Highs and Lows

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Ms Hulis Mavruk Black Artwork

I begrudgingly worked for a prominent insurance company for 2 years. It had highs and lows. I was taking a gap year from Stony Brook University.  However, in my twenties we didn’t call it a “gap year.”  There was no cute term for leaving school or taking a break from school.  I was tired of working 3 jobs and being a “broke college student” so I chased the money and I chose the industry that my mother worked in.   I liked the company when I first started but as time passed it became stale.  The main attraction to the position was the money I was making and the annual profit share.  On another note, I was in a relationship and admittedly I was more focused on that. Young and dumb, the man I was with at the time had a driving restriction.  Trying to literally be a “ryde or die,” I would pick him up in the mornings and bring him to work on my way to my job.  Some mornings it was pretty tight trying to get us both to corporate positions that both carried a dependability clause. That basically means…”If you can’t get your ass to work on time, you’re fired.”  I was on a written warning and on a rainy day/snooze my alarm 2-3 times day/traffic/ can’t find a parking space day, I arrived to work a critical 9 minutes late.  Well, it took a few weeks to notice but shortly after presenting me with an award for my call quality and after receiving a congratulatory email from my supervisor for being a “team player” I was called into the main conference  room. I remember feeling incredibly calm.  My supervisor and my manager told me they had no choice but to “part our professional ways.”  They asked if I had any questions and I told them I didn’t. I stood and shook their hands and wished them both an early Happy Mothers Day.

My mother isn’t big on “Hallmark holidays.”  Yet, being fired for the first time seemed more of a failure because it happened the Friday before Mother’s Day.  How in the hell was I going to tell her?  My parents got divorced my freshman year in college. When I left school, I moved back home with my mother and baby sister. We would lean on one another a lot. We sometimes would affectionately call our trio “The Three Musketeers.”  It had highs and lows. This was going to be a low.  My mom was reliable and responsible.  She was learning how to fit into a fairly new role.  I was supposed to be a help and not a hindrance. I felt guilty, careless, and ashamed. So I chose to omit my termination.

This is where there is some pixelation in my memory reel.  I don’t remember how my mother found out I was no longer working but she did. What I do remember is her acceptance.  I remember her reminder that this was a temporary setback and I would quickly find something else.  She didn’t remind me of all the sacrifices she made for my sister and I.  She didn’t shove private school bills in my face.  She definitely didn’t tell me I ruined her Mother’s Day.  She simply moved on.  Many of us can forgive but forgetting is the true challenge.  Many of us try to provide everything our children want and need but we have a cerebral calculation of every dime spent and every minute served. Parenting is about highs and lows. 

Thank you to a mother that came to every concert.  Thank you for buying patterns and sewing Halloween costumes and dance costumes.  Thank you for exposing me to Broadway plays.  Thank you for a standing hair appointment beginning at age 3.  Thank you for the lows too.  You taught me how to survive them.  How to be strong.  How to pray before I speak.  How to think with my heart and ignore the noise. How to ask for help.  How to try to come to terms with the things I cannot change and still don’t fully understand.  Thank you, Mom, every day.

 

By: Shaun Liriano

 

Girl Bye Part IV “Mae”

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She drove a two-tone, 12 year old mini van.  It had one of those “baby on board” signs in the back passenger window.  Sometimes the sign would fall but the suction cup that held it up would remain.  She was middle aged and her children were grown but she said the sign made people drive “sensibly. ”  Her “luxury car” as she sometimes called it,  was dated but it was hers…she owned it. She didn’t have many things that she owned.

Mae pulled right up next to a 2014 Camaro in the parking lot of the local popular pizzeria. They advertised you could get a large pie for $10.95 and that would be enough for Mae.  She could save some for breakfast the following morning with a cup of instant coffee. The Camaro had a confederate flag in the back window.  Mae had a “Obama 2012” sticker in the window.  The two drivers exchanged glances but no pleasantries were made.

Mae used to take long drives when she was stressed out. Those days were long gone. There was 123,000 miles on her van. Gas prices went up to 3.78 a gallon. So there was no escape.  Mae used to do hair but she was no longer as easy on the eyes as she once was. Women don’t usually trust you to make them beautiful when you aren’t. So age and a hard life retired her. Mae used to be an escort. She was good at it too. She still unofficially “did favors” as she liked to call it. She would frequently meet new clients at “Biddies. ”

Aniya saved Mae’s ass multiple times. She pulled an old dirty bastard off of Mae once. A brute who had no intention of paying for the “merchandise.” She let Mae sleep on her lazy boy recliner one night when Mae was evicted.  Aniya was the closest thing Mae would have to a friend. 

When Aniya called Mae after 2 years of not speaking,  she knew something was up.  Aniya always said no favor was free.  Mae was a benefit because she had nothing to lose…not even her life.

To be continued

By:Shaun Nickens

*Day 11 I didn’t post but I wrote! #30daywritingchallenge Comment.  Like. Share. 

Girl Bye ( Part II)

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Courtesy of abc news

Aniya danced around her studio apartment in bare feet. She had on her high school track shorts and her bra.  Those shorts were indestructible.  They didn’t quite fit the way they did so many years ago but they “fit.”  She was blasting “Bust the Windows” by Jasmine Sullivan.  The place was spotless.  She cleaned every nook and cranny of the apartment.  It smelled of Ammonia and Febreeze. She loved candles that had water scents like “ocean breeze” or “morning mist.” The candles were strategically placed. She was an old school girl but she had to admit she liked the gritty 90’s Mary J feel of Jasmine Sullivan’s music. A strong voice and beautiful melodies to overshadow really harsh lyrics.

“Yeah I did it/you should know it/I ain’t sorry/you deserved it/After what you did to me it was worth it/I ain’t sorry nooo oooooooo…”

Yea, Jasmine was cut from the same cloth as Aniya. Or she was just an artist who made music for women who made some tough choices.  Reckless and heartless women. Yea, those women need a good song too.

Aniya recently became more than a wife and a exotic dancer.  She had to make DJ pay for the pain and embarrassment.  Sloppy pathetic loser leaving all his mistakes under the bed they lie in every night as a couple.  He was an unbelievable idiot to think she wouldn’t find out. She confiscated everything and she “unofficially divorced” DJ and moved out. She told her friends and loved ones (he didn’t have any loved ones) he was on a business conference in Segal. Who would question that? No one is going to buy a calling card to talk to him in Ecuador!  He wasn’t that important.  It was funny how quickly her emotions dissipated.  As soon as she saw the betrayal,  it was enough to essentially make him disappear. 

For now she was enjoying her new found freedom.  She had 20 minutes before she had to get ready for work.  “Biddies” was 27 minutes away exactly.  She decided to play her song one more time and decide how she would use her talents on the pole to make her “problem” go away. She had a special client of hers who would definitely be interested in the task.

“May God forgive me”, she muttered to herself. 

The song faded while she dove into the company of her conscience.

“You caused me pain/so I did the same…”

~To be continued~

By: Shaun Nickens

*Day 7 of the 30 day writing challenge!

Girl Bye

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Aniya was the color of Jiffy cornbread.  She drove a 2012 Dodge Dart. She was 5’9″ about 190 lbs. She had 14% body fat and it was all in one place. She was proud of her masterpiece. No use in describing her face.  It didn’t matter.  It never would.  Men admired her body. She was well aware of that.  She decided a long time ago she wasn’t working a day job. She was going to work a traditional job though. Nothing was more traditional,  proven,  and no one was more hard working than a stripper. She made about $400-600 a night at “Biddies.” Men and women loved her.

They would watch her “fireman spin” down the poll. They marveled at her “body wave.” You could see her abdominal muscles working and the bruises on her thighs from the pole.  She called them her “battle scars” and she charged clients $50 per leg to kiss or touch them.  She was the most talented at “Biddies” because this was her career.  She wasn’t working her way through school or a single mother supporting her kid. This was what she wanted to be…a fantasy.

Aniya’s husband was 42 years old. He was his wife’s senior by 15 years. He was her anger management counselor when she was mandated by a judge to “get right or go to jail.” He was stereotypically “tall, dark and handsome.” Yet, he was socially awkward and always had trouble keeping a woman. A great smile and pretty lips would draw the women in but then he would speak and stumble all over himself. Goofy behavior is woman repellent and DJ had a lifetime supply of goof.  Aniya was different.  She was self assured and confident enough for the both of them. She would twerk on a one armed handstand at work.  Then she would come home and order dinner (not the domestic type.) She paid for a cleaning service visit once a week.  DJ was happy.  As long as she fell asleep in his lap at least twice a month, he had nothing to complain about. 

One night Aniya came in the house and there was a bit of commotion.  She pranced into the bedroom and DJ was straightening up.

“What are you doing?” she asked in an accusing manner.

“Cleaning”, he said dryly. 

“Why? I pay for that. I pay for your lifestyle.”

“Oh please.  You drive a Dart and you wanna act like a boss! When I met you, you were nothing.  Well I want more, I want something. ”

Aniya took a breath of calm. Ironically,  DJ taught her that in anger management.  Something was up. DJ isn’t stern.  That’s what made him attractive.  He was easily controlled. 
She walked over to the bed and she looked underneath it. She saw a few condom wrappers.  Aniya made a mental note to talk to the cleaning lady about that. No big deal. She knew of DJ’s affairs the same as he knew of her “champagne room” escapades at “Biddies.” That was the dynamic of their relationship.  No judgement. 

It was what she saw beyond the wrappers that took all the air out of her lungs. Her skin turned blue and her fingertips lost feeling.  Her breaths became shallow.  She could no longer hear anything and all she could see was red. She couldn’t even stand up to confront DJ. She could hear her friends chuckling. The conversations they had about her “great relationship” and “unconditional love.” “Girl bye!” is all they would say. She felt stupid.  There was no conversation to be had. She felt like her body was inside out.

“DJ”, she whispered. 

He just stood smiling. 

“What the hell is this?”

-By:Shaun Nickens

Day 3 of the writing challenge.  Let me know what you think or if you want more! For entries like this one, check out my “Chest Naked In The Park” archived category. Tweet your feedback @shutyamouthnow
Thanks!

Unleash

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She opened her eyes and it was the same beaming light from the dream.  Piercing. The light was painful and abrasive.  Blinding. Where was it coming from?  It was relentless.  She tried to rub it away. She tried to blink it away but it was strong and impenetrable. Now she was getting a headache.  Unable to focus,  she stumbled out of bed.

Her legs buckled and she fell to the floor.

She decided to call him. The phone seemed to ring for hours.

He answered.  “Hi.”

She said, “I can’t sleep.  I can’t see. I’ve been blinded. My legs are useless.  Now I am laying here on my white carpet with the blood of my heart spilling out of me. I’m in a pool of blood. A puddle of crimson all around me. I’ve screamed but the neighbors are unmoved. I’m in a cage of vulnerability.  I cannot be released by anyone but you.  I’m alone. I’m getting weaker. I can feel my body getting colder. I’m afraid.  When I bang on the walls with my right hand it slowly disintegrates. I will soon be a pillar of salt encapsulated in a puddle of blood. My heart bleeds for you. Please…please…help me.”

She hears the dial tone after he mutters to himself, “crazy b#!&h.”

The light begins to flicker. “I’m dying”, she definitively states. She begins to imagine what God must look like. She prepares all the questions she has for him. In all her pain, she doesn’t cry.

Then she hears the familiar sound of bongos. She sees something tall, slim, and solid. Most importantly. . .it stands alone. She squints and she can see. It’s a microphone. 

The light is a spotlight. 

She gradually crawled to the stage.

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This excerpt is day 1 of a 30 day writing challenge.  Comment,  share, like. Tweet your feedback @shutyamouthnow. Happy holidays!

-Shaun Nickens