Monday, May 18, 2015

On Writing: The Art of The Juggle (Part 1)

Sundays are my days for getting my life in order. 

Well, the Sundays where I'm not traveling back from a performance. 
Or the Sundays that I don't have a late family event.
Or the Sundays that I'm just not up to it. 

See the inconsistency here? Yeah, that used to be my problem. 

I've been getting a lot of emails requesting a detailed blog on how I balance my life. I've done pieces on this before, but the information varies, as does my schedule and habits of balancing do, in real life. 

Why? Because life is filled with unexpected events. Sure. I have routines, protocols, and rituals that I'd love to adhere to. The truth? I don't always get to. 

Juggling is about sacrificing and bargaining, weighing your priorities, and adding/subtracting until you reach your goal. There's some practice involved. But don't beat yourself up, if you slip. An accomplished juggler is one that knows how to rectify, post mistake. 

I'm usually awake around 7am. I live near the train and I could hear its faint roar, collide with my neighbors getting their children to school and hustling to work. They are my alarm. I'm the director of an arts program that closes at 8pm, so I go into work a little later than most.

My clothes are usually out, my gym and work bag, keys, and metro card are in the front foyer. After an hour routine, I'm usually ready to go. 

But not before I check the lights, water, and stove three times, because of my anxiety.
Not before I run back, because I forgot it's going to rain today.
& definitely not before I've found my headphones.

Under a comforter.
On the floor near the door, tossed in last night's exhaustion. 
Hidden in the deep dark recesses of my work tote. 

I calculate, as I go along. 

"Erica, you've just wasted fifteen minutes on searching for your phone. This means you've lost fifteen minutes of email response time, when you arrive at the office. Utilize the fifteen minutes that you're above ground, on the train, to begin."

I've now sacrificed some of my leisure reading time.

I get to the office, after an hour, I switch my flats to heels, I get to work. I usually check emails, review my calendar for the day, and decide if I'll take lunch based on my tasks. 

My friends are texting. I glance at my phone to see if it's urgent, I return to my work. Some of my companions are idle, because their jobs allow time for this. Others are freelancers and have a little more leisure time than I do.

Sacrifice conversing, until later. 

After lunch, I immerse myself in tasks and/or my students. I'm disrupted often, by knocks on my door, last minute requests, and/or emergencies. This is my job. I take this in stride and calculate again. 

"You spent 30 minutes dealing with a crisis. You'll have to stay 30 minutes later. Take an Uber home, to get some of your time back." 

I leave the office around 7 or 8 or 9....sometimes 10pm. Before I leave, my bag is repacked in accordance to the evening's tasks.

If I have a performance, I switch into another outfit.
If I'm too tired to cook, I'll grab Chipotle on the way. 
If I have errands to run, I'll handle them before I get home and too situated. 

I handle what's going to make me most comfortable, before I get to my front door, because this is when the real work starts. 

I find myself in my home office, living room sofa, and/or bed, in front of a laptop. I sit dinner next to me, I schedule and write posts, work on my book, and sometimes answer my texts. I fall asleep.

When I write this out, it sounds easy. It seems like every hour is accounted for and I am able to easily maneuver around the unpredictable. 

This is not true.

I have friends that are peeved about my inability to answer a ton of texts at once.
I have a beautiful apartment that I don't get to spend much time in. 
Something always falls to the wayside, a little neglected than whatever is at the forefront of my mind.
I sacrifice outings that I would've loved to go to, but would rather make deadline instead. 

It's difficult. 
But this is the age to do it. 
This is the age where you gather all the things that are brought your way and later on you'll allow them to drop one-by-one, when your destiny comes to fruition.

This is the age of the hustle, the juggle, the mythological superwoman. It's an art that takes understanding, smiling through the chaos, and recouping when it seems like you can't.

But it's possible.
I do it, every day. 

1. Prepare in advance. 

On the Sundays that I have ample free time, I fill in my calendar for the entire week. If I'm not able to do it on Sunday, it's definitely done early Monday morning. My planner is quite full. Instead of just logging when things are due, I also block out time to write them. I pack days before a trip, so I can just grab my bag and go. I often find myself on Amtrak, headed to another state, right after my last meeting. As a full time educator, performer, consultant, designer, and writer (good lord), I've got to be extremely deliberate with planning. 

2. Take advantage of the gaps.

A lot of folks spend their train, bus, or cab commute texting, playing games, or listening to music. I spend almost two hours on the train, per day. It's the perfect time for me to catch up on editing, planning, and more. If the train is crowded, I use my Evernote app on my phone, while standing. 

Folks are always late to meetings. I've spent several hours waiting on folks and playing around with the free time they've accidentally given me. Now, I always have a notebook, laptop, or phone on me. I'm able to work on things, while waiting on the latecomer. 

3. Put things front and center.

I'm a serial forgetter. I often leave items home that I promised I'd bring somewhere and have to make do without them. I've gotten into the habit of lining the things I'll need up, on my foyer table. I'm forced to see the items, as I'm rushing out of the door. 

4. Turn it off.

Phones, social media, and more. There are literally apps for this. One is called SelfControl, because LORD KNOWS sometimes I don't have any.

5. Treat yourself.

Take an Uber home, grab some food on the way. Sometimes, taking a few tasks off of your plate allows you to be more productive. I spent $45 total on this evening, but will probably get hundreds of dollars worth of work done.

6. Know your priorities, arrange them accordingly.

This is a tough one. Family and friends always come first, but sometimes their needs get in the way. You have to be able to discern between emergency, sustaining, and leisure. When these three ideals get'll find yourself wasting time. 

7. Make bargains with yourself.

If you know you've dropped the ball on something, pick it back up by creating a plan immediately. 

I know, I know. You're looking at this list and you're thinking...where the hell do I start?

I got you.

Here's a little homework, something I do myself, and we'll follow up on it on Thursday, right here on this blog:

For one day take note of everything you do. Hour by hour. If you spent five minutes talking to a it. If you took lunch and stayed out a little longer than it. If you sat in a meeting and it started extra late because you were waiting for folks to show it. At the end of the day, total up how many hours (or minutes) you think lost. We're going to talk about how you could've utilized that time. Ready to be honest with yourself and really get that hustle up? Let's go.

Want more detailed advice? I definitely do some freelance consulting & I've seen folks blossom with the time they've managed to find. Email me for rates at

Friday, May 15, 2015

I'm Still Looking For A Love Jones: The Playlist

So...y'all know I be jammin' when I write these series, right? Oh, you're just finding your way here? Shame on you! I've been writing dating series (narratives, not advice) for two years and I'm always in the need of motivation to get through them. Contrary to popular belief (sarcasm), it isn't easy writing about some of these things. But these ladies, below, get me through each and every installment. Ready? Oh & you might wanna get to the end of this post, because there's a very, very special announcement.

1. The Intro

"Feel Like (Love Love)" by Rapsody ft. Common

2. Exhausting the Possibilities

 "Julia" by SZA

3. Perfect Verse Over A Tight Beat

"Yoga" by Janelle Monae

4. The Promenade Effect

"If Light Escapes" by April + Vista

5. Relationship Compromise or Compromising Relationships

 "Unstoppable" by Lianne La Havas


6. Full of Hot Air

 "Here" by Alessia Cara


7. Grown Men With Curfews 

 "What Is Love" by V. Bozeman


8. Picking the Best Option

 "Extraordinary Love" by Stacy Barthe


9. Split Personalities 

 "Brand New" by Jazmine Sullivan


10. Falling Outs

"F*ck it All" by Elle Varner

The bad news: The dating series are almost over. The good news: There's an e-book! Look out for a compilation of dating essays accompanied by narratives about Brooklyn's gentrification, on July 1st!

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

#RivEats: Mary's Fish Camp

Yes, this is a new column. Yes, I'll try to keep this as updated as possible. Yes, sometimes I'll fall short. Yes, I started this blog with a stuntin' photo of myself. 


Now that we've got that out of the way...welcome to #riveats. It'll be a lot like #rivcooks, where I show my amateur culinary talent and has accrued 200+ photos on the hashtag on Instagram (shameless plug). However, in this column, I'll be showcasing the spots I dine in. I'm a total foodie, if you couldn't tell. I've got an affinity for plating and innovative dishes. I'm always dragging my best friend Blue to a place I've heard about or received an awesome review on. Yum! 

During my lunch break yesterday, although I truly never stop working, we went hunting for seafood. I'm a huge lobster roll fan. I had my first in Mystic, Connecticut years ago, slathered in butter, sitting on the docks, and I've been in love ever since. I've had quite a few since then, but none have ever truly compared. "The Lobster Pound" in Red Hook comes damn close. (Note to Self: Write a blog on the food of Red Hook, because...amazing.)

Mary's Fish Camp, located in cozy West Village NYC, is by far my favorite lobster roll spot. A friend of mine mentioned that they've never had a bad dish from this place and I knew I had to try it. 

The restaurant is cozy and tucked away, on a quaint corner, surrounded by residential brownstones. Hearing one of the waitresses call a man's dog by name, I know this place is a neighborhood favorite. Our waiter was relaxed, he wore a uniform tee, boater hat, and totally made us laugh when he said Red Stripe was his favorite beer. I'm Caribbean and it's rare that you find this beer outside of our establishments.

They play the classics, we heard The Temptations and Earth, Wind, and Fire, while we ate. They keep the doors open, with light A.C., giving the space the perfect airy feel. I felt like I was back on the docks, again. The checkered napkins, boat seat booths, and wooden furniture also helped too. 

Blue and I decided to start with the Fried Oysters & Clam, with a side of Fish Camp tartar sauce and finished with the Lobster Roll that came with a side of shoestring fries. The starter left a little to be desired, but the tartar sauce was incredible. I'm certainly going to try to mimic it.

However, the lobster rolls were incredible. Heavy on the lobster and just the right amount of mayo. I give it an A+.

Mary's lobster rolls are M/P (market price), we paid around $30 for the dish. This was the most expensive thing on the menu, other dishes were in between $9-$30. I think it was well worth it. 

I hear their Po' Boy is to die for, I'll most certainly be back for that. Let me know if you check them out! Oh. & you can thank Blue for most of these awesome photos and this column. It was her idea for me to share. Say: Thanks Blue!

Monday, May 11, 2015

Fiction Series: Boroughs Apart: Part Four

The supper club was buzzing. The band set up, while folks let brown liquids run their thoughts and down their throats. Men offered drinks, women refused or took them up on them. The smell of fried fish and greens wafted through the air and the waitresses and waiters hurried back and forth, while the busboys stood idle. There was nothing to clean up, if no one wanted to leave.

Daisy convinced Ruth that the weeknights were quiet. This was a lie.

"I thought you said if we came on a Wednesday, there'd be no one here."

Ruth hissed her teeth and wiggled around in the booth, her dress was too tight and her body seemed to be suffering for it, "I thought it would be. I've never actually been here outside of the weekend."

"You're always surmising. Speak the truth sometimes, won't you?"

Daisy laughed, "Girl, just enjoy yourself. There's a fine busboy here that I've been checking for. He's a poet. I see him writing, in the alley, during the day, in between shifts."

"You do work around here! That poor man, spying on him on your lunch break. This was a ploy. You  came here to see your little crush."

Daisy bit her lip and eyed a handsome man walking by, "Yes, girl. Yes, I did."

"He is fine."

Daisy's crush wore a white jacket, with black lapels, and carried drinks over to a table next to them. He walked back towards the kitchen and started to converse with one of the idle busboys. There was something familiar about the man he spoke to, his stature and the way he gestured his hands. Ruth tried to see his face, but the other man blocked her view.

Daisy stirred her drink, "I just need a play thing. I don't want any of these low class men, but they might be some fun."

"You've really got to stop saying things like that, Daisy. You sound like our fathers."

"The same daddies that would lock us in a Rapunzel tower, if we ever came home with the likes of any of these men."

"This is true, but it doesn't mean we have to adopt that tradition."

Daisy nodded, but she wasn't paying attention. Her waiter crush was serving the table next to them and she was ready to make her move.

Ruth took the last sip of her drink, when a busboy arrived to take it.

She'd recognize his voice anywhere, "All done ma'am? I'll send your waiter over to refill your drink."

She looked up to see Reynold, smiling down at her.

"You're just everywhere, aren't you?"

Daisy looked at the both of them, confused.

Reynold winked, took her glass, and made his way to the bar.

Daisy's eyes followed him, "Who is that?"

"He lives in one of my dad's buildings. He's a really nice..."

Daisy interrupted, "He's no Evan Marquis."

"Contrary to popular belief, I don't think that all men aspire to be him."

"Why wouldn't they? He's gorgeous, rich, born in wealth, and can give you some high yellow babies."

Ruth rolled her eyes, "Daisy, you're worried about all the wrong things. Complexion? Fun with waiters? What about what you're doing with your life? You dropped out of school last May and I haven't seen you pick up a book since. What happened to nursing?"

Daisy stood up to make her way over to waiter crush, "Girl, we are the type of women who get taken care of. We don't take care of folk. Marry Evan, get your rock, your house, have some babies, keep them out of the sun."

Ruth tried to remember why she started hanging out with Daisy. They had nothing in common, except parents that were in the same circle. She looked over at Reynold: he was at the bar shining glasses and staring straight at her.

Grandpa Reynold was still the man.

He stood at the door, with arms wide open, waiting on his grand baby to run into them. Ella complied. They hadn't seen each other in almost a decade, due to her mother's indifference, and she was so excited to catch him up on her life. They sat in the living room and talked for hours, while her mother prepped his room and cooked dinner.

"An art curator? I knew a few of those, back in the day. They didn't have such fancy names though. They sat on 125th, with tables full of black art and tried to make one or two of their artist friends the next big thing."

Ella loved her grandfather's stories, "That's pretty much what I do. None of the artists are my friends. That would be pretty cool."

"You can't really love the art, if you don't understand the story."

"This is true. I didn't love Kahlo or Basquiat, until I heard their tales."

"What's the story of the next painting you're acquiring?"

"It's from a superb collection that this well-to-do black family has, in Harlem. The matriarch of the family is not fond of letting it go. We're trying to convince her to just let us showcase it, but I think the gallery owner has other plans."

"Can I see it? Do you have a picture?"

Ella pulled her phone from her pocket and showed a picture of it to Grandpa Reynold. He looked at it, with familiarity, "Reminds me of the clubs I used to work at, back in the day."

"Ugh. I've always loved that era. I was born in the wrong time."

"It was a beautiful time, but a decade of sorrow followed. The Great Depression was no joke."

"Is that why you left?"

Grandpa Reynold hesitated. He seemed well rested, less tired than the last time Ella saw him. The last time he was in America she was a pre-teen. He spent a month with Ella and her mom, but didn't stick around. He rode the trains everywhere, in search of something that he didn't seem willing to share.

"The Great Depression was a double entendre for me."

"Was it a woman?"

Grandpa Reynold patted Ella's knee and smiled, "You've always been a bright child. I think dinner is ready, let's eat."

Evan just finished listening to one of his grandmother's stories. She closed her eyes tightly and he imagined she was trying to visualize what she'd lost.

"Why didn't you marry him, grandma?"

Ruth opened her eyes, "Because I let people convince me that love alone wasn't good enough."

She got up from the table and used her hand to steady herself. She walked slowly up the stairs, towards her bedroom, and when she got there Evan could hear the clink of her scotch glasses and the faint sound of a pour.

Evan did not want to grow into love.
He wanted it from the very start.
From first sight, 
first kiss, 
first date, 
first touch, 
or first something. 

He wanted anything but a love that was fueled by societal standards, hierarchy, and parental approval. 

His phone vibrated. It was Ella.


"Hey sir. How are you?"

"Better, now."

He could hear her smile, on the other line, "Good. I was wondering if I could have a chat with you tomorrow."

"Sure. What's up?"

"It's about the art piece. I heard that it's your favorite and I was wondering if you could give me some background on it, some context."

"Sure. I think my mom or grandmother would be better at that, though."

"I'm sure, but I bet you've heard the story a million times. I'd like to hear it from you."

Evan was flattered, "Okay. Coffee at noon?"

"It's a date."

"Is it?"

"It is."

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Brown Girl To Brown Woman: 20 Books For Your Future Daughter(s)

A few days ago, I came across this article (11 Books To Give Your Future Daughter Throughout Her Life) and I was excited about the title.

& then I read it.

& I usually don't talk smack about other articles, but...meh.

Here are twenty books you can give your future daughter:

1. "Spin A Soft Black Song" by Nikki Giovanni

Because my mother scoured shelves searching for this book when I told her that the girls on my book covers, didn't look like me.

2. "Mufaro's Beautiful Daughters" by John Steptoe

Because Cinderella is not enough. 

3.  "The Skin I'm In" by Sharon G. Flake

Because loving you and the way God made you is pertinent. 

4. "The Bluest Eye" by Toni Morrison

Because knowing that self-love is a long and historic battle puts things into perspective.

5. Anything by Walter Dean Myers

Because...Walter Dean Myers. 

Because we relate to simplicity, too. 

7. "Kendra" by Coe Booth

Because sometimes we screw up and have to get back up and try again. 

8. "No Disrespect" By Sista Souljah

Because we're going to read urban fiction, no matter how you try to sway us. Give us gritty memoir, urban realness, all wrapped in one, instead.

Because her stories are the ones we keep quiet, the ones that we're embarrassed of, when they are the normality. 

10. "Men We Reaped" By Jesmyn Ward

Because our brothers need us, because we are their keepers.

11. "The Twelve Tribes of Hattie" By Ayana Mathis

Because we need to know where we come from, generationally, and learn that cycles can be broken and tradition should be kept.

12. "Aya of Yop City" By Marguerite Abouet

Because graphic novels aren't only superheroes and gore; they're brown girls, laughter, and great plotlines, too. 

13. "The Prisoners Wife" by asha bandele


14. Black Macho and The Myth of Superwoman by Michele Wallace

Because we need to hear this message, before it's too late.

15. "All About Love" by bell hooks

Because we need multiple sources teaching us about adoration. 

16.  for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is not enuf by Ntozake Shange

Because the rhythm is never not relevant. 

17. "Kindred" By Octavia Butler

Because your daughters should know that it's never too late to change careers and do it so poignantly. 

18. "Their Eyes Were Watching God" by Zora Neale Hurston

Because dialect and sizzle. 

19.  "Assata" by Assata Shakur

Because revolution. Because Black Panther. Because Black Art. Because Mumia. Because Ferguson. Because B-More. 

20. An Untamed State" By Roxane Gay

Because privilege comes in many forms. 

Here's another list of 100 books that I wrote a while ago and if you need any book suggestions...feel free to check me out on my Goodreads or shoot me an email at! 

#RivCooks: Honey Soy Avocado Chicken Tacos

I had a serious craving for some sticky (honey) wings from BBQs and quite the hankering for tacos, at the same time. That's how this concoction happened. It was incredible. 

I know you'll want to make these tonight, so here's what you're going to need: 

* 4 chicken breasts, sliced, tender size
* 1/2 cup sweet soy sauce,
* 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
* 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro leaves
* 2 cloves garlic, minced
* 1/2 lemon, juiced
* salt and pepper, to taste
* 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
* 2 tablespoons butter (melted)
* 1/2 cup honey

For the sauce, you'll need to combine all ingredients together (except for the chicken). Be sure to whip thoroughly,  until brown and smooth. 

Add your chicken, with  two tablespoons of olive oil, to a skillet and sauté on both sides, on medium heat, for ten minutes each. Add sauce (desired amount), to the chicken and stir on low heat, for an additional ten minutes. Be sure to cut chicken to make sure it's cooked all the way through. 

You'll need to cut a desirable amount of avocado and green onion to accompany your chicken. I also like to use corn tortillas, that I've slightly browned on a stove, as well. Garnish with a bit of lettuce & enjoy! 

If you try this recipe, let me know how it turns out! 

Monday, April 27, 2015

From My Journal: When He Arrives & You Aren't Ready

My mother sometimes speaks in cliches. 

I grow weary of certain sayings, knowing they've been carved into my memory, thanks to her repetition. 

"He'll arrive, when you least expect it."
"You never know, he could be in your life right now." 
"These things take time and there are so many fish in the sea." 

But there are a few that sing, hum melodies into my every day train ride. These are the comments that were flung into the abyss by the doubt that he'd ever come and the insecurity that I so desperately needed/wanted to grow out of. 

"Devour all intellect you come across. Never lose your hunger for the written word."

Andrew is the guy that follows you on social media for years. He's the name you always see, within your likes, but never took the time to glance. He correlates with everything on your list, speaks a love language that's been lost for a decade, and still you managed to miss him. 


Were you too busy chasing men that only had interest in how your spine could bend?
Were you under the influence of fleeting, as opposed to forever?
Were you unable to decipher game from genuineness?

Andrew is authentic. He smiles like he carries no care in the world. I envy this. I could listen to him for hours. He's in love with Leo Tolstoy and Junot Diaz. He wonders how someone that is clearly an expert of locution could still be "so down." He pays me a similar compliment, tells me I'm versatile and amazing, 
as his tongue meets his lips, 
as his eyes meet mine, 
as his hand expressions emphasize, 
as his laughter runs along the rim of my heart...

It is the first time I'm intimidated. Although I'm quite well read, he spouts words, concepts, and texts that I don't know. 

I'm ashamed to write this. 

I told my momma.
She said, "He's got eight years on you, baby."

This cliche I do not mind. It's soothing.

"Take care of yourself. It's so important. Pause. Sleep. Get your nails done, frequently. Shop for things that you love. Treat yourself to quality that will last you forever." 

Andrew is an exquisite polar opposite that sports J. Crew and Ralph Lauren, for play. He walks around as if he's not of this city, as if he's one of those self-serving trust-fund babies that knows nothing of bags under eyes and 40+ hour workweeks. 

But he's the hardest working man I know. 
Where does he find the time?

I ask him this, during our first several hour late-night talk. 

He pauses, he's the type that thinks before he speaks:

"I just do. I care about my well-being, just as much as I do others. I'm not going to apologize for that. I'm not rushing out of work at 5, but I'm not going to kill myself for a company that doesn't do the same for me." 

I think back to the appointments I've rescheduled, the self-care that I've half-assed. I applaud his sentiment, I'm inspired and impressed. 

"You need someone that's on your level or surpasses the one you're on."

I'd told her that these men no longer existed, were taken, or they weren't interested in me. 

& then Andrew showed up...

& of course I couldn't tell you, from a few conversations, if he was the type of man my mother spoke about...

But damn he was close. 

"Fall in love with yourself, so that when he arrives his love will be an addition...not something to fill the hollow."

& I ain't hollow.
But there are still trenches, 
in my heart, 
in my soul, 
in my smile.

Warriors sit there. 
They await each day to be chosen,
to be plucked from their solace,
and stirred,
they anticipate my finality,
my everlasting words:

Me-->Warriors: I love you. I accept you for who you are. 

Andrew called. He'd just returned from Barbados and I was on my way to Jamaica. 

He said, "Let's start your tan, early. It's a beautiful, sunny, Sunday. We shouldn't waste it."

I stared at the mounds of paperwork, scattered in front of me. I was working on curriculum, manuscripts, blog/business plans, and consultant work, all at the same time. 

This is one of the warriors. It's the feeling that if I inundate myself, I will not endure longing or loneliness.

"I've got a lot of work to do. Perhaps, when I get back from vacation?"

I was already thinking of how much more beautiful I was with a tan, the hour long jogs, across sand, that could reduce my stomach, the seafood and callaloo that would also help. 

I cringed, when the words left my lips. It sounded like I was trying to schedule him in, two weeks from then.

"Wow. You can't be serious. It's so beautiful outside. C'mon, just an hour or two."

I frowned at my reluctance, "I can't play hooky. I really have to catch up."

"It's because you haven't found anyone worth playing hooky for."

He was right.

I was so used to men, superficial and easily intimidated, that I'd tried to shrink myself into the things they desired.

I'd used the amazing calves I had, to carry me last minute shopping, to grab something I thought would hide my imperfections.

I took to mirrors, tucking away my "extra" in high underwear, pushing up cleavage, and oiling legs, hoping the latter would be more noticeable.

I'd found myself ordering salads on first dates, trying to hide the gap in my smile between chews, giggling at jokes and suppressing my own, fearing I'd come off as corny.

I wasn't being myself, because I didn't fully love myself.

I realized this a while ago, but I wasn't finished with the process. Although I'd grown out of some of it, I'd find other insecurities resurfacing.

I still had so much work to do.

I couldn't say this.

Instead I spoke, "Seriously, after Jamaica. I promise."

He resigned and made it clear that he felt "curved."

I was temporarily upset, with how I'd handled it.
I waded in the notion that he could've been "the one" and I'd sabotaged it.

& then I remembered that I had to continue learning to love myself.

I wanted to breathe during pictures.

Affection isn't found through the awkward faces and poses you make, while trying to hide the stomach that's a part of you.

I wanted to lose weight for my health, not for a man or an event or an ad that asks if I'm summer ready.

I had to push through my work, know that it was good enough for me, even if it wasn't for public consumption.

I needed to know that my laughter was heavy and resounding, because it rose from somewhere deep.

My smile was a product of child-hood thumb-sucking and refusal to wear my retainer, my own doing.

Sticking my tongue through my gap was freeing, letting those I kissed do it...could be freeing too. ;)

My glasses and adoration of comic books caused a deeper bond with my students, especially ones that made their ways through hallways of torment, every day.

The flail of the skin under my arms made my hugs more potent and me warmer, during the winter.

My height made me the most noticeable woman in the room, gargantuan doesn't sound the same on my lips. I'm larger than life.

I needed time to learn to love me.

One of my friends said, "What if he was the one?"

I hate that term. Because there's no such thing if you're not one with yourself.

My mother always said, "If someone truly cares, they'll come back to you."

This is cliche too, but the familiarity of it is what keeps me steady, counting the beauty marks on my skin, in the reflection of the Jamaican ocean waves. I trace them with my fingers, connect them like astrology, and can feel the rush of salt water against my skin, similar to the self-adoration I'm accruing day by day.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

If No One Has Told You This Evening

Someone told me, but it was too late.

He disappeared after 2 years of getting to know one another.

He was gone. I didn't know what to call him. We'd always been friends, but after coming to watch him DJ, because I admired him and anything he put his hands on, after he drove me home, after he pulled me into a full fledged lip-lock, I think...

I thought...
I might've mistaken...
...him, for love.

But now he was air, a whisper on the lips of friends...

So and so graduated, he's doing so well now.

Maybe because it was the night before you were leaving I deemed it the right time. I guess I never thought you'd vanish, just a few miles away.

A younger me had something taken from her. I was sixteen, ---teen, and --teen. The ages it happened doesn't matter. The incident does.

I was excited about handing it over, freely. I was ecstatic to do what I wanted with my body, on my terms.

But this...
This was like déjàvu.
It was eerily similar.
It wasn't the same, but it still corroded me the same.

...because I admired him and anything he put his hands on...

& still I have trouble admiring me. Funny.

Someone told me, but it was too late.

He pulled up, months later, visiting his popularity, his old professors, the scattered sadness he'd left. He chased me down a dark pathway, while I was walking, and yelled my name. I turned. I stood still.
I remembered my mother's words about boomerang men and karma. I wished him light and happiness, even though I'd been everything but.

"Erica, I'm sorry."

His eyes were green, sparkle across his stare, but I no longer took fancy to twinkling.

I looked into them, long and hard, "F-- your apology."

"Please, I'm truly sorry."

He probably was. I didn't care. I remembered feeling like something was wrong with him, when for the first time in 730 days, he didn't answer a text. I wondered if he was okay. & then I remembered the hollowness I felt when his social media was updated, but I still hadn't heard from him. & then I remembered the anger that ensued, when I realized he was only ignoring me. 

He said something that I’d be hearing for the first time, but I’d be hearing again and again. He sounded like a prospective broken record:

You’re a unicorn, 
got bells and whistles 
that I ain’t used to
too good---errra, errra, 
too smart---erra, erra, 
not ready for something serious, 
even though you never asked for that
only respect—
but I wasn’t brave enough to give you that

Someone told me, but it was too late. 

In the dissonance between being violated and forgotten, the quiet between the forgetting and the acceptance, I realized that I had to tell myself. 

This is what you aren’t:

You are no goddamn unicorn. You’re exceptional, unique, and all other things that individualize you, but you are real. The moment you start accepting yourself as something that is unreachable, you will ceased to be reached. You are no paragraph long text, because he will not answer the phone. You are no stupid reply.

I don’t know why you’re bugging.
I thought we were just kicking it.
Uh huh. 

You are no anxiety for talk bubbles and responses. You are no cryptic conversation, squinting eyes, trying to figure out what they really mean. You are no 3 hour wait, in the middle of hurt words, because he did not feel like responding. You are no wallowing in it, wondering where you went wrong, trying to fix something that you never broke in the first place.

When we first started conversing, you were paragraphs. You're from the generation of don't-pick-up-the-phone-unless-absolutely-necessary. I tried to respect that. I didn't. At least you text me your philosophies and notions with enough breadth, that they deserved commas.

Now...suddenly, when your words count you are nowhere to be found. Mimic of Siri with curt replies and remnants of you not seeing what a relationship looks like.

You are no last minute cancellation. You are no last minute request, that's drenched in or-else. You are no ultimatum. 

I dated a cop once. 

We sat atop his squad car, conversing about the stars, while Brooklyn boasted its famous summer nights. 

It came out of nowhere, “My partner, a white cop, is about to get married. He’s only twenty three. I don’t get it.”

“What don’t you get?”

“It seems like they do their foolishness in college, leave, and then pick a woman. It doesn’t even seem like it’s the ideal woman either. It seems like someone that works and then they decide to make it work. It’s as if they’re raised understanding that there will always be flaws. ”

I looked straight at him, instead of the stars,”Do you not have that understanding?”

“I do, but I don’t. I wasn’t raised that way. I’ve never seen love like that and most of my boys haven’t either. We use what we see in the media, on TV, and mostly our imagination, to find our “wife.”

“It sounds like you’re searching blind.”

“A lot of us are.”

You are no philosophical conversation. You are no could be, should be, might be. You are no fixing what isn’t splintered or damned from salvation, but refuses to be whole. Your time is worth more than dealing with those emotionally stunted. You are no faltering commitment. 

You deserve better than me. 
You see my momma says...
I wonder what it could've been like, if...
Good things come to those who wait...
One day your prince charming will come. 
There are so many fish in the sea...

Or the patriarch of them all...
When I get my sh* t ogether...

You are no rocked knee and broken-hearted personal day. You are no inundating of schedule, so you don't have to feel. You are sunken spot in the couch, that knows your ass and sorrow all too well. You are no comforter that has known more of love-hoping and saline than love-making. You are no tremble and acting as if he doesn't exist, b/c it's the only way you can cope. 

This is what you are:

You are real. 
You are spine. 
I see God in you, girl, woman, Aphrodite. 
Take your smile back. 

You are vacays and sand, between your toes. You are knowing what the world feels like wrapped around you, if you can't seem to find arms that are willing. You are equal pay. You are a paycheck that correlates with the quality of what life should be. 

You are the depiction of strength and that should be recognized: not as a reflection of his mother or some idiotic vision he has of what you should be. You are the type of strength that is built like Babel, through hurdles, and boulders, and rock, and stone. You are the type of complexity that God only wants the right man to recognize, so he leaves the others speaking in tongues that you don't.

You don't need to hear what they're saying anyway. 

You are sweet words. You are nothings. You deserve to feel light, to be light, to have it as yours. You deserve to never have it taken away, against your will. 

You are grabbing your womb, when black boys fall prey to devils. You are the conflict, that we will have to teach our sons to be better men in more ways than one. You are the indecision of whether you truly want to bring a child into this world. You are the realizing that it's YOUR DECISION. 

You are wearing your hair however you want. You are wearing whatever you want. You are bleeding, when it's your time. You are commando on days you don't care. You are realizing that there are vibrating things that resolve the quiet that is Mr. Right Now.

Send him on his way. 

I've gotten into the habit of taking my power back. I love with a fury and once I realize that I'm being taking advantage of, I rescind. 

(Because my love is not ordinary. It's not the type of adoration that withers and dies. It's the kind that stays with you. It's the kind that you don't recognize, until I'm gone. 

I bet yours is too. You just have to own it.)

I'm not talking about outright and blatant disrespect. I'm talking about the hidden one, lingering under half-assed compliments and thoughts about his exes, during those first few conversations. Once I recognize this in them, I remove myself. You should too.

& this...
this hurts them better than the betrayal and frustration,
that comes along when we ignore our intuitions...

You are knowing. 
You are the ability to discern bullsh*t, before it dries, cracks, breaks, and becomes you. 
You are worthy of outstanding love.
Familial love.
Friendship love.
Romantic love.
Self love.
Spiritual love.

You are everything you want to be, if you allow yourself.

This evening...

allow yourself.