Saturday, August 27, 2016

For Women and (Men) That Stand Still




I am not a fire, for you. 
I will not reignite if you poke me.

Facebook or otherwise. 

I’m not this thing that you pick up, where you left off. 
You keep mistaking my face for a chapter, my body as a bookmark. 
I’m not to be browsed or thumbed through. 
I’m not a showcase glass, prop, or mannequin,

But still…
I sit still for you. 

Jonathan, my homegirl's fiancé, said his ex-girlfriend who he’d become friends with post-breakup, stopped talking to him when my homegirl became a part of his life. 

Reread that.

We’re driving to the Long Island Railroad, after a hangout for their recent engagement.

I asked him, as we left the house, an old lover on my mind, “How did you know?”

He knew instantly, what I was asking him, “I just did. We meshed. It was time.” 

Ashley, the ex-girlfriend, spent 8,153,600 minutes with him and my homegirl spent 237,600 minutes with him.

I count this in minutes, in love, because adoration screws with time. 
It slows and speeds it, 
Turns an hourglass into a cracked spine. 

Ashley curves into the soft spot of her couch and awaits a call.

He promised he would.

She’s conjured something she needs advice on, just to get him to converse. I mean, why else would he want to?

He made it clear that, after 8,153,600 minutes, he was not that into her. 

Or maybe it was minute 153,000…

At the restaurant when she caught an attitude with the server. 

Or minute 6,324,411, when she got drunk in front of his boys.

Or minute 5, 

on their first date, twenty-four hours after he promised his momma he would settle down. 

“She’ll do,” he thought. 

Settle. 

I wonder if Ashley still knows the feeling of dust or the afterthought of an oven open too soon. 

But Ashley has hope. 
Jonathan feeds it.

Dinner and wine on Thursdays. 
Memes in her text messages. 
Visiting her temple.

Ashely knows. 
She’s chosen to swallow words over regurgitating intuition. 

How do I know? 

I’ve been her. 
On the cusp of what could’ve been and what might be…
Twiddling my thumbs, hoping that time would mend us, despite…

Minute 6, 
Post online or phone conversation, 
When he cocks his neck back at the bar to take in how tall I really am, and convinces himself that height doesn’t bother him. He’d forgot to ask you that and couldn’t really tell from the pictures. 

Minute 9, 
when I’m back from the bathroom and he makes a joke about wearing heels around him, but every joke has a little truth in it. 

Minute 345, 
When you’re walking off the promenade and realize that his palms are sweaty, his heartbeat is fast, and he wants to kiss you, but doesn’t.

He waits, until we are on a quiet and dark street, right before the Uber pulls up. 
I believe it is nervousness, a semblance of anxiety, but it is not. 
I find this out on minute 365,000, on my living room sofa, when he finally resigns that my height bothers him. 

“I mean, I can grow to like it.”

I wanted to be petty and tell him that he couldn’t grow at all, but I digressed. 

I smiled, sweetly, “I’ll pass.”

It is then I realized that I’m merely a shadow, something trying to catch up with him, fading with time.
It’s in this space that I decide that I no longer want to stand still. 
He is hmm, ahhh, and hesitation.

I am packing items left in my abode, it doesn’t take me long to come to this decision. 

You see…
Women are better at the…knowing what they want…thing. 
We let it jump from our throats. 
Cricket like rejections turned “I’m-just-looking-for-friends” on your earlobes. 

Minute 6, 
I am appreciating the way he hums along with Nina Simone playing in the background. 

Minute 8, 
I’ve adjusted my Spanx, checked my hair, glanced the stall on my way out of the restroom.

Still beautiful after an hour train ride? Check. 

Minute 300, 
before the post date walk. 
I change to flats, hoping they’ll put him at ease. 

Minute 345, 
I watch Brooklyn’s skyline reflect in his eyes and I think, “What if?”

Minute 364,499, 
I am considering what forever would look like, when he says, “I don’t know if this is working. Some things make me uncomfortable…and…and…there’s the height thing…and…”

For the first time, I’m in love and broken, 
And I’m not still.

I stand firmly in the crevices. 

I realize we were both still: he is settling and I’m ignoring the obvious. 

I shuffle through the hurt. 

Somebody has to break the cycle.

I pick up the items one by one, while he continues to spew conjunctions,

But
However
And
Orrrr…

You could just take your shit and leave. 

We’re still driving to the station when I ask Jonathan, “Sooo, Ashley, how is she? Have you heard from her?”

He shrugs, “I don’t know. I just know I knew from day one that it wasn’t going to work out.” 

I look out at the window, the town breezing through the trees, time is moving slowly, and I whisper, “Actually, you knew on minute 9.”

____________________________________________________________

This essay is from Erica B.'s new book "F-Boy Literature." It's available on Amazon, now! 

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