Every once in awhile it scares me that I have a book out there.
It’s poetry. My poetry. Experiences I’ve fallen over in heartbeats of therapy sessions. Scars I’ve picked at, cried over, and stapled back over my skin. They never quite mold to the softness anymore, because I’ve picked at them so much. Now they hang from the real thing; like plastered makeup on Halloween night.
My students, who I pant over when they misuse the English Language, can purchase a copy of my own work. They can pick her up, strip her apart, and assign their own grading system.
Will I meet all of their expectations? What about that possessive noun I missed here or that one edit I overlooked there?
Then the voice comes back. It’s the one that knocked my chest awake the night I convinced myself I could never be a writer. It screams –god, dammit, Flose. You are a writer.
You are a writer. You are a writer. You are a writer.
The voice moves me back in time. It takes me step-by-step, reminds me that I’ve written thousands of poems over the years, and that I have finished a second manuscript. People want me to speak at their events, and when I do, they want me to return and recommend me to their friends and colleagues.
You — no, I will be a New York Times Bestseller. I will inspire others to turn their experiences into art.
This is what I am meant to do. I’ll get there, not simply because I want it, but because I work at it more than I have ever worked at anything in my life. And most importantly, because The Universe whispered “Flose, name her Flose,” and my parents heard her loud and clear.
Flose flows. Her words, though dark at times, are meaningful.
As I sit on the floor with tears at my feet, I pluck.
I want to unroot every loaded term I’ve ever heard from the matted dirt in my brain, especially the ones that hurt.
When my hands face my eyes, the prickles I’ve removed from my synapses lie cold in my palm.
Nigger— it no longer whips my bones and hangs my blood dry. Bitch— my vagina remains unsettled. Crazy— the anxiety traveling through my body doesn’t run and hide under blankets of shame for hours passed the legal eight. Loud— my big, beautiful lips don’t chafe and blister with anger. Unreligious— every cell in my body does it’s own unique dance without fear of awakening the angels; freedom.
I am now plucking faster, yanking at every root until there’s nothing left but bald. When I have achieved this, I look at myself in the mirror.
Wow, you. Here you are so untouched.
Then I step aside and watch the whole thing explode into something beautiful, so full of light and love. I inch closer, pick up the pieces and swallow each one like bits of alfalfa sprout.
Grow in my belly, grow so strong until society is no longer your trigger.
Are you sure?
So he begins.
Slim caramel fingers extending from a tattooed left arm.
I breathe, I’m sure.
The buzz of the razor is calming.
He starts from the back and soon the floor is covered with black and gray curls.
I breathe, I’m sure.
There’s an intimate dance the barber does as he stops to check with me.
I smile and hold the top in place.
I breathe, I’m sure.
Two friends sent me about a dozen images for inspiration.
He’s managed to make this cut my own.
The more he takes off, the more I fall in love with my face.
I breathe, I’m sure.
I haven’t seen you in awhile my smile says to the nakedness in the mirror.
There’s something freeing about us meeting like this says the nakedness.
I breathe, I’m sure.
The barber finishes and leads me to the sink.
As he begins to wash my hair Ed Sheeran comes on.
Thinking out loud.
What an intimate dance we’re doing, the Barber and me, much like my mother and I did for many years.
In the Japanese garden
Under the dancing bamboo
I sing to myself as the wind listens
You’re beautiful, I repeat
You. Are. So. Beautiful
My hair dances with the bamboo trees
It seems that all agrees
And that I will be just fine with me.
You’re sitting on the bed across from me. It sits low and is covered with a blanket. Moments ago, my naked back rubbed against its flowery texture as your naked front embraced me. I look at you. There are words coming out of your mouth and light hairs on your mocha skin.
I’m sitting on a black chair, it’s your computer chair. You are wearing sweatpants, I am fully clothed. While fucking, you said “I love you,” I didn’t respond. It must have felt like love making to you then.
“It’s not that I don’t love you,” I want to say out loud but I refrain because the chorus is always the same. We’ve repeated these steps a hundred times these last five years. You felt compelled and asked me to come, so I did.
When you met me at the door, it was like you felt my presence. I didn’t have my phone and the call button to your apartment doesn’t work, but you knew I was coming. That I would be standing there at that moment waiting for you to let me in. You always let me in.
I just let you in. You ask, “do you regret it?” I look away. To the right of me there is a bookshelf, on it, there are books. I say I try not to regret things in life. That interrupts something in your mind. No human being should live a life without regrets.
Maybe I’m not human. I look down at my hands, they are are still hands. You continue to speak, I turn in the chair and face the hallway. Slow tears start to flood my eyes, but I fight back. I don’t want to cry, it doesn’t solve anything. You are you and I am me.
You’re sitting on the bed across from me, being you, and I on the black computer chair, being me.
I get up slowly and walk to your bathroom just outside the door. I keep my arms to my sides, I don’t wipe away the few tears that I couldn’t strangle back until I’m standing on bathroom tile, alone. I can feel the cold through my socks. I push the door closed behind me, then I turn the knob at the center of the handle and it locks like a whisper. The bathroom is a brief sanctuary that I don’t exactly know what to do with. I do know I’d prefer to keep my tears to myself. What tears? They’re gone now, just dry eyes and smiles in the mirror. See? I breathe. Smile. I flush the toilet so it seems like I’ve done something and use the short roar of the flush to hide the sound of me blowing my nose with toilet paper. You’re right there sitting, just being there. I imagine it in preparation. I toss the thin bunched up sheets into the toilet and watch them spin, spin then disappear. I wash my hands.
I come back into your room smiling. I know it’d be better to just come back straight-faced, even, regular, but it’s like I’m trying to use my face to trick my head into feeling something it’s not. You have the decency to not ask, “what’s wrong” although I can see the question on your face. I settle back into your chair and kick off the ground so I slowly spin on the swivel.
“Come here,” you say. And for a moment the idea disgusts me. Then, the idea of being disgusted by you, when only a couple of familiar moments ago the space between us was negative, makes my throat hot again. I feel my sinuses flare. I smile. I miss the bathroom. I stand and walk back to your low standing bed and I fall back into it beside you.
My body starts to sink into the mattress, I feel like I’m floating. For a moment I think I’m headed somewhere far away, a place where our reality doesn’t exist. Your body heat interrupts my fantasy. The warmth escaping from you rubs against my arm, it’s tugging at me, saying words we both want to scream.
“Why did you come?” Your eyes don’t meet mine but I feel them searching. I want to throw something, anything. Why do you always skip to the obvious to avoid the inevitable.
“You said you wanted to talk, so here I am.” So talk God-damnit, talk. My skin is growing tight, goosebumps are crawling on every inch of my body. I’m angry. Your right arm is doing something, in one swift motion you’re pulling me in. “What are you doing?” There’s no answer. I stiffen.
“Why is this the version of you I get, huh?” Now your voice is softer, loving. It wants to love me straight.
“God-damnit, what do you want from,” I push your hand away, “me?”
“Oro, I don’t want anything.” Your voice is soft, but this time it’s stern. “I told you, I don’t want to put any pressure on you. I understand how hard this is for you.” I breathe in. “I want you to live, whether or not that is without me is up to you.”
Something compels me and I feel my legs jerk my body up. I see the computer chair; it reminds me of the bathroom. Should I return there? I can leave though; you’re not kidnapping me, I can leave. Right now I’m just standing there. You’re still sitting on the bed. Nothing about your composure has changed. I’m not sure who has the upper-hand here.
“Sit, let’s talk.” I start to pace instead. The black rolling thing is only a couple of inches away from me; all I have to do is settle in it. I keep pacing.
“We’re not in the same place, Micca.” I hear your heart stop. You know where this is going. “You’re here and I’m there. We have yet to catch up.”
“I’m right where you are.”
“No, you’re not. This is the point in your life where you should be married, have a family, and all the other bullshit that adults do. You shouldn’t be sitting around night after night, stagnant, waiting for me to catch up. I’m not ready.”
“I’m not asking you to.” I’ve said too much already. You don’t understand. You never will. Time can’t be commanded. Society is not a lego city. We are powerless. “I just want you to keep me in mind.” You’re always on my mind, but we aren’t right. We just aren’t right. I didn’t feel myself walk, but I’m back in the black computer chair, staring, trying to see my way out of this life.
I’m thinking about all the things I’ve done and know that would crush you. I don’t want to break you. Still, the idea thrills me in a way that I’m ashamed of. The way you feel, what you feel, and the way I know I won’t hurts then it just becomes the way.
“But you are,” I say,
“What am I asking?”
“You want me to be in a place I’m not at. You want me to pretend something into existence.” I can tell I’ve cut you. Usually it’s the only way. I’ve watched you, as I’ve hurt you before. I know what your pain looks like and I’m sorry every time we come to the part where I have to choose between me or you. I never choose you anymore. I feel the things you want me to, but just not for long enough.