Saturday, March 26, 2016

Rewriting History

I'm sitting on the Brooklyn promenade with a fiery brown Brooklyn boy, and I don't think he can fathom what this moment means to me. 

We hang our legs over stone steps, carved to meet the river that connects the boroughs. 

He says, in his ripple-like voice, water lapping nearby, "These steps have been here longer than the gentrification. I used to come out here to think."

I am afraid to tell him that I did the same thing. 

If you ask my best friends, how I love, they will tell you: with words, heart, hard, and somewhere near the Brooklyn Bridge. 

From walks with my mother after bookstore visits in the city, to that Brown Sugar moment that Boris lands a kiss on Sanaa's lips, to scribing to the skyline, the promenade has always been my oasis. It was where I lay my burdens down, gave them to the bright blue sky. It's a place I've allowed very few to infiltrate, with me. I kept it safe, only mentioning it in my work and to my girlfriends. 

You'd think that if you loved me you'd read my work. 
It's been the safest place to keep my secrets.
That should tell you all you need to know, about my love life.

Once, my ex-boyfriend asked my best friend for the perfect date idea. She spit it out, right away, without thinking, "You've got to take Erica to the promenade. She loves that place. It's where she goes to hide and write."

She told me, months after our breakup, that he thought this was too predictable and chose not to go along with it. 

& now someone is pervading my space.
Or perhaps I'm doing the same to him. 
New York City twinkles across the way.
 & I'm recollecting all that correlates with this view. 

But I could feel none of it. 

We'd laughed at a poetry reading, ate Mexican and spotted Busta Rhymes, and stared at one another now and then, both thinking the same thing: When are we going to kiss? 

When I asked if he was ready to go, he said he wanted to do one more thing. He led the way to the promenade and all the while I wrung my hands in anticipation, because...this is the first time I'd be there with someone that could be special. 

& I tried to conjure the hurt that I usually give to the water, allowing it to float away, but I could feel none. 

I was happy. 
& it would take a time machine, 
the echo of a past lover, 
a sighting there--in that space, 
God triggering a memory, 
for me to me hurt, there, again.

At that moment, all I could see was--night, 
fiery brown, 
Brooklyn boy, 
with intellect abundant, 
a crooked smile, 
and similarities in our banter. 

Good things.

I was rewriting history.

& it wasn't the first time. 

Up until last year, I couldn't drive through or past Philadelphia, without crying. 

I'd grip my wheel tighter, passing the I-95 exit, and force myself to look in another direction. There was a rage that I don't dare mention in posts anymore, but the best part about it is that it's gone. 

In 2015, I walked the city with co-workers during a work retreat. We scarfed down cheesesteaks, trying to decide which restaurant had the best one. I walked past familiar sites, ones that used to sting upon mention, but I was on cloud nine. I was at the top of my game, excelling in my career, immersed in the hum of a good time. 

I was rewriting history. 

Today, Tara and I went jogging in Eisenhower Park. We turned into an exit, and instantly something clouded her eyes, "I've been here before. It was for my ex's graduation barbecue." I know the ex she's referring to. He's the kind of man we whisper about, like Voldemort, his name leaves cringe and suffering everywhere.

"Oh, him."

She pulls into the parking lot, "Yeah, him."

We spend the day on a nature trail she's never walked before. We take in the 9-11 memorial, stretch at all the fitness stops, and laugh at the plethora of geese shit on the concrete. 

She Snapchats our adventure and laughs as I fail to do pull-ups, on a pull-up bar, "We've got to do this again."

I recognize the smile on her face, as she says this. It's one I wore, only a few nights before. 

She's rewriting history.


I could relive my past through my pages. 

My shelves are filled with burning questions, unanswered affairs, the scrawl of a girl enamored. 

& sometimes I do. 

I'll sit in my office, hardwood floors beneath me, tattered and colorful notebooks surrounding me. My words will fill the room; they're in different languages: the language of a fourteen-year-old in love with her best friend, the sound of an eighteen-year-old that merely escaped harassment, the laughter of twenty-one-year-old independence. 

These women/girls, variations of myself, are necessary for me to scribe. Sometimes I need to tap into them, to describe a moment or use certain vernacular. They are all prison to smell, a song, a place, a vivid metaphor. 

& even without opening the books, I was once able to conjure them by walking into those spaces:

A bedroom: 

"You will slip outside of yourself. Third person. Your body is not you. You are a soul that's drifted from your casing and even though you're outside watching and horrified, this is not happening to YOU. Convince yourself this, because it's all that you have left."

"On one of the nights that we lay awake talking, he brings this up, out of nowhere and everywhere, "I'm afraid to have daughters that look like us. I don't want them to go through what my mother and aunts went through. I think things will be different for my children if they look different."

"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."

"You don’t believe in beating your children. You don’t believe in abusing women. I’m confounded by your stances. How can a revolving door, a man cloaked in mistakes, believe in anything but himself? You talk about homeschooling. You wonder if they’d be better off outside of a public classroom, among students who've been sheltered and covered. I wonder if you know you are a home school, a role model, in front of an audience every day. You’re a professor of faux pas. You tell one woman you’re celibate, another that you’re looking for something special, a mother that you’re not sure what you want right now, but it can “progress.” You draw chalk lines around black-bored bodies. You teach anatomy like Basquiat, pull parts from lovers and display them on a canvass, which happens to be your skin."


As I get older, my bedroom recollections are the rustle of boxes and laundry bags. It's painted over with the memory of leaving to move into my apartment, for the first time. My alma mater glows with professors who often ask me to come back and "little brothers/sisters" who ask me to come back and "chill." The ringtone that used to send a jolt through my body is simply a tune that I once knew and my students hum as a throwback, occasionally. 

None of the spaces, memories, words resound the same. The reverberations are replaced with other things, good things, illuminating things, as I glow up.

We are always rewriting history.

& I take in the night, 
fiery brown, 
Brooklyn boy, 
with intellect abundant, 
a crooked smile, 
who grows, 
whose journals no longer define her.

Good things.

I am rewriting history.

It's a realization that comes to me as I'm sitting on the edge of Brooklyn, trying to pinpoint the last time I'd felt happiness there. 

The river pushes itself on the rocks below our feet, and it's saying something, "Right now. Right now. Right goddamn now."


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