Thursday, April 9, 2015

If No One Has Told You This Evening

Someone told me, but it was too late.

He disappeared after 2 years of getting to know one another.

He was gone. I didn't know what to call him. We'd always been friends, but after coming to watch him DJ, because I admired him and anything he put his hands on, after he drove me home, after he pulled me into a full fledged lip-lock, I think...

I thought...
I might've mistaken...
...him, for love.

But now he was air, a whisper on the lips of friends...

So and so graduated, he's doing so well now.

Maybe because it was the night before you were leaving I deemed it the right time. I guess I never thought you'd vanish, just a few miles away.

A younger me had something taken from her. I was sixteen, ---teen, and --teen. The ages it happened doesn't matter. The incident does.

I was excited about handing it over, freely. I was ecstatic to do what I wanted with my body, on my terms.

But this...
This was like déjàvu.
It was eerily similar.
It wasn't the same, but it still corroded me the same.

...because I admired him and anything he put his hands on...

& still I have trouble admiring me. Funny.

Someone told me, but it was too late.

He pulled up, months later, visiting his popularity, his old professors, the scattered sadness he'd left. He chased me down a dark pathway, while I was walking, and yelled my name. I turned. I stood still.
I remembered my mother's words about boomerang men and karma. I wished him light and happiness, even though I'd been everything but.

"Erica, I'm sorry."

His eyes were green, sparkle across his stare, but I no longer took fancy to twinkling.

I looked into them, long and hard, "F-- your apology."

"Please, I'm truly sorry."

He probably was. I didn't care. I remembered feeling like something was wrong with him, when for the first time in 730 days, he didn't answer a text. I wondered if he was okay. & then I remembered the hollowness I felt when his social media was updated, but I still hadn't heard from him. & then I remembered the anger that ensued, when I realized he was only ignoring me. 

He said something that I’d be hearing for the first time, but I’d be hearing again and again. He sounded like a prospective broken record:

You’re a unicorn, 
got bells and whistles 
that I ain’t used to
too good---errra, errra, 
too smart---erra, erra, 
not ready for something serious, 
even though you never asked for that
only respect—
but I wasn’t brave enough to give you that

Someone told me, but it was too late. 

In the dissonance between being violated and forgotten, the quiet between the forgetting and the acceptance, I realized that I had to tell myself. 

This is what you aren’t:

You are no goddamn unicorn. You’re exceptional, unique, and all other things that individualize you, but you are real. The moment you start accepting yourself as something that is unreachable, you will ceased to be reached. You are no paragraph long text, because he will not answer the phone. You are no stupid reply.

I don’t know why you’re bugging.
I thought we were just kicking it.
Uh huh. 

You are no anxiety for talk bubbles and responses. You are no cryptic conversation, squinting eyes, trying to figure out what they really mean. You are no 3 hour wait, in the middle of hurt words, because he did not feel like responding. You are no wallowing in it, wondering where you went wrong, trying to fix something that you never broke in the first place.

When we first started conversing, you were paragraphs. You're from the generation of don't-pick-up-the-phone-unless-absolutely-necessary. I tried to respect that. I didn't. At least you text me your philosophies and notions with enough breadth, that they deserved commas.

Now...suddenly, when your words count you are nowhere to be found. Mimic of Siri with curt replies and remnants of you not seeing what a relationship looks like.

You are no last minute cancellation. You are no last minute request, that's drenched in or-else. You are no ultimatum. 

I dated a cop once. 

We sat atop his squad car, conversing about the stars, while Brooklyn boasted its famous summer nights. 

It came out of nowhere, “My partner, a white cop, is about to get married. He’s only twenty three. I don’t get it.”

“What don’t you get?”

“It seems like they do their foolishness in college, leave, and then pick a woman. It doesn’t even seem like it’s the ideal woman either. It seems like someone that works and then they decide to make it work. It’s as if they’re raised understanding that there will always be flaws. ”

I looked straight at him, instead of the stars,”Do you not have that understanding?”

“I do, but I don’t. I wasn’t raised that way. I’ve never seen love like that and most of my boys haven’t either. We use what we see in the media, on TV, and mostly our imagination, to find our “wife.”

“It sounds like you’re searching blind.”

“A lot of us are.”

You are no philosophical conversation. You are no could be, should be, might be. You are no fixing what isn’t splintered or damned from salvation, but refuses to be whole. Your time is worth more than dealing with those emotionally stunted. You are no faltering commitment. 

You deserve better than me. 
You see my momma says...
I wonder what it could've been like, if...
Good things come to those who wait...
One day your prince charming will come. 
There are so many fish in the sea...

Or the patriarch of them all...
When I get my sh* t ogether...

You are no rocked knee and broken-hearted personal day. You are no inundating of schedule, so you don't have to feel. You are sunken spot in the couch, that knows your ass and sorrow all too well. You are no comforter that has known more of love-hoping and saline than love-making. You are no tremble and acting as if he doesn't exist, b/c it's the only way you can cope. 

This is what you are:

You are real. 
You are spine. 
I see God in you, girl, woman, Aphrodite. 
Take your smile back. 

You are vacays and sand, between your toes. You are knowing what the world feels like wrapped around you, if you can't seem to find arms that are willing. You are equal pay. You are a paycheck that correlates with the quality of what life should be. 

You are the depiction of strength and that should be recognized: not as a reflection of his mother or some idiotic vision he has of what you should be. You are the type of strength that is built like Babel, through hurdles, and boulders, and rock, and stone. You are the type of complexity that God only wants the right man to recognize, so he leaves the others speaking in tongues that you don't.

You don't need to hear what they're saying anyway. 

You are sweet words. You are nothings. You deserve to feel light, to be light, to have it as yours. You deserve to never have it taken away, against your will. 

You are grabbing your womb, when black boys fall prey to devils. You are the conflict, that we will have to teach our sons to be better men in more ways than one. You are the indecision of whether you truly want to bring a child into this world. You are the realizing that it's YOUR DECISION. 

You are wearing your hair however you want. You are wearing whatever you want. You are bleeding, when it's your time. You are commando on days you don't care. You are realizing that there are vibrating things that resolve the quiet that is Mr. Right Now.

Send him on his way. 

I've gotten into the habit of taking my power back. I love with a fury and once I realize that I'm being taking advantage of, I rescind. 

(Because my love is not ordinary. It's not the type of adoration that withers and dies. It's the kind that stays with you. It's the kind that you don't recognize, until I'm gone. 

I bet yours is too. You just have to own it.)

I'm not talking about outright and blatant disrespect. I'm talking about the hidden one, lingering under half-assed compliments and thoughts about his exes, during those first few conversations. Once I recognize this in them, I remove myself. You should too.

& this...
this hurts them better than the betrayal and frustration,
that comes along when we ignore our intuitions...

You are knowing. 
You are the ability to discern bullsh*t, before it dries, cracks, breaks, and becomes you. 
You are worthy of outstanding love.
Familial love.
Friendship love.
Romantic love.
Self love.
Spiritual love.

You are everything you want to be, if you allow yourself.

This evening...

allow yourself.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Fiction: Boroughs Apart, Part 3


The bistro was dim and patrons were scarce, which made it all the more romantic. It was Tuesday, the restaurant’s live jazz night, and the horns were out. The saxophonist and trumpet boasted improvisation, as a light drum and cello provided background.

            Ella and Evan were seated in the middle of the restaurant. They were close enough to enjoy the music, but far enough so that it wouldn’t interrupt their conversation.

            “The menu is amazing. I can’t even decide on what I want,” Ella flipped through its pages, trying to decide between the Stuffed Flounder and the Le Poulet Roti au Jus. She’d never had either, but decided that flounder wouldn’t taste much different than any other fish she’d tried and roasted chicken sounded like a safe bet too.
            Evan watched her bite her lip in indecision, “Would you like me to recommend something?”

            Ella was ready to be defensive. Did he think she couldn’t choose, herself? Every menu item had an English description; she wasn’t stupid. She’d already made up her mind that she and Evan were from different worlds and it wouldn’t work. She would gain his trust, spend time with his family, and negotiate an excellent price for their artwork.
            She looked up from her menu, “I got it.”

            “I had issues delving into French African food, my first time, too. Especially fusion. My mother is a huge fan.”

            “I’m sure.”

            “What is that supposed to mean?”

            “It just seems like your mom has a lot of influence in your life.”

            Evan sighed and took a pause from the conversation to give his order to the waitress. Ella decided on the roast chicken, after all.

            Evan handed both menus back to the waitress; “You’ve known me for two seconds. How do you know what kind of influence my family has, on me?”

            Ella took a sip of water. She realized Evan was being genuine, when he asked if she needed help with her dinner choice and felt guilty about becoming defensive. She was still curious about his being at home though.
            “Just an inference. I’m good at reading people. I picked up on it, at your house.”

            Evan leaned in; he clasped his hands together, “Let’s get it all out on the table, now. Does that work for you?”
            “I’m listening.”

            Evan spoke slowly, his hazel eyes reflected the string lights that were strung around the venue, and even though he was recounting the strict details of his trust fund, the way he spoke each word was mesmerizing.

The assets of his grandfather, Evan Jr.
Dispersed to Evan and a sibling that didn’t make it out of the womb.

Ella was curious, “If you don’t mind me prying, what are the conditions?”

“The money won’t be released, to me, until I’m married. Well, five years into the marriage.”

“Oh. That sounds fair. What prompted that?”

“My grandparents were big, on tradition.”

“So you’re home, until you get married?”

“That’s also a condition. I cannot leave home, until I’m married.”

Ella let out a small gasp, “Seriously? Your grandmother seems pretty loose.”

Evan laughed.

“No disrespect, but she didn’t seem like your mom.”

“Wow. I should be offended, but I’m not. When my grandmother divorced my grandfather, he added the not-leaving-home portion.”

“Why’d he do that?”

“I think he wanted me to be absolutely sure about that woman I was marrying. I don’t think he was absolutely sure about Grandma Ruth.”

Ella’s curiosity was peaked, “What makes you say that?”

“They were two different people.”


Markie, Reynold’s roommate, cracked open the door slowly. He was sure that it was the old woman coming to complain again. Markie opened the door wider, when he saw who it was. Reynold was in the apartment, entertaining several women on a couch, with his jokes, when he saw her step in. She was butterscotch, her dress was almost the same color as her skin, and she seemed like one solid bar of sweets, walking inside.

Ruth had arrived.

She sauntered her way over to the couch and pushed her thighs in between Reynold and some dame in a sequined dress.

Reynold looked at her, as if she was the only person in the room, “You came.”

Ruth knew, from the moment he answered the door, the last time, that he’d always be the only person that mattered, “I did.”

They spent hours talking, until the party folks around them became figments of their imagination, ready for their beds and bored of Markie’s lackluster entertaining. Reynold was always the life of the party, but he was preoccupied.

Around 4am, on the rooftop of the apartment, the place Reynold and Ruth found alone time, Reynold asked a parting question.

“After tonight, will I see you again?”

Ruth smiled; she listened to Harlem hum beneath them, the smell of sap and smoke thick in the air. She took a deep breath and knew that this would always be home, if Reynold stayed.

“Of course, you will.”

“Don’t have me all balled up, like I’m some pickney.”

“Some what?”

“It’s patois, for child.”

“Oh no. I would never do that. You’re most certainly a man.”

Just as Reynold leaned in for a kiss, accompanied by the stars, the rooftop door creaked. The two turned to face a man, in a trench coat and bowler hat, with skin like milk.

Ruth mumbled under her breath, “Damn. He found me.”

Reynold was puzzled, “Who is that?”

The man walked forward, “I’m her father’s friend. Your father said you came to this side for an outing and you were supposed to be home at midnight. We were worried about you.”

Ruth fluffed her skirt and grabbed her purse, “I’m a grown woman.”

“You may be grown, but you’re a lady. You shouldn’t be on this side of town, this late. I’m a man and even I fear this area.”

“You can damn near pass for white, Evan Jr. Wouldn’t nobody touch you!”

“See? ‘Wouldn’t nobody?’ You’re already sounding like the immigrant folk that live on this block. Let’s go.”

Reynold jumped in, “She’s right. She’s grown. She doesn’t have to go anywhere, if she doesn’t want to.”

Evan Jr. sized him up. He was tall, strong, and looked like he could put up a good fight. Evan was only 5’7, he decided he did not want to find out.

Ruth spoke up, before anything could go down, “I was getting ready to depart anyway.”

She grabbed Reynold’s hand and gave him a smile and then followed Evan Jr. back downstairs. She looked back towards the rooftop door and knew that behind it would be the man she wanted to marry, but walking next to her was the one she’d be forced to.

Ella got home early. She had to be at the art gallery at 7am, the next morning, so she told Evan goodnight, right after dinner.

Her mother was in the living room, catching up on her DVR’d soap operas.

“Hey mum, how was your day?”

Her mother turned her body quickly, to greet her daughter, the plastic on the furniture making sounds beneath her, “I’m all right. Come and sit down, I need to talk to you.”

Ella sat down. Her mom only wanted to talk, when something serious was about to happen, “What’s going on?”

“We have some family coming into town.”

“Family? Your family?”

“Yes. It’s been quite some time and…”

Ella jumped up excitedly, “Who is it? I can’t wait! I haven’t seen your side, in forever.”

“Calm down child! They only just got the visitor’s visa. It’s your favorite person.”

Her mother hissed her teeth, but Ella was ecstatic. She knew that her favorite person was not her mother’s. It was Grandpa Reynold.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

#RivCooks: Old Fashioned

A few months ago, I watched Issa Rae's web-series "Brown and Butter" and realized I was living my life all wrong. The show features a new drink and food recipe, every time it comes on, and they put my drink game to shame. In this particular show, they made an old fashioned. I made an empty promise that the next time I went to the bar I'd order something more sophisticated. I failed. I probably ordered a cranberry and vodka. To my surprise, a few weeks later, my good friend Tara, a licensed bartender, brought over all the goodies to make an old fashioned, right at home. Of course, I documented the process. Why? B/c I know y'all are out there ordering Long Island Iced Teas and cranberry vodkas too. 

Here's the episode of Brown + Butter:

Here's the recipe Tara and I used: 

2oz of any Bourbon (We used Jack Daniels Tennessee Honey)
2-4 dashes Angostura Bitters
1 tsp Simple Syrup (or 2 sugar cubes)
1 Orange wheel
1 Maraschino cherry
1. Muddle Orange Chunk with the skin into the bottom of the glass with simply syrup.
2. Add Bourbon & Bitters
3. Serve on Ice, Garnish with Cherry and Orange Wheel & Enjoy!

The recipe Tara brought along turned out to be the champion. The recipe from the video seemed to be a bit too bitter, for us. Hopefully this will inspire me to order more "grown up" drinks, lol. Try it and let me know how it turns out!

On African-American Suburbia, PWIs, and Starbucks' Failed #RaceTogether

It’s almost been a week since Starbucks’ #RaceTogether campaign has crashed and burned...I mean, since CEO Howard Schultz ended it. However, I’m still left with a bad taste in my mouth. No, not from the coffee, I actually quite enjoy the coffee.

I wonder how good it must feel not to fear, to never be concerned.

I contemplate this as #StarbucksEmily, as I'll affectionately call her, hands me my latte and I prepare to ask her a question prompted by Starbucks' failed #racetogether campaign.

#StarbucksEmily is a part of a college (a predominately white institution) town, I mean a middle-class african-american neighborhood, I mean a place they could care less about, because they're only obligated to it for four years. While the sons and daughters of their neighbors are called thugs and hooligans, because of their skin and attire, #StarbucksEmily is just-a-kid.

These just-a-kids piss in bottles and strew them across our manicured lawns, they fornicate in our backyard bushes, and throw loud drug infested parties. Walking home, from anywhere, too late, they are the ones I'm afraid of, with their pale skin and disregard for anyone or anything in their drunken path. There's a strip of college bars all along the campus, the same strip that we buy our groceries on, get our haircuts, and send our children to daycare. The city has regulated that no one can park on the street of the residential neighborhood, after a certain time, to keep the students from disturbing us, but they started buying houses, for their frats and sordid behavior. Now, legally, they can misbehave, right next door. Because of this rule, that they could care less about, now that their parents have bought them driveways, I have to park my car far away from my parent's home. There isn't space for a third car.

I walk my way through groups of excited collegiate scholars. They're tipsy and slurring and I recall the same buzz from my college days at an HBCU. However, there's one sound that isn't the same.

"You b-----s never talk to us! We like niggers too!"

His friends are shocked that he's said this. They grab his shirt and say, "C'mon man! Chill out."

I'm unsure if they're upset at his disgusting behavior or upset that he's actually said it around someone they define as such.

I throw up the middle finger, too tired to deal with his crap. He continues to yell, as I walk further and further.

I walk into my parents home and pull my father, so he could scare them away or put them in their place. Trayvon Martin, Mike Brown, Eric Garner, Akai Gurley and so many black men and boys flash through my mind. I let my father's hand go in that minute, because rarely do black men in confrontations with white boys and/or men, especially in heavily patrolled areas, make it out alive.

#StarbucksEmily hands me my latte. She looks nervous and slightly annoyed, I know she doesn't want me asking her a thing, despite her corporate mandate. She knows this is absolute bull, considering she barely makes anything an hour, wasn't trained and isn't equipped to deal with such a thing, and just wants make enough money to get wasted down the block.

I get the argument above, I truly do. But the reality is, #StarbucksEmily will have to converse with us for the rest of her collegiate years. Despite what she thinks, this is our neighborhood. The district schools are filled with all shades of brown, the supermarkets boast ethnic aisles, and the mayor looks like us. #StarbucksEmily will become a "leader" post her college studies, in a diverse world, but has issues interacting with the small community that she now lives in.

I assess her quietly and she reminds me of almost every blonde girl that I've interacted with, on the LIRR. They are completely oblivious to the issues around them and wear their privilege with pride. I ride the train, sitting behind them, watching as they scroll through their mini-feeds. While mine is inundated with the pain that America is in, with the spines that are bending, and the cry of our youth, theirs are silent. A plethora of funny Vines, Pinterest nail art, and Buzzfeed lists, they negate to see what's happening right in their backyard.

It's too bad that I cannot afford to ignore what's happening in mine. Upon hearing the moans, in our backyard, my mother and father turned on the light, and we watched two peach behinds scatter. The next morning we found a phone, where they'd had their excursion. My mother called the contact number titled “MOM.” Mother and daughter, the one who decided to get her freak on behind our house, came to pick up the phone, the next morning. Her mom smiled, apologetically, and said, “Kids will be kids.”
I think of this, while I grab my napkins and sugars. I walk back to the counter and ask #StarbucksEmily about Martese Johnson. I wonder if she’s heard of the incident, considering she’s in college and news about other campuses spread like wildfire. She said she hasn’t heard anything about it.

“Wow, that’s crazy.”

I wanted to engage her, ask her about what the excuse would be now, considering Martese was a well dressed honor student, instead of a media proclaimed “thug.” She looked at the rest of the line, her eyes pleading for someone to step forward and then she couldn’t wait anymore.

“That’s really insane. I hear ya. Next!”

I wonder how good it must feel not to fear, to never be concerned. I want to tell #StarbucksEmily that her four years in college or her corporate mandate will not be the only time she’ll have to #racetogether. This diversification isn’t only just around the fences of her soon to be alma mater. I want to sit her down over cups and foam and break it all down to her, telling her that it’s something she cannot avoid. As I get back to the car, I notice my revolution is dimming. I realize that she and only those like her have a choice. They can choose to ignore it, they can choose to not interact, they can choose to decide that only their world exists.

I sip on the coffee, I enjoy the blended capitalism and PR stunt. I feel guilty, all the way home.