As she bathed in both warm water and her exhaustion, barely bringing herself to soap her brown body with the slippery soap. She would remember the scrunched faces of disapproving Aunties, almost hearing a chorus of polished West Indian accents scolding her for neglecting to use a washcloth.
Well now she was alone and exhausted half dreaming as she slipped the soap under a large breast bobbing in the warm water.
Pot made everything slow down and feel like before the Christmas party when she was a kid. Everything felt bigger than her then, unreachable, possible but in the future. Then you just experienced and wished you were older.
Now her hands were tangled in a life that began messy as that matted mop she pulled hair out of alone in the temple.
How had she gotten there, and what brought her to this place?
She went from having a baby no one thought she deserved after leaving a man that made her sleep on the floor for snoring and picked her cloths (with no apparent sense of fashion beyond preventing her from embarrassing him with her bright colours) to well not pretending. Or really knowing anything for sure.
So much time had passed since the first time she did this, and stopped gritting her teeth and brushing her hair in favour of finding some freedom.
She remembered in grade 6 she started straightening her hair and tried being normal. She tried solidly for almost a full school year.
In the mirror at home she would practice what to say to Tamara and Katie. They knew how to be almost girls well, Kita didn’t. A weirdo, over protected advisor to late 30s addicts, lover of disco, queer with a solid love of the pornographic at 12… But nothing that made sense for solidly middle class suburn tweens in the 90s.
Looking back it was fairly obvious that she was a writer… Throughout it all she was constantly in dialogue with herself, composing impressions of things. Running through possibilities and memories like scenes she needed to perfect.
“your thighs are the perfect density,” I mumbled trying to valiantly (in my mind) capture the wonder of her legs.
White and aglow. Really smooth, almost too smooth. Like alabaster, but living and soft to the touch.
For some reason her skin never made me feel insecure, nor brought a storm of comparisons to rain down on my mind. Clouding out the simply joys of first getting to know a lovers body.
With her it was just touching, naming, seeing.
My skin brown just as normal as her white skin.
I mean, it wasn’t perfect. She was tall, white and thin, but as far as pretty good gets. Well, I was thankful.
I felt like a person around her, and when she would laugh – my stomach would swell up with a feeling that pressed up against my heart.
Butterflies? Humming birds, maybe? Who knows, bats even. My feelings soared, so whatever was flapping against my belly it sure made me take notice.
The flapping stirred my heart just enough that when I looked at her face I had to blink extra hard and I felt myself licking my lips.
I couldn’t let myself look away.
The funny part is I am not in my twenties even, but around her I felt 16 and just completely enthralled with getting to know someone.
brutality on black bodies
Even a blue dust bathed bra soaked in the sweat of my sun soaked skin bites.
Bites into tender sides
Pinches soft parts
A wire to my lung
A sternum on fire with irritation
I am bound.
Stuck in the illusion of safety – when the very things that cling to my sides could kill me at any moment
I must hide my breath and hold my heart…
A bright bird wings beating
Bashed in, time and time again
As the ways of the world claw into me.
Crack my rip cage open between the sobs that rack me
And grab grab grab my frightened bird
Always trying to dash her in the dirt.
Sometimes I think it would be easier to let her fly away.
I wish I too could join her.
Away from hands that pick
Bindings that poke
And the terror to breathe full breaths as I fly so free.
Exposed brick faces me as I wait for words. I run my hands through hair that feels like summer grass and I chew my fingers
Each nail is stripped of its paint, bright and bitter
For a minute my mind drifts into a memory of spring berries bursting sour in my mouth.
I never could wait for summer to ripen.
I sit in the wooden forest of chained benches on coffee island.
Sitting over rocky pavement and surrounded by roaring concrete I remember the baby bird we nudged towards death.
We chipped away, peeling at the shell with hungry prying fingers, even as the chick lay shuddering and cowered from the light. Relentless in our need to complete the harm, forcing it to hatch faster than I could keep it alive.
The colour are even correct.
Greys of every shade and wood being transformed into ghostly boards at the appallingly slow pace of destruction this intersection of the suburbs and city can handle.
It is here I hide. Watching desperately interested in finding out about each person that walks by.
My cup hides me.
My phone hides me.
My drink hides me.
My gender presentation hides me.
Hides my gaze.
Maybe even something twisted that can feel like power in the shadows.
The chains on the bench at coffee island make a kind of wretched sense that is far too stark to give words to.
Remember when the drinks stopped pouring and I came undone?
walking home completely sober limbs pulled apart
concrete under finger nails I dug in desparation
past any point of return
dug a grave shallow so all would see my rot
What prayers were said?
who stood vigil as I returned to earth?
did you sprinkle sand and seeds over my greening grave?
Did you kiss the memory of loving me in the dark?
the softness of my skin seared into your fingertips.
How many tears were shed?
did you count and collect them all?
A quantification of a life lost…
a callous number to round out so much incomplete dreaming…
footsteps never taken
passports never stamped
but so many stolen kisses
So many words bleeding heavy over poorly bound books
purchased in the absence of real direction
unfollowed up on
without any hope of panning out
effort to what end?
now I am the bones ground away by time
the marrow that feeds worms
now I wait for the sun
I don’t want my people to forever be apologizing for existing.
Shrinking down our magnificence.
Silencing out proud voices.
Forced to forget our languages.
Shying from praise.
So I will swell.
Become so much that all may eat from my abundance and become large with self love.
Climb on my shoulders.
Build nests in my hair.
Declare our freedom on my back.
We are geographies of possibility
Pain and several centuries cannot erase us oceans