Monday, February 13, 2017

Fiction Series: Saturday, Chapter 2





Missed Chapter One? Read it HERE.

His name was Langston.

He sat, with his legs crossed, smirking from the other side of my sectional. There was nothing new about the curve on his face. I’d seen it worn on several Morehouse men, pretty boy Kappas, brown skin with a caesar, you’re-lucky-I’m-here, entitled negroes. 

“Well, well. I guess I made it in.”

I rolled my eyes, “How long before your landlord gets here with your key?”

He looked at his phone lackadaisically, clearly in no rush to leave, “Soon. He said he was a few blocks away at a bar. He’ll be back soon. You want me gone, already?”

“I was headed to sleep.” 

He looked at the burning candles, my open journal and Pearl Cleage memoir, on the table, and smiled, “It looks like you were about to get cozy. Is this what you do on a Saturday night?”

He picked up my book and I snatched it from his hand and put it back into its place. This seemed to amuse him. His stupid smile was consistent. It was there when I closed my blinds in his face, when he saw me in the mornings on my way to work, and now here in the dim light of my sanctuary. 

I didn’t want him there long enough to create memories. I didn’t want to envision him, while I was unpacking my groceries, watching Shondaland, or grading papers. It took a lot of time to clean someone’s spirit from your abode. People leave their imprints and you’re left to scrub them from your mind, hoping there’ll be a day when a nook or cranny doesn’t resurrect their influence. 

He got up and started walking towards my hallway. I jumped out of the sofa and followed him, “Where are you going?” 

“I’m going to the restroom, calm down.”

“You’re not even going to ask my permission.”

He paused in front of my office and laughed, “Girl, you’ve really gotta chill. Our apartments have the same layout. I know where to go. Is this your office?”

“No, it’s just a room with a desk and bookshelves.”

I stood in front of the door, guarding my most precious items. He played limbo under my arm as my pajama sleeve brushed his head and made his way into the room, despite my refusal. I was embarrassed that I’d answered the door in my striped PJs. I must’ve looked like a child. I should’ve listened to my homegirl May on our weekly trips to TJMaxx. She warned, “No one is going to want to see you in that.” I’d roll my eyes and reassure her that no one was looking. 

Here I was. In my apartment’s office, Langston running his fingers on the spine of my books, and he was looking. 

“What are you staring at?”

“You. There’s a lot more to you than I…”

I grabbed his arm and tried to pull him out of the room. He stood firm, laughing at my strength. I could’ve easily pulled him out of the room, but something softened me. It’d been a while, since I’d put my palm on the skin of someone I found attractive. 

Langston stood there, in fatigue pants and a white tee. It was the dead of winter and he must’ve been a mad man to show up without a coat, but his caramel skin poured from every direction the cotton would allow. He was flawless, except for a small scar below his left eye. I wanted to ask him where he got it, but I didn’t want to fall into intricacies. If he shared something personal, I would have to too. 

The only scar that was visible was a slash across my arm, from a spat during my one girl fling in college. I didn’t know how hard women loved, until I decided to date one. We argued over a text message conversation she’d been having with another woman and when she tried to leave I jumped out of the bed, after her. My arm slid across a nicked corner of the headboard and cut my arm. I didn’t notice that I was bleeding until I made three blocks, barefoot, yelling her name. 

If he asked me about my scar, I’d have to tell him about how I’d ask someone who’d cheated on me and hurt me to come back. What would he think of me then? Why did I care?

Langston pulled a book from the shelf, like dejavu, “You’re a huge Danticat fan, huh?”

I sucked my teeth, my Jamaican heritage making its way through my saliva, “What do you know about Edwidge?”

“Only everything. My mother is Haitian. I’ve been trying to get her to read it, but her bible is her everything.” 
“Wow. Where’s your father from?”

The question slipped. I’d begun asking for intricacies. 

“He’s from the Dominican Republic. It’s why I love Edwidge’s work. She talks a lot about…”

“I know.”

“Why do you keep cutting me off? Afraid you might find…”

“I’m not cutting you off.”

“You just did it again. Yeah, you’re afraid.”

He touched my arm and ran his finger across my scar, like he could read my mind. Before I could protest, his phone rang. 

“Yeah. I’m next door. I’ll be out in two seconds.”

I walked him out of the office and to the door.

He stopped and looked at me before I could close the door, “I could come back, if you want me to.”

I rolled my eyes, “Goodnight, Langston.”

This didn’t affect him. He stood firm, in his same sinister smile, “Goodnight, Bessie.”
______________________________________________________

My momma said she named me after good times. 

She said that years before she or I ever existed, women got free and then somehow we got chained up again. I never knew if there were any validity to her stories, because when she told them she was high as a kite. I’d tell her about herself, too. 

“Momma, you’re high.” 

I could hear the crackle and pop of her pipe, from her bedroom. I could hear it even when I drowned it out with a B2K album. I didn’t know if it was the actual sound or my mind playing tricks on me, when the music was blasting, but I was never wrong. She’d come into my room and snatch the allowance she’d just given me from my newest hiding space and beg for my forgiveness later. 

When she was sober, she’d sing “Nobody Knows When You’re Down And Out” and cook us dinner. She’d fry plantains and stray from her sultry singing for a second, “Baby, what’s your flavor? Bessie, Bach, or Bop?”

I didn’t know what she was talking about until I took a Harlem Renaissance course in college. I realized that I’d been named for Bessie Smith and that my momma quoted Langston Hughes often. 

I remembered her saying, “I heard a Negro play, down on Lenox Avenue the other night.”

We lived in Harlem, so I thought she was referring to one of the musicians that played near the subway. When I sat in my first day of class and the teacher performed “The Weary Blues” I realized my momma was in love with an era. It’s like she was stuck there. 

I came home for the holidays and went to visit her in Bellevue. She was in the psychiatric ward and the doctors said she wasn’t getting any better. I walked into the pale blue room, with peeling blue paint, that I hated to frequent, and sat next to her as she rocked in her chair. I put my report card in her lap, “Momma, I got all As this semester.” She didn’t say anything. I thought of the poems I’d heard in class and recited one I hoped would trigger her memory. I was convinced that there was a time that she’d been immersed in the work she’d been quoting.  

Let the rain kiss you. Let the rain beat upon your head with silver liquid drops.”

For the first time, in what seemed like years, she responded, “Let the rain sing you a lullaby.”

I fell to my knees and put my hands on her legs, pushing her rocking chair back, and looking up into her eyes, “What you know about that, momma?”

“That’s Langston, girl.” 

“Yes. I’m learning about him in school. I think I want to be a writer and a teacher, just like him.” 

“Like your grandfather.” 

“Grandpa was a writer? Tell me about him.”

She stared off into space, much like the days she was high, and became solemn once more. I knew, once that glazed look came across her eyes, she wouldn’t speak anymore. 

I didn’t know much about my mother’s family. I was born to a crack addicted mother and my father couldn’t find us. When he threatened to take me, if she didn’t stop using, she fled with me. He found us, when I was twelve, but it was too late. I’d spent twelve years trying to save my momma and I failed.
_____________________________________

Saturday. January 20th. 11pm. 

“His name is Langston.”

“Whoa. What kind of literary fine ass name is that?”

May was so extra. We were having our monthly dinner and I was telling her about the fool from next door. 

“It’s just weird, especially after the whole thing with my momma.”

“That’s a sign, girl.”

“What? That my drug addicted mother could tell that I’d be knocked up with a polyamorous fool named Langston?”

That one set May off. She was laughing uncontrollably, “Girl! You don’t know that man’s life. Give him a chance.”

“A chance to do what? Break my heart?”

May took another sip of her appletini, “Or love you, relentlessly. Valentine’s Day is around the corner.”

I rolled my eyes, “Shutup May. You know how much I hate that day.” 

May grabbed both my arms from across the table, “You’ve really got to get over your sweet sixteen, Bessie.” 

May was referring to my first heartbreak. My best friend slept with my escort, the night of my sweet sixteen. My birthday was on February 14th. I believe that’s when my curse started, but I wasn’t still hung up on this particular moment. 

“I am not even thinking about that.”

“Yeah, but you hate your birthday. It’s coming up. You’re going to be thirty. We’ve got to do something!”

“We’re not doing a damn thing. I’m going to get some work done and I’m going to sleep.” 

“Or going to see Langston?”

I smacked May on her shoulder, “Don’t say his name again. I don’t need you calling up anything in my life.”

May started singing, “What a man, what a man, what a man, what a mighty good man.” 

I gave her an evil stare from across the table and she finished her drink, “I don’t want to see him again, May. That’s that.”

____________________________________

May was right. My thirtieth was right around the corner. 

I wanted to do something, but I truly believed that I was cursed. 

I’d been in a relationship, every other Valentine’s Day, and it always ended right before the day. I wasn’t extra crushed because I’d miss out on the consumer driven holiday. I was hurt, because it was also my birthday. It was almost as if someone up above decided that since I was born on the day of love, I wasn’t allowed to have it. Perhaps I’d ruined the holiday for whomever created it. It was clear they wanted me to suffer for interfering with their creation. 

I thought about running away to an island or spending it in some isolated hotel writing. As soon as I thought of it, the thought disappeared. Parent teacher conferences were around the corner and I needed to prepare for that and I promised my Principal I’d throw the kids a Black History play. I had no time to be selfish this year. 
_____________________________________

Saturday, Jan. 27. 2pm. 

Who does my principal think she is? She up and decided we’d have parent-teacher conferences on the weekend. ON. THE. WEEKEND. 

She was disappointed about the turnout the last time and was convinced that it was because it was on a weekday. During my two days of solace, I’d be forced to get dressed, go to work, and debate with adults who always felt their children were right. 

I’d started at a new school in September and although we had a great batch of kids, the parents weren’t as eager to come by the classroom. I’d spent the last seven days calling parents we hadn’t seen yet, hoping they’d show their faces. 

I’d only seen two regular parents and an hour of no-shows had passed by, when the office manager finally came to my room, “There’s a parent here to see you. Zora Hughes’ dad.” 

I was excited. Zora was an amazing ten year old girl that was quite brilliant. I was shocked that she’d come from the likes of her mother. On the first day of school, when the students were a little late coming downstairs, she yelled for everyone to hear, “Y’all got my kid digging a f*cking well?! I have a damn bus to catch.” When her daughter came downstairs, she was eager to show her mother the autobiography she created, “Mommy, look!” 

Her mother rolled her eyes and dragged the little girl down the block, “I don’t have time for that! Let’s go!” 

I was excited to meet Zora’s dad. Zora often wrote about him in her work and she seemed like her warmness came from him. She was well written and when I asked her who helped her with her writing work, she always smiled, “My daddy.” 

I opened my drawer and pulled out all Zora’s writing, spreading them on my desk for her parent to see. The office manager opened the door and smiled as a large frame walked in. I stood up to introduce myself, only to come face to face with Langston. 

_____________________________________


Erica B., formerly “Rivaflowz”, is an author and arts educator based in Brooklyn, New York. Erica writes fiction and memoir that elaborates the experience of the millennial woman of color. She’s written/published three books: (Intention, Boroughs Apart, and Of Micah and Men). She’s an HBO Def Poetpoetry slam champion, and content & arts education strategist for bloggers/writers/companies.





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