-ckery pressing thorns into his common sense.

"You never have time. You're never home." 

& I tried to pinpoint when I'd started to go missing. 

I did this same thing when a drunken, mansplaining co-worker approached me , after learning I was no longer going to get married. 

"It takes two to cheat," he said, vodka and arrogance on his breath. 

I'd heard this before, and in some cases there was validity to it. There was sometimes a partner in the union who'd been screaming all along, one that tried to express that the relationship wasn't headed in the direction they thought it would be. 

When I tried to explain that lumps, covered in velour blankets, and Netflix could not speak, he asked me to think deeper. He told me that there was something I wasn't giving, causing my partner to cheat. 

& it was time. Straight from the horses mouth. 

He was right. 
I spent my time trying to be loyal. 
I carried our deficit on my back while pulling him to his feet and telling him continuously that he was love and light. 
I told him that it was feasible for him to illuminate his way back home. 
I pushed. 
I pulled. 
I loved him, without regret, without blame.
I made his hunt for his revolution easier. 
I told him I'd find the money, while he found his way. 

I was mistake. 
I was not letting him be a man. 
I was making lemonade.
I was making stone soup. 
I was trying to amalgamate all the good we had left, hoping it would find us together. 
I was black woman. 
I was one day hoping that he would love me, with more of a force than a pat on the back. 

& when he was dust to dust. 
A blur on the Long Island Railroad tracks, back home to his momma...
I wrote, again. 
I wrote, in the present. 
I wrote to heal. 
I wrote to feel full & whole. 

I made lemonade. 
I still make lemonade. 

Sometimes, with no lemons.
Sometimes, with my palm.
Sometimes, with rain water, tears, and the sweat under my bosom.
Sometimes, with my momma and lemon substitute. 

My mother always scurries, when my father announces his impending arrival. She throws magic on to the stove, she makes leftovers into new dishes, she turns cocktail shrimp into gourmet. Sugar and lemon concentrate, with not enough time to go to the store. I watch her, silently, from a stool in the kitchen. It's the same stool, that I paint from. She stands behind me and with each stroke she nods. It's my mother who purchased my first briefcase of pastels, hands covered in color and grime.

"It's a mess in here, but I love your new work."

She raised me to cater and create, all at once. She taught me that I was womb and warrior. 

"Grandmother, the alchemist, you spun gold out of this hard life, conjured beauty from the things left behind. Found healing where it did not live. Discovered the antidote in your own kit. Broke the curse with your own two hands. You passed these instructions down to your daughter who then passed it down to her daughter."

I have been immersed in think pieces: Some folks think that Beyonce's work is inspired by her marriage to Jay-Z, some think that she's speaking to all of us who've been hurt, others find her to be a vessel for indie and incredible artists to get to the mainstream, and some aren't here for her revolution at all. 

I'm here for the healing. 
I'm here for the acknowledgment.
I'm here for the anthem of my skin. 
I'm here because healing sometimes takes the form of narrative. 

I am living proof of this. I have friends that are also the poster-women of tribulation, lacing their articles with their hurt and hoping someone can rectify via their errors.

I'm here for any song, strum, speech, dance, heartbeat, scribe, that lifts us, that tells us it's okay to be wounded; that tells us it's okay to get angry about it.

Sometimes resonation is enough.
Sometimes it is a starting point.
Sometimes it sparks a movement.

I'm here for Lemonade because I've been there.
Magic making, without recipe.
Sour across my tongue.
Blood on the chopping board.
Citrus in the wound.
Scars and all.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Guest Fiction Series: On The Other Side, Part 10

For a few months, 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 Verina Wherry. Enjoy!

(Read all parts here.)

“Kamaria, what’s this about an all-expense paid trip to Los Angeles? Did you call them back?”

“I did. It seems legit. I’ll go by there tomorrow morning and see if everything checks out. I’ve never been to Los Angeles. I think it would be fun.”

“So you’re just going to leave the kids here alone so you can have fun?”

“They’ll be fine. Besides, they’ve wanted to spend more time with their friends. Being stuck in the house all of the time isn’t good for anyone.”

“Well, you don’t get out much. Maybe it will be good for you. The kids can spend the night with their friends while you’re gone so if I have to work late, they will be okay.”

“So I can go?”

“Of course babe. Maybe we need some time apart.”

“Wait, apart how?”

“Just a vacation, babe. We can clear our heads. We’ve been bumping heads a lot lately.”

I couldn’t believe my ears. Was he going to let me go without a fight? Was he serious?

“You’re right. Are you going to be okay without me? You haven’t cooked in years.”

“You know I love takeout. I’ll be fine. Just enjoy yourself. Did he say when you would be leaving?”

“No, he didn’t. I was under the impression that I could choose the dates, though.”

“That would be good. That would give the kids time to prepare before staying with their friends.”

“You’re right. I’ll find out tomorrow.”

I wanted to let Ahmad know that it worked. But I knew that it wasn’t a good idea to call him while Martin was in the house. So that conversation would just have to wait. Since Martin knew that I would be going to see about the tickets the next morning, I had an excuse to see Ahmad.

“Good morning beautiful.”

Ahmad was the first embrace that I felt the next morning in a nearby coffee shop.

“Good morning. I guess when you say you’ll handle something, you do just that huh?”

“ I’m a man of my word. I told you I would take care of you. I meant that Kamaria.”

“At least someone is trying to take care of me.”

“Hey, don’t do that.”

He grabbed my chin and placed a kiss upon my lips. I knew that he cared, but he was extra gentle lately, and I liked it. It had been a while since anyone had embraced me, without me expecting a blow to follow. But there he was, giving me all the attention that I hadn’t felt in years.

“Never underestimate the amount of love that you deserve. There’s that smile I haven’t seen in a while. I can’t stand to see you upset. Let me make you happy. Come to Chattanooga with me.”

“When? Martin is already okay with me taking a trip. Just tell me when.”

“What about tomorrow?”

“Woah, isn’t that a little too soon?”

“Not to me. My week is free. Come with me.”

“Okay. Let’s leave in two days. Give me time to prepare the kids.”

“That works.”

We ended the conversation, and I headed home. I was excited. I knew that things could often be too good to be true. I didn’t want to get my hopes up too soon. So I didn’t get too excited.  I would just go home and pack before Martin got there.

I had a few hours before anyone would be home. I needed to pack, and I used that time wisely. I picked clothing that wouldn’t look too suspicious if Martin were to go through my bag. The last thing I needed were red flags to go off in his mind. I refused to go away with bruises. If Martin wanted to keep me from meeting anyone new, he would give me a reason to stay inside. That was his way of handling things.

But not this time. I refuse to let him ruin my vacation. I need this more than anything right now. Ahmad knew it, Martin knew it, and Amari knew it. Maria was oblivious to the whole thing. I liked it that way. I didn’t need to ruin her innocence too. Amari already carried many of my burdens. I hated that. He has such a beautiful heart, but it often caused him a lot of pain. I can no longer count on my fingers how many times he has slept in bed with me because he was worried about me. He wanted to protect his mom. I couldn’t blame him. It seemed as though I needed protection. He shouldn’t be the one protecting me, though.

When Martin got home that night, I told him that I would be leaving in two days. I told him that the sooner, the better and that the kids would be fine. He agreed, however, hesitant.

“What’s wrong?”

“I feel like you’re leaving me.”

“I’ll be back before you even have the chance to miss me.”

“I miss you already.”

What’s making him so loving now? Getting him to give me a compliment is usually like pulling teeth. They say that you don’t miss your water until your well runs dry; maybe he’s getting thirsty. He realizes that I can go out on my own. I can travel without him. All I need is a little push. I need this vacation.

“I miss you too babe.”

We spent the rest of the night watching television, enjoying each other’s company. The kids spent the night with friends, so we had the house to ourselves. We talked, we laughed. It was nice. We fell asleep in each other’s arms.

As I fall asleep in his arms, I can’t help but think about the upcoming weekend. I know that if Ahmad is as serious as he seems, this weekend will be perfect. I can imagine falling asleep with him. He’s safe; He’s secure. This marriage is not. I’ll remain in the arms of the man that has chosen to love me in ways that I would never feel again, at least I hoped not. Maybe Ahmad would be everything I ever wished him to be. Maybe love wouldn’t hurt this time.


Verina Wherry is a writer, poet, and aspiring author who spends her free time listening to music, shopping for incense and watching Criminal Minds reruns.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

From My Journal: Almost 30

I'm aging.

This is usually said with disdain, with a complaint of a thrown back or the distance between your overpriced Brooklyn apartment and group brunch, where everyone will want to split the check based on their order.

I am aging.

I say this proudly, no longer afflicted by the notion that my younger comrades will find me boring, that I will have missed out on something, that twenty-somethings are doing something better than what I'm doing right now.

I can tell by the way my tongue curves to tell the braider that she's pulling too hard, that she better be careful with my edges. I can tell the way I've started to accept the differences between my mother's blueprint and who I'm becoming. I can tell by the way I laugh, when my grandmother calls to ask if I voted for Hillary and I tell her Bernie, and she hangs up the phone. I can tell by the men that line my inboxes, text messages, and doorstep. They've returned to claim the only real woman they've ever known and disinterest isn't enough for me to express my disgust. I can tell by the way I pull my eyelashes off in front of my man and he does not flinch. I can tell when my 5'11 body steps into heels, and I'm no longer anxious about my head grazing a low ceiling. I will own any room I'm in.

A revolution happened inside of me, on the eve of my 28th birthday, in November. I released "Of Micah and Men" in a beautiful lounge surrounded by family and friends. I went to dinner afterwards and at 11 pm my friends started to depart.

Ro had to head back to her fiance.
Blue had homework to do, her degree within grasp.
Bethany and her boyfriend went to meet up with another couple.

She grabbed my hand, outside of the restaurant, "Girl, do you want to come with us?"

I nodded no and told her I'd be fine.

My cousin rode back, with me, to the house in silence. On the way she called an ex that she hadn't seen in a while. He arrived to scoop her, shortly after we arrived.

I walked in, to the silence of my apartment, like I have on plenty of weekends. Something was different. I glanced at the clock. It was midnight, early for a birthday evening. I did not reach for my phone to complain to my momma; I didn't feel a sudden surge of sadness, that I should be doing more.

I grabbed a makeup wipe, removed the foundation from my face, and smiled all the way through. As I got ready for bed, I thought of all the things I wanted to be doing by next year at this time. I wanted to own my own educational program. I wanted to be in a foreign country, celebrating another year under the stars. I wanted it to be with a lover and confidant, someone I could depend on that knew me deeply. I was suddenly so excited about the prospect of settling down, the notion of calmness, that I wasn't sad about going to bed early.

It's April and I am looking forward to solace. I find immense joy in the laughter of my students, daydreams on my subway rides home from performances, solitude in crossing my legs with those of a man that I want forever.

This is a different kind of storm.

I am remembering a girl, in love with love, stanzas abundant.
I was angry and proud, a downpour on my pointer finger.
If you wronged me, you became a martyr for the f-boy, the double-faced friend, the lie that tells itself.

& I weathered every aspect quietly.

I held grudges, like Zeus does lightening.
I knew how to demolish hope, with the flick of a pen.
I stuffed my hurt into the leaflets of leatherbound journals.
I kept it hidden well, tucked for no one to see.

But now...

I bleed everywhere.
On this blog.
On a stage.
In the ear of a Morehouse man.
In my aspirations.
In the way that I strut down a Bedstuy block, with thunder thighs.

I am slowly reaching the age of negated f--ks. I am open and honest. I am demanding and empathetic, all at once.

This is a different kind of storm.

One of my students could not stand me, when I started teaching his cohort. I am a no-nonsense instructor. Even though I have several fun moments in my class, I am sure to let students know that I expect them to delve into their writing, instead of throwing pencils across the room and telling jokes when they should be listening. I had to correct him several times; a reoccuring conversation that did sit well with him. But he listened. He had no choice. Backed against a wall, his mother's phone number under my thumb, I explained that I expected more from him. It's been seven months, since we met. The other day his mother passes me in the hallway, I've never met her in person, her son says she's a businesswoman and always out of town.

"Ms. Buddington?"

I smile at her, wondering who she might be, "Yes, that's me. How can I help you?"

"I know you don't know me, but you know my son Eric. I'm here to grab his reports. He admires you so much, he wants to be a writer when he grows up, now. Thank you, for all that you do."

This is a different kind of storm.

I wait for the hum. I always do. It's the moment where a relationship turns to magic, when the honeymoon is in full swing. I am the first to know. My best friend's mother calls to tell me that she's engaged. Bethany is still taking pictures and swimming in the moment. She hasn't had time to deliver the news, personally. She met John in April, he asked for her hand in June, they're engaged in November.

She finally calls, "Sometimes it just happens that fast. I love him so much. We just...knew."

I remember being twenty-five and annoyed. I'd been living with a man who took advantage of my kindness for three years and we were supposed to be married on that third year. The month we'd planned to make if official, we'd been broken up for almost three months. He called to ask about a mutual friend's wedding, "Would you be weird about me bringing someone with me? I have a plus one."

"Would I mind you bringing a new woman, not the one you cheated on me with, to a wedding on the same month we should've been wed? Sure, not at all."

For an entire year, after that moment, weddings and engagements on my timeline would make me cringe. I was twenty-seven and convinced, silly me, that I'd never make it to this place.

I listen to Bethany breathe a sigh of relief on the other end of the phone and I don't cringe. I am happy for her. We are nearing the big three-o and she deserves this. She's been through so much. I send her my love. She puts John on the phone and I tell him congratulations, too.

He laughs, "I wanted to tell you, when we were there for the release, but I couldn't get a moment alone with you!"

I laugh too.

This is a different kind of storm.

He shows up out of nowhere. We kind of know one another, from a distance. We met at a Troy Davis panel years ago; both passionate about injustice, youth development, black boys/men.

It is only such dedication, such fire, that could bring us back together again.

I am baffled, when he stands firm in my presence. I am not sure if I know how to do this anymore. How does a relationship sound? What does it feel like, again? Does it glimmer, as the Thursday sun rouses him awake for work? Does it tell his momma about you? Does it say that you remind him of of an old teacher, one of the most influential folks in his life? Does it feel like a crack in your chest, when he leaves? Is it supposed to be this early? Is it this soon? Is it swallowing three words, because society tells you that if you utter them he might leave?

He frightens me and excites me, all at once.

He doesn't read my work, unless I prompt him to. He won't see this.

But he is a different kind of storm.
& so are my students.
& my friends.

We are all evolving.
I am almost thirty and I am turning into someone I recognize.
I have been trying to be her, all along.


Thursday, April 21, 2016

Guest Fiction Series: On The Other Side, Part 9

For a few months, 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 Verina Wherry. Enjoy!

(Read all parts here.)

It was almost impossible to wake up the next morning. The aspirin that I took made me sleep longer than usual. When I woke up, the sun was shining through the blinds and onto the dresser mirror. I rolled over to see food on a tray beside me. The eggs and grits were cold.

What time is it?

The clock read 12:54.

Martin left for work at eight o’clock.

How could I have possibly slept that long? Maybe that wasn’t an aspirin that I took. This is crazy.

I knew that Martin had gone to work, so I was in no hurry to get out of bed. The bath last night helped alleviate some of the soreness that I would normally feel the next day. The last time he hit me, I stayed in the house for days. I couldn’t let that happen again. Instead of sulking in my despair, I made a trip into town. I knew that my face was bound to have some significant bruising, but I needed to go.

My wardrobe choice was leggings, a tank, sneakers, and sunglasses. There was no reason for me to look as horribly as I felt.

It was 2 o’clock when I left the house. I had no idea where I was headed, but I knew I had to go somewhere. A drive would help to ease my mind, calm my thoughts, and give me some much-needed relaxation. My Audi was like a second home to me. Whenever I needed to clear my head, I would drive, to the nearest quiet spot I could find. I would often drive into the rural areas at night so that I could watch the stars. I could never see the stars in the city. It was too early for that, so I drove around instead. After driving for about an hour, I drove to the nearest park that usually had the fewest amount of people.

I needed to run. Running gave me stability. It made me feel grounded. At that moment, stability was what I needed. The feel of the earth beneath my feet and the wind blowing in my hair took my mind off my reality. As I ran, I noticed the children on the playground.

I remember when my children were that age. I remember when I was that age when things were much simpler. There was no pain, only joy. Oh, the joys of being a child.

Being so focused on the children, I accidently ran into another runner. I landed on my butt.

“Are you okay miss?”

“I’m fine.”

He reached down to grab my hand, and the hand felt familiar. I was too embarrassed to look up, so I didn’t, until…


Glancing upwards, I would know those eyes anywhere. It was Ahmad. I ran into Ahmad.

“Hi, Ahmad.”

He helped me onto my feet.

“I’m starting to think that you’re on a mission to rescue me. I can’t count how many times you’ve saved me from my reality, and even my nightmares. What are you doing here?”

“I run here a lot. It’s a way for me to clear my mind. It’s relaxing. I haven’t been up here in a few weeks, though. I’ve been busy.But the one day that I choose to come and run, you’re here. I don’t believe in coincidences. Have you been here before?”

“Not particularly. I usually just go to the gym. But I needed to be in nature today.”

“Want to finish this lap, and then sit down and talk?”

“That’s fine with me.”

We took one more lap around the track in unison. I’d never had a running partner before. It was different, but I liked it. I liked the idea of knowing that no matter how slow or fast I ran, he would be right there with me.

We sat down on a bench near the entrance of the park, and he stared at me.

“Why are you staring at me?”

“You look so beautiful. Why do you have on sunglasses? Can I see your eyes?”

I winced at the thought. But I didn’t move, as he removed my glasses from my eyes.

“What happened?”

He touched the side of my eye that I’m sure looked worse than it felt.

“It’s nothing. I hit it on the side of the counter while I was bending to pick up something I dropped. As you’ve witnessed before, I tend to be quite clumsy.”

“This looks like more than just an accident, Kamaria. Are you sure there isn’t something you want to share with me?”

“We’ve only known each other a few weeks, Ahmad. There’s no need for me to burden you with my problems.”

“So you’re admitting that there is a problem?”

“Maybe a small one.But I’m fine. Don’t worry about me. I always come out on top. I’ve been here before.  I just needed to get away and clear my head.”

“Well, why don’t you let me take care of you. I can help you get away. I have a cabin in Chattanooga. We can take a trip and maybe it will help to take your mind off of some things.”

“How would I ever go away for a few days without raising a red flag with my husband?”

“Don’t worry about it. I’ll handle it. Just be ready.”

“Okay, I’m taking your word for it. But keep me updated on the plans. I don’t want to be completely out of the loop. Plus, the kids will be worried.”

“No one will have to worry. Just trust me. Send me your house number in a text message. I have an idea. ”

“Okay Mr. Jenkins, I think I can handle that.”

“Good, now let’s get you home.”

After leaving his presence, I felt the urge to talk to him, so I called. He stayed on the phone with me the entire ride home. We ended with the understanding that he would contact me about the trip plans. Ahmad was a great listener. I couldn’t say a lot while we were together. Being vulnerable with Ahmad was not something that I needed to do at the moment. It couldn’t possibly be a good thing. But I knew one thing, That wouldn’t be the last time we talked. I would open up to him more. Something about him made me want to be open and honest. Maybe this trip to Chattanooga would be a good thing, after all. We would just have to see.

When I got home, it was 4 o’clock. The kids hadn’t made it home yet, and there was no sign that Martin had been home. There were a few missed calls on the caller ID with one unheard message on the answering machine. I wondered who it was. No one ever called the house phone.

Hi, I am looking for a Mrs. Kamaria Smith. She has won an all-expense paid trip to a retreat in Los Angeles. This is specifically for Kamaria Smith. She must come and redeem her plane ticket by tomorrow at noon. Please give me a call back at 404-555-2341 before 6pm today. My name is James, and my extension is 43561. Have a blessed day.

This must have been his plan. I knew Ahmad’s voice anywhere. It was heavy. I found comfort in that voice. I was sure not to delete the message. I knew that If there were any chance of this working, Martin would have to hear the message for himself. He would have to speak with someone. There’s no way he would believe it, coming from me. I sent Ahmad a text, thanking him for his time and telling him that I hoped his plan worked. I did need the getaway. I haven’t been anywhere without Martin since the first year of our marriage. I needed it more than anything. If nothing else, at least I could get to know Ahmad a little better. 


Verina Wherry is a writer, poet, and aspiring author who spends her free time listening to music, shopping for incense and watching Criminal Minds reruns.