Tuesday, April 26, 2016

If No One Has Told You: Your Teeth Aren't Confetti (An Ode to Lemonade)

What's black, white, and red all over? 


It's 2 am. The accents of our living room are black and white. He'd told me that I could take liberty with how I adorned the place. In fact, I was told to take liberty with most decisions about "our" life. This was a clear indicator that he did not intend to be a factor, he wasn't here to stay. 

But I was blind. 

I was in love...lust, like...something. 
I was too excited to be in a relationship.
Too ecstatic at the prospect of a prospect. 
Too infatuated with an idea, instead of a person. 

I was red all over. 

Black and white pillows propped by back, while I wrote my latest freelance article for an outlet that sent checks with the speed of a tortoise. We needed the money, however late it might've arrived. I was making up for two incomes, a lack of stamina, the dependency his mother wove deep into his spine. 

He lay on the sectional, next to me, fast asleep. He'd spent the day perusing the internet for potential positions in his field. Full stop.

I'd spent the day running curriculum, from building to building in Harlem, conversed about National Common Core Standards over martinis at the end of the day, wrote a brainstorm in my iPhone notes on the train ride home, and wrote our way into groceries and rent, until the wee hours of the morning. 

I'd come home at 11 pm, and he was still asleep. The garbage was still in the bin, the dishes weren't washed, the painting I asked to be hung sat on the floor. I had finished the tasks before I headed to my computer to write. 


I was finally writing. 

I was writing a dating series about past lovers and wrongdoers.
I was pushing a pen cap through the parts of my box braids, trying to conjure a story. 
I needed to make magic in this Wordpress template.

This was a difficult task because I was in a relationship. I wasn't single and roaming as the column implied. The stories were true, but they were happening in the past. I was building a time machine with my words. 

I wasn't lying. 

I wasn't a liar.
Someone was a liar, but it wasn't me. 

1 am. 

His phone rings. 

I ignore it. 

I keep writing. 

I was writing about this military boy named Carlo I'd met during my tenure at my HBCU. He paraded the campus with a bookbag and a smile like he attended with us and not the Naval base nearby. He had Jamaica tatted down the side of his abdomen and a slight patois accent. He reminded me of home but was the furthest thing from it. 

My boyfriend insisted that I take the writing job to tie up loose ends. I asked him if it bothered him that I was writing about other men, like Carlo. He said no, "You went on dates with them. That's it, for most. I think it's dope that you're getting paid to delve into your nostalgia."

I took the job.

I wrote until my fingers were numb and our fridge was full, and our love wasn't in danger because of financial instability. 

I keep writing.

Carlo's name was changed before he was introduced to the world. He saw me as a "friend," someone he'd prompt, like a shuck-and-jive in front of onlookers, "Yo, read a poem for my boys. She's like a famous poet and sh-t, listen y'all."

This made for good context. 
I wrote that, too. 

Full fledged.

I reread the document and made my edits. 

I ended it with something powerful, something that made it seem like the wound was closed.

His phone rung again. My ex slumbered.

1:45 am.

1:50 am.
1:55 am.
2:00 am.

He did not rise. He was a heavy sleeper. I shook him. Still, no answer. 

So I answered it, "Hello? Hello? Who is this?"

"Hello, is Terrence there? This is his girlfriend."

I had no desire to wear her skin, but I understood warsan shire's metaphor dripping from Beyonce's tongue. It was sour and sweetly familiar. I'd been there.

What did she have, that I didn't? 

"If it's what you truly want ... I can wear her skin over mine. Her hair over mine. Her hands as gloves. Her teeth as confetti."

"Time" was his reason. 
He wore it proud, like a crown of f-ckery pressing thorns into his common sense.

"You never have time. You're never home." 

& I tried to pinpoint when I'd started to go missing. 

I did this same thing when a drunken, mansplaining co-worker approached me , after learning I was no longer going to get married. 

"It takes two to cheat," he said, vodka and arrogance on his breath. 

I'd heard this before, and in some cases there was validity to it. There was sometimes a partner in the union who'd been screaming all along, one that tried to express that the relationship wasn't headed in the direction they thought it would be. 

When I tried to explain that lumps, covered in velour blankets, and Netflix could not speak, he asked me to think deeper. He told me that there was something I wasn't giving, causing my partner to cheat. 

& it was time. Straight from the horses mouth. 

He was right. 
I spent my time trying to be loyal. 
I carried our deficit on my back while pulling him to his feet and telling him continuously that he was love and light. 
I told him that it was feasible for him to illuminate his way back home. 
I pushed. 
I pulled. 
I loved him, without regret, without blame.
I made his hunt for his revolution easier. 
I told him I'd find the money, while he found his way. 

I was mistake. 
I was not letting him be a man. 
I was making lemonade.
I was making stone soup. 
I was trying to amalgamate all the good we had left, hoping it would find us together. 
I was black woman. 
I was one day hoping that he would love me, with more of a force than a pat on the back. 

& when he was dust to dust. 
A blur on the Long Island Railroad tracks, back home to his momma...
I wrote, again. 
I wrote, in the present. 
I wrote to heal. 
I wrote to feel full & whole. 

I made lemonade. 
I still make lemonade. 

Sometimes, with no lemons.
Sometimes, with my palm.
Sometimes, with rain water, tears, and the sweat under my bosom.
Sometimes, with my momma and lemon substitute. 

My mother always scurries, when my father announces his impending arrival. She throws magic on to the stove, she makes leftovers into new dishes, she turns cocktail shrimp into gourmet. Sugar and lemon concentrate, with not enough time to go to the store. I watch her, silently, from a stool in the kitchen. It's the same stool, that I paint from. She stands behind me and with each stroke she nods. It's my mother who purchased my first briefcase of pastels, hands covered in color and grime.

"It's a mess in here, but I love your new work."

She raised me to cater and create, all at once. She taught me that I was womb and warrior. 

"Grandmother, the alchemist, you spun gold out of this hard life, conjured beauty from the things left behind. Found healing where it did not live. Discovered the antidote in your own kit. Broke the curse with your own two hands. You passed these instructions down to your daughter who then passed it down to her daughter."

I have been immersed in think pieces: Some folks think that Beyonce's work is inspired by her marriage to Jay-Z, some think that she's speaking to all of us who've been hurt, others find her to be a vessel for indie and incredible artists to get to the mainstream, and some aren't here for her revolution at all. 

I'm here for the healing. 
I'm here for the acknowledgment.
I'm here for the anthem of my skin. 
I'm here because healing sometimes takes the form of narrative. 

I am living proof of this. I have friends that are also the poster-women of tribulation, lacing their articles with their hurt and hoping someone can rectify via their errors.

I'm here for any song, strum, speech, dance, heartbeat, scribe, that lifts us, that tells us it's okay to be wounded; that tells us it's okay to get angry about it.

Sometimes resonation is enough.
Sometimes it is a starting point.
Sometimes it sparks a movement.

I'm here for Lemonade because I've been there.
Magic making, without recipe.
Sour across my tongue.
Blood on the chopping board.
Citrus in the wound.
Scars and all.


B. Evans said...

Every. Word.

Bradford J. Howard said...

I am late to this and, yet, I am right on time.

What an incredible way to link lemonade to your own experience. Wow.