As I lay here between these sheets using these letters as a pianist uses the keys of a piano to express himself through sound, I write for clarity and not necessarily for the final product. I just want to make my ordeal visible. Whatever kind of joy or yearning that I am experiencing I don’t want it to fester inside of me. I need to be able to dissect it. And I need to know that I will not be judged for my humanity. That no one will talk wreckless to me for not healing fast enough or for being petty. I need a place where I can be in my feelings without someone telling me that I’m in my feelings. I need to be able to take that mask off that Dunbar was talking about and be me, while I still know who I am. I write in my bed before I brush my teeth or use the bathroom or return that phone call or put my Pop Tarts in the microwave so I can know what I’m up against internally. So that I can know how I feel and deal with it accordingly. I write to remind myself that I am a human-being.
I walk slowly to my seat in the back row with some form of chocolate candy in my hand or maybe an ice cream bar. I sit down with a sense of anticipation that is slightly more than subtle. The lights turn down and I am ready to be liberated for about two hours more or less. I am ready to be overwhelmed by art. The screen is gigantic, the sound is excessively loud and I am in my comfort zone. For I am, once again, in the movie theater by myself.
I see movies by myself so often at this point that it almost feels weird to see a movie with someone else. When I do there’s always that awkward moment afterwards when I have to talk to the person about what I’ve seen as opposed to just thinking about it for hours and hours. And even way before I get to that point I usually have to explain why it is that I like what I like. Why I’m never into Hollywood Blockbusters. Why I like independent movies, foreign movies, documentaries and musicals. Why I want to see Lala Land instead of the new Will Smith movie. Why do I want to see Fences in the theater again especially since I’ve seen the play twice and read it as well. Why do I enjoy seeing movies in Foreign languages that I will never know how to speak. Over the past 30 plus years I have realized that I am very weird. And ever since I graduated from college I have stopped trying to play my weirdness down in order to fit in with other people. Fuck other people. I do things by myself because I love myself and I deserve it. If strange things bring me joy, then so be it. I don’t need anyone to use their mockery or fake interest in an effort to tag along with me. Let me sit down in the very back row gorging on a Toblerone with my feet up all by my god damn self. Let me have my space: please! I promise I’ll be a more sociable person as soon as the end credits roll up.
And then there is the price. In terms of dating if I have to pay $12.00 to get into a movie I really don’t want to pay someone else’s way. Especially not a date. As far as I’m concerned United Artists killed chivalry when they raised the price of a movie ticket to over $8.00. Then once you add the exorbitant price of popcorn and a drink, I’m cool. As a matter of fact, I’m hella cool. I’m not treating you. No disrespect but I would rather sit in my dark lit up place concerned only with the development of plot and an actor’s ability to pull off an accent, not with my finances.
So, when you’re with your crew or your boo and you see me in the back of the theater by myself with my beanie cap down low, don’t feel sorry for me—just understand that I am taking care of myself and self-care is a must.
The first time she feels comfortable enough to poot in your presence and you realize how difficult it must have been for her to suppress her humanity for all of those months. And then she looks at you with surprise but no hint of shame and the both of you begin to laugh hysterically. For you realize that she can never unbreak that wind and she will never again attempt to live up to society’s impossible expectations of what a woman should and should not do while being courted. From this moment forward you will regard her not merely as a love interest but as a human-being. As your potna. As your homie. You lean over and kiss her softly on her giggling cheek then breath in hard through your nose and you are almost overwhelmed because you know that if real love had a smell then this would undoubtedly be it.
I write through my struggle. I make sacrifices so that my urge to create can come back to me. It shouldn’t take a bullet in the brain of my childhood friend for me to write. It shouldn’t take depression or any other extreme circumstance. There should be a normalcy to when I create, if not an obsession. This should not be painful. This should not be like a bullet in the head. It should be like a meaningful kiss with your eyes open, it should be about waking up feeling secure in what you are, it should be like pulling over to talk to that cute girl and knowing that she’s feeling you before you even ask for the number, or like a sideshow on 106th and Macarthur. Like joy in the place of poverty, you feel me?
I’m not losing my voice. Two 19 year olds were murdered in the streets of North Oakland this past Monday and now is the time to Lift Every Voice. Perhaps I have become complacent in my position outside of the trap. I work, I take care of my daughter, I sleep, I workout. I’ve allowed myself to become numb. I’ve allowed myself to believe that murder, or the threat of murder doesn’t effect me the same way it did when I was trying to find my place in the world. I’ve allowed myself to believe that I have found my place in the world. How could I be secure in a place that is not creative?
I’ve been dead and now I seek readmittance into the world. I am ready to be possessed. I am the mule that Zora spoke of.
As I navigate the world I feel the burdens of my darkness making every step nearly impossible. Eventually I become overwhelmed so I stop to sort things out. And then when I stop everything is gone. As soon as I stop moving, the puzzle pieces disintegrate then they disappear and I am left with an empty box and no chance at putting it all together. It is in this sense that rest becomes an oasis. For every time I go to sleep I wake up knowing that true rest doesn’t exist. How can a man wake up feeling tired yet he has nowhere to be?
The voices that speak to me are barely audible and when I try to listen to them they flee. I keep telling myself that I should be grateful but I am not because I know that I have lost something very essential to my being. And that is the ability to assemble love from blocks of depression. For so many years I have been able to duck right before capitalism beheaded me. I have been able to go deep inside of myself and mine for solace until I reached my quota. I have, in the past, been able to keep my muse from moving but now she runs. I am hideous. I am pathetic. I am lost.
You can’t pay me for my identity. I’m not going to sell my dreams for an office with my name on the door. My life is haunted by struggle. Whenever I get my hands on money, poverty beckons. The Trap tells me to come back home. Indeed I never left. Poverty is when you let an outside entity tell you who you are and even worse, what you should strive to become. I live my life the eternal outsider, never interested in opening the door, never in the middle of the dance floor, never a member of the rank and file.
Let them distance themselves from me and I will feed off of their repulsion. Let me be young and black, let me be the ghetto sun that provides the heat and the fire and always rises. Let me be misunderstood. Let me be crazy. I want the voices in my head to trust me again. Trust that I will never betray them, that I will depict them accurately. That I will never place any occupation before them ever again. That I will never pursuit ungodly things before I have first given you life. I will accept your anger, your screaming, and your rage if only you will speak to me. For without your presence in my soul I am an ordinary man. A worker. A follower. A completely disposable human being. A wasted dream. This time around you won’t have to chase me down after work. This time I will come to you.
If you are going to be anywhere near the San Francisco Bay Area next Wednesday night then you have to come to this event. DON’T MISS IT!
I think about her more now that she’s dead than I did when she was alive. I think about the disoriented look on her son’s face as he walked in and out of her funeral service. I think about how goofy she was a teenager. How annoying her laugh was, how pretty her face was…I think about the word was. How hurtful the past tense is when referring to young people that you love.
I did not think about her when she was alive. I had not seen her in at least 15 years. In fact even when we attended Junior High School together we were never super close but I never thought that death would reach her before her 35th year. I never thought that I would have to use the word was when referring to her. And now I kind of want to see her. I want to tell her not to trip, that things will be ok, that she is loved. And then I’m torn because I feel really fake. If she were alive and I happened to see her I would never think to share anything beyond the exchange of basic pleasantries. I probably would have no idea that she was contemplating suicide but then again, I would never ask.
It’s shameful what death reduces us to. It’s shameful how a person has to die in order to be heard sometimes. Often times when a young man is murdered and waiting to be pronounced dead his cell phone is jumping. Everyone is calling, texting, and sending dozens of messages that all seem to say, “are you ok?” But he isn’t ok. He will never be ok again. Then they DM him and send him friend requests and favorite his tweets and finally they make a memorial on a street corner and everyone has a party in his memory—but he is dead. I could never understand why we disregard the living only to celebrate the dead. Yet here I am. Mourning the tragic death of a woman who I wasn’t even close enough to know was suffering.
I am somewhat obsessed with her now that she will be forever in the past tense.
I find myself becoming less approachable, less tolerable of other people. The memories that I have of her are ever present and I can’t stop thinking about what her future may have been. I post about her. I cherish memories of her that I didn’t even know I had when she was alive. Like that time in the 8th grade when she was my girlfriend for two days and we broke up because I had hard rumors about her “going with” another boy (which were later revealed to be untrue). Little silly things come into my head that make me acknowledge once again to myself that she is dead. Her body has been reunited with the earth. And then I slowly attempt to rise out of bed, though I never seem to get enough sleep.