Duality

He who wants to be with me

Has to respect I

Has to be prepared

For a wild and crazy ride

He who wants to be with me

Has to love my wild child moments

Appreciate my universal orbit

My space

Has to appreciate head scarves and bare faces

Has to be prepared

For my executive decisions

Briefcases and spectacles

Fingers pointing giving directives

My 9 to 5 grind

My hustle

Has to be prepared

For my conscious version of crazy

Awareness of who I been being

Yes bitch, who I “been being”

Smokeless smoking

Lobbing spoken words

Pen to paper moments

Shutting down in bookstore corners

Has to be hungry

For mental relations

Physically blowing you

And your mind

Hyper and Super

All of these things and

Layers of me

He needs to be prepared

Not scared

Prepared

 

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My Existence

I feel prettier when he forgets that I am
Dress for me
Remind myself that he isn’t validation
I was phenomenal, fly, hundred proof
Certified
Before he came along

I feel sexier when he forgets that I am
Use my womanhood to my advantage
Control my environment without thinking of him
Hips swaying, heels clicking, thighs flexing when I walk
Thoroughbred
When he leaves

I feel more powerful when he tries to dismiss me
Make decisions that don’t regard his needs
Flex my finger, pull triggers
Straight back, quirked eyebrow, arms folded
Boss  (but ladylike)
Even if he doesn’t return

This is my universe
The experience of my existence
All that I am

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)

Symbolic

(The IMPACT series will be a non-fictional retelling of the people and events that have made a mark on my life)

I saw a picture of my Uncle John, looking “sharp” in his tuxedo, posted on Facebook.  Call it my propensity for melancholy but when I see pictures, my mind plays a black-and-white reel or virtual dreamscape of the person and events that I recall best about them.  That emotion was stirred when I saw the picture of my Uncle John but no memory of him is complete without my Aunt Desiree because as my daughter would say, they are a “battery pack”.

John and Desiree had this “deluxe apartment in the sky-y-y “on Ocean Avenue that was fancy.  They were child free and pretty much living the life that married people without children should be living.  All these years later, I theorize this as part of their success as a married couple—they enjoyed their lives together before bringing on the natural stress of parenting together.  They ultimately went on to have two children that they dote on to this day.  Both of their children have “D” names because my Aunt Des is  a diva and my Uncle John loves her—at least that’s what I thought in my younger years because I wondered why and rather than ask them  I assumed this was the answer, and I liked it, but I digress, back to the apartment.

This apartment was fly, a testament of the yuppie, professional life that most blacks couldn’t realize back then, unless they moved to a progressive, northern city.  There was furniture that was coordinated but comfortable throughout.  I can still picture it: glass tables with sharp corners not built for toddling children, a large, color floor-model television with all of the cable channels, including HBO—big time in the 80’s, and a clear pane shower that I dreaded using because I’d watched Psycho one evening at their house when I should have been asleep.  Top it all off with a pristine kitchen of  glossy white counter tops teaming with sugary cereals and candy dishes overflowing with M&M’s and you might as well have given me Willy Wonka’s golden ticket, this was living!

My Uncle John had tennis rackets.  He did.  He had tennis rackets, he watched McEnroe and Connors and he tuned into CBS to watch a game that wasn’t exciting to my eight year old self because I didn’t understand it.  He had tennis rackets that seemed out of place in the city of Brooklyn because I didn’t know any one that played outside of those privileged white guys in tiny white shorts on television.  His jeans were pocket pleated, neatly creased and belted at the waist (work with me, it was on trend).  His beard, closely trimmed and meticulously groomed, unlike the current Rick Ross nightmare beard that guys are sporting now and he had a wife that he was happy with.  They were happyAnd symbolic.

His partner, Aunt Desiree, was a fluffy Fashionista without peer, in my book.  Her perfect shade of red lipstick was flawless and always on, her hair wrapped or set every night (before most chicks even knew what a wrap was), and her closet demonstrated that curvy and fierce was a must, not a maybe.  I recall her gliding around the apartment on weekend mornings in a black velvet dressing robe that seemed so drag fabulous in a “lady of the manor” type of way that was neither pretentious nor practiced, it was just Desiree.  Manicured talons, wide smile, boisterous laugh, mischievous sparkle in her eye and an outspoken way about her, there was no doubt why she was my Uncle’s chosen partner.

Desiree to me was substance and style.  Symbolic. Even then, I understood that she knew what quality was on all levels.  (I tell people that she is to blame for my Coach obsession, since she presented me with my first high end purse complete with dust cover, proper packaging and registration number–no Canal Street gifts from that chick.)  More than just personality and interesting to me in a way that many adults were not, I loved when she was around because she was simply her.  When she laughed at things I didn’t understand, loudly and with abandon, I wondered what my grandmother thought of this force of life.  My calm, smooth, preacher’s wife of a grandmother with her southern gentility that the gritty city and D (or Q) service never did change was the opposite of this boisterous young woman but seemed to lover her none the less. Symbolic.

John and Dee had the type of relationship that the kid of divorced parents could only dream of.  It was a fairytale. Symbolic.  Young, hip, married people driving off to the Poconos for the weekend, hosting parties at their home, and working for well-known corporate entities.  Sounds as good in 2013 as it did in 1985.

Why did all of this flood my mind when I saw the picture of my Uncle standing there in his tuxedo, being picked on by his son for his crooked bow tie?  It reminded me of the understated ability of presence. Symbolic.  Character without being a caricature. Symbolic.  The importance of giving love and being loved in return.  Symbolic.  The power of demonstrated love. Symbolic

It reminded me that while black men have often been portrayed as thugs, the embodiment of menace II Society, lacking in character and restraint, this was far from the picture that I was being given as a kid.  Sure, I knew drug dealers and the typical “bad seeds” of the neighborhood, but whom from Brooklyn doesn’t?  What was more important was that I knew then and now, men of character.

It was symbolic that my life is inundated with parents who love their children, a far cry from the fatherless children and welfare mothers held up as the symbol of black life by politicians and card-carrying “real Americans” that feel more comfortable perpetuating this as the norm.

And while children today are being shown the limited scope of black family life: baby daddies, absentee fathers or mothers that are attempting to be the male and female figurehead in the home, I had a family unit that consisted of amazing representations of love.  We had our own versions of Heathcliff & Claire Huxtable, many of which I will write about in the future, and our own successful versions of single parenthood when necessary.

Aunt Desiree’s example as an independent professional woman reminded me that Dr. Laura and the pundits have it wrong when they paint working mothers as the downfall of American society.  She did all of this without the emasculation effect that many would leave you to believe a strong woman has on her husband.

When John & Desiree became parents, I saw a different side of them.  I saw their phenomenal ability to connect with me when they were childless, transferred to their capacity to connect with and understand their own progeny.   My Uncle John’s quiet strength and serious nature was necessary with my younger cousin Desmond who was ALWAYS “doing something” (he turned out just fine) and my Aunt Desiree’s self-assured, personal confidence allowed her to transfer a sense of power to my cousin Deandra, a necessity for any girl looking to lean in to today’s world.  I often see my cousins posts—the only way to keep up with family that is now states away–and think, “what a great thing to have parents that have taught you that you are wonderfully able to be exactly who you were born to be, no apologies necessary.”

I am symbolically reminded me of two people who unconsciously gifted me with life lessons that would help me later on–although I was not theirs to be responsible for.  They made me believe that it’s okay to seek the love that puts you first.  They made me recall that you can create your own version of perfection without feeling selfish.  I believed that they liked me when I felt unlikable and they never made me feel as though I should be “grateful” that people wanted me around. They were symbolic.

One picture of a man in a tuxedo with a smile on his face created this.

Soundtrack:  The Show by Lenka

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

Limits Less

I knew that he was it
My infinite moment
It was simple
The finite occasions were gone in his presence
We didn’t know them
Happiness
Laughter
Tears
Joys
Emotions that ran into one another

He reached back and grasped my hand
I was sure and reassured
Fingers intertwined, matching pulses
He was my most
My most
Significant earthly connection
Intimate identification with carnal love
Solid grasp on this delicate spiritual universe
Compelling reason to inhale life and exhale hurt

So many reasons to be
In Love
Unencumbered
Impassioned
I live them with him
The most

(Written to: River Flows In You by Yiruma)

© Stephanie Bryant and Mental Motivation, 2010-2013.

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.