Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Fragility, Vulnerability, and Other Things I’m Still Trying To Put Into Practice

I’ve always tried to put it into words. I couldn’t.

I’m unsure if it’s because I felt that I was too strong to say it or because I couldn’t identify it. How can you identify something you’ve never been given? Lovers would ask me what was missing and it would sit on the tip of my tongue, but it would never come.

The other day, someone who I’ve been exchanging pleasantries with, asked me what was missing from the love I’ve lost.

I sputtered something stupid, “Being held from behind.”

He laughed, “What?”

“Um…I’ve never been held from behind.”

“That’s random. Why do you think that is?”

“I don’t know. Maybe it’s because I’m too tall, or too thick, or not vulnerable, or perhaps men just don’t think I need to be held in that way. They don’t see me as fragile.”

Fragile. This is the word. It was out now.

Okay, I’m lying. A little bit.

One man tried to hold me from behind. Once. We were standing in front of the Liberty Bell and I suddenly saw his hands in front of me. I realized he was about to hold me in this way and I kind of freaked. I moved to the side, smiled at him, and placed a kiss on his cheek. I could tell that he was a tad bit confused, but I knew the moment would be a memory soon for him. However, it was never one for me. Why did I freak out?

Because I’d never been handled with care.
It was awkward to me, because I’d never been with anyone who considered me something/someone to be careful with.

I did not see myself as fragile.
I wasn’t treated as such.

There is something about a touch, a grasp, or a whisper that can remind you of your femininity. I’ve watched the dance happen between friends and their lovers, particularly those that are pink, petite, small, or wincing. Men swoop their arms down, cater to their every whim.

I want to be handled delicately.

I couldn’t say it to the men who claimed to love me, but I knew there was something missing.

At 5’11, 190 pounds, and at the top of your game you reek of strength and solidity. My voice is deeper than most women and I perform poems on stages, in front of huge crowds. The more lovers learn about the things I’ve done and my feats, the less I’m handled like I could be broken.

But even bulletproof glass cracks, weathers, and fades.
I am this; but I am delicate too.

My spine is sometimes melted, when all is wrong in my world, and sometimes I yearn for strong arms to replace it.

When all is quiet and the tapping of my keyboard is the only sound, I yearn for someone to ask: How was your day?

I sit at dinner tables and wait for men to hold my hand and caress it slowly, tell me compliments that everyone wants to hear. They are sure I’ve been told this several times, so they stay silent.

& so I handle myself delicately.

I buy myself flowers.
I take long, warm baths.
I have a sign above my mirror that says “You are beautiful, Erica.”
I kiss my arms, before I fall asleep.
I tell the moon goodnight.
I write poems about the beauty that happens in my day.

Although I am mighty I’ve learned that I’m fragile too. I learned that I no longer want to live and love, as if I’m not. I will demand it of anyone who comes calling and all those who want my attention.

I want to be vulnerable too.

I have never felt freer than the moments where my heart is lying open and scattered on a table. He sits across from me and pretends that all the contents of our happenings aren’t there, but there’s no denying it. He will either pick them up or leave them there, but I’d rather that than not knowing at all. I’d rather that than being a bottle praying to fizz over, for someone who realizes you are worth shaking alive.

I am learning these things.
In pieces.
In darkness.
In the inaudible.
In women’s eyes.
In God.
In my echoing womb.
In the passing years.

I want someone to whisper…

no screw that….

I’ll whisper it to you:

You are fragile too. Mountains crack, oceans divide, and the earth erodes. Everything tied and bound, eventually breaks. Love yourself this way. Know that you are capable of falling, but rising too. Know that you are dusk, but sun is around the corner. Prepare yourself for triumph, but allow yourself to shatter too.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Series: On Being A Writer: Space & Time


So I’m starting a new series. I know; I see your face. You’ve rolled your eyes, because it’s the third one I’ve begun within the last six months. (Shameless Plug: Go Check out Digital Crush and In The Meantime.) Welp. Get used to them. I’m trying for consistency here.
This series, “On Being A Writer” will zoom in on my plight with maintaining a balance between my full-time job, freelance, novel work, and other projects. I’m a full-time education non-profit administrator. By full-time I don’t mean 9-5. I mean 9 to whenever I’m finished. (When is the work ever really finished?) I love my work, my students are the perfect handful and they give to me in the same ways I give to them. However, working 50+ hours a week, writing articles at night and in the wee hours of the morning, and trying to hold on to my artistic integrity in other endeavors is incredibly difficult.
I remember being on a radio show, back in college, and the interviewer wanted to know how I juggled spoken word shows (out of state), my classwork, and a part-time job. I remember telling him a joke about suitcases filled with Norton anthologies, skinny jeans, and napkin poems. After leaving the interview I had one thought: Once college is over and I’m all settled into a job this runaround is over, right?


These days I carry more than heavy textbooks around to maintain equilibrium. In one day, I could be found running a curriculum meeting, changing into more comfortable performance clothes, shouting rhymes from a small cafĂ© stage, arguing with my editor about a title, and falling asleep in the middle of late night text flirtation with my boo thang. My bag is filled with books and electronics, because multiple tabs won’t assist when you have to answer a work email on a specialized server, check your regular email, and take notes on the current meeting you’re sitting in. Contrary to popular belief in multitasking, I’m actually incredibly good at it.
Some days, the constant upkeep of each segment of my life is tiring and frustrating. Other days, it’s rewarding and magnificent. The two balance each other out. After a day of handing in late assignments and being reprimanded, I’ll get an email from a loyal reader that says that I’ve changed their perspective on something life altering. My heart once riddled with anxiety swells with pride.

 On this blog, I often talk about the necessities, not being superwoman, and maintaining balance. However, it’s rare that I talk about the intricacies of the process.
 The mornings: where doubt is stronger than fear. The invasion of your private space, when your boss is calling or your roommate needs to talk. The nights that you’re too tired to keep up with your lover’s needs. Giving up social events, because you know that you have work to do. Telling your mother that your Saturday morning chat has to be shorter than usual.
There have been a lot of moans, complains, and irritated grunts when I tell those I love, that I have to excuse myself to hone my craft. However, if you truly want something, sacrifice is a requirement.

Today’s lesson concerns the space & time you need, as a writer. First thing is first: THIS IS YOUR RESPONSIBILITY. No one is going to make time for you: not your boss, your significant other, your friends, or anyone else. You need to lock down the hours and command yourself to focus.
            Listen to instrumentals.
            Use a self-control app.
            Put your phone on airplane mode.
            Put a do not disturb sign on your door.
 My writing space has been moved to my living room, because I decided on a roommate. Goodbye writing office. Because of the numerous conferences and ventures I have planned this summer, I thought it was best to have someone here while I’m gone. Whenever I’m writing: she comes in to watch television, eat dinner, and a multitude of other things. However, we have cues. If I’m wearing my headphones, she knows not to disturb me unless it’s an emergency. If I’m at my desk engrossed, she knows there’s a certain volume level that the television must be on. I set these standards with her, so that we don’t ruin our friendship when a simple recanting of rules could’ve saved it.
Don’t let anyone tell you about how much time you have to write. Only you know how long your work takes. I’m going to write this segment for the folks who’re writing and the onlookers. Blogging/writing/journaling/etc. is not a one and done. This blog post will be anywhere between 800-1000 words, when I’m done with it. So naturally, I have friends who love to say: That takes a second for you. Come out to this show, you can do it afterwards. You have time.
This blog has to be written, formatted, edited, and reedited. It then has to have a picture on the top of it, that has to be resized, blurred, altered, and text put to it. (Photoshop style.) That image must be uploaded to the post and then I’ll decide that I don’t like it. I’ll do it over again. I then have to, after adding tags/title/label, post this link on every social network I have. I might have to boost the post, if it’s truly important, or drop it on the walls of people that might find it interesting. You know the blog post that was supposed to take an hour, according to your friend? You're now up to three hours.
            Your writing is YOUR baby.
            Don’t let anyone tell you how to cradle it.
            Don’t let anything dwindle the time you need to cultivate it.
            Don’t let your work become a neglected child.
            Raise it to the best of your efforts.
With that said....I'm off to my day job. I'm going in for 1pm, because I finish at 8pm today. I spent the morning blogging. See? Allocating time already...

Monday, April 7, 2014

Digital Crush: A Short Story Series: Part 2

Note: This story is part of a series. To read part one, go here.

The Past: June 2001

What was it to truly know someone? I’ve always thought of romance and affection as a physical thing.  Something I could feel on my lips or my skin, like the sun. Love was an invisible tan, a glow my mother could always detect. It was tangible and definite.

            His pictures looked like something I’d pulled out of my mother’s old high school photo album. He was dressed in a patterned school uniform or shirts and ties. His hair was cut into a small fade, unlike the regular Caesar that all the other brown boys sported. I flipped through his online slideshow three times, before I had the guts to say hello.

            His name was Kareem.
            He was 6’4 and fine.
            He was of Trinidadian descent.
            He was going to be valedictorian.
            He was headed to Princeton, on a basketball scholarship.
            I snickered at this mention.

He asked, “What’s so funny? I know that it isn’t really a sports school, but that’s not why I’m going.”
I smiled, “Oh really? So why are you going?”
“It’s a scholarship to an Ivy League. If they wanted me to line dance, I’d line dance my ass off.”
“You’re right. So what do you plan on studying?”
“Business. I’m not sure exactly what I want to do, but I know I’ll be able to wear fly suits and a great smile, while doing it. I could sell anything.”
I reminisced his pictures, “You sure could kid.”
He stood outside of the Broadway Arcade, before it was revamped into the mainstream Dave & Busters. New York City was frigid, the passersby swallowed by brightly colored bubble jackets. Kareem and I had been phone buddies, for about three months.

There was the story about his ex-girlfriend:
“They thought it would be funny to prank call my parents and tell them that I was slacking and not staying focused, because of Andrea. I wasn’t ready to tell them about her, because we were fifteen and technically I wasn’t supposed to be dating yet. I also didn’t want them to think, after all the hard work they did getting me into that school, that I was throwing everything away. I started to spend less time with her, lest they grow suspicious. She started to become apprehensive of me. She eventually broke up with me. I still regret every moment of it. She was my fuel, never a hindrance. I should’ve defended her. I should’ve showed my parents that the prank caller had no idea what they were talking about; that Andrea was the reason my calculus score was suddenly so high. I was a coward. I’ll never be one, again.”

There was the first night we didn’t speak:
His best friend had a dinner at Justin’s. Diddy’s new restaurant was the go to spot for all the teens trying to prove they were fancy adults, at the time. It was the first night we wouldn’t be able to speak. By the time he got home, he’d have to be tucked in for his long train ride to school, in the morning. It was midnight when my parent’s home phone rang. I’d fallen asleep with it nearby, because I’d been doing homework on a 3-way, with friends. I caught it on the first ring.
“Mira. I just called to say goodnight.”
“Kareem! I could get into so much trouble. It’s late.”
“I know. I just had to hear your voice.”
“Oh that’s sweet. Thank you.”
Just then my father’s voice could be heard on the other line, “GET OFF THE PHONE, MIRA. SAY GOOD NIGHT.”

He was ready to meet in person. I wanted to wait a bit longer, but he insisted that it was incredulous to wait any longer. I stood across the street and watched him. He looked left and right, twiddling his fingers and waiting for me. He watched each and every girl walk by, hoping to make eye-to-eye contact with the girl he’d fallen for over the phone. I swallowed hard, made my way across the street, pulled my hoodie up over my head, as I walked by him and walked right into the subway.

I couldn’t do it. Kareem was perfect. Every guy I’d met online, before him, had a huge flaw. It was the reason they were online, hoping no one would notice. I guess it was the same, for me. My insecurity is something I could hide behind a computer screen. Kareem noticed it instantly.
“Every time I give you a compliment you get silent. Why is that?”
“I don’t know. I’m just not used to receiving them.”
“Well get used to it.”

His morals and values were at the tip of his tongue and he believed so strongly in each and every one of them. He knew exactly what he wanted out of life and couldn’t wait for a woman who felt the same way.

I listened to sound of the conductor’s voice, on the train. Next stop: 34th Street—Penn Station.

Kareem stood right in front of me. Tangible. Definite. Real. Yet, I couldn’t bring myself to love him or have him love me back.

The Present: March 2014

            When you’re long-distance, you’ve got to come up with interesting things to keep the conversation going. Every morning, Matthew and I had a ‘Question of the Day’. I’m not really sure who started the ritual, but we haven’t skipped a day since it’s begun.

Today I asked, “How do you see love? How do you picture it?”
He responded:
“Love is lying in bed, with one another, binge watching your favorite show. You’d only take breaks to make love, eat, and stare at the ceiling. While staring at the ceiling, you’d talk about any and everything. You’d have inside jokes and you’d tell each other your secrets/fears. Love is leaving the bed and the other noticing and following you, just to wrap their arms around you and remind you that you’re loved. It’s play fighting that turns into lovemaking, falling asleep in that same space you landed. That’s how I see love.”

These responses kept us alive. He would never admit it, but I knew he was imagining the same thing I was. I imagined rolling in sheets, whispering laughter, and his kisses down my spine. He imagined holding me until the sun rose, reminding me that I was his, and telling me truths he’d never told anyone.

At this point he was an imaginary entity that I ate dinner with, spent my date nights telling jokes to, and accompanied me throughout my entire day. But no one could see him. They would see me lift my phone and giggle, they’d see me get my laptop/iPad ready for video-chat, and they wondered who was putting a smile on my face.  I’m sure they pondered, “Who/where is this man?”

There was nothing tangible about him.
Nothing definite.
Not yet.
However, I knew one thing for sure…
History wouldn’t repeat itself.