Circa 2005 I took up hanging with a rather insecure and gorgeous girl named Maria. It was our freshman year and she was the first person I met, at our first dorm meeting. I’m not quite clear if it was my own insecurities or our mutual boredom that expedited our friendship, but we had absolutely nothing in common. She wanted to be a model and find a rich husband and I wanted to write by the waterfront. Whatever.
Around midnight, halfway through our first semester, she stood at my door half dressed and slurring. I rubbed the I’ve-got-a-test-in-the-morning sleep from my eyes and obliged her.
“He’s not answering his phone Erica! Why is he doing me like this?”
I avoided the alcohol on her breath, by reaching for my sweats in a nearby drawer, “Who’s he?”
“Brandon. He thinks he just going to ignore my calls and that’s it? We’re going over there. He’s got another thing coming.”
I followed her there, despite the obvious warning signs, because adventure is what college is all about, right? Maria walked in front of me, tousled and perfect in her angry walk. I envied girls like her, who needed nothing more than to wake up to be tossed faultlessness.
We ended up in front of a small yellow house, not far from campus. Maria picked up stones from the front yard and began to pelt them at a side window. A rather good-looking upperclassman opened it and poked his head through, avoiding the third stone’s aim.
“What the hell Maria?”
“You’re going to talk to me boy! This ain’t over until I say it’s over!” Maria bounced around in the driveway gravel, with the shirt I let her borrow, barely covering her disheveled bra and cocked shoulders.
Brandon closed the window, as I watched from the front lawn in half humor, half horror. Maria made her way back over to me and shrugged her body, in defeat, right as Brandon emerged from the front door.
The two exploded in argument, the entire block aware that lust and tension were grappling with a dwindling, right outside of their doors.
“I don’t want you Maria. It happened too soon, it was a mistake. You’re an alcoholic!”
“We were not a mistake Brandon. We were…” Maria’s sentence faltered with her step.
“Are you drunk right now Maria? Really?” He asked.
As Brandon stated the obvious, I tried to shrink into the background unsuccessfully.
“You’re that poetry girl right?” He motioned towards me.
I nodded quietly, hoping he’d get back to his argument, so I could slip away into the night.
“Maria, you see your friend? That’s the type of girl men will be chasing after we get up out of here. You’re pretty, but you won’t get far on that. Get a hobby, something other than drinking.”
Maria snickered, “Please fool. Don’t nobody want you anymore. Leave Erica out of this.”
“Right. That’s why you’re out here acting the fool? Get out of here. Please. Let’s hope she rubs off on you.”
Maria and I walked back to our dorms in silence. I felt bad for her, because she was clearly strung out on Brandon, but I also had watched her commandeer alcohol like it was candy. I was sure that this wasn’t her first drunken shenanigan, with the brother, and it wouldn’t be her last.
As selfish as it may sound, I couldn’t get Brandon’s words out of my head. It was the first time I’d heard any man applaud my writing, instead of downplay my sexy, because of it. I started college at seventeen and I’d only had a few crushes and “boyfriends” before I got there. Most of which ended in a spiel about my “flaws” and suggestions on improving them.
A tomboy and well-rounded teenager, I wasn’t interested in most things the majority of my peers found awesome. I delved into underground hip-hop, jazz, the poetry slam scene, cooking, and interior design.
David thought I was too boyish; headphones bopping to some 808, fresh Nike kicks abundant, and a collection of colorful hoodies. George called me corny, when I beckoned him to Jazz night at Cleopatra’s or open mics in the L.E.S. Marcus laughed at my inability to stay in the club, for more than an hour and my excitement for the smell of fresh bindings and coffee, upon entrance to a bookstore. I was told to get some heels, get out more, update my mani and pedi every week, and doll up.
My mother and older cousins, female goddesses to my cultured immaturity, told me that one day my interests would be attributes. I doubted them and flung their words where cliché hope-you-feel-better phrases go to die. I didn’t want to wait.
I tried to immerse myself into things that girls were expected to like. I wanted to bust from the seams over shoes and bags. I wanted to stay put, in heart racing situations, and flutter my flirtation with eyelashes and the licking of lips. I cringed when girls, with dresses accentuating their hourglass figures, would swarm around me in my t-shirt and slim jeans.
Beautiful was a hard thing to feel, back then.
I brought my journal everywhere. Once I even brought it to a lounge and started to scribe a poem, once it’d entered my mind. The girls I’d come with looked at me with complete mortification.
I wanted to shed my “flaws”, but it was impossible. They’re embedded.
“One day, your prince will come and he’ll love all of these things, about you.”
Waiting is a bitch.
She laughs from a crook of your life, watching you take the hands of Mr. Right Now and Mr. In-The-Meantime. She follows you when you’re single and independent and lurks in the corner pocket of your heart, just as you say, “Girl I don’t need a man!” She will wear her I’m-going-to-tell-you-so smirk as she watches you try to mold and bend, all that is unknowingly striking about you, and make another one-eighty, back to where you began. Because our beginning is everything we’re meant to be.
When she is tired of watching you make a fool of yourself, she’ll send someone your way. When your love is blossoming, she becomes a jester, bringing back fools from your past, contradictions themselves.
David said my boyfriend was a lucky guy. “You’re so well rounded, when did you become this way?”
Marcus complained about his new girlfriend, while catching up. “All she does is party. I need a girl who’s committed to doing something real with her life. I messed up with you huh?”
George wanted more versatility in his sphere. “You’re interested in a lot of dope things. Put me on, show me your world.”
I giggled at how much they’d grown. They were once boys spilling superficiality and now they wanted nothing more than simplicity.
Brandon was sort of right. In a few years, those men were in search of homemade meals, ambition, kept homes, and stability. Once a mere prospect, I’d become an example of whom they roamed for.
I’ve said this before, but I’ll say it again. We’re gorgeously flawed.
This is for the folks who are thinking about a revolution, for anyone but himself or herself. You are already a war. Stop fighting your innate ability to be distinct and stand the hell out.