Category Archives: love

Non-Verbal

I sat near the back of the library with my headphones on, writing verses to a spoken word piece.  I gripped my ink pen as the words bubbled inside of my mind and exploded onto the paper like tiny bursts of magnetic energy.  I flowed until I hit a writer’s block.  It forced me to relax my pen and lean my chair backward, balancing my weight on the two hind legs.

Just outside, there was a cluster of birds perched on the branch of a tree.  I removed my headphones and squinted at them as they fluttered their wings.  I imagined that they were in a deep conversation with each other, talking about the next place they were all going to arrive.  I thought it was amazing how animals could communicate non-verbally and at times, without saying anything at all but yet still be in sync with each other.   The silence of the library was loud enough to interrupt thoughts, but I liked it that way.  It was how I escaped the frustrations that plagued my life.  Solitude was the only medicine for me at times like this.

Just then, I heard someone clear their throat behind me.  I leaned forward in my chair; the front legs came crashing down onto the carpeted floor.  The noise I heard was soft like Q-Tip edges dancing into my ears.  I smiled.  I didn’t expect to see her there, but a part of me was happy that she showed up.  She was a figment of my imagination for the past year and the only times she felt real to me were the times that I saw her with my eyes closed.  She stood in front of me, cradling two books in her hand.

I could only see the one on top; “The Invisible Man” by Ralph Ellison.  I had just begun reading the same novel just a few days ago.  During the time we dated, she was always reading different books and honestly, if it wasn’t for her, I don’t think I would have ever picked up a book outside of the Bible.  We were a couple for half of the time we were enrolled at the same College, but now, she was a distant lover who had never been closer to my heart.

I fixed my mouth to utter my thoughts, but she slid her finger into the middle of her lips, urging me to keep them to myself.  She took a seat next to me and glanced at my phone to see what music I was playing.  She winked and grabbed one of my earbuds and slid it into her ears as she flipped open one of her books to the page she had marked.  Silently, she began reading, bobbing her head to Nas as he asked us, “whose world is this?”

She glanced at me, then shifted her vision towards my paper, prompting me to pick up my pen and get to writing and with that, I followed suit.  The ink pen effortlessly stroked the lines of paper like a paintbrush, seamlessly picking up where I left off.  She slid her hand on top of mine as her eyes moved peacefully back and forth across the page of her book.  She told me everything I needed to hear and never once moved her lips to say it.

Graduation

She finally made it. She was the first woman of the family to graduate from College. Her two older sisters had gotten pregnant in their last year of High School, so she was the one bag that everybody put their marbles in.  The pressure to succeed was placed on her shoulders but she carried it well.  Almost flawlessly.  She made the Dean’s list, became the President of Student Council, held an RA position and still found time to pledge Delta. “Oooooooooo-ooop”, she heard the call throughout the ceremony as her and some of her Sorors crossed the stage and shook hands with the Dean.  Some of her family followed her back to her Parent’s home. She walked through the door and right into a crowd of balloons and banners. “Congratulations, Shay! We are so proud of you.”  Her older sister, Shanice, walked in a few steps behind her and picked up where she left off at the graduation.  She grabbed her baby sister into her arms and kissed her all over her face. Shay laughed as she tried getting out of her grasp, “Shanice, stop!” She exclaimed joyfully, “you are messing up my make-up!”  Shanice let her go and held her hand over her mouth.  She was choked up, trying to talk as overwhelming tears of joy flooded her eyes, “I’m just… I’m just so proud of you, Shay. You just don’t know.”  Shay’s countenance mirrored hers in a moment’s time as they hugged again.  Their middle sister came in and saw them embracing.  She was just as proud of Shay as anybody else but her sense of humor usually did a good job of hiding her true emotions.  “Oh… My…. God… What are you two crying for now?! I promise Yall are the reason these men think women are crazy! Yall cry at the drop of a dime!” she said as she approached them. They laughed as they wiped their eyes, “Shut up, Seana!” The older sister exclaimed, “let us have our moment!”  Seana walked past them and peered down at the cake that sat on the dining room table.  It was decorated with a picture of all 3 sisters next to each other with the words, “when one succeeds, we all do. Congratulations, Shay!”  Seana covertly wiped a tear from her eye before her sisters joined her by the table.  They all stood by the cake, smiling.
“You did it, girl” the oldest sister said, “I can’t believe you finally did it.”
Shay responded, “I know. Five years of studying and working and it’s finally over.”
“Now what?” she asked.
Shay looked at her older sister, “Girl, I don’t even know. The way people are complaining about not finding a job when they get out of College, shoot, I might just turn my black behind around and go right back.”
The three of them laughed almost identically, matching everything else about them. To a stranger, they could have passed as triplets. They all stood around 5’5″ with long hair, a dark brown complexion and chubby cheeks that sunk in with dimples each time they smiled. “Well” Seana said, “I’ma go in here and make sure these paper plates are out before the everybody else get here and start trying to use the good plates. You know Mama will blow a gasket if these people come here messin’ up her dishes.” She smacked Shay on the behind before she left, “Good job, Shay!” The two older sisters laughed as they walked out of the front room. 

Shay admired the cake and the banners that were hanging around in the front room.  It was bitter sweet for her.  She was heading into a new chapter of her life but she was leaving a few close friends behind.  Her College was only an hour away from home but her closest friends all happened to live out of state and they would be returning home in a few days.  She removed her gown and walked over to the fireplace.  Pictures of her family were spread across the mantle.  Her Mother and Father’s picture sat in the middle.  They were smiling in each other’s arms as if they had just been married for a few months and not 34 years.  She smiled in admiration, “well” she said, “I really thought this would be me and Derrick in a couple of years.”  Her contagious smile slowly begin to fade as somber tears filled her eyes.  One blink would send them all crashing down. 

Derrick is her College sweetheart.  He was from New York but ended up going to a Junior College in Texas on a football scholarship.  “I just wanted a change of scenery” he said when Shay initially asked him how he ended up in going to a junior college in Texas, “New York is so grimy.  Rough.  From what I heard, Texas was laid back” he smiled at her, “and I always wanted to know what it was like to talk to a southern bell.”  She smiled again as she reminisced on the first time the two spoke to each other almost 3 years back.  Derrick told her a few weeks ago that he couldn’t find a job in his field in Texas, so he was heading back to New York right after graduation.  The two spent the last 4 days together before he was scheduled to leave.  She grabbed her phone out of her purse and glared down at her screen saver; a picture of the two of them in each other’s arms, smiling, just like the picture of her Mother and Father on the fireplace mantle.  Seana walked up behind her quietly, “Girl! What you doing?!”  Startled, Shay fumbled her phone and dropped it on the floor.  “Seana!  You play too much!”  Seana reached down to pick the phone up, “I’m sorry” she said, laughing, “I didn’t think you would drop your phone.”  Seana looked at the screen saver, “you two look just like Mom and Dad.”  Shay shook her head in agreement, struggling to find the words to say.  “Awww,” Seana said, “Come here, baby.  I know you’re gonna’ miss your boo-bear.”  She embraced Shay but this time, there were no jokes.  There was nothing funny to be said.  Seana knew when to be serious and when that time came, she was truly a backbone.  “Listen” she said, attempting to console her younger sister, “I mean, there are planes for transportation and you guys can face time whenever you need to see each other.  The way technology is going now, they may even develop a transportation device or something and you two can see each other in the blink of an eye.”
Her younger sister smiled reluctantly and sniffled, “I mean… it’s just not the same.  For the last 3 years, I could see him whenever I wanted to.  He was always only a few minutes away.  He could piss me off and I can hang up on him, then like a minute later, he would come knocking on my window and singing some old school R&B song all off key” she laughed, reminiscing on the moment, “I mean, and it was horrible!  He would sing until I opened the door for him to come in.”
“That boy tried to sing?” Seana asked.
“Girl, yes!” she laughed more as tears rolled down her cheeks, “He sang Jon. B one time… you know, ‘don’t listen to, what people say, they don’t know about you and me’, I mean, he sang the WHOLE song.  I had told him to stop and that I forgave him after like five seconds of him singing but I guess it just got good to him.  Girl, he was out there singing and doing dance moves.  And this was in the middle of the day, but he didn’t care!  People were recording it and everything.  It was on Youtube.”
“Awwww, po’ lil’ tink, tink!” she said, laughing.
“I know girl” Shay said, wiping her eyes, “I don’t know if I can do this long distance thing, you know?  It’s just… I don’t know.”

Shanice eavesdropped on their conversation from the kitchen.  She just wanted to burst in and tell her the good news but she swore to her parents that she wouldn’t spoil the surprise.  She had the reputation of being the blabber mouth of the family.  The one who couldn’t keep a secret if her life depended on it so she was determined to prove everybody wrong.  It was just hard to hear her baby sister cry from a broken heart.  She knew the feeling all too well.  She finally walked into the front room and joined them with paper plates and cups in her hand, “Mama nem’ ain’t made it back yet?” she asked.  Shay looked at her, “Nope.  I’ma go check outside though, I think I hear cars pulling up in the driveway.”  She walked away as Shanice put the paper plates down next to the cake.  “Shay, you been cryin’?” she asked.  “Girl, you know me” she responded, “I’m just a glass case of emotions right now, but I’ll be alright.”  Shanice peered at her youngest sister, beholding the fullness of her face.  “Now, you KNOW I know when you’re not bein’ real.  And this?  This is one of those times.”  Shay put her head down and covered her eyes, “I know… I just… I’ma miss him, Shane, I’ma miss him” she said as she sobbed on her sister’s shoulder.  Just then, the front door opened, “We’re hoooooooome Miss College Graduate!” her mother said as she walked in with presents.  Her Father came in right behind her with a few more in his hands.  Two young grandchildren bumped his knees as they ran past them headed straight for their Auntie.  “Tee-Tee Shay, Tee-Tee Shay!  Can I wear your hat, please!” her youngest niece said.  “No, no” the other one chimed in, “She said I could wear it first!”  Shay wiped her tears quickly before they approached her, “Red Light, Green Light, Stop!” she yelled.  The two girls stumbled to a stop.  Shay taught them some of the finer games of her youth and “Red light, Green Light, stop” was the latest one their eyes were opened to.  The two young girls stood, frozen in their tracks as Shay scanned both of them meticulously for any signs of movement.  Shay’s mother walked past, intentionally bumping the oldest one with one of the gifts.  “Granny!” she said as she was moved from her frozen state, “you made me mess up!”  Her grandmother kept walking and placed the gifts on the table, “oh, did I?” she said smiling.  Shanice spoke up, “Neither one of you are getting that hat.  Yall need to go in that back room and clean up all those Barbies and everything yall left all over the place!”  The two little girls hung their heads, mumbling between each other as they walked into the back room.  Shay’s Father walked to the table, placing the rest of the gifts onto the table.  “Hey baby” he said as he wrapped his arms around her, “Daddy is proud of you.”  Her mother chimed in, “We all are” she said, organizing the gifts her husband lazily placed on the table.  Her Father looked towards the mantle at the pictures.  “So, when is my son touching down in New York?” he asked as he looked at the picture of his daughter and Derrick.  Shay sighed, “Well” she said halfheartedly, “He should be there by 6pm our time, so…. I don’t know and I just don’t want to talk about that, Dad.  I mean, not right now.”  He smiled and looked towards his wife.  She smirked and continued straightening the gifts on the table, avoiding eye contact with Shay.  The two sisters were fidgeting amongst themselves, anxious to tell her the news.  “Seana” her father said as he tossed her the keys, “go and get that last gift out the back seat.”  She took the keys and rushed out the door.  Shay looked confused because of her movement, “Somethin’ is wrong with that girl” she said as the front door shut.  “Well” her mother said, “we just wanted to have a little family time with you before everybody else came.  That’s why we set the party to start a little later.”
“Aww, mom” Shay said, “yall wanted little ol’ me all to yall selves, huh?”
“Absolutely!  So here” she spun her around to the table, “I want you to open this card first.”
Her mother handed her the card.  On the front, the name was sloppily written but she could read it with ease, “Derrick” she said.  She took a deep breath to compose herself and keep the tears from falling.  Behind her, Seana quietly opened the door with the second part of the present.  Derrick.  Shay’s parents planned this weeks ago and convinced him to go along with it.  Truthfully, he found a job in nearly 15 minutes away from the College they attended.  They snuck into the house as Shay’s mother encouraged her to read the card aloud.  She sighed and cleared her throat, “I know you’re sad right now but if I was there with you, I would be singing…” and that’s when Derrick picked up, “Where would I be without my babaaaaaaaaay” Shay spun around as her jaw hung open.  She thought she was dreaming as Derrick kept going with his horrible attempt at singing, “the thought alone might break meeeeeeee, and I don’t wanna go crazaaaaaaay, but every thug needs a ladaaaaaaay, yeah yeaaaaaaaaah” he sang with a smile and a bouquet of roses in his hands.  She slowly shook her head, dropping the card onto the floor.  She looked around at her family, “I’m going… to kill all of you!” she said as she grinned ear to ear and ran towards his open arms.  Derrick had no plans of going back home unless it was just to visit.  It was a cruel joke but there would be no better gift than finding a love you that you thought you were going to lose.  







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