Saturday, September 3, 2016

For Women That Are Whispers



The first time I realized that I was a breeze, a quiet puff across the face, a tucked salvation, I was sitting on the steps of a lover's apartment complex listening to him talk about the "poetry girl" he was making beats for. I had just knocked on his door, and he poked his head out to tell me that he had some artists over and needed me to wait on the steps nearby. I was too early for the night we studied together, and I mostly stared at his smile. I never needed help with biology, and I never needed help with anything really, but that was his major. I needed a way to make him feel like a man in our relation. I've removed the ship from that sentence because I've got hindsight as a superpower now.

Every memory of us crushed together, as I realized that I was invisible, a ghost like infatuation, a name that hadn't left his tongue to anyone but me. We took the long way into his apartment, the side that didn't have Windows. He said he Parked against this wall because there was less of a chance of getting a scratch in the middle of the night.

It was 8 pm, barely the pinnacle of nightfall, when I realized I was invisible.

I swallowed irony as I ran the mile from his place to my own, my thumbs scratched and bleeding from pushing the door open too hard and too fast.  I told him that that bar handle needed to be fixed. It wasn't the first time it scratched me. It did the first time I ever heard him scratch tunes out of his bare hands, melody coming from his fingertips. I leaned into my best friend and told her, "It's like he can read my mind." He spun records in between the club bangers, that made the crowd a rollercoaster, highs, and lows in the form of Mos Def and Dipset, Jay-Z and D' Angelo. We hung on his roof that night and talked music until the sun was a gold-spun record in the sky.

He always picked me up at the back gate of our university, at the same time. We drive miles out for dates because he said he liked Norfolk better, and he never said hi when I saw him on campus.

He'd be bewildered when I brought it up, "What? I'd never ignore you. I just didn't see you."

The first time I realized that I was a spirit, something tucked between palms, prayed for in silence and quiet, I made it home out of breath and in tears. My best friend and roommate wanted to know why he hadn't dropped me home, and all I could do was fall to the floor.

She whispered to me, "F*ck him."

It was a year later, when a frat boy said silently into one ear, "I love you." Not even a second later he followed it up with, "But let's keep this between us, okay?"

& I beat myself up for years.
For being young,
Naive,
Stupid beyond measure.

But how do you measure it when you're almost thirty?

Four months into a new relationship that ended this June, my best friend asked me if I'd met any of my guy's friends.

No.

"Why is he always at your house? Do you ever go to his?"

No.

I'd never really thought about it. We were both so busy that we spent time together, only once a week, and my spot was always closest. He lived in Staten Island, and I wasn't fond of taking the ferry. However, I'd never received an invite.

It didn't matter, anyway. We were over.
Did it matter?

My best friend sighed, "That always bothered me when you were together. We all knew him, but we didn't know much about him. I don't think you did either. I don't know if you can know someone until you know who they surround themselves with."

I've been having trouble lately. I have atrocious anxiety, so I put a lot of blame on myself for things. Folks that get close to me know this, and they use it against me. They tell me I'm overreacting, and I'm just in one of my moods.

I tell my therapist this. She says, "F*ck them."

She says the stories I tell her are blasphemous and any human being in their right mind ought to be offended. I say that I often feel like a secret; a quiet as its kept.

She tells me that my anxiety is normal, that other therapists have caught me during my adjustment periods. I'm an educator, so the school year is intense, and the summer is lighter. I always go to therapy when I have time, during the summer, when my mind finally has the space to run rampant with incessant thought and over-analyzation.

"Are you sure I don't have an anxiety disorder?"

She smiles, "No. You just work too hard. You need balance."

"Am I a whisper?"

"You don't deserve to be."

I've gotten better at deciphering those who've come to crease me into submission, proverbial plaster tape across my lips, keep me so close that my words are smothered. But some slip through the cracks. Literally.

I got cracks.
I break.
If I move too suddenly, phrases start to fall out of them.

Crick.
You looked better in your pictures.
I said I wanted to sleep with you, isn't that a compliment?
I mean, you're cute...but not beautiful.
Honestly, that gap in your teeth is...
You're too tall.
You're too smart.
You're too aggressive.
You're too loud.
You're too woman.
You're too roar.
I hold your stomach down because I don't wanna see it when we...
If you just lost some weight...
If it wasn't for your bra size...
I mean, men don't want to date a...
I couldn't take you home to my mother.
My mother has a preference for the women I date.
If you were just a bit smaller...
Damn, you looked good with longer hair.
I'm not ready for everyone to know, though.
Oh. Did you tell her? Does she know me?
Why do we have to announce it?
Can it just be me and you?
I think you're amazing, but there's a lot of shine on you.
I'm trying to stay low key, ya know.
Yo, but a few years from now...guys are gonna wife you.
Damn, you can cook girl...I see why you're...
Your cousins are so pretty, why didn't you come out like that?
You know I'm in love with you. Why do I have to say it?
Especially around people.
Especially when we're alone.
Especially when I curl up into you, when I'm tired and honest with myself, and recoil when the sun rises.
My boys have expectations.
I'm just not ready for you to meet them yet.
Someone is gonna love you, though.
You're like damn near perfect.
You know that right?

On the best date I've ever had, my ex said, "I just saw a few guys walk in with women taller than them. I think we should be good." It was at a museum with a jewel room. He asked me if I liked diamonds. I lied and said no. I'm sure he was trying to impress me, to hint that he might give me one one day. I said no because I knew that he'd never give me one. I knew from the moment he kept looking both ways, waiting for someone to point out our flaws.

I knew when he texts me from graduation and dinner parties, that I'd hear about during a boring Netflix movie the next day. I just assumed--that he thought--,I was busy.

But I was a whisper.
I sure I still am.
When his boys ask where that girl he was spending his time with went, I will go from a whisper to a shrug, to a knocked back beer, and whispers...

"F*ck her."

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