Thursday, February 9, 2017

Fiction Series: Saturday, Chapter 1



Saturday, Jan, 1st.

I looked at my phone, discouraged.


I spent my free time, jumping between wanting to be in love and staying the hell away from it.

This one was the latter. He was a writer too, too smooth for his own good. His text read, "Tell me something I can't find on the internet. I bet your hair would tell me stories if you'd let me run my hands through it." 


The way I'm feeling determines how I read a text. On an off day, this would come off as corny and annoying. Today, I felt like playing the game. I replied, "& you'd hear lies, for the kinks that coiled by way of sugarcane & guava, generations before I existed, are silenced under my insecurities. Some black boy put his nose in my neck, while I lay bare, and asked me when I was going to put that afro shit to rest."


"Damn. So you rock a weave then?"


"Sometimes. It depends on the weather, how I'm feeling, what brotha I'm dating."


"That's the problem. You need to stop dating boys and start dating men."


I smiled, "Find me one."


Today, I was too tired to put up a fight.

Men love to tell women why they're still single. It's like they got a PhD in the evaluation of black women flaws. They're writing books on it now. I'm-gon'-tell-you-how-to-find-love-even-though-I-ain't-found-it-looking-ass. I listen in on living room conversations, men that graduated from HBCUs, pontificating about sistas that "do too much." These same black men took mandatory courses on our burden: how we slung our men and babies across our backs to freedom, put our bosoms on the front lines of civil rights only to be greeted by the pummel of batons, balled our acrylic nails into our palms while raising fists and still think that we are the problem. It's as if we've never been a solution. I sink my teeth into the rhetoric of brothas who made it into the world via a black ass womb, kiss the foreheads of their rich soil colored baby sisters, and still tweet, "Y'all better get it together, because these snow bunnies,

these latinas,
these Asians,
these other hunnies,
these anything-that-we-stereotypically-think doesn't kink, cuss, beautifully intimidate, like you,
these,
these,
these,
intersectional women,
who are also suffering from patriarchy
and bleeding too
are going to wear the scars I give them...differently."

But I digressed.


I stared out of the window of my controversial app-requested ride, knowing I needed to get home but feeling guilty that I'd probably given dollars to a white supremacist. I said good evening to the driver whose car smelled like Cardamom and lilac and skipped over black ice when I spotted the man that lived next door.


I was tipsy and turnt after a New Year's Party. New Year's ain't the same when you're almost thirty. Avoiding the club, I made my way to a friend's gathering that seemed to be filled with singles that just didn't want to spend the night alone. Most of us didn't know one another, so after the ball dropped and everyone gave well wishes, we all made an uncomfortable exit. The host, standing next to a case of unopened champagne led us to the door with a faux smile and slam of the door.


I didn't feel guilty. I'd spent the year doing everything for everyone. I promised that this year would be different, even if it was only 12:15.


The man next door was getting out of a car nearby and switching seats with a woman who'd been on the passenger side. She kissed him and took his place. She took off, speeding down our unusually quiet street. Everyone else must've still been partying. Everyone except for him, another one of his conquests on his building steps, and me. I recognized both women. The woman who sped away was usually here earlier in the week and the young woman on the steps was usually around towards the end of the week. There were other women in between, too. It was Saturday. His weekends were usually spent running errands and exercising. I guess the holiday was an exception. I wasn't nosey, but I couldn't help garner his routine considering I lived right next door.


His life was a Biggie Smalls lyric.


The man next door walked over to his steps and his closer-to-the-weekend woman stood up, with her hands on her hips. I fumbled with my key at my door, because I wanted to see what was about to go down. It seemed as though she'd spotted the girl in the car. She seemed calm and collected, but her brow was furrowed, and I knew she'd go off at any moment. I wanted to see this.


He finally got to the steps and looked at her confounded, "What are you doing, here?"


She looked at me and looked down, "I wanted to talk and I need..."


He sighed, "It's cool. I have to throw some things out. Here's the key. Head inside."


"Was that her?"


"Yes, that was her. We just got back from a party and she has to get up early for work. Why am I telling you this? Didn't we..."


She cut him off, "I know, I know. I'm going inside."


He started to take the garbage out of the section that held it, in front of the house and placed the bags on the sidewalk. He seemed worried about what would happen next and I shook my head at his dedication. We barely spoke to one another, but I felt like I knew the type of guy he was: had all of his women under control, master manipulator, the kind that always seems to be finding themselves. I finally put my key in and snickered at the thought.


He looked up, "Something funny?"


"No, but have a great evening."


"Heh. You didn't think they knew about one another, huh?"


His question caught me off guard, but I didn't let it show.


I smiled, "No, I did not. That's not my business. Good luck."

"Thanks. I see you all the time. What's your name?"

I pushed my door in, indicating my lack of interest and departing, "Not Saturday."

______________________________

Saturday, Jan 13, 8:00 pm.

I hadn't heard from the writer.

This wasn't unusual. Men were on and off in their adoration. First impressions aren't lasting, they are unraveled.

A few months ago, I sat across the table on a first OKCupid date and he leaned in, "You're a teacher, right? I think folks that are about our next generation are incredible."

"Yes, I'm adamant about..."

I gave him the same spiel I would give a prospective employer. Dates feel more like interviews than happenstances these days. He listens intently, while I try to hold back as much information as I can. The passion is evident in my eyes. It's attractive until I start to come undone over the next few weeks.

My threads start to show during the first apartment visit. My neighborhood hasn't been swallowed by the eager throat of gentrification, so I live spacious and with an extra room as an office. I place my own books on the shelves, too.

It's date seven when he pulls a book from the shelf and notices my name, "You wrote this? I didn't know you had a book. That's dope."

"Yeah, it's my fourth. I'm working on the fifth."

His eyebrows arch, but I can tell he's learned how to stifle intimidation. He knows how to make his surprise look like excitement. He does it well, "Oh wow. I learn something new about you every day."

On date nine, he tells me about his plan to start a youth athletic event on Staten Island, where he was brought up. I am elated about the idea. I have suggestions and I start rattling them off. At first, we go back and forth in conversation. In my mind this is fate. I have always sought someone to talk barefoot pedagogy and craft with.

After a while, I notice that he tapers off, "Yeah. It's gonna be good, once I get it all together."

The tapering is the moment he's decided that he's overwhelmed. I am able, after several exchanged words with uncomfortable men, to discern when I should sit still. I am able to pinpoint the exact moment I was supposed to just listen and pretend that my significant others' words are groundbreaking and shattering. I have learned how to fake it.  He doesn't know it yet, but it will manifest in our breakup conversation, "You just have a lot going on and I feel like..."

I don't stay tuned in long enough for him to finish. Following him to the punctuation of his statement makes me feel as though my thrive is a downfall, as if winning is losing. I was already preparing for his exit, his goodbye text, the suit I'd wear to the job the next day, thinking of how my students and my pen are continuosly happy to see me.

He snaps me awake with finality, "You understand, right?"

"Right."

I am undone, busted seams, cotton on the floor. All of my secrets are out and I am no longer compatible. I am too full, I am not waiting to be filled. I, therefore, am unworthy.

I think about calling the writer. I write his name into the search bar. I delete it. I don't, for fear he might become another unraveling.
____________________________________

9:00 pm.

There's a blizzard outside and I can hear him scraping away at the sidewalk. He knocks on my window. I open my blinds to find him on my steps with a shovel in hand. Although he's wrapped in a large coat, scarf around his face, and a hat on he is still fine. I scold myself mentally for the thought.

"Can I help you?"

He sounds muffled through the ice, screen, and glass, "Hey! Do you want me to shovel in front of your house, too?"

Ugh.

I think about how freezing it is and instantly nod yes. For the entirety of an episode on Netflix, I hear him working. I think about how I'm going to repay him: a note and some cash in his mailbox, another nod and a smile, a bag of salt? When he's done, he knocks again.

"All done! We should have some hot cocoa together, to celebrate! My place or yours?"

I smirk at his audacity and say, "Neither, but I appreciate you." I decide there and then that I'd put cash in his mailbox, the next time I went outside.

He's laughing, "Wow. You're so mean! What's your sign?"

I lower my blinds and say, "Closed for business."

I hear him laugh outside and then get into his car.
_________________________________________

I ain't ready for happenstance.

Happenstance drives passion.

It's the wit and charm that slips in between things that weren't meant to happen that gets us. It's the reason that most online dating is awkward. Everything is planned: The street you meet on, the dress you'll wear, the food you'll order. You're immersed in what's safe, in the intricacies of your fantasy.

This is why coincidence sends us down a rabbit hole. We are not aware that we'll meet the love of our lives in the bodega down the block, in our weekend sweats, and our headscarf on. We're suprised when we're in a wedding, celebrating someone else's love, and someone in the audience catches our eye...when you're scarfing down a hotdog in Central Park and someone glances you. We wipe the mustard from our cheeks and pray they didn't catch our gluttony only for that person to come over and say you missed a spot.

These are the good stories. They catch us off guard. They start with, "It's when I wasn't looking..." The this-wasn't-meant-to-be is replaying itself in our minds, as these instances progress, but we say out loud, "I'm going with flow."

We are too afraid to latch to a good story, because we fear it'll end. We want to be a novel, forgetting that novellas and short stories are just as potent and the bookstore has something else in the same genre to scratch your itch.

We crave happenstance, but we'll never tell you.
___________________________________________

11:30 pm.

I crawl in and out of my sheets, between writing books and teaching children. Weekends leave me paralyzed. I curl into a fetal position and think about how to crowd my weekdays, inundate myself so that I don't have to feel. I take on any and everything, embodying Shonda Rhimes' mantra of "yes," but I still feel the power of all the nos.

Ain't that a mother...?

The world will tell you that you're amazing, but it's the one negative comment that lays between the mattress of thoughts..a pea to your greatness. I've been incredible at everything I've ever done, I'm resourceful and spontaneous, and I am craftier than anyone I've ever known.

& yet I cannot conquer love.

This is a different unraveling. It pries you open, when you are trying to lull yourself asleep, keeps your eyes fixated on places where the worst memories happened.

Coffee table.
Dinner.
The steak is only the best from the butcher.
Supermarket meat shrivels and hardens.
It speaks more to the quality, than to your cooking.
But his face says it all.
You suggest that you order in.
He frowns and agrees.
You sit and watch the old food turn cold as you await an alternative.
It arrives and there are tomatoes on his sandwich, even though you told them no tomatoes.
He's annoyed, but he's always been.
At first, you chalk it up to the promotion he's expecting but never seems to arrive.
& then you say it was gloomy outside today.
& then you start tracing your outline of your body, in the mirror.
& you pray it isn't you.

The candles, lit nearby for ambience, flicker. You lean over your coffee table and blow them out, because their light is reflecting on your melanin & suddenly amidst tomatoes, disdain, and his sighing you're uncomfortable in your own skin.

_______________________________________________

You can't make it to the bedroom, because your body is so tired from the workweek and now you're watching the candles flicker from that same table. The ghosts of once-in-love bodies dances through your eyelids and no job promotion,
no Jazmine Sullivan song,
and no writing can make it stop.

Outside of your window a car door slams. Laughter and a man's voice can be heard. There is a pause as he reaches the door with his guest. It's the close sound of a door opening that makes you realize it's most likely the man next door. He's back home, with a woman. Figures.

You roll over, pull your cellphone from under your pillow, and open up the last text from the writer.

He'd sent you a random, "Hey," three days ago. You didn't reply, because he'd been gone for over a week and you aren't a homonym. Responding would've made him smug, sure, and would've reassured him that he could do the bare minimum. You sigh, push your body deeper into the suede of the sofa, listen to the sound of your upstairs neighbors footsteps, a dog barking, and the whirring of your chest--it's hollow and something ain't been the same.

You need something in your life to stir. You need something different. You ignore your roaring womanism.

You convince yourself you do.

You text the writer, anyway, "Hey. How are you?"

It is in between his rapid reply and a mentioning of noticing that you cooked via Snapchat that something different happens. It is before you can answer the annoying rally cry of a man who does not know how to flirt..."Really, you just gonna cook without me?"

Sucks teeth.

It is before you can fall asleep on the dullness of this brother...

...that you hear a knock on your door and a voice you recognize, "Saturday! You awake?"

Shit.
_____________________________________



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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