Realization of Truth


truth (1)


She straddled his lap, staring into his eyes. Am I forcing this? She questioned herself.  Am I making intimacy my mission?  It had been two months since her breakup with “what’s his name”, as her friends had resorted to calling him.  Two whole months since she had sworn off love and embraced the pursuit of all things hedonistic.

Just go with it and stop with the fucking questions! She chided herself.  His eyes were honest…kind.  Who cares! You’re not doing this for the emotion.  Pressing her lips to his, she felt his hands slide around her back, threaded fingers pulling her closer.  “You’re beautiful”, he exhaled the words into her open mouth.  She pulled back, refusing to inhale them.  “Let me fix you a drink.”  Sliding off his lap she walked in the direction of the kitchen.

You’re beautiful.” He leaned against the door frame, watching her intently.  “That’s all” crossing his arms, eyebrow quirked, three days of stubble only justifiable for someone in his line of work, “no additional motivation”.

She believed him.  “Thank you.” Awkward.

“Do you believe it?” He asked, genuinely curious.  She continued pouring, playing amateur barkeep.  He filled the silence,  “I recall the day I saw you speaking to someone in the coffee shop, you never smiled, you were so intense. It was stunning.”   He stepped forward, away from the door frame.  “I remember thinking that your teeth were perfectly imperfect and I loved how your lips curved at the corner.  I was willing to approach you even if it meant having that mouth tell me to shove off.”  She smiled at how his accented speech made everything alluring.

Handing him the glass she slid past.  No eye contact. “Are you working tomorrow?, she asked, obviously seeking a distraction.  “If not, there’s a gallery preview that you may be interested in.”  She watched him sip his drink thoughtfully.

“Will this give me more time with you?  If so, tell me what time and I will be there.”  He took another slow sip allowing the whiskey to slip past his lips with appreciation.

“Do you ever say the wrong thing?”  She asked skeptically.

“Of course I do, most of the time, actually”, he laughed.  “It just seems to happen less frequently when I’m with you”, he paused, “something about you makes me want to say the right thing all of the time.”

She walked toward him.  Damn Oprah and her ‘aha’ moments.  Is this mine?

Is he part of my truth? Someone who wants to please me.  The guy that doesn’t try to justify why he doesn’t “need” me with scientifically therapeutic explanations.  The one who’s okay needing me because he’s sure that he wants me.

She realized, two months after “what’s his name”, that she had been missing something as human and fragile as necessity.

Fucking emotions.


(Constructed to Kimbra: Settle Down)


The Funeral

BKLYNIt would be interesting to attend an entertaining funeral.  You know the ones where everyone is smiling, telling stories, having a drink and celebrating the life of someone who has lived well and moved on.  Maybe something akin to the cop funerals you see on shows like The Wire-if you haven’t seen one, you might want to grab a season; they’re quite lively, even the departed has a beer in hand.  Unfortunately, I rarely hear about these celebrations of life beyond television.  Things are typically quite the opposite.  I guess then, my experience with this particular funeral shouldn’t be surprising.

I went numb.  I hadn’t felt anything since the day I was told that she died and I had no anticipation of feeling anything, ever again.  I remember saying that I preferred a memorial of sorts, no visuals, no pomp considering the circumstance, no strangers.  A grouping of people who knew her well enough to miss her when she was gone.  People that actually knew she was missing before the funeral, outside of the whispered conversations of country folk over coffee.

No weeping and wailing, no Mahalia Jackson soundtracks, no Imitation of Life breakdowns, just quiet; a lost concept for Southern black church folk, something that puts a check mark in the column for Catholic stoicism.

My muddled thoughts wouldn’t allow me to take in the detail of highway signs traveling to this out of the way place, “somewhere in Alabama”, that I had little familiarity with and no interest in returning to.  She was no celebrity but these small town people had the same base curiosity of LA paparazzi .  I felt eyes on me as I walked in the room and I tried to return the favor by taking in their faces, quickly giving up.  Some distant relatives that I wasn’t aware existed, elderly people who unwittingly made sport of attending funerals of those they didn’t know under the guise of paying respect, this time muttering about “the young leaving this world early”, childhood acquaintances who hadn’t seen her since her New York exodus 33 years before, and church members offering support to her mother and perhaps looking for an opportunity to experience Holy Ghost fever.  Yes, I am as cynical today about the event as I was in that moment.

I made my way forward, unsure of what to expect.  I hadn’t seen this person since I was an 11 year old girl; perhaps the pain would be dulled by lowered expectations or love that had lessened with the passage of time.  Maybe anger would prevent me from caring. Maybe.  She lay there, changed, and I instantly felt it.  Changes that time didn’t protect me from now or then.  There were differences that I knew only I felt, greater than the transition from here on earth to the other side.  More significant than just breathing or not.  Imperceptible to those who had probably never known their impact. The way she squinted even when she had her glasses on, her beautiful brown hair with the halo of red, tinted by the sun, the same shade of my own little girl’s.  The swaying manner of a walk that could compel people to follow.  She would no longer speak in that adopted tone of the people that she loved most.  Her fingers that used to work deftly to prepare Fried dumplings and fresh carrot juice on Saturday afternoons in our city apartment were sedately intertwined.  Her spirit was broken.

The mouth that blessed out those who crossed her or sang the melody of Dennis Brown reggae tunes was silent, the smile lines in the corner were gone, a simple threaded line that didn’t properly convey who she was.  Gone was the broomstick skirt that enhanced her hips and narrow waist.  The tank top and gladiator sandals, popular in the 80’s only to make an appearance again in the 90’s….were replaced.  This outfit was too staid, too proper, not her.  This woman wasn’t the product that she had chosen to be but rather what they had wished she would have become.  Restrained, God fearing rather than Jah loving, rooted in one place rather than following the path her spirit led her down.  She was finally a product of the worn out, Bible thumping south that she feared.  There was no one I knew in this polished brown box.  I turned away.  The distance was greater than it had been when I didn’t know where to find her.

Camera flash.  Someone took a picture of the prodigal daughter being greeted by her lost child.  Camera flash. Another picture for a macabre photo album that would be left dusty under coffee tables of strangers to pass on to future generations.  My reality set in, someone was taking pictures.  Someone was actually taking fucking pictures.  I felt sick but bolstered by anger.  “No pictures.  I want it to stop”.  I thought I was yelling forcefully but later realized that I was a picture of frailty bordering on hysteria, hoarsely making demands.  “How can you take pictures? Put those cameras away!”  My maternal grandmother was obviously prepared for and accepting of this sideshow aspect of things at her daughters funeral but willing to help me by pleasantly guiding the spectators away, asking them to put the cameras away.

And then, a different voice, “That’s enough! Get a hold of yourself and cut it out.  You know better, Stephanie“, she spat my name.  I turned, surprised.  This bitch, a paternal relative that had known me my entire life, was indignant with me at my mother’s funeral.  She stood there supporting her own mother at the arm and glared at me.  There is great irony to telling someone to get over something that they would be forced to live with for the rest of their life, but this, this was overstepping boundaries to the nth degree.  My mind raced but I could only utter the words of a hurt, petulant child, “Do not tell me what to do”.

Years later, I laugh at this retort.  The thought that someone who expresses her feelings through the written word and has built a career around sales presentations and seminars, couldn’t find a more fitting reply is both laughable and a testament to the mind blowing destruction of pain.

I walked away with that moment, the most memorable part of my final goodbye to my mother.  I have replayed it often, visualizing myself ready with a witty retort or the questions that I so simply want to ask today. “Is it fair to stand there gripping your beloved mother’s arm while telling me that I am reacting irrationally at the death of my own?”  “Is the love that I have for my parent so insignificant because you judge her so harshly for her humanity?”  “How do you, mother to two children of your own, suggest I get a hold of myself?” “Seeing as how this is my first and only possible experience mourning my mother, what should I know better?” “Did you hear those words in some Lifetime Movie and think it was appropriate for the occasion or are you really fucking serious, right now?”  

I didn’t.  I sat there through that funeral hating her more than I hated the universe for forcing this experience on me.  I glared at her with a side eye and promised that I would never forget this, a promise I wish I hadn’t made considering my long memory that doesn’t allow me to forget much anyway.  The level of anger that I experienced made me recall all of the times in which I thought this particular relative was too opinionated but could never tell her because of my “trained respect”.  My disdain for her in that moment allowed me to live through a service in which the pastor eulogized my mother as Sharon, Sheila, and Sheena….her name was Shivet.

Years have passed and I use the quote, “It’s impossible to pick anything up when you’re holding grudges”, as a reminder to release the events that you can’t change and the negative feelings associated with them, if for no other reason than making room for opportunity.  I’ve been told by my significant other that holding a grudge doesn’t help because the other person moves on while you bear the impact of it, and he’s right.  Interestingly enough, I realize from other brushes with the same individual that she wouldn’t have found her behavior questionable that day, not surprising,  people who know so much rarely know when they are wrong.  Years passed and we didn’t speak to one another until a family event, at which we were cordial and I behaved as though nothing happened.  Although, there is a life scar from the blow dealt that day it is not as significant as the lessons I’ve learned and put in place as accountability measures in my own life:

1) Being older doesn’t make you immune to being wrong or create the immediate right to respect.  This allows me to be remorseful and apologetic when I verbally or emotionally injure my children, something many adults could learn from.

2) Opinion and truth isn’t the same thing.  Truth is a necessary part of communication but opinions can often be left out in order to salvage or maintain relationships, particularly with loved ones.

3) Grief can be a paralyzing, gripping ball of emotions and is best dealt with as the person who is grieving sees fit.  When I know that someone is hurting whether it’s over the loss of a loved one or a broken relationship, I offer my ear and seal my lips so that they are able to process their pain in the manner that works best for them while still having access to my support.

I wish that all funerals were a celebration of life, an opportunity to demonstrate the love and compassion that you had for the person who has moved on.  If they were, I would have thrown a block party in Brooklyn on E 29th and Nostrand, played her favorite Reggae music, Michael Jackson and Mary Jane Girls albums, had a shave ice vendor giving every kid free cones with condensed milk, and been surrounded by her family and the FRIENDS that loved who she chose to be.  Since it wasn’t, I walk away with guarded memories of her eating rum raisin ice cream on sunny weekends as we took the train to the main library in NY and the evening ride back when she would tuck Violet candy into my hand as I gripped my Cabbage Patch in the other.  That’s all I have as I choose to celebrate my vision of her life.

(Impact Post #2)

Relocated Hearts

He moved one box after another, slowly but surely changing their lives.  She watched as he brought in boxes of incidentals and felt the finality.  Yesterday’s delivery of his large mahogany bed, matching wardrobe and “man-sized” flat-screen television should have been the ultimate moment of realization but it was the small things that brought it home.  No longer was she looking at his overnight shaving kit, instead, she walked through the bathroom and noted his toothbrush and electric razor neatly placed on the counter top.

She sighed at the thought of this venture.  It wasn’t long ago that she was caught up in the process of choosing.  Kevin had told her that she was going to have to make a decision on.  Kevin, with his laissez-faire attitude and 5 o’clock shadow that shrouded his devilish grin, was forcing her to make a decision.  Pressing her with timelines.

Making her way into the living room, she sat on the arm of his favorite chair, posted in the corner of the room.  “You know, it’s all going to work out, don’t you?” lacing her fingers through his.  Deep breath, deep breath, pause…“I guess we’ll find out soon enough, won’t we?” a typical Kevin response, non-committal even after agreeing.  They both rose slowly, seeking a break from the stagnant air between them, hoping to avoid any discomfort brought on by change.

Lacey swayed to the sounds of The Civil Wars, C’est La Mort, drifting from the speakers, holding out her hand to him.  “It’s been a long time since you just danced with me.  Come.”  He took her in from head to purple painted toes.  Her chin jutting out like a spoiled child, lips in a perpetual pout–her begging mouth he called it.  Grabbing her wrist, he pulled her in tightly, turning her back to his chest. Lightly, placing the other arm across her neck and shoulders, he inhaled her scent.  He meant to display power but felt the typical pull she had over him.  The last minute show of authority diminished.  What was he doing?  He wasn’t sure, he only knew that he had the need to possess her and the need for possession would force you to be flexible.

His hand drifted down to her breast, cupping her gently.  Massaging gave way to a light pinch of the nipples that he enjoyed teasing with his tongue for the past four years.  She threw her head back against his shoulder, hissing like a cornered kitten.  He felt the blood rushing to below his belt buckle pressing his length into her generous ass.

“Oh, I’m sorry!”  They broke out of their moment, feeling like two teenagers caught in the corner of the basement.  She busied her hands to hide the shaking, smoothing her tank top.  “I didn’t mean to interrupt.”

Lacey and Kevin glanced back and forth, each waiting for the other to make a move.

Breaking the silence, Lacey walked over to Evan, “No need to apologize, it’s your home too.  Is everything out of the trunk?”

“Yeah, there are some small things but nothing serious.”  He said glancing over her head at Kevin.

No words necessary just an unspoken discomfort.  Two lambs in a lioness den.

Gripping his hand Lacy coerced Evan to the center of the room, gently tugging a simultaneously reluctant and willing body, she repeated her reassurance, “This is your home too.”

The tension in her shoulders eased as they closed in on her, meeting her rhythmic movement as the lyrics announced their journey. Let’s walk down the road that has no end…

Feeling their strength surround her, she thought to herself…”I’m going to like this.”

Written to: All The Wild Horses by Ray LaMontagne

Transition Pt. 1

Things change.

Faith Evans was on repeat in the background, I remember the way you used to love me.  Systematically moving around the room she perused every square inch while trying to avoid memories.

The ottoman in the corner made her laugh.  “Floating furniture”, she called it, because it had been in every part of the room, shoved around as an additional prop in their sexual adventures.  One glance and she saw him standing behind her, masterfully, her knees bent, feet hanging off the edge…some people’s good old days looked different than others.

Walking over to the bed she fluffed the edges of the throw pillows.  His side of the bed was always the messiest, the pillows the most flattened out.  It’s where they hung out on Saturday and Sunday mornings.  Curled up with her head on his left shoulder, his right arm thrown across her thigh, caressing her lush curves; quietly watching television, doing nothing, drifting off into unplanned afternoon naps.

I couldn’t let you walk around thinking it’s alright, to let me down…” his fidgeting from the living room broke her reverie.  “I’ll be out in a minute”, she called.  The bathroom was clear of all of her product, beauty tools and the sexy robe that she always left on the back of the door.  The chocolate brown shower curtain fluttered as a breeze came in through the cracked window.  She closed her eyes for a minute letting reminders of their intimate moments flood her mind.  The smell of fragrant soap entered her nose as she pictured their melded bodies, water traveling between them.

“Baby, are you ready?”  Eric stood in the doorway of the bedroom, anxiously waiting.  Walking toward him, she put her hands out to grab his.  “I’m ready, but if I have to leave this bed behind, can we say goodbye to it properly?”

He looked toward the neatly made bed, with a sly but cautious smile, “What if he comes home?”

Pulling him forward, recklessly, she replied, “If coming home was his strong suit, would I be leaving?”

“You didn’t hear me calling out, and that’s not what love’s about.”

Shit happens.

You Can’t Handle The Truth

Sally“So how’s the boyfriend?”, Kelly asked with an emphasis on “boyfriend”.

Why does everyone insist on asking that and what would they do if I gave them a real answer, I thought to myself, then I tried it.

“Well, where do I start?”

“He’s hung like a bull.  I mean a bull with a massive hard on,  not the kind of Pamplona Running type of bull that’s scared and charging with a soft hang but the kind that just found out there’s a new heifer in the pasture on a lazy day during rutting season.”

Yeah, that’s how he is.

No response.

Charged Air

This is what it felt like.  The air leaving the room.  She’d heard it said before, many times as a matter of fact.  It was a popular cliché in any dramatic story but she never could identify the feeling.  Until now.

Staring at Rowan as they sat inches apart in chairs facing one another, felt like a moment stolen from a counseling reality show or even worse some kitschy game show on that network.  Was she supposed to have a response?  Is this the point that she asked questions?  How do you respond to six words that seemed so out of place between lovers?

She looked down at her wrist and the sterling silver memento of his love, fiddling with it nervously.  Charms clinking together, as though they were ticking down the minutes until this all blew up.  The heart that was the first of many proclaiming that she owned his, the star that he gave her to signify her place in his universe, the initial of his last name designating that one day it would be hers….but nothing to foreshadow this moment in time.

2 empty chairs

The radio played quietly in the background.  One more twerk song that could fit into any hot, sweaty night in the club and she allowed her mind to run back to the days when they would explore their sexuality together in those environments.  Her watching as some random identified him as prey, allowing him to connect and then interrupting with some slick moves of her own.  Role playing.  She had fulfilled every need for so long that she wasn’t sure who “natural Camille” was.  The stripper sliding down the pole for his amusement.  The conquered woman playing sub to his dom.  The business consultant reviewing his resume and making professional recommendations.    She had been his end all.  The new millennium Ride or Die chick….

He breathed in, transitioning the air between them with little movement.  Reviewing his features, beautiful eyes and full lips, she couldn’t believe those words had come from this mouth.  The same mouth that had captured hers in moments of heated passion, covering hers erotically and in erotic places, her knees clicked together at the thought.  The mouth that had spoken encouragement and dirty words in her ear.  The same teeth that had nipped at her during love’s play had just parted to issue a hurtful declaration.

There was a time she would have thought he was beyond such simple things, such petty moments.  A racing mind tried to identify when he changed…..nothing.  Nothing stood out.  There was no major transition from the old Rowan to the new.  He appeared to be the same man who she’d kissed goodbye before work this morning.  “What the hell am I expecting, some Men In Black-type shit?” she thought to herself.  He was the same person on the outside but the changes internally had taken over.

His hand reached for hers, “Are you alright?”  Oh!  She hadn’t said anything since his announcement.  All of this processing but no communication.  “Yeah, I’m fine,” she replied.  I’m sorry, I zoned out.  Now you had left off, with “I’m going to cheat on you….’

This was as good a place to begin as any.

©Stephanie Bryant 2013

Premeditation of Power

Evening BStone

It felt familiar, except the car seemed to move smoothly through characteristically bumpy roads, I mean come on, it was Brooklyn.  She wondered if tomorrow she would remember this ride in shades of black and white, historically accurate brownstones with pretty window boxes standing prominently in the backdrop of her memory and then she stopped caring and started focusing on the task at hand.

Where was she?  Ah, yes, the belt buckle.  She ran her hand over the gold tones of an obviously expensive belt buckle as his hands slid over the arch of her back.  Why did her knees seem to tuck so effortlessly into this position as the faint clink of metal on metal echoed?  Her head brushed against the roof of the car as she raised herself just enough to let him free himself.  No need to do all of the work, she thought.

What seemed to take a lot of thought before was happening fluidly now—the result of premeditation.  There were no scraps of lace as a barrier between his thickness and her warm entry so she just let it be.  Sliding down slowly she threw her head back exposing her neck and it was just the invitation he needed.  “Come here”, he muttered, pulling her forward.  With very little space to escape, she allowed herself to lean into him, no resistance.  He used her neck to muzzle the sounds of his groans as she rocked rhythmically on his lap.  Row, row, row your boat….1, 2, 3, 4….row, row, row your boat…1, 2, 3, 4….gently down the stream….1, 2, 3, 4….merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily….1,2, 1, 2, 1, 2….life is but a dream….1, 2, 3, 4…roll bounce…..yes the rhythm created a frenzy.

She let a moan escape her lips but it wasn’t the same peal of pleasure that he had expressed, it was a victory cry.  The pulsing between her thighs wasn’t her, it was all him as he gripped her waist and threw his head back, mouth open as though he would dare to fall asleep in that moment.  Disengaging, she adjusted her body and dress.  He watched her, mouth open, impressed with her bravado.

“Driver, pull over here please.”  The car slowed to a stop in the middle of the block, darkness  shrouding the actual location of home.  She placed a twenty on his lap and smiled into his perplexed face, “thanks for letting me share your cab, love.  I hope it was a memorable night”.  Speechless, he watched her exit the taxi the same way she got in, full of control.  As the car pulled away to move through the  intersections and streetlights of the borough, she adjusted her hair and makeup and pulled her keys out of the overpriced bag, another symbol of a Brooklyn girl.

She lightly bounded up the stoop, avoiding a loud click of her heels and entered the lobby before turning the key in the lock of her first floor apartment.   She knew what to expect and it’s exactly what she got.  Barely glancing away from the game, he called out his obligatory greeting, “how was your day?”

Nevermind her new dress, sky-high stilettos or slightly tousled hair, he only paid attention to the things that mattered to him.  Smiling sweetly as she headed toward their bedroom,she called over her shoulder, “Powerful.”