I have the habit of reopening old wounds when I’m trying to close them and then opening new ones so the scars never heal over. I am left open and sore with dirty bandages hanging loose around me.
Yesterday was one of those days when things fell apart. In knowing that things will be better soon I made it through, but… again was caught off guard. My nerves were frazzled yesterday in preparation for the dress rehearsal for the play. My stomach failed and my heart was in my ears reminding me that good enough was all I needed to get through it.
Then I got a message from my friend with unexpected news that became the tipping point of my day; news that on any other day would have been mostly shrugged off to indifference, but yesterday compounded with the rest of my emotions, floored me again.
I left work early, not because I needed to be alone, but due to a prescheduled seclusion before the evening.
The bus came straight away and I was glad for it because my eyes were hard to keep dry. I was trying to figure what it was that I was actually crying about, but the confusion was making it worse. Was it the play? The information? The year anniversary?
I thought home would comfort me, but home was worse. I got home and couldn’t remember the reasons why I had even tried again. Wondered at why a life not so bad could feel so hard and then looked for the bottle of rubbing alcohol.
Bathroom cabinet? No.
Beneath the bed? No.
CJ’s bathroom? Check.
Cotton Swabs – found.
Razor blade – which one to choose?
And this is where it began.
“Nicole, do not do this, what are you doing?”
“No, it’s fine if it’s just this time, right? I just need to feel better before the play.”
“This won’t make you feel better.”
“It will for a minute.”
“Think of your mother.”
“I did and she’ll never know.”
“Fine then,” and I swabbed the razor blade with alcohol so that it would be clean and the metal would not infect me as it broke my skin.
I turned Coldplay’s Viva La Vida on.
Then I cut.
It wasn’t deep and it wasn’t like it used to be, but it was soothing to see the tiny ripples of blood and the little marks that I had made.
I stopped after only a few tiny ones because I realized my mistake.
I asked God for guidance and found a picture of my mom. I imagined the phone calls she used to make when she said, “girl, you’re not hurting yourself anymore right? Because I love you.”
I remembered why I had stopped and why this wasn’t the way I should cope and told myself to get out, “get the fuck out of this house you fool,” because if I had stayed I wouldn’t have had the willpower not to.
Packed my bags for the play, picked out my clothes for the stage, and proceeded to shut myself off from my old foolish ways.
Rehearsal almost broke me.
Rachael and I were working on the scene where I finally break up with her and I began to shake and shiver and sob. It was the first time in a year that I let someone see me that way, vulnerable and scared. I was scared of feeling something I was unprepared for. When I am purposefully entering a territory that I know will cause some kind of reaction from me then I feel more in control and will allow the emotion, but the hurt that this scene elicited caught me off guard. In front of Ty and Rachael I cried and then attempted to pretend that everything was okay, that I wasn’t really feeling anything and that we should go on.
“What are you remembering?” asked Ty.
“I don’t know, I just don’t know.” (Long pause, hard stares) “I guess that this is the way we broke up, it’s kind of the same thing and I’m reliving it in a play.” There were try-to-hugs and consolations moments later, then words like, “time dear, time. you can use this for the scene. let it out.” I went home exhausted.
At work the next day I was a motley of emotions and unsure what to do. I knew that it wasn’t just the breakup that was getting to me, it was the election, the stress of the play, my relationship befuddlement compounded into an upset like Seattle felt when the Seahawks lost the superbowl.
The trigger: The week before the end of our relationship
Why: This is exactly one year ago since then
What: Her mother called me a nigger. Her mother said I was a manipulative bitch. Her mother never once said one good thing about me except to tell her daughter that I am prettier than her. Her mother is the most hateful person I’ve ever met and I let her daughter get away with a lot of things because of this fact.
“Oh, she’s just this way because of her mother so I’ll just let this one thing slide. Just one more thing,” and things slid, slid, slid with absolutely no end.
How: could I let someone take advantage of me I wondered? How could I not have said anything, not even at the very end?
Where: am I going?
Who: will I need to stand up to next? There were a million reasons it hurt and one of them was because I was feeling achy in my skin again. I had heard something about Barack earlier in the morning and was reminded of my blackness again. Someone had called him a nigger and I had somehow felt personally attacked. When I thought about my relationship and my skin, I remembered that my relationships have always felt wrong because of the difference.
I have always dated white people and in my two longest relationships I never felt accepted by my significant others families.
I cried for acceptance. I cried for a love that I’m constantly pushing away.
I called Riri and Raleigh because that’s what I do when I need immediate love, immediate reminders of how special I am. They laughed into the phone. They laughed because they knew if they laughed, I would. They were right. “Push your cheeks up they said, just push them up for a few minutes and you’ll be fine. Remember, when things are rough you can always laugh.” I stopped crying and blew my nose one last time. Made a promise to myself that things will never be the same, I won’t be ashamed of my skin and I won’t let them shame me and I won’t take the blame even if they blame me.
That muscle, the one inside that keeps us from falling apart seems not to be working the right way these days. It’s still pumping my blood, but it seems to be faster and harder and the chamomile tea won’t slow it down. Tea doesn’t work on lust induced heartache, though I had hoped in the drinking that it would do so.
My friends that know me well, know that crushes aren’t good for me. They know that I give too much to someone I know very little of. This is the first one that I’ve really had in months, since right before I joined the church last May. When I began going to church all of that unbalanced emotion went into my need for God, but right now it is in a state of flux.
The last one was bad, very teary eyed, hole in my chest, disengaged from reality kind of bad. Actually… it was typical of my life. I’ve done this all of my life, found something or someone to focus on so that I didn’t have to focus on myself.
I suppose this is my first crush after becoming a Christian and I’m not sure how to deal with it. I feel a little guilty for wanting someone or the “idea” of something, which is a relationship with someone I don’t really know that well.
I need to refocus my energy on God, on my writing, on my music, and the rest of my life. I have a song that I wrote about this a few months ago and want to go sing it for need of an outlet. Singing is sometimes the only thing that will calm my nerves and give me peace.
On a side note: I love being at this cafe and listening to conversations. What used to bother me about listening was that everyone was always having the same conversation and the fact that nothing is new bothered me and sent my into depressive episodes because of the pointlessness of all things. I felt defeated by the reality of the situation and it was that nothing I could say or do would matter. Things have changed since then, I love hear people laugh and learn and be…
I suppose the amount of days since it happened don’t really matter anymore. The amount of days since we last fought, or cried, or manipulated one another into staying, and eventually cheated to leave.
Or… I guess that’s what I did because I couldn’t stay in it anymore, but couldn’t figure a good end. I had tried saying before that we weren’t right for one another and she begged me to stay. She said the same and I in turn was on my knees in tears. Things went on like this for years, accusing, lying, struggling, cursing, fucking. It wasn’t all bad and I know this because the only times I can seem to remember now are the good ones. There was more bad than good and I remember all of the good and the bad has disassembled itself and laid itself on the periphery and when I’m looking for it I can see it in the distance and can only feel the good. The interesting thing is that “good” when remembered in loneliness begets intense pain and sadness.
And so… I am immersing myself in it in order to move on.
Every few weeks now I go somewhere where my memories of her seem to bind my lungs. I know how it will feel before I go there, but go anyway.
Is just a metro bus.
Is just a place people shut off, listen to ipods, read papers, look unapproachable, laugh to themselves, phone a friend, waste away.
Is on a route to and from.
Was what I took everyday to and from the place I lived with her.
For eight months I avoided taking this particular bus in the direction of our old life. I actively looked for alternate routes to the same area if I needed to go, but one day my alternate route fell through. I had to be somewhere at a certain time and the only bus I could take was the next 2. As I waited my ribs began to lock and my breaths became more frequent, but I didn’t have a choice.
This would be my first immersion.
Step up. Sit down. Look. Breathe. Look. Breathe. Phone Check. Breathe. Breathe.
I was overwhelmed with panic. My first panic attack in months. “Breathe, breathe,” I told myself. “Must slow heart down.” This was a heart quickened with panic and pained with memory. I knew where I wasn’t going and that wasn’t home, or my old home, but my body wanted nothing more than to remember home and her and her body in our burgundy 400 thread count sheets she had bought because I thought they were beautiful. I thought that this must be what happens when one is about to die, so I must be dying.
I didn’t die.
Instead I called a friend and made him talk. Made him talk me out of my stupidity and the insanity of emotions because I could not cry on the 2. I could not be one of “those” people.
He talked me down.
My lungs began to let some air in. I somehow made it to my destination and shortly thereafter had a shot of cheap well vodka and relaxed. “Fuck her, fuck her for being good sometimes,” I told my friend. She sympathized and bought me another shot.
When it was time to go I couldn’t take that bus home and found a ride. Couldn’t do 2 in one day and let myself be with what it was, but the next time I took that route to the place I can’t go back to, it didn’t seem to hurt quite as much, just a singe, and later a tingle.
Now this is what I do.
Yesterday was the first time I let myself pass the courthouse. The jail/courthouse that I sent her to and she never forgave me and I never forgave myself for. The place I can never understand, the place I first cried so hard I fell on the floor in front of twenty people and screamed just for them to let me see her and let me touch her one last time. The place I told them that I had lied, even though I hadn’t. The place I held her so hard I almost squeezed her life out because I couldn’t stand the thought of letting her go. I walked by and stood outside for five minutes and just let myself cry softly on a cold autumn afternoon. Let myself remember that she is not mine anymore and love shouldn’t hurt like it did.
I will pass there again and maybe go inside one day to remove the remainder of a history that is over. I suppose it might be true that time heals all wounds, but it’s not healing them fast enough so I have to move it along anyway I can. If it is excursions to the past then it’ll have to do, if only to move me on to the next destination.
Sometimes I ate the lawn to remind myself that I was alive. The lawn, that was always green but never ours. This lawn was perfectly manicured and surrounded by a steel gate painted forest green, that I thought looked much more the color of the poop of our neighbors baby.
This lawn eating was actually a little blip in the line of obsessive compulsive disorders I would have as a child, but wait... I'm getting ahead of myself. As stories begin, this is still about the lawn I've always wanted. I'll begin again.
Palm Street is hot in the summer. One can tell how hot by how much the asphalt bubbles and the street swells. In flip flops we jump on bubbles to let free the hot air beneath. They look like boils and feel like balls of Jell-O beneath our tiny feet; we love them but for the heat that radiates through our shoes and singes our skin. Keneshia and I do this for hours when there is nothing else to do. We are old enough that dolls and toys are of no interest, but too young to venture far from the safety of our condo city.
Our condo city is filled with lawns cut and cared for by people we never see and is greener than the Crayola color of the same name. African lilies grow in equal numbers in front of each condo. From the south to the north there are seven complexes with four condos each; two lower and two upper levels connected. Each are painted the exact same shade of dull gray with an evergreen trim. Every lower condo has exactly four African lily bushes, neon green lawn, and two sprinklers in front of them, supporting the overuse of water and the “beautification” of a city. Even in times of drought, these lawns never go brown and in times of plenty the lawns just go to mush.
Today we are pulling the bulbs from the lilies in order to find out more about their insides. They are like damp flour, sticking to our fingers, and we grind each petal into the lawn hoping for the spread of seed.
Palm Street is where I grow up with Keneshia, though she actually lives in other condos on another street. Before Palm street there was another street that I am barely able to remember, so this is the street I will mostly call my home except for when I am with Riri and Raleigh at Lage House.
Palm street smells like barbecues, tamales, and exhaust, though never all at the same time. It is a mostly Latino neighborhood and my mother and I are two of the five black people living on it. Our condo is low income housing that my mom had waited on a list for. The condo is two bedroom, two bathroom, which means I have a bathroom of my own. It is the standard setup, living room, dining, small kitchen with an inlet and outlet to the aforementioned rooms. There is a hall that leads to my room with my bathroom on the right and my mom's room on the left. Most of the time I love this condo because it is ours and I can call it home, but there are other times when I am pained by the fact that my mom will not get us a dog because the condo is "too small" and there's no yard for a dog to run around in. At night I have dreams of doggy doors that open up to backyards.
During my childhood there are a number of things I will ask my mother for that she will never get me.
A front yard
While my mom made it clear to me that she was unable to have anymore children due to having a hysterectomy, I became increasingly vocal about needing a sister.
"A little one! I want a little sister to take care of, why can't you have one?"
"I can't honey," she would say and repeat once again that they had taken the part she needed inside of her to have babies, out.
Eventually she would find me a sister, but not the one I wanted. She lived with us on Palm Street for six months and then she disappeared. She wanted a front yard too, but that was something my mom couldn't give to her either and so on she went from us. There will be more of her later, but Palm Street begins much earlier than that when my feet and my body are still small and I am still innocent.
I am waiting to hear music.
Wait with me. I have been waiting and it is coming, I am sure of it.
It is deep and long.
It is earthy and sooty.
I think someone once told me my ancestors are the reason I long for dark notes. As if the low notes are the sorrow of my African Ancestors. The deepness is my black side.
If I sing an octave higher am I yearning for my white? Am I betraying my skin? My brownness that has been called Spanish, Brazilian, Ethiopian, African-American, and more.
I am waiting to hear music that defines the way my hands and feet move and how my eyebrows curve.
I am waiting to hear music that describes the way wind hits a single leaf and forces it to the ground.
I am waiting to hear music that tells me what love death melancholy anger is when I am not in them.
I am waiting for music because I am worried that memories captured with words can never say enough of what I want to say. The words only moisten the idea while music floods with meaning.