Monday, July 7, 2014

Fiction Series: Free Verse, Part 2

I woke up, the next morning, with Damali on my mind. 

It isn’t what you’re thinking. I wasn’t thinking about his smirk, tone, lips, or the lisp that danced between his cadences.
I was wondering how he’d known my father. I slid out of my too-tall bed and pulled up the blinds, for some sunshine. My apartment’s yellow walls already reflected enough sun, for my taste. However, my therapist insisted that I let air/light in, to quell my morning anxiety. I walked into my living room and took a seat, at my corner desk. I was a regular Sidney Shaw—after a high-school creative writing teacher’s compliments and several viewings of “Brown Sugar.” I knew what I wanted to be and what I wanted to do. I opened up Microsoft Word and typed:

If I ever wanted love

it would look like this

In the shape of a sixteen bar verse

Rapped in metaphors and similes

And never miss a beat

Like my fathers tape deck


like the journals

that lay on his desk

How did Damali know my father?

My dad was Fort Greene, all day. He was Harlem Renaissance royalty; the grandson of a jazz musician that migrated to Brooklyn, when uptown started changing. He was Spike Lee block parties and a lover of the HBCU girls that made their way to the north, to party with borough boys. My father made it out of the projects, but still came back from college and bought a house, in his old neighborhood, with his high-school sweetheart. I’m sure they never fathomed they wouldn’t make it, to see their baby girl do the same.
I continued typing. I’d been trying to decide, for a couple of weeks, if I’d finally perform at Free Verse. My father used to take me there to read my baby stanzas, as a pre-teen. Ever since I got back, Mr. Mills has been trying to get me to bless the microphone again.
            I wasn’t ready. 
Performing reminded me too much of my father. My voice and style were similar to his and every time the rhythm left my tongue; I could feel his soul walk right through me.

Love is shoes on concrete

Tapping to 808 beats,

Faltering for cracks or holes—proof

That we are all able to weather the storm

Love is Bambatta playing in the background

Your mother yelling,

For Y'all to turn it down

Giggling, because hip-hop is the one thing

You’re good at sharing

            The tears started. I closed my laptop and redirected my focus to prepping, for my morning at the publishing house.
            I was thirty minutes early. Malaki was always thirty minutes early. I didn’t know if we were both early birds or if I’d kept up the habit because I knew he would.

            I walked past his office, waved hello, and headed to my cubicle to put my things down. We had a tiny cove, under the stairs, that we called a kitchen. I made my way there, to turn on the coffeemaker. We needed a Keurig; this was getting to be tedious. I started to prepare mugs, for all the editors—1 cube for Malaki—2 cubes for—just then Malaki walked in.

“You don’t have to make me any. I’m trying to go decaf these days.”

I turned over his mug and shook the cubes back into their container, “Oh. No problem. Would you like me to run out and get some decaf, instead?”

He took the mug from me, “No. I got it. You really shouldn’t have to do this.”

I smiled and continued to prepare my direct supervisors' coffee, “I don’t mind.”

He sighed, “So what were you doing at that bar, last night? Midnight cap?”

I laughed, “It was nowhere near midnight, and it isn’t a bar. It’s Free Verse—a local bookshop and café. They were hosting an open mic.”

“Oh, you’re into that sort of thing?”

I poured the finished coffee into the mug, “I’m a writer. I write some poetry, but I haven’t performed much of it lately.”

I held back. The last thing folks wanted to hear at a publishing house was that you aspired to be a writer. 

“Ah, a listener. I like that. There’s this great jazz networking event that happens just down the block, from there. You should come out sometime. We can leave work and go together.”
Go together. The two words replayed in my mind. 
I smiled and cupped the mug carefully, prepping to leave the room, “Sure. That’d be awesome. Shoot me an email with the details.”

Did Malaki just ask me on a date?


You can find Erica's books, here.

No comments: