There are the people in your life that clearly know they belong in it, but will never come into it in any desired capacity.
There are people in your life that believe that they belong in it, but you will never let in.
Then there are those people that come in believing that have all right to be there, and you agree. Then the pursuit of all that love entails.
The hunt as it were.
The state of being together, but not really together, and them in your life makes everything sweeter, and lighter, and easier. They make loving yourself easier, because they love you.
I have one like that.
It took me years to not think of him without my heart fluttering. If you’re honest, you have one like that too. The person that no one can hold a candle to, or someone that is the archetype of what a good mate is, or the best boyfriend or girlfriend. The person your heart remembers.
I remember taking a Psych class, I remember the name of it was called the Study of Psychodynamic Substances. A fancy name of the drugs that alter your mind, as it were. There is something the class referenced to called EM.
This is short for emotional memory.
Now, stay with me because I’m about to help you out! This type of memory is purely somatic. Meaning, your own body has a memory independent of the more sentient memory–memory and memories you store in your brain.
In this class, this type of memory is totally based on sensations and impulses–or even catalysts to or of both ideals.
That. BLEW. ME. AWAY!
To find out that my body had a (bleep) memory? That changed game forever. Why? I could then begin to put a name to what it was I was feeling.
Keep in mind, I’m happily married now. I’m a college grad, a mother, a writer, a blogger and with like 9 other things I want to do and see before I leave the world and go back to God.
But I am aware of the ‘ghosts’ in my life that have this effect on me. Those people that come into thought when I try and do something else, concentrate on happier things. Most of the time I’m successful–I keep some at bay, have exercised the others to the point they are non-existent.
But there is one that I have to remain armed at the ready over.
Even admitting it sounds like a form of defeat. It shows where the chink in the armor is. It shows where I can be hit at–a heart map, if you will.
The Unshakeable One.
The Able Unshakeable.
This is the one that makes you think ‘what if’. This is the person whom at a thought is able to cause emotional havoc in both spectrum directions depending on where you are emotionally. The one that can show you where it is you could go if they would only come in.
The one that you never envisioned having to live life without, only realizing the indignity of having to. The one that when you hear their name you have to pretend that you won’t cry or scream, blush, get horny thinking about or become incensed.
The one that knew what every inflection of voice meant, where every mood came from, the one that could soothe you with a look. The one that your heart sang such sweet sonnets for.
The one that didn’t know what they wanted, but knew they wanted you, but you would wait your life for.
But I suppose you do, don’t you?
In Julius Ceasar, the most famous line quoted is by Ceasar’s wife, Calpurnia, in Act 2, Scene 2, page 2:
“Cowards die many times before their deaths;
The valiant never taste of death but once.
Of all the wonders that I yet have heard,
It seems to me most strange that men should fear;
Seeing that death, a necessary end,
Will come when it will come.”
In this quote I find solace when it relates to the Unshakable One.
I know that in accepting of what is not, and may never be, I have marked the end of what once was and is no more.
I am of no illusion of what time has given, and even, stolen from me. I accept that life before him and after him have indeed been marked.
In the marking, in this death, I do not fear.
His presence may come, but it cannot remain…at least not always. He gave me a glimpse at forever but left me with mortality, questions and the desire to know just how on Earth he had gotten such a hold on me!
I wondered often, alone, out loud and with tears, how had I loved someone with lioness ferocity, with the fidelity of a Queen…and not be with him?
It stunned me.
As a writer, I had to find the glitch in the script. I had to get to the plot twist, only to realize…*Alejandro and I were the plot twist. We were the glitch in the system.
I didn’t think what he found in me and me in him was even able to be found in anyone anymore. What we were reaching for didn’t make sense to heartbroken people, cynical people.
We were a celestial anomaly–and I loved it! I reveled in it. I had found something akin to jasper, diamonds and topaz. I loved him and he loved me. And I knew from the DEPTH of me that he did.
After being in a broken state after a necessary (I cannot stress how necessary it was to leave that dude alone!) breakup in the Summer of 2002 I was still hurting when I met *Alejandro that December. We exchanged numbers and when I heard his voice? I blushed.
As our affection grew, he was a heart starter, I could breathe again. He reminded me I was intelligent and gorgeous and worthy of love. Nothing could be so, would be so amazing…and I enjoyed it.
The more I got of him, the more I wanted and the more we gave to each other. The amazing thing? There was nothing like anything before or since…how could I not want it? But yet…here I am and there he is and…was.
I understand every love is different, indeed, and I am and was thrilled he reminded me that I was worthy of it.
*-Not his real name.
[images from Google and Shutterstock]
My grandmother was the best. She is so much better than yours. Why? ‘Cause she mine. She raised 10 children on a less than high school education, and possessed the kind of rock in her blood that let me know that my nana, MY GRANDMA, was nonfuckwitable. She taught me how to garden, love plants, and the power of silence and presence. She died almost 4 months after I married my second husband, taking every secret and joy with her into glory.
Her house stands empty now, grass uncut, sewing machines and dishes as ornament to the mausoleum that has become her house. The last time I went into it, her bed was still made. There were things in her living room, and dining room, and basement. The house had a smell that dictated it hadn’t been cleaned. The house was full of–her. I wanted to weep and scream, but I was way too busy to feel anything. I was looking for bedrails for the beds I was getting, I couldn’t be consumed or taken in by the lack of my anchor, my grandmother.
One of the things my family would do, especially before she got sick again, was cook. She made the most excellent homemade barbecue sauce (Like me, it was sweet and hot!). She could make cakes from scratch, and my ambrosia was her greens and hot water cornbread. It was so good I would eat it cold. I would be barefoot in her house, and eat and soak up all that it was to do that day, every sight, every sound, every everything. This made losing her, that much harder.
All I have of my grandmother, and the intertwined 32 years together, is a red wallet, a handful of pots, some linen and 2 beds. The one thing I wanted, was her cast iron pots. These pots of magick that she would conjure candied yams, gumbo, rice and chicken and any other dish her imagination and groceries would offer up. From pots and spoons, she soothed, she softened and she loved–every last one of us. From that love, I could do anything.
In the summer, as her garden gave us its wealth, my favorite were the tomatoes. She would snap them off the vines and stems, sometimes have us wash them, and gave them to us to eat with salt. It was the best thing for summer heat. Sometimes, I would watch her as she gardened. Her big straw hat, and old clothes, and so deft and agile between rows of flowers or vegetables. Indeed, my grandmother had black girl magic. I think she would have called it, ‘just doin ‘bess I can.’
From that love, and the space she gave to us, I was able to dream. I was able to start writing silly stories and reading them to my aunt. I was able to enjoy girl hood, and know that in her house, this same house, it was my castle. It was my fortress, it was my kingdom with a magic drawbridge that shut out all of the outside world. Her passing made me vulnerable, and tenacious. It made me seasoned, steady, as everything else seemed to be swirling round about me.
I understand that death has a long grasp, and cool, cruel grip, but it was merciful to me. It took my grandmother, after seeing almost all her children and her great-grandchildren before leaving the world. She left us the reminders of all she tried to do, had done all she had yet to do, and all she tried to give all of us: herself. I supposed all those well-lived warriors leave evidence of their travels through this life. It is up to us to sometimes sift through what remains in order to see what else can be saved, and passed on. You see, even memories fade.
There seems to be a thread in my family regarding service and caretaking. My grandmother wanted to be a nurse, but spent her working career as a nurses’ aide. Sprinklings of cousins are nurses. My godmother is. My mother, whom is one of the strongest women I know, was a nurse for forty years. I, myself, have chosen that path of service in the form of nursing and social work. In the almost year I have worked at a local hospital, I have encountered prejudices, sorrow, faith and the elemental need for the appreciation of the human condition. This week, I saw evidence of something else: resilience.
This week, there is a older woman on my floor 2 years younger than my grandmother would be if she were living. I have watched her fight to survive for the last 2-3 days. From moving to breathing to medicine. Tonight, while she was breathing heavy, labored and restless, I helped her to the bathroom. After that, I helped her back in bed, bore her up as she stood to clean her up. As I helped her back in bed, she sat on the side of it–winded. When she let me help her into bed again, oxygen in her nose, heart leads on her chest, and fluids running, she as able to lie down. As she looked to get comfortable, and finally was, I almost wept and hugged her.
This nation, in all its sovereignty, has never allowed us the luxury of black women to rest. Demure is not the nature of soldiers in times of battle. We have never have the luxury to not have and develop the stamina to survive, fight and be resourceful. Our peace is because of war: the world outside, inner turmoil, protection and girding of family. There’s a reason why there is this toughness to black women, this inner-tapped strength. We were hewn from rock so our anchors hold. We are shown to hone and use every slight, every broken place and piece for our good, and betterment. We have used these slings and arrows of outrageous fortune and used, armed, weaponized them to turn what was meant to kill into salvation. We know what it’s like to not have and need and make up as you go along. It is the fire that made us, because it dared consume us.
These invisible lessons gleaned and seen teach us that life is not fair but if you fight, there is justice. And in order for there to be justice, there must be one willing to see it and fight for it. If not for them, but those that will come after. The path must be laid for them, through their own pressing it is made straight. Beaten and worn because they were shown where to go, and how to get there by one wise enough, strong enough to endure…when it would be easier to give up.
Fortune, indeed, favors the brave.
Black women, too, are brave.
Notes. Chords. Sharps. Timbre. Crescendos. There is indeed nothing like music. Nothing that so captures memories like notes, song and the right voice. Indeed, there is nothing like music.
There is something to be said for its power in the life of those whom listen. These tracts that play over and over in your heart and head…long after the person is gone. Long after memories fade…then what of the music?
I’m old enough to remember radio dedications on my local station (MAJIC 108!) and one segment called THE QUIET STORM. For that hour, there would be people that would call in to talk about their relationship woes, the highs of those relationships, and the longing of those that could not be close or ever would be again. I would listen and think and wonder what that was like–being able to associate sound and person. How unique it would be to ascribe emotion and sound to another human being.
Until it happened to me…
There are certain songs that help you remember what was lost, gained and the indignity of what was almost yours: being a part of the we, being an us. That is the beautiful thing about it, thought. The person may be gone, but they yet remain. The sentimentality of memorable immortality.
“The sun will be settin soon, cher.” Her mother sat knitting by the fireplace. Harlow kept her eyes to the reddening sky. Leaning against the balcony, rail she watched Lake Ponchatrain. “I know.” She listened to the streetcars below, and Ms. Obear fussing at her youngest son not to eat the benegeies she just made. “He ain’t comin, Harry.” Harlow shifted her weight against the balcony. “I ain’t waitin on him.”
Her mother rocked, chuckling to herself. Harlow kept her position, watching the sky go from crimson to navy. “See, you gon be onna dem watchtower brides. Watching for a man that aint yours, by no means, and ain’t worried about chew.” Harlow sucked her teeth. “I aint waiting on him, mama.” Her mother chuckled harder, keeping her eyes on her stitching. “You is waiting on him. He ain’t thankin bout you.” Harlow walked away from the balcony, past her mother and toward the stairs towards her room. She shook her hair out as she went, the wood warm under her feet.
Harlow, in her room, sat behind her door, head in her hands. She replayed the last night again. She remembered how he smelled, his mouth tasted. It was dark, as he held her to him. She remembered the streetlights outside Metatarie Cemetery, how shiny slick the wrought iron gating was. “Wait for me, Nina.” She kissed him, needing the memory of his mouth to hush the fear inside her. “I’ll come get you.” Kisses then. “Before you know it, I’ll be there. You can’t hide from me.” His eyes read into her, looking for the no in her. “I don’t know if I can.”
Months passed. Letters exchanged at rendezvous points, left under benches and behind street signs. He was okay. He loved her. She was his baby. I miss you, Nina. Every week, there was a letter. She was constantly walking in their space, in-between the world seen and felt. She hadn’t gone to the Quarter in a week, she had been ill. Headaches. Chills. Body aches. Her palms were slick with tears, remembering him. “I’ll wait, Nick. Imma wait.”
“The sun is bright this morning,” she mused, sipping coffee slowly on her front porch. With feet bare and hair in thick curls, framing her pecan colored face. She looked towards the direction of the sun. In her sipping, she wondered if he was doing the same thing. Could at that exact moment could he be drinking coffee, watching the sun, thinking of her. She smiled at the justice of that thought. Could it be that what the old women say was true? The heart wants who it wants, it never listens to your head. She smiled, the light of that thought warmed her better than the sun.
The habit of being awake early began with the carrying of her first child, insomnia made her nights days with the sun her signal to sleep. She rocked in the porch swing, happy the house was quiet that she may hear her own thoughts, and see them through. Married life suited her, yes. She knew to be faithful, forsaking every other and clinging to her husband so the two of them could be one flesh. Their life was supposed to have a cadence, a loved rhythm they planned aside from what could be found writhing on bedsheets. The passion would be cyclic, she knew. She knew how to be a wife, knowledge of position didn’t push her to the front porch in her robe, with a chemise underneath. He did.
This angel of her own making, this man-made god of her youth and imaginations. He whom she saw when she heard music, or closed her eyes. The heat produced at the christening of his name over her tongue was unlike anything she had. Of course, she he knew to have him would be to forfeit her destiny, her blood, her responsibility. It would be to change the course of her path in the worst and most incredible way possible. She held on to the blue coffee cup, her head resting on the back of her thumbs and didn’t fight the tears this time. She recited the same prayer she had for the last few days. “Father, either remove him or give me whom my heart wants. Either way, Father this must change. It cannot bear to be his and be here. In Your grace I stand, In Your love I am complete. I thank you. Amen.” The tears where hot, flowing faster than the white porch paint could absorb them. The sobs then, the release not complete. She wanted to run to him, full speed. She wanted to take but her love for him and sprint towards him. Damn the rest, damn the rest of the all she was supposed to do that day. Through the fields before her, towards the sun, and not stop until he was in arms length of her own hands. She cursed softly then. She began to will herself back to composure. She shoulders began to shake from sobbing. The sobbing, caused the coffee and its contents to spill over the porch and her feet. The heat from the coffee was a relief to pain in her heart. That burn was understood and could be explained, treated even. This, this inside heat, had no explanation. She couldn’t pray fast enough to keep ahead of it. This pain outpaced her. When her eyes closed she saw him. The cruelty came when she opened them and he was gone.
While washing clothes, his ghost followed. She walked to the mailbox, he called her name. She washed dishes and wished his hands were around her, his chin in the meeting of her neck and collarbone. “Relief, Lord. Send it.” She loved him. She wanted him. She couldn’t have him. The screen door closed with a bang. “Mama, are you okay?” her daughter asked. Sitting up quickly, she made no attempt to dry her face. “I’ll be okay, baby.” She smiled then. Her daughter’s eyes seems to search her own. She believed her daughter saw the lie but didn’t know what it was. She rose from her perch on her porch swing, picking up her coffee cup. She ushered her child back through the screen door, hand on her back. “Daddy wanted to know if you were going to drink coffee with him this morning. He has his cup already, Mama.” She shook her head behind her daughter. “No, I don’t think I will, baby. I already had some. I have other stuff I have to do this morning.”