False Security

I got used to the calm

Serene. Simple.

It felt purposeful

Deliberate. Void of ripples.

Shallow waters. Glass surface.

I fell into

False security.

Drops.

Ripples to waves.

Panic ensued.

Eyes open. Wide and strange.

I’d been lied to.

Insomnia. Deranged.

When I called you.

I was crippled.

Fast talk. Deep breaths.

We went slowly.

Pre-thought. Repress.

Past anxieties.

Thought I’d dealt with it myself

But it was only

False security.

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Birthday Pancakes

Birthday Pancakes

My birthday was always my favorite day

Every year before school started

My mama woke me up with a kiss

That she plopped excitedly

On my forehead

Then my cheek

And then my cheek once more

And whispered in my uncovered ear

“Happy Birthday, baby.”

She didn’t know I’d been waiting for her

And was unaware that I was too excited to sleep

Anticipating the one day

I was more important than air

Waiting for the one day

I felt magnificently seen

It didn’t matter if she was mad the day before

If she’d been crying

If she’d been screaming

Whatever feelings my mama felt

Were pushed aside

For twenty-four hours

The amount of time

That an ocean of love

Could drown out locked up emotions

Before the tides receded

Leaving her with herself once more

And I could tell that my love

Of her love

Spread all the way through her to her finger tips

That stroked my hair and asked me how large I wanted

My birthday pancakes

Six years of living meant six pancakes

And six candles spread through the face

Each cake stacked atop another

In a tower that wobbled with love

With happy birthday written in whipped cream

And with those cherries always stuck in Shirley Temples

Made into a goofy grin that looked straight at me

Excited to be eaten

Everyone in the house was woken up

So they could all sing

Happy Birthday

To the girl with the birthday placemat

Who really loved her mama

And I remember it all with great clarity

Especially on my personal anniversary

When others forget

Or no one’s around

And I have to remind myself

Of my own importance

And I stare at my morning breakfast

Remembering my mama’s pancakes

And thinking that no one could ever quite love me

As vastly as my mama

Showed me she did

Every year on my birthday

I Like Being Your Home

I liked being your safe haven

When I was sleepy

And you were out

Afraid to go home again

Because you’d said you were somewhere you weren’t

You called me and asked if you could come over

I wasn’t used to that

I wasn’t used to people

I wasn’t used to friends

I wasn’t used to you

And it was hard for me to ask

For a favor so late at night

But I did

For you

And maybe for me too

And you came to the door

And you greeted my mother

Who always viewed you as a child worth protecting

A young soul she might start over with

After hurting mine so severely

Someone she might keep

If she fixed her mistakes

And we went to my room

And I brought out some sweats

That you were able to wear

And an old soccer t-shirt

For you to sleep in

And I told you to swish out your mouth

With my favorite toothpaste

Because it was proper bedtime etiquette

And your breath was unsavory

We crawled into bed

And you told me stories

About a life I’d never know

Because I was hard to get to know

And the only one who ever asked for me

Was you

And I told you

Things I hadn’t told anyone

Some things I hadn’t told myself yet

Not even in the mirror

Pretending to be someone else

And you told me to stop talking

Because you were falling asleep

But I didn’t want to sleep

Because I’d wake up and you’d leave again

But I let you drift off

As you held onto my arm

And I kissed your forehead

When you started to drift

And I’d stay in the moment

I’d sink into to it slow and easy

And I’d think about how much

I like being your home

A Man of Light

I watched a man dressed in clean blue jeans, a stiff striped shirt, and blue suit jacket talk excitedly about his plans and ambitions from a table over.

I’m an odd eavesdropper. Most people may pretend that they aren’t listening. They might look down and politely make-believe that our small, quaint, shared space is a place where privacy is easily had and dutifully respected. Most people might, but I do not.

For me, an interesting conversation is a work of art. The times that engagement with others isn’t forced but natural and easy are hard to come by. A genuine, active interaction, to me, is as beautiful as the ceilings lofted high in the Louvre. So I found myself admiring this rare finding and my spirit growing warm, airy, and light. I also found myself staring enchantedly at the conversation’s main artisan. My smile visibly elevating in amusement as, consequently, both participants’ voices dropped lower and lower.

This man was there before I was. He was not the most handsome of men, but his face and hair were well groomed, his clothes were sharp and clean, and he had this potent aura of confidence that greatly attracted me. I imagined his stature to be rather modest in reality, yet he sat up straight and tall, typing away, oddly calmly for a business man, seemingly unperturbed by my blatant notice.

The other man entered the large, open area in long, hurried strides. Mid stride he greeted my secret acquaintance, bending over slightly to clasp his hand while shrinking to his receiver’s full height. I paid little attention to this new arrival. His rushed entrance, aligned him with those other people of an entirely other realm than the first man and I. The type who always seem to be rushing, running, hastily moving in every direction, never in the place they want to be, and only entering themselves half-heartedly into every situation. He was not a man of great passion or ambition. He wanted things because he thought he should want them, not because of a deep unmistakable desire. He was a common working man; hard-working, respectable, but uninteresting on almost every account.

I meant to write a story sitting there. I meant to focus on the words and their interactions and my smoothly written prose. They were meant to have simply structured business conversation. Typical conversation. The type that hurts my ears with its lack of artistry and that I often watch with agitation just to roll my eyes at, taking mental notes on how I might significantly improve it. The boring man with the badly tucked shirt was meant to ask, in a great show of superficial enthusiasm, and the other man was meant to answer, stuffily with large hints of obligation. But when the man, whose shoes didn’t match his belt, did inquire about my sleek haired man’s current business, my acquaintance’s face lit up. His posture opened. Instead of leaning back in his chair, addressing questions with answers overly rehearsed earlier that evening, he positioned himself closer, leaning ever so slightly, with excitement that spilled over his careful demeanor. He gushed. It’s honesty caught my eye. The beauty held my gaze and I found myself attached to it. In awe and in luck.

He was a man of politics, in the way that actually matters. He took action on his beliefs. He stated his positions tactfully. He wanted more out of the systems he had been subjected to and the desire lit a fire beneath his feet. He walked the world like an aged monk walked across fiery coals; with determination, poise, and remarkable tolerance.

I heard little of the conversation. The capability of my ears lacks significant range, even when my breath is made undetectable and my movements scarce. But I heard he was running for a position in some field of education. He brought with him a great love for his past experiences and a great appreciation for his upbringings. There was a light that emanated from him as he talked about the endorsements he had recently received and the significance of the change he planned on bringing.

I can recall one excerpt of the conversation clearly now and one excerpt alone. It was the part that made me wish social normalcy wasn’t expected from me and I could interrupt excitedly. I could say I was interested in listening and sit between them both, intrigued, alert, happy. But social normalcy is the only thing really expected in polite society. When rules are broken, reception is poor despite any good intentions. So though the conversation drew my ears forward, my body stayed firmly in its chair.

“It is extremely important to me.” My secret acquaintance was answering a question I hadn’t quite heard. “I come from a community college background and if it wasn’t for the opportunities I had to move forward, I wouldn’t be where I am today.”

There was very defined bit of pride that resonated in the ending. I admired the way he held up his humble past as a badge of honor rather than a symbol of embarrassment. He was a confident man; self-assured, self-aware. He knew that beginnings did not determine the ends.

The honest affection he had for the subject was not only noticed by me, but the man whom with he was speaking. The messy man, the boring man, was admiring him too. His eyes lit up with an excitement that seemed unfamiliar to him, but welcome. He shook the clean man’s hand excitedly congratulating him on his recent accomplishments.

“I can see how much you’ve been working and how much effort you put into it. Thank you for speaking with me about it. You’re doing a great job and you need to continue. It seems like work you’re really passionate about. How’s the competition?”

The words became fainter and their heads came closer as they spoke about political gossip. I smiled to myself as I was reminded of both my imposing status and a lesson I often forget: people are people wherever you go. While he spoke of his competitor’s campaign strategy, background, and emotional appeal it dawned on me once again that the people we read about in history books and gossip about on television are physically somewhere, right now. The world seems so much less daunting when you stop separating yourself from it. As he gossiped about his competitor, how good her campaign strategy was, and, yet, how he felt he had a solid chance against her I sat behind him placing myself firmly into a reality I often detach myself from.

They finished their conversation and the tall, smiling, boring man stood up, shook my man’s hand once more.

“Update me on your status!” He said while leaving, his long strides taking him everywhere in a hurry.

The clean man stayed standing, repositioned his jacket, and I could feel him noticing my watching. He bent over the table to pack up his laptop into a blue backpack. His accessories were so elegantly whimsical that I couldn’t help but smile while he lifted his bag to his back.

Ignoring his incredibly nosy onlooker, the man walked off. A bit more rushed than how he’d been sitting. I wondered if it was me or if he really had somewhere to go. Maybe he really had been waiting for that interaction. Maybe he had planned it. Could you plan excitement like that?

I had a strong urge to leave my belongings and chase him down the hallway screaming: Tell me your ambitions! Tell me your goals! Tell me where your life is heading! Let me be part of that light! Please? Won’t you? Let me feel that pure loving excitement I once had, once more.

But I didn’t. It might have been impolite to acknowledge my eavesdropping when he so politely ignored it. And when he walked away the open area that was flooded with natural light, almost always, seemed to grow a bit dimmer.

Songs That Soothe the Soul

I didn’t realize
How sad my mother was
Truly
Until we sang along in the car together
on our way
to my freshman orientation

It was my mama,
her friend, Nanette
and me.
2 women
1 girl
Sharing a rite of passage
In an SUV too large to drive
but that
made her feel safe
In a world that
constantly tried
to run her over

I remember my mama was so jealous
That I
liked her friend so much
But that
lady had a fresh take on our lives
She
thought I was funny
And
didn’t make me feel bad
When
my first thought
About buying snacks
For myself
Didn’t include her opinions

But I love my mama
Even when I don’t like her
And her
happiness
Crosses
my mind every day
And has
for as long as I can remember
So when
it was time to change
The CD
Into something my Mama and me
could sing to as she drove

I picked
the mix tape
My mama used to play
In the
car every day
For months
With my
daddy in the passenger seat
And man,
Did we sing to it.

I knew every word
I had
since I was little
But I
never noticed before
What
we sang
And how
we sang
of heartbreak
And
untrustworthy men
Of
broken vows
Of
worthless promises
And
poignant pains
We sang
And I
started to remember
Being in my carseat
And my
mother playing
One song
On repeat
As my daddy brooded
In his chair

I remember
Because I liked that song best
And
didn’t mind it
being played again
3 times
4
8
20
Until my
daddy’s face was so sour
We didn’t
dare ask what was wrong anymore
And my
mama
Seemed
oddly satisfied
When he didn’t stop her
I guess
she really liked that song

I remembered that day
somewhere
in the middle of singing
When I
told Nannette
That we
used to hear that mix tape
over
and over
and over again
And my
daddy didn’t like it that much
By the look he used to wear on his face

I
remembered that day
When
neither of them answered me
Like
they knew something that I didn’t

I remembered in-between pauses
When
Nanette stared into the distance
Because
she didn’t know the words
and
couldn’t sing along
And my
mama wore a grin
the size
of Jupiter
Because
that tape had soothed her soul
So many times
And
So damn well

Huh…

Huh…

There’s silence around me
But there’s still noise
In my head
That my mind makes up
It’s own soundtrack
A playlist consisting
Of background music
That matches feelings I won’t let go of
Swirls of images
A vortex of sound
All crowd my mind
In silence
A loud silence
The whooshing of the
Air conditioner
Somehow evades me
The gentle splashing of the pool
Doesn’t catch my interest
The planes flying overhead
Are reduced to background noise
But I hear my own voice
Not coming from my throat
Some inner me that can’t be real
Because it’s never present where I am
I hear that
As clear as the day I hadn’t noticed
As present as the sun baking my skin
The voice rings back and forth
It resonates from soul to mind
I hear it
Reading
A voice I wish I had
Because it’s oddly more articulate
That voice could probably sing
And I suppose it does
In the same voice as Lauryn Hill
And it reads like Emma Thompson
And it raps like Kanye
And occasionally it throws clever quips
At disappointing memories
And I imagine I could have shut that voice up
At any time
Had I ever noticed it speaking
Without me
As it is
Currently
Huh…
What a beautiful day

You are beautiful

You are beautiful

I thought you weren’t once
I saw something else completely
But I think I might have just been hurt
Because you stand there
Without me
Absolutely beautiful
Or maybe you too never saw it before
And I could never convince you
So when I saw you
I only saw tears, pain, and heartache
When really you’ve never been
Anything but
Beautiful
And I’m glad we can both
Now see it that way

These Days

Occasionally, I lose myself in my mind. On empty days, days left to neglecting necessity, I sometimes get caught in a somewhat meditative space that seems more real than reality. On these days I can’t decide if I see myself more clearly, or if I momentarily lost focus. I wonder if I’m caught in a dream, hoping for things I don’t truly believe in, and waiting for things I know I should move on without. My mind knows what I should be getting on with; the long list of “to-dos” on these days I ignore. On these days, I prefer my quiet fantasies; the list of things I want but decide I don’t need. It’s funny, because these days are the only days where I question their rank of importance. Those days I much rather stay asleep.

Inbetween

I’d kiss you if you asked me
But I won’t mind it if you don’t
I’m more interested
In the inbetween anyway
Where I can sit right beside you
And I get to hold you close
And it’s so natural
You think nothing of it
It’s where we tell each other
Honest truths
That sort of feel like secrets
The way our bodies relax
Like we let something go
And we swim in that
Deep connectedness
Both heavy and light
And you witness a realm
You’ve never noticed before
You’ll say it feels like
“Something bigger”
When you’re with me
I’ll smile because you notice too
The only real feeling
I love
Love
Without all the extra bullshit
Without all the simple urges
Without the resistance
We often hold
At our cores
I’m interested in the inbetween
Where I can love you
And you love me
And it’s not a dramatic mess
Of emotion and pain
And all of those simple urges
That come up
When we worry about having nothing
When life
And what we think life is
Gets in the way of real love
So I’ll kiss you if you ask me
If you still mix up the feelings
But I would prefer it
If you don’t
Because if you linger
On knowing me that way
You’ll confuse it with something real
And it might be hard for you
To ever really know
How I love you
Inbetween

Something

I think I might want something sweet
To counteract the blandness of my life
I say before I take a bite
And realize the sugar cookie
That cost too much
But was decorated with a pretty blue owl
Is too sweet
And that the owl
Wished me dead
I tasted his distaste of me
Somewhere in the icing

I also might want something kind
Or someone
I say almost always
Before I tell my brother
The guy I met this morning
Was too nice
So kind
It bordered on simple
Like he had no thoughts
To discuss
So he complimented mine

I can’t stop it from hurting me
When I realize I really want nothing
But to satisfy an aching wish
Of having something
That gave me something
I think is worth having
But that I can’t possibly have
Since I don’t know what that is yet