Fresh French roast vanilla fills my nostrils—slow inhale…. ahhh, exhale…
I sit pretzel style in the middle of my bed, balancing my journal on one knee
as the sun’s rays burst through the window blinds
photo by Toa Heftiba via Unsplash
I dreamt I ran him over, and the white women from work watched. Their eyes sought to spite me. I screamed to get help, but no one moved. “You’ll burn in hell for this, bitch,” the woman in the center sneered. Her face grew redder with the inflection in her voice.
Looking in the rearview mirror, I see his blond hair first, combed to the right, the sides buzzed a little too close to the scalp. He stands behind my trunk, and I think about my dream, how I stood before a lynch mob as he lay dying. I’m tempted to shift the gear in reverse, fulfill the prophesy and accept my fate, but I take the key out of the ignition, shoulder my purse, and step out.
“Hey,” he says, waving both hands.
I nod, glance over my shoulder at the eight-floor office building looming over the parking lot.
“So do you have any plans for the weekend?”
I shrug. A car pulls into the empty space beside me. It’s the woman from my dream. Her brunette hair is chopped short to her ears, with an inside hook curl at the ends all around, not a strand out of place. She cuts her eyes at me, and I quickly look down at my feet.
“Well, if you’re not busy, I was wondering if you wanted to go to the watermelon patch.”
He shakes his head, and his hair shuffles to the front of his face. He smiles, but I don’t smile back, and the loud door slam to the right turns our attention to the woman spying us over the top of her car.
I step closer and whisper so she can’t hear. “Because I’m black, you think I like watermelon.”
“No, no!” His eyes widen. He backs up and instinctively looks to the woman, who still stares. She’s barely taller than her own car; she has to stand on her toes to watch us. I wish she’d go inside already. My throat tightens at the thought of her lassoing a noose around my neck and stringing me up on the branches of one of the magnolias lining the walkway leading to the building.
“It’s watermelon season. My uncle owns a watermelon patch.” He slaps his chest. “I like watermelon. I thought…”
“You thought what?”
The woman finally leaves us, but not before casting a scolding look in my direction. She must be content that he’s in no danger. He’s completed his job in offending me, and now I will leave too, scurry off to my tiny cubicle in the back of the office, segregated from the rest of them, and do my work silently as I’m told.
When the woman is out of earshot, he shoves his hands into his pockets and sighs. “I’m trying to ask you out on a date. Obviously, I’m not doing a good job of it.”
I watch him as he looks everywhere but at me, and I wonder if he too is thinking of the consequences of my saying yes, if he’s dreamt of my death by his hand, of a mob of angry black women shooting curses, taking off belts, breaking off switches to whip him with—the same weapons his people used to beat our souls down into the ground.
“We don’t have to go to the watermelon patch. We could do something different, like the movies, or dinner—what kinds of food do you like? I just wanted to do something different, something out of the box. You’re special, you’re different. I just wanted to do something nice for you.”
“Just be quiet.”
He instantly shuts his mouth, midsentence, and I lean against my side mirror. He waits for my answer, but I’m lost for words. My mind is stuck on “You’re special, you’re different.” Is he referring to my blackness? And again, I fear this proposal will only lead to our combined demise, that I will again be reminded of what we are. I am black, and he is white, and the world will always hate us for what we mean together, for what we are about to do.
And so I tell him, “I like watermelons too.”
Originally published May 27, 2017.
With school back in session, the coffee shop was the fullest it had been all summer. Rhonda and Katy sat at a table by the window. One with black coffee; the other, sugar and cream. One with a dry, overbaked scone with blueberries that looked like raisins; the other, a bagel and cream cheese.
Katy looked like a pinned up first-time professor in a short-sleeved red coat dress and wedged heels. Rhonda looked the most out of place in her ripped baggy jeans and “not a hugger” t-shirt, a pair that was in the dirty hamper that morning, but still smelled alright.
“It’s not fair,” Rhonda said shaking her head, and then again, “it’s just not fair.” She put her phone face down on the table.
“You know, marriage isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.”
“How would you know? You’re a closeted lesbian.”
“I kissed a girl once, and I was in high school!”
“I’ve never seen you with a guy, Katy. Ever!”
“That’s because I don’t need a man to make me happy.” She folded her arms across her chest and turned her nose up to the ceiling.
“Well, I do.” Rhonda bit into her blueberry scone. Crumbs collected around the corners of her mouth, but she didn’t bother to wipe them away.
“You set feminism back 50 years.”
“You know, Rhon, you might find a guy worth marrying if you stopped acting like you were still 20 years old.”
“We can’t all be perfect like you, Katy.”
“I’m not perfect, I just…” Katy paused, looking at the straggly ends of Rhonda’s dirty blonde hair grazing the edge of her styrofoam cup, almost dipping into the coffee. With an audible sigh, Katy added, “When’s the last time you washed your hair?”
“Don’t do that.”
“Treat me like I’m a lost cause.”
“I’m not, I just—” Katy snatched the phone away before Rhonda could turn it over and continue to brood over the lastest Facebook engagement announcement.
“I wish people would be more real on social media,” she said while tapping her fingers on Rhonda’s screen. “All we see are these happy, perfect relationships, with their perfect hair, and perfect makeup and perfect engagement rings, and perfect in-laws who love them like family. People are innately selfish, and relationships are hard. Where’s the messy fights? The hitting below the belt? Bringing up past infidelity? Passive-aggressive status updates about mamas’ boys, and coddling mothers-in-law?”
“They usually post them in the middle of the night and delete them after an hour.” Rhonda belched into her fist then brought the coffee to her lips, sipping loudly.
“Why do I feel like you’ve done that before?” Looking over Rhonda’s disheveled appearance, Katy questioned, “Why do I feel like you did that last night?”
“Because, Katy,” she hung her head, as if a weight was sitting on the back of her neck, and looked up at Katy, barely raising her eyes past her chin. “I’m self-destructive. Obviously why I’m still single.”
“Aw don’t say that.you just haven’t met the—”
“Save it for your book!” Rhonda stood suddenly, nearly jumping from her chair, hair fraying. “I’m gonna go to the bathroom.”
Probably to throw up, she thought to herself. On her way, she caught the eye of the barista behind the counter. Definitely a freshman. Definitely too damn young for her. But that was definitely his number he’d written on the bottom edge of her coffee cup.
And definitely, if she was that desperate (she was), and drunk enough (she will be), a late-night booty she’ll regret later.
Evie hates it when I call her to complain about my loneliness. If you don’t want to be a homebody anymore, stop being a homebody, she always tells me. Easy for the extrovert to say…
I call her anyway.
“Today I stayed in bed until well past noon.”
“Wow, that’s a new record for you.”
If one could hear an eye roll…
“Is it possible to live on the top floor and still have to deal with leadfoot neighbors?”
“Sweetie, it’s probably just somebody walking up the stairs. Your apartment is right next to the staircase.”
“Yeah, that’s the problem. The sound travels. And it feels like they’re stomping on my brain.”
Like a caravan of people walking up and down the stairs in steel toe boots. My head could explode, splatter these walls, and I swear you’d find the tread marks on the scattered pieces of my brain.
“Isn’t that an Emily Dickinson poem?”
“That’s ‘I felt a funeral in my brain.'”
“Same difference. You should be careful, you know. You’re starting to become like her.”
“Is it so bad to relish in the comfort of your own home?”
“But you don’t relish.”
She’s right. I despise it. But it’s not the fact that I spend most of my days at home or that my interactions with other human beings usually involve a screen or me avoiding eye contact with the neighbor kids and dog moms during my weekly treks across the parking lot to the mailbox.
I work remotely, so I really have no reason to ever leave the house. I like not having to pay for gas every week. Granted I make up for that by ordering in most days, and if I don’t watch my weight, my wardrobe of sweatpants and t-shirts will soon dwindle.
But what I truly dislike about my life is the stigma. Everyone just assumes that I’m not happy, and therefore it makes me unhappy. Even my own sister thinks I’d be better off if I had a man in my life. But Mr. Right’s not just gonna break into your house, she’d say. Maybe he will. What does she know? It’s not like she was any luckier going out and finding one herself, with her three roughhousing boys and absentee husband who only seems to come around to get her pregnant. The only reason I don’t ask her to come over now is that she’s supposed to be on bedrest. God only knows what those destructive little monsters are doing to her house right now.
I will never have children. So unless this man who’s supposed to make me happier comes with condoms or a vasectomy, I’ll pass.
“You should probably take something for that headache.”
“I’m all out. I would cook something, but my fridge is as empty as my stomach, and I don’t really look presentable enough to go anywhere.”
“Of course you don’t.” Evie sighs. I hate it when she sighs. It’s as if she’s exhaling all those years of disappointment in her own life choices onto me. I don’t need them. Hold your breath, Evie. You’re my sister, not my mom. I don’t want your judgment.
“I don’t know what to tell you, hon.”
“Nevermind. Sorry I called.” I hang up before she can turn the conversation into a lecture about how a lot of people have problems. You have the power to fix yours. As if to diminish or discredit the things I think and feel. I know a lot of people have problems. I’m one of those people, and my main problem is with other people.
But I wouldn’t expect the problem to understand.
The neighbor starts up again. The rumbling and the marching reverberating against the walls and penetrating my skull. I can’t take it anymore. Without thinking, and with bedhead, no bra, and a t-shirt barely covering my pantieless ass, I swing the front door open.
“Do you mind!”
Of course it’s a man.
He’s wide-eyed at first. Then his lips curl into a grin that’s either mocking me or amused.
“Sorry about all the noise. I’m your new neighbor.” He points to the open door behind him across the breezeway from my apartment. There’s a stack of boxes just past the threshold, and behind them, a couch and a rolled up rug propped against it are all I can see as far as furniture. He holds what looks like a broken down lap under one armpit and an ironing board under the other.
“Thirty more minutes. I promise.”
“Just keep it down.”
He stares, and in the awkward air between us, I realize how much of a wild woman I must look to him right now. When he sniffs (probably because of allergies—from where I stand, I can see the yellow film on the tops steps of the staircase—it is still spring; the pollen still high), I instinctively pull down my t-shirt (I haven’t showered today either. Sue me), which makes my bra-less breasts more pronounced, and I’m sure he’s mistaking my nipple rings for arousal.
But he is kind of cute.
“I can make it up to you.” He washes me over with his eyes, as if I’m on display and he’s picking fruit. “Let me take you out to dinner. Or I can invite you over if you don’t mind the mess. And maybe you’ll let me put a smile on that—”
I slam the door in his face and twist the deadbolt.
I feel the urge to go masturbate.
“It’s okay that you forgot.”
It’s not like this year’s been anything worth remembering. Forgotten birthdays. Forgotten dates. Nights spent alone while he worked late in the office. And last week at counseling, he admitted that he never wanted kids and likely never will.
It would’ve been nice to know that before getting married.
It would’ve been nice to know that before I was seven months pregnant.
“If you wanna go out to eat or something, we can. But I don’t have much money.”
Another one of our marital problems—finances. His startup will take off soon. But right now, we spend more money than we have, and it’s taxing, draining.
“So that means I have to pay?” Again.
He shrugs. “If you want.”
I haven’t gotten what I wanted for a long time. Today, of all days, I just want to be happy. I want us to be happy. I want us to remember why we took those vows, that we loved each other once. I pray that one day I won’t worry about what additional troubles this baby will bring, like the fact that my job doesn’t currently offer paid maternity leave. I’d have to work until this baby drops just to ensure we’ll have food on the table in the days after I’m forced to leave.
“So what are we doing?” he presses.
“I guess I’ll order a pizza,” I say with a sigh as my stomach growls louder.
“For both of us?” he asks, staring at the source of my current hunger pains. I’d be foolish to call the look endearing, but a hormonal wife can only hope, right?
“I guess I’ll order two.” If I’m lucky, he’ll probably eat a slice and maybe half of another and go back to his computer, which currently gets more attention than me, leaving the rest for me to find some semblance of happiness feeding my face and fattening myself up until I pop.
Today we’re celebrating five years of blogging! Let’s make this anniversary happier than the one in today’s story. 😉
It’s probably the wrong thing to say, but I say it anyway.
“You remind me of my pastor.”
He stops, right as I’m about to reach my peak.
Definitely the wrong thing to say. Especially to a man whose face is currently buried between my thighs. Especially when I’m supposed to be at Bible study—I’ve already missed two straight weeks.
And I don’t think he’s saved. But I am. Or, at least, I’m supposed to be.
“Do you think of your pastor doing this to you?”
“No,” I say a little too quickly for it to be believable. His laugh offends me, because I know there are plenty of women in my church who do think of Pastor that way. And how could they not? He’s young, handsome— smooth skin, thick curly hair, full pink lips, eyes that haunt and the adorning long lashes to envy. If not a pastor, he’d be the kind to break hearts.
But he is a pastor. A good one. And a Christian. A good one. Or, at least, he presents himself to be. At this moment, who am I to judge?
I pull my dress up from my ankles and slip my arms through the sleeves. “I think I should go to church.” I’d be there already had I not taken this detour in response to his “Wyd” text.
“No.” He disgusts me how he makes a joke of an obvious problem that I have—giving in to temptation. Maybe it’s because, in fact, I do feel a little . . . sinny.
I give him a quick kiss as I leave, which I immediately regret, not only because it gives him the impression that he can easily lure me back— perhaps after service—but also because now I’ll have the smell of my secret shame fresh on my lips, a smell that Mother Thompson—forever casting stones with her eyes on us “slippery skinny young thangs”—is sure to notice when I’m sitting on the very back pew, begging my Father in Heaven for forgiveness.
NaNoWriMo is coming soon, and I’m considering taking the dive once again.
I don’t know why I continue to torture myself like this…
But I haven’t done any kind of planning or brainstorming, and although I have I plenty of works in progress (including a novella I’m considering giving a total revamp) half-baked ideas, and a current novel I haven’t yet started on, I want this potential NaNoWriMo novel to be 100% new.
Nothing I’ve started and stopped and started again…and stopped again.
Nothing that was once a passion but, after a year, has now become an afterthought.
Something my editor brain won’t overthink to the point that it’s debilitating.
Something I can approach as an adventure rather than potentially the next great American novel (that will only disappoint me when I read it again).
Something absolutely brand spanking new.
Maybe it’s because it’s almost Halloween, but I’m thinking of doing a ghost story. Nothing too scary, but something definitely spooky.
What do you think?
Tell me, what story should I write? I want to step out of my comfort zone a little. I’m sick of writing sad romance. Maybe a different genre will give me the boost I need to get to 50,000 words in one month for the first time ever!
Can’t get enough fiction on a Friday? …
Yes, yes, I know it’s Monday, but there’s a purpose here, I’m getting to it, I promise.
No, no, I’m not being cruel for looking ahead to Friday when it’s only just Monday. I don’t mean to disappoint you.
Ok, ok, in honor of Mondays, and #1MinFiction, I’ll make this short— one minute in fact—because I cherish your delicate feelings so much.
Time for my one-minute advertisement. And . . .
Ready . . .
Set . . .
This Friday, and next, and every Friday in November, and December, and forever, if you enjoy it that much, join #MarquessaChallenge, a Fiction Friday writing challenge that uses song lyrics as prompts. Yes, that means you can listen to the tunes in the background as you type away. How’s that for inspiration!
Ok, minute’s up. Did I miss anything? Ah, yes. Marquessa, host of #MarquessaChallenge (did the name give it away? 😉 ), and I are teaming up this November to bring you Monday’s #1MinFiction and Friday’s #MarquessaChallenge.
Starting this Thursday, Marquessa will give you a new song lyric prompt for the Friday challenge, and I’ll be reblogging it right here on Lovely Curses (I’ve gotten a little reblog-happy lately). Your job is to write a story using that lyric, or a part of it, or if you’re just not feeling it, any part of the song that inspires you. Be sure to drop a link to your story on Marquessa’s prompt post so she can find you, because comments on my reblogs will be disabled.
And don’t forget to come back next Monday, when I’ll be continuing with my holiday-inspired #1MinFiction prompts. November is all about . . . you guessed it, THANKSGIVING! *Gobble, gobble*
If you miss my prompt posts, no worries, Marquessa’s gotcha covered. She’ll be reblogging all of my #1MinFiction prompt posts on her blog, Simply Marquessa. So go ahead and follow her, and not because I told, but because she has great content, including beautifully crafted fiction, #TribeTuesday ideas to fix your life, #WriterWednesday tips, and the occasional opportunity to shamelessly promote your own blog. So why not follow? You’ll never be dissatisfied!
And to get you ready for this Friday, let’s scream with Shawn Mendes, “There’s nothing holdin’ me back!”
“Careful. Hurricane’s out there churning.” Steve says. “Rip currents are strong.”
Always the meteorologist. Even on vacation. I hate it. I don’t need his job reminding me of how sad I am.
I step closer to the water’s edge, seashells making crescent moon imprints on the soles of my feet, spume from the crest of the waves kissing my toes.
It’s forecast veer north, fizzle out in the ocean, but how I wish it would stay the course. Make landfall. Pull me under and drag me out to sea. How I pray he would dive in after me, swim through the crashing waves, the salt in his eyes, the entangling seaweed and obstructing driftwood, to bring me back to him. Hell or high water. My life guard to press his lips against mine, breath the air back into my lungs, the beat into my heart.
Two days ago, he proposed, and when I told him no, he said work was moving him to Texas. There he’ll be an anchor, he tried to justify, more than just a weekend weatherman. People will see him.
How far is Texas? I Googled—nearly 1,500 miles. And away from me. He makes a living predicting the future in weather patterns, but he can’t see what’s right in front of him—the storm clouds gathering above my head, that I’m caught in a whirlwind, being pulled and tossed in different directions, falling apart.
Though he hasn’t explicitly said it, this trip feels like goodbye. Why continue in a relationship that will never end in marriage?
But the truth is I love him. More than the air in my lungs, more than the salt in the sea. More than I want to see the sun rise over the ocean in the morning, or his back shrinking behind the radar green screen.
Water splashes my hips. I’m deeper than I want to be, and when I turn around, he’s a retreating blur in my periphery. I’ve been drawn so far out already. Maybe it’s easier this way. He can climb back over the sand dunes and leave me here to prune. At least then he won’t see me cry, and I won’t have to explain again why it hurts too much to marry him.
“Did you pack enough boxes?” he asks as he folds the cardboard box he just emptied of all my china under his arm and tosses it toward the trashcan, missing it completely.
I don’t tell him about the two bins still in my trunk stuffed with decorations for almost every holiday—Christmas, New Year’s Thanksgiving, Halloween, Easter, Fourth of July, even President’s Day. I’ll wait to unpack those tomorrow, while he’s at work.
I admit I’m a bit of a hoarder, but just as he would’ve inherited a single mother’s snot-nosed kids, all my stuff instantaneously became his the day he married me.
At least we can both agree children will never be in the picture. I have no intentions of sharing him . . . ever. And in this big house, there are so many places we have yet to christen. Including the kitchen counter.
It takes me a few hops to pull myself on top of it, and once I’m up, I spin around to face him, shimmy my shoulders and let the spaghetti straps of my top fall to my elbows like melting ice cream.
“Are we ever going to eat off these?” he asks, oblivious to my advances. He taps his knuckles against the stack of gilded porcelain plates.
“Of course,” I lie, waving off the flying dust. We haven’t used them since Grandma died and left them for me in her will. Only for show, Mama always said. It’s good to have nice things.
“But not tonight.” Tonight, I have other plans. I pull him to my lips by his shirt collar and he stumbles over the box still containing all of my kitchen gadgets next to his feet—the handheld and electronic mixers (because I couldn’t have just one), the blender, food processor, and Spiralizer (how many ways can one chop up veggies?), the juicer that I’ve only used once since buying it five years ago.
“We’ve wasted enough time already,” he breathes into my mouth, reminding me of the housewarming we’ve pushed back twice now.
“But we have the rest of our lives,” I say. What are ten more boxes left—or twenty. I’ve lost count. My head spins when his bare chest is pressed against mine. His body heat melts my candle wax like fire.
“This is all I need,” I tell him, and he mounts the counter top to join me.