when the walls we build don’t keep us warm

September 20, 2011 § 5 Comments

“I was pregnant once, married twice, never viscerally in love, and I’m not sure what this is, but I like having you around.”

It was one of those brisk and perfect fall days with its burnt orange, rust brown, magnificent red splattered everywhere that caused things to unravel from the tongue.

“I fast on Fridays and watch the television on mute. Once every four months I cry, and regardless of how much a thing may hurt after that bout of tears, no more are shed. I bank them until the next ‘salt ceremony.’”

He didn’t hold my hand and pretend to genuinely commiserate or understand. We just walked in silence up the hill, through the Pathmark’s parking lot, across 125th and onto Berkeley to my apartment.

He made tea and baked an apple crumble pie. Who knew he could? It was a pleasant discovery but not the kind that made me want him around. I washed the teacups and admired him; brown V neck sweater, unbuckled dark blue True Religion, bare feet padding across the floor.

“I don’t usually allow men to roam free in my territory. And I’m not permitting you to because you’re special. I’m just down on my luck and could use some company, someone to spend the days with because the holidays can get lonely.”

The thud of soles ceased, then resumed, fading until it got lost somewhere between the bathroom and my office. Swept the kitchen, emptied the trash even though I could have asked him to, but felt the need to protect my space’s sovereignty. He was standing there when I returned.

“Your company is needed too.”

I stared at him, mortified by the hint of vulnerability. Awkward. And ignorant of what to do with my hands or myself. We hung there in all the rawness, until rescued by the obscenities filtering through the kitchen window from the street below. We smiled, then chuckled. It was our first for the day.

Several moons and many fall days later, we’re on a blow up bed in my office. Our makeshift sleeping quarters so that he won’t sleep in my room, won’t leave a litter of memories to dispose of in his wake. Just a simple quarantine, then allow them to expire right there, when it all blows to smithereens.

But his attention was lost on the fingers that mapped goose bumps around the perimeters of collarbone, areolas, hands, and legs.

And on that very brisk and perfect fall day with its burnt orange, rust brown, magnificent red splattered everywhere, things unraveled from his tongue.

“I was never married, have been in love thrice; got my heart broken all three times, but still believe in a lifetime of happiness, and having two children.”

Pink Floyd stopped crooning. U2 cued in; Where the streets have no names. Vertigo. His right hand snaked between my waist and the covers, curled and drew me closer to him. The other threw a bit of blanket across the slice of exposed skin upon my back. I felt compelled to tell him.

“I’m usually about the present; no children, marriage, or the happily ever after stuff… just a particular moment to behold and be held in. But lately I’ve been thinking that maybe I could have a child, and one day take my family to Thailand or Benin, or Egypt.”

For a while we have been dancing in that room of pseudo dating. No defining words. Just weekends of hiking the Appalachian, sing-a-longs at Bruce Springsteen and Stephen Marley concerts, a trip to the doctor, swim trunks and an itsy bitsy polka dot bikini on a beach in Nevis, et cetera and et cetera. Always punctuated by the circling of our sharp edges. But on that brisk and perfect fall day with its burnt orange, rust brown, magnificent red splattered everywhere, things unraveled from the tongue.

“I’m happiest teaching my Math 310 and 420 classes. It was a miscarriage; she would’ve been ten years old. And even though she’s no longer the reason for a salt ceremony, I remember her every so often. The first time I had sex I was seventeen. Three months later my mom, grandma, and eldest sister packed broken scotch bonnet and wiri-wiri peppers into my vagina. The fact that I don’t hate them worries me. I have this recurring dream where I’m always scared and running from the faceless person chasing me. I think I’m rambling. Do you think I’m rambling?”

He was lost on an area in the ceiling, maybe thinking. Who knew? Until…

“My parents and siblings have happy marriages and children. But love has been so elusive. You know, I cheated on an ex who loved me to pieces and I strongly believe the three heartbreaks were my penance. Black Crowes’ She talks to Angels reminds me of you, and that fact should probably scare me, or at the very least raise some concern, but it doesn’t. Instead, I’m extremely happy. I know you’ve got a tremendous history of scars, greater than any woman I’ve dated. Not to say I don’t have my own. By the way, are we dating? I mean, if you’re comfortable with it, I’d like to give us shape, some sort of definition and get your permission to let the guards down. Give us a chance.”

I was afraid we were making a mess of it, yet, things unraveled from the tongue.

“You can’t ever try to fix me. And even though I’m still somewhat territorial, so don’t leave a shirt or toothbrush as yet, maybe later on, we don’t have to always be in the office, unless you want to. It’s sort of awkward to say, but you’re the safest space I’ve known for a while, So if we’re going to give us a try, it can’t be a surface street thing. It has to be life affirming, and visceral. Otherwise, I don’t want it.”

We agreed, but didn’t hold hands or look into each other’s eyes brimming with tears and kiss like the lead characters of romantic comedies do. We just aligned ourselves in a spoon on that brisk, perfect fall day with its burnt orange, rust brown, magnificent red splattered everywhere, and continued to unravel.


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