#BlaPoWriMo: I met this girl…

I met this girl–skin like polished mahogany, hair like lamb’s wool, lips like plush cushions–she ruined my philosophy of the mad black woman. It is not a frown on her face but a grimace as she holds the weight of every black man who has sat on her back like an ottoman pulled from under the table for guests to rest their feet, have a drink and discuss the politics of the world too sophisticated for a female’s mind, who should know her place in silence when company is around. My heart skips a beat when she finally stands–shows me how tall she really is.

© Nortina Simmons

#LyricalFictionFriday: On the Other Side

Kyle picks up the board and splits it over his knee, but it won’t erase from their minds the message that was just spelled out.

“Do you hear that?” Lisa asks.

“Shut up!” Kyle snaps. Even he doesn’t recognize the squeal that exits from his mouth.

“There’s no point.” Ryan clears his throat. Given that it might have been his dead brother calling for help from the other side, he seems the calmest of the three of them. “The door’s already been opened.”

“I’m not staying to see what walks through.” Kyle turns to leave but stops in the foyer in front of the closet. It’s cold outside, still winter, there’s wind, freezing rain in the forecast, he would need his coat.

“What is it?” Lisa asks, trepidation in her voice.

Kyle puts his ear to the closet door.

“You hear it too.” Ryan says it more as a statement than a question.

Kyle swallows hard. He won’t confirm or deny the echo of his own breathing on the other side.

© Nortina Simmons

 

#LyricalFictionFriday: Ruff Nite

Another commerical. eHarmony.com. FarmersOnly.com. BlackPeopleMeet.com. I receive spam emails from Match at least every week. How they got my information remains a mystery…

Like how Michael already knew where I lived before our first date, could describe my sandy colored Toyota Camry with his eyes closed, along with what was inside, even down to the pile of dirty clothes in the back seat that I still haven’t taken to the laundromat.

As I watch these “couples” force smiled for the cameras, sit together— knees barely touching—holding hands—fingers closed—and proclaim how these websites brought them together with their best friend, their soulmate, the love of their lives, I wonder how many tries did it take?

How many I-still-live-at-home-with-my-mom’s did they have to go through? How many middle-aged I’m-still-finding-myself’s? How many unemployed “entrepreneurs”? How many do-you-think-you-can-cover-the-check’s? How many my-girlfriend-wants-to-spice-up-our-relationship’s?

Or is that only on the free dating websites?

I press the power button on the remote. There’s nothing on TV at this hour anyway.

Benny, my chocolate lab, who’s been laying at my feet, jumps up when I move. He wags his tail, licks my palm, bows his head for me to pet him. He did the same at the door when I returned home from another demoralizing evening of being groped in a movie theater by a man who couldn’t repeat my name two minutes after introductions but remembered that my profile said I was a Pisces, and according to some magazine he read, Pisces are freaks in bed.

He was sadly disappointed when I showed him how fast my rear tires could spin as I sped out of that parking lot, leaving him in the fumes of my 20-year-old car’s exhaust.

“Oh Benny,” I say with a sigh, scratching behind his ear. “Your cocoa fur against mine is all I need to help revive me after the night I’ve had.” I slap him on his hind leg, and he scurries off ahead of me toward the bedroom.

Sad as it may sound, Benny is the only male I’ll be sleeping with tonight. 

© Nortina Simmons

 

#LyricalFictionFriday: Distance

“My love,” she says as she tilts the bottle under the rush of hot water raining down from the faucet. She looks over her shoulder. He’s standing by the door. It’s open behind him. Cracked. A sliver of light from the hall pours in. He reaches back for the knob…

Oh, how she wishes he would push it closed, take those three giant steps around the kitchen island with his long lanky legs to come behind her, as he used to, long days after work. Their bodies fitting together like puzzle pieces, how she wishes he would wrap his arms around her waist, whisper in her ear, “My love,” the way he did thirteen months ago, before—

A sudden cry from the monitor by the sink grabs her attention, for only a second, and in that second, the distance between them grows. The door is open wider now, his body fits between the crack, blocking the light, one foot already in the hall.

“Will you get that?”

But that isn’t a phone she can answer and tell its caller to ring back later, or a TV she can put on mute. That is a baby. Their baby. And has he even touched it? Fed it? Changed a single diaper? Does he know that it has his eyes? Does he realize that she still doesn’t feel like a mother, looks at it like it’s a thing, a thing that won’t be quiet, that won’t stop?

She wants to ask him…

If he comes back.

She’s left in darkness. The door closed, she hears the echo of his footsteps down the hall, but they don’t grow faint, they get louder, and the speaker from the baby monitor triples in size, the cries rising, flooding her ears, pushing her down to the floor, curled in the fetal position, hysterical, waiting for some kind of a miracle.

#LyricalFictionFriday: Muse

I still hear Pete’s voice in my head when I knock on Carrie’s front door…

“Remember what happened to Ron?”

First of all, Ron can’t drive. Not a car—he’s totaled three. Not a bike—motored or pedaled. Even walking, he can’t drive. If you want my opinion, bruh was asking to get hit.

And yeah, I know they still haven’t caught the guy who did it and ran, and that the description of the car fits Carrie’s Subaru almost exactly, even down to the first three letters on the license plate—Ron passed out before he could read the rest.

I look over my shoulder at her ride parked in the driveway. It does appear to have a sizable dent on the front fender, but that could also be how the shadow hits the hood from the porch light.

Truth is, I couldn’t give a damn about Ron. If she did run him over, hey, that just means he’s out the picture. Besides, she’s told me countless nights that I’m her muse. What has Ron done for her except get caught cheating?

She opens the door slowly, her blond, waist-length dreadlocks swaying in the draft the door creates.

“Hey.”

“I’m living in an empty room, with all the windows smashed.”

It takes some getting used to, talking to Carrie. I gotta be honest, the first time I heard her speak, I was on the same boat as Pete, thinking she was coo-coo. But spending a few nights with her—bass-throbbing hip-hop the soundtrack to her drumming pen to pad on knee as she sits criss-cross applesauce on her basement floor and spits lyrics like a conversation without even glancing down at the words—made me realize, Carrie is a living, breathing poem. And to a guy who once had wet ink dripping from his own tongue, that’s sexy as hell.

“I got your text.”

“Bleeding soles treading on the shards of broken glass.” She plays the love-scorn damsel well, and it reminds me of what seems like ages ago, when I wanted to be an MC—always had my earbuds plugged in, free-styling straight fire as I walked the streets, not caring who heard me, who called my music noise.

“Let me be the welder who mends your heart.”

Like Carrie I let love get in the way of my greatness. I turned to writing love songs, but the passion was gone. Anything that came out of my month was dry and arid, like a California desert, but no matter how many sparked matches I tossed on the ground, it wouldn’t light up.

You see, you can’t rhyme when the only thing on your mind is pleasing the person you’re with, and Charin was hard to fucking please. I guess Ron was too, since he chose the one chick every dude on the block has been with over this gem, this diamond in the ruff.

Truth is, Carrie is my muse just as much as I am hers. The sounds we could make together as we mourn both our losses…

Maybe I’m the one who’s crazy. To want this girl, barely 100 pounds, with dreadlocks and a bull nose ring, who writes poetry and cant’t speak unless it’s in metaphor, who may or may not have attempted murder…

But then, we’ve all got skeletons in our closets.

#LyricalFictionFriday: Hoedown

When I told Janay I wanted to try something different, I was thinking nerd-ish, maybe religious. Hell, I’d even go with corporate; there were plenty of fine-looking brothers working well-salaried office jobs.

Anything was better than the fake-ass wannabe rapper, not a cent to his name, grills on his teeth cost more than his rent, more Jordan’s in his closet that dollar bills in his wallet, burnt lips from all the cigars he smokes, lying-ass, cheating-ass, baby mama drama having-ass scumbag I was used to with JT.

But never in my wildest dreams did I imagine she’d take me to a New Year’s Eve, Farmers Only dot com, cowboy hoedown. It’s criminal to have this much denim in one room, unless it’s being burned. The sea of leather boots scuffing the floor makes it hotter than a black church on Christmas, and the height of their heels make my wedges look like pre-school training wheels for sluts.

I feel out of place, and extremely overdressed. My off-the-shoulder minidress barely covers the butterfly tattoo on the back of my upper thigh, and it’s no secret that the dress isn’t the only little black thing in the room—all blue, green, and steel grey eyes on me.

“What the hell is this?” I whisper out the side of my mouth to Janay as a cowboy in a fringe vest brushes by, says in a husky voice with beer-soaked breath, “Ma’dam.”

“Something different.” Janay winks at me. I hate her.

“Just because they’re a different color doesn’t mean they’re not still dicks.” I look over my shoulder and lock eyes with another leaning up against the wall by the door we’d just entered. Had he always been standing there? He spits into a can by his feet, sucks on his teeth, though it looks like he’s sneering at me, his bushy eyebrows furrowed. I bet his is the black pickup parked right outside the door, with the Confederate flag displayed on the front bumper.

I have to remind Janay how many we’ve seen flying over the two-lane highway on our drive out here to Middle of Nowhere, USA. Half-shaved dying pine trees on every side of us. There’s not another building for at least five miles back the way we came. If anything happened to us—I eye the holster on his hip, too small for a gun, but make not a pocket knife—who would come looking?

“You said it yourself. You’re sick of the candy-coated misery.”

Ok, so I break out sometimes when I eat chocolate, but do lactose-intolerant people give up ice cream just because it makes them a little gassy? Hell no! And I’m not that stupid either.

“Howdy, ladies.” For all the stomping of the dancers to the banjo and harmonica bluegrass music played onstage, I don’t hear him approach from behind. Not doorman; he’s disappeared. Maybe he’s had enough of the party already. I sure have.

This one tilts his hat to us. His long nose, dips over his thin lips, curled in a smile, barely visible through the five-o’clock shadow of a beard slowly growing in that covers the entire bottom half of his face. He opens his palm to the ceiling. “Care to dance?”

Why? So he can slide his hand down my back, cop a feel to see if our butts really are bigger? So he can get a taste of forbidden fruit, come back to the lodge and tell the boys about his wild night of jungle fever? So he can confirm just how animalistic we are in bed?

“No thanks,” I say, but Janay pushes me so hard I nearly knock myself out on the zippers stretching down the shoulder of his jacket.

“Don’t be so pretentious. It’s New Year’s! Have fun!”

The spurs on his boots spin as he kicks up his feet, marches me down to the front of the stage. The crowd parts for us like the Red Sea. My skin burns under their stares, but he doesn’t seem to mind. Thumbs hooked behind his belt buckle, feet squared, knees raised to elbows in an awkward sideways lunge shuffle. He doesn’t even notice that I’m not dancing with him, and just as quietly as he snuck up on me, I slip between the bodies clad in hip-hugging jeans and bolt for the door.

It’s just my luck that Mr. Confederate is resting his elbows on the hood of his truck when I come crashing into him. He catches me in his arms, holds me firmly against his hip. “Where you going, little lady?” he says, and swiftly pulls me up for a ride.

His muffler is too loud for anyone to hear my screams, so I don’t bother. I wonder, has Janay noticed yet that I’m missing, or has she found herself a cowboy to dance with too? I tug on the seat belt and click it across my lap, fixate on the toothpick in his ear as he backs out of the dirt driveway and pulls out onto the road, hitting every bump on the highway as we cruise deeper into the country.

#LyricalFictionFriday: Knock, Knock

There’s just something about him . . .

A woman’s decorative touch on the door tempts me to turn back, but the memories of Christmases spent alone keep me planted.

I pull the sleeves of my sweater over my fists to conceal what I hold in my hand.

I’m locked and loaded, completely focused. 

When she opens the door, I hook my finger around the trigger and fire. Point blank, dead center, right between the eyes. Her body crumples to the floor.

Now he knows how much I want this. Body still sore from the surgery— I’ve changed everything for him. My hair, the way I dress, how I speak. I’ve even killed.

As she lies dying, her eyes are still open. Sheer terror frozen in their gaze. I wonder about her last thought, before the bullet pierced her skull.

That an unsuspicious knock on the door, while gingerbread cookies bake in the oven, has snatched her life from her? Or that the face behind the wool-wrapped double-barreled pistol was her mirror image?

#LyricalFictionFriday: Real

“She’s way out of my price range.” I shake my head and turn back down the aisle. Plastic and artificial will have to do for another year. The memory of Bernadette’s acrylic nails piercing the skin of my back last Christmas Eve makes me wince.

I hate plastic and artificial.

“No way, man,” Michael says. “The company finally recognized all your hard work and sacrifice with a Christmas bonus. Treat yourself. Get the show-stopper.”

On the opposite end of the aisle I spot a guy, with half his face covered behind a bulky, padded winter coat, eyeing my prize. We both make a dash for it, but I, being closer and quick on my feet—those years running track in high school finally pay off—get to her first.

The woman trims the needles of the tree twice her size in height and girth. I glance down at her nametag: Marie.

At least it’s not Mary. Mary wore dentures. I found that out the first time I tongue kissed her.

“Excuse me–”

Let me stop you right there.” She holds the shears over her shoulder as if she’s about to sling them like an ax. “I think it’s so sweet…how you let your friend encourage you to try and talk to me…”

I look past her. Homeboy is frozen in mid-stride, ready to pounce the second I’m denied.

But I won’t be denied.

“Yes,” she says, and winks. Her back to my competition, she perks up her chest, and they look real. Proportional to her body, no nipples the size of bottle caps busting through her shirt like steel; soft, squishy—at least from what I can see—not hard like melon rinds, or unusually round and firm like apples. She takes a two-inch pencil missing the eraser out of the front pocket of her apron to write down her phone number.

A check right before the holidays, and to match, maybe even a date with a hot chick whose body parts didn’t come with a price tag—this is turning out to be the best Christmas ever!

I pinch the end of a lengthy branch she’s missed cutting, rub the sap between my thumb and index finger. Sticky. No paper cuts from the fibers. Sweet satisfaction.

But what I really wanted was the tree.

#LyricalFictionFriday: One Way

I’m not running from him.

I know what it looks like. A one-way ticket to Bora Bora two days after his wedding. But it’s not what you think…

…Maybe it is….

Who am I kidding?

He texted me that night. When he should’ve been consummating the vows he made to Justine. Probably snuck out onto the balcony of their honeymoon suite afterward with his phone, while she was in the bathroom freshening up.

“Why do I feel like I just made the biggest mistake of my life?”

It felt oddly like deja vu. Maybe because it was almost verbatim to what I had said when I called things off with Sean, expecting him to come running. We had been going round and round with the lovers and friend charade for years. We were never available for each other, except on late, lonely nights, when the people we loved weren’t enough. Finally, I took the risk, dove head first from the highest plank into the deep end, assuming he would catch me,  but he asked Justine to marry him instead.

“We’ve been together for so long. And she’s been talking about it a lot, and about kids. I just couldn’t do that to her. I couldn’t–”

He didn’t have to finish his sentence for me. I know what it’s like for a woman to invest her whole life into a relationship, only to have it crumble at her feet, and try to pretend like it doesn’t kill her inside.

Just like it’s killing me to send this text two days later while sitting at the window seat of a Boeing 777 taxing from the terminal gate as I type.

It makes no sense to be falling…you’ve got her, I’ve got him, shouldn’t even be calling…

I turn off my phone before his reply has a chance to come through. If I’m lucky, I was premature in hitting the power button and the message never even sent. Then I won’t have to worry about seeing a response that might convince me to stay, or come back.

But in twelve hours, none of it will matter. There’s no need for a phone. I won’t have service where I’m going. I drop the phone in the seat pocket in front of me, behind the Sky Jet magazines and onboard menus, to be forgotten.

The pilot’s muffled voice comes over the speakers—we’ve been cleared for take-off. The engines underneath me rise, the plane jolts forward, my stomach lifts as the ground below slowly disappears.

I close the window shade to the sunset outside, and then my eyes, hoping that the next time I open them, I’ll wake to a beautiful sunrise, a new life, and maybe, just maybe, a new love too.

#LyricalFictionFriday: Digging into the Past

“I just have to know,” she says, drumming her fingers against the manila folder.

Don’t look for what you don’t want to find,” Drayton says, but the words have lost their sincerity over the years. A quarter century in the business, and every women who’s hired him has been the same.

She curls her fingers under the edge of the folder, begins to peel it back, then quickly closes it, slamming her hand down on top. “Can’t you just tell me?”

He shakes his head. “My job is to do the research.” It still surprises him that he even has a job. He’s not like a private eye, who follows his charge around, takes pictures, captures him in the act. He digs into the past, which, if this bride-to-be really wanted to know, a simple Google search would have sufficed—changes of residences, voting history, criminal history, even school records if he was heavily involved in sports or academics. Old social media posts could have also given her a glimpse into his past life.

All these things she could have done herself, without give up $500. But like all the other women before her, she has waited until the day she walks down the aisle to decide she wants to know the man she’s marrying. And like them all, she doesn’t want to be responsible for what she finds.

“Do you love him?” he asks.

“More than anything.”

“Then why isn’t it enough?”

Like Rachel, who’s fiancé’s last relationship was with another man. Or Brenda, who’s fiancé never told her about his previous marriage. Or Jessica, who’s fiancé’s deceased father was a Klansman, and before he met his black bride, he shared his father’s beliefs.

Why was it never enough to let the past stay buried, to continue forward with the new life they’d already begun to build? Did not the flowers still rise from the ashes left behind by the destruction of fire? Did not the sun still rise after the darkest hour of the night?

“I just have to know.”

She opens the folder, and all the air left in the room is sucked into her lungs.

Another marriage, ended, before it’s had a chance to begin.