The Sounds of Stillness

I have been in here for days.  They are probably looking for me but I don’t care. They probably think I am in a dumpster somewhere. They think I’m wrapped in a black trash bag.  So they are pooling together their resources so they can come together to raise my kid now that I am theoretically “gone.”  They are part correct. They are probably more than half right.  Which also means that there is an existing part of them that is “wrong.”  Consequently, I’m right too!  That is extremely comforting in this time where I really need a win.  I need to be indisputably right. I’ll settle for this unofficial 33% though.

See, I met a man on the Colosseum block on Jamaica Avenue. He’s a security guard.  He’s a grown man with a job and a beautiful smile. Usually, someone like that isn’t interested in someone like me.  I’ve always thought of myself as plain. I’ll tell you one thing though…I have bedroom moves that would put a Stanley 68 6 way screwdriver out of business. I know how to make men feel special and feel in control.  I yearn to be controlled and I long to be needed. Mr. Security Guard fits the bill for now.  They don’t know anything about him.  They just know that he is the last person I was with.  They know I am either “flippin’ in the ghetto on a dirty mattress” in a bad way or…I’m gone.

I miss my kid though.  The last thing I wanted to become was Her.  She is the woman who walked away from me when I was a toddler and then She decided to come back on my 11th birthday.  Then the Broad left again.  She popped in and out of my life for most of my life sporting a cute nickname, “Mom”, that only she called herself.  We (my brother and I) just call her Beverly.

My goody two shoes best friend has been going over to my house every day since I’ve been gone. She acts like she’s better than me because she stopped at getting finger popped and I went all the way.  She’s saving herself for marriage and I wish her luck but I don’t believe in such things.  Goody Goody is good, I must admit.  She brings over food and toys for my kid.  My step-sister and Goody Goody are home from their respective colleges for the holidays. I know they are just trying to make a bad situation less bleak. If they could only see the picture from my viewing seat.

Beverly is a figment of my imagination, my grandmother who was my best friend in the whole world is gone, my grades are great but I hate school, my dad has spent his whole life trying to be the character he created in his mind.  In the process of trying to become this character he has ruined every woman he has ever touched.  My siblings are their own beautiful messes.   I love my baby brother and I wish there weren’t so many years between us. He might be the one to actually understand me.  It’s too late now.

They are frantically looking for me like any good family should.  They are imagining the worst.  They are praying for the best. I’m gone though.  I can see the breath leave my body.  I hear someone calling my name.  I’m surrounded in darkness and I f*#@ing love it! Every time I walked towards the light it was just a trickster with a flashlight shining it in my eyes to taunt me before he shoves it where the sun don’t shine.  I know there is a God but I need help finding his contact information (there’s no yellow pages anymore.)  I just want that warm apple strudel that slides down your throat baked by the hands of someone beautiful.  They call it love.  I’m been searching for it, I draw it, I read about it, Good Goody sings songs about it.  The silence of my surroundings is drinking me in.  I can hear my own noises now over the absence of sound. The nothingness pushes the walls on top of me.  It doesn’t hurt though.  I just focus in on the reverberation of thoughts so strong they could escape the confines of my head.  In here it is just me and my madness.  I don’t know when I will leave here.  Within the isolation is the safest I have felt in some time.

I can’t hide in this basement forever.  I think they teach Sunday school here in the morning at 10am.

 

-Shaun Liriano

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Photo captured by Shaun Liriano

Caged (32 Word Challenge)

She was trying to focus on not focussing.  He wanted “normal.” She tried not to think. Her thoughts were always complex. All she knew about “normal” was it was her antipode. Impossible.

By: Shaun L

Beauty for Beauty

I wrote a piece entitled “Saints and Poets” about 3 months ago. It was deleted accidentally and I was heartbroken. I never had the courage, patience, or frankly…the balls to re-create it. The feelings and emotions that intercourse to breed the content of “Saints and Poets” sparked once again and came up with a really cool scene. It is in no way as good as the original but it was fun to write.

“I am one who tells the truth and exposes evil and seeks with Beauty for Beauty to set the world right.”
~ W.E.B Dubois

EMILY: “Does anyone ever realize life while they live it…every, every minute?”

STAGE MANAGER: “No. Saints and poets maybe…they do some.”
― Thornton Wilder, Our Town
______________________________________________________________________
Now the two, stood naked in a corner holding one another. They were an unlikely pair…

It was so dark. It was so cold. It was excruciating. You could smell the impending death. They were coming. You could hear their breaths. You could see their green eyes in your nightmares. You couldn’t hear their hearts beat.

Although the sound was faint, he knew it was there. Tom knew their hearts could still beat. He knew they could still feel.
Tom was a faithful person. He never stole anything, not even a pen. He was the type a guy to always leave a penny in the “take one leave one” tray at the 7-11. He would leave his change in the vending machine so he could surprise the next person. He never forgot a birthday. He never forgot an anniversary. In fact, he would forget his OWN birthday! He just loved people but more importantly, he believed in the goodness of the human heart. Tom was small framed, balding, and he kept his wardrobe impeccably simple. He had 7 different button down shirts, 3 polo’s, 2 t-shirts for the summer and 4 pairs of khaki pants. He did his laundry every Friday at the Laundromat in his apartment building. His sock drawer had dividers to keep everything separated and organized. He kept bleach under the kitchen sink to keep his socks white. He budgeted $5 per paycheck, in case one of the items in his “wardrobe” needed to be replaced. Tom didn’t have many friends but the friends he did have called him a Saint.

Samaria was what her dad called a “rebel without a cause.” If you said the sky was blue, she said it was magenta. She saw colors where there was only black and white. She described grey like a rainbow. She was tormented by life and impaired by her imagination. If you paid a penny for her thoughts, you would wait for a refund. It would never be because her thoughts weren’t intricate and unique. It would be because they were too heavy for the average person to carry away from the conversation. Samaria was a dreamer and she counted blessings not sheep. Samaria was a fighter and she would battle 300 warriors in the blistering cold to defend the honor of someone she loved. The dwelling in her heart had multiple vacancies. There was always an invitation to be warm there. Samaria was a poet.

Now the two, stood naked in a corner holding one another. They were an unlikely pair…

-To Be Continued-

-Shaun Nickens

***Day 5 of the 30 day writing challenge. Thank you to my new followers, I smile every time I get an alert. Keep the comments coming. Leave your feedback @shutyamouthnow on Twitter. Happy New Year!

Have A Seat. Let’s Talk. I’m Listening

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Dexter walked in the hospital with no urgency. With his cane in hand, he took his time going in. He had been warned, his friend suffered a stroke and may have dementia. He adjusted the cap on his head and entered the room. He hoped his friend would remember him. He hoped his friend would be okay.

Bill looked up at the door as Dexter entered. His eyes were fixed at the top of Dexter’s head. 
That ruby red Kangol hat.

“Hey”, Bill said. “Isn’t that the hat I gave you a few years ago? Yup! Sharp as a tack! I think it was Christmas 2011?”

Dexter’s eyes lit up with surprise.

“Hot dog! Aw man you’re alright! You ain’t dying!” Dexter’s voice oozed with both humor and relief.

“Nah,  I’m hanging in there so my kids can’t spend all my hard earned money.  Greedy tricksters are probably picking out my headstone already! ” Dexter and Bill roared with laughter.  They talked about the moments when they thought time would stand still for them. Hard working hustlers. They talked about the plans they had when they were young men. Dexter did a lot of listening that day. The Master forced him to be still and be attentive and be grateful.
_______________________________________ When I started this blog in 2012 I said it would never be an advice type of forum.  I am not a life coach! Who qualifies you for that type of position?  Too much pressure! What would you do if you found out your therapist is a Looney Tune? Like a bonafied nut! Would that discredit him? To be a life coach would my life have to be perfect?
There’s a very popular woman. I will leave her nameless.  She has books about women being their best and being extraordinary.  She has a YouTube stream.  She runs bootcamps from her brownstone. She gives women advice about attracting and keeping a man too. I remember reading the online backlash from women who “discovered” she doesn’t have a man and she isn’t married. Whoa! They went nuts! The ring she wears is because she is committed to herself!  I cracked up laughing.  So what?! All of a sudden she doesn’t know what she’s talking about???! Did she help you? Who certifies good advice?

Doesn’t perseverance through imperfections and the ability to analyze such experiences give you some credibility? 

When you call a friend and tell them about your relationship or your career (or lack thereof), do you ask for their counseling license?  No. You just appreciate them listening. In most cases they are just reaffirming your views. You need someone to listen because you are tired of talking to yourself.  The act of listening is an act of love. Supporting a friend probably makes most people feel good. Do you hesitate because you are afraid of the reaction you will get? Or do you just give your time and your talents?

Sometimes it is hard to balance everything.  You are still adjusting to your new or appointed roles in life. You are trying your best to wear your many hats. Then it happens. Someone you love is hospitalized,  a baby is born,  a friend calls in crisis and you are forced to slow down. You are forced to use your emotional eye. 

Sit down and listen before life, time and God force you to. Don’t take communication for granted.  Don’t take anything for granted.  Dear Kettle,  take it from the pot, YOU CAN manage your time better.  YOU CAN show your loved ones they matter.  YOU CAN be a finisher or you can ShutYaMouthAndCallMeUgly.

By:Shaun Nickens
Featured Illustrator: Jose Rodriguez
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Nothing To Lose {Chest Naked In The Park Part 8} (Meet the Demigod)

He walked carefully.  All his belongings were in a black backpack, with the straps adjusted so he could feel the pressure of all his “monetary assets” up against him.  Inside were his running sneakers, his last packet of protein powder, his bible, “The Autobiography of Malcolm X”, 2 boxer briefs, and a white V-neck t-shirt.  He had a money clip with no money.  His sister bought it for him for his 21st birthday.  The engraving said “Take or be taken.” He had a pre-paid cell phone with about 14 minutes left on it.  He had Vaseline wrapped in aluminum foil just in case his lips got chapped. His keys were digging into his side so he reached into his fitted jeans and threw them in a gutter.  He had no need for them now.  He was never going back “home” again.  It wasn’t safe there.

He walked carefully.  Not by choice but by circumstance.  He walked corner to corner.  He looked both ways before he crossed the street. Left foot…hobble…cane.  Left foot…hobble…cane.  Left foot…hobble…cane.  He once was a quick, strong, sexy, confident, man with an unrivaled stature and an intimidating presence.  Now he was unemployed, homeless, single, scared, far from athletic, and semi-cripple.  What happened to him?  All he wanted to do was make enough money to do something big for a change.  He spent his whole life running both literally and figuratively. Fight or flight?  He was the biggest bird you’ve ever seen.  He was a big pigeon defecating on anyone who got in his way.  High school dropout, 2-3 dead-end jobs a year, hoopty after hoopty, and still women would flock towards him.  Tamara was no different at first.

He didn’t even have to say a word.  His significant others had been telling him for years, “just stand there and look good baby.”  He was always the trophy piece.  He knew how to stay in his lane and never ever speak unless he was confident that he could add something intelligent to the conversation.  His looks were his weapon.  His strong jaw, white bright smile with a subtle gap, flawless skin and full lips were comparable to a Mac-10.  His love-making was his suppressor.  So even if a woman had become displeased with his performance as a sound “life partner”, she would stay and shut the hell up.   Tamara was supposed to be no different.

His instructions were simple.  He was to seduce Tamara, divert her attention away from her husband, and make her fall in love.  Then she would divorce Travis and move in with her “chest naked demigod” (he heard her refer to him as a demigod when he was spying on one of her conversations one day.)  Yet, Tamara was different.

There were a few times when he tried to get her attention at the track but she was so emotionally committed to Travis.  Deep down he knew that she wanted things to work with her man.  She was attracted to him but she had self-control.  He wasn’t accustomed to that.  He approached her a few times but it seemed as though Tamara didn’t recognize him with his shirt on.  That wasn’t entirely Tamara’s fault.  Leon didn’t have much character with his clothes on.  Leon was far from a demigod.  Leon was Hades himself.

He had way too much fun with this assignment.  He slept with Tamara’s cousin, Courtney (he couldn’t resist.)  He slept with Travis’ girlfriend, Special (it was so easy.)  He even slept with Travis’ loud mouth bitter mother (she needed some loving.)  He couldn’t complete the task so he figured he would enjoy the perks.  When he and Travis had a falling out over payment, Leon decided to make things more interesting.  He stalked Tamara at her job and he shot out her back window.  He knew all signs would lead to Travis and he thought for sure that Courtney’s feisty ass would retaliate and remove Travis from his list of unhappy clients.  Instead, Travis disfigured Leon’s leg and threatened to do more harm unless Leon left New York.  Leon had one stop to make first.  One person had taken away his chance to do something big.  He had nothing left to lose.  He stopped, readjusted his backpack, and pulled out the only sentimental valuable thing he had left.  “Take or be taken”, he read aloud.  “Damn right,” he said.

To Be Continued…

 

Trippin’ Over You- Chest Naked In The Park (Part 5)

Tamara was an emotional wreck.  She woke up a half hour before her alarm clock went off at 5am.  She hadn’t eaten since 3pm the day before.  Her appetite was shot.  Her patience was low and her disappointment was high.  Tamara draped an old T-shirt over her television.  She had no desire to watch the nonsense disguised by capitalistic puppeteer’s  as entertainment.  She was over it.  She was over it all.

After showering she stepped out of her towel.  She sprayed hair spray under her arms and sprayed deodorant in her hair.

“Oh I’m buggin’ “, she admitted to herself.

She still had Travis on her mind. He was violating her head space.  She had no idea why she allowed him that kind of power.  People can’t take your power away, you give it to them voluntarily.  You have to allow someone to have control over your thoughts.  Travis was a jerk but Tamara allowed him access into her temple a long time ago.  He had entered her mind, her heart, and other unmentionable body parts.  Maybe it was her ego that was bruised.  It had only been 3 weeks and Travis had already filled her position in his life.  To add insult to injury, she heard through the grapevine that the girl was gorgeous.  That was irritating.  If she was a mud duck, Tamara would have felt better.

Tamara grabbed an apple and stuck it in her purse.  She threw on some slacks, loafers, and a black fitted t-shirt and hopped in the car for work.  After attempting to put the house key in her ignition about 4 times, she decided it was time for a rushed telegram prayer:

Dear God, please get me through this day. Amen

She was running late, as usual.  She’d make up for it though.  She knew how to push that little car to the limit and there was no ticket that her smile couldn’t get her out of.  Her thighs were burning.  She had been running every night since the “break up”.  At first, it was a pathetic attempt to see her charismatic Chest Naked Demigod.  Then it became a wonderful way to get her mind off of things.  Travis made her feel weak.  Working out allowed her to impress herself with her improved strength.  Physical pain was a distraction from emotional pain.  When things ended with Travis it felt like her soul had been steam rolled over repeatedly and then cars were just driving over her mangled mutilated spirit over and over and over again.  So she worked out…constantly.  When she couldn’t sleep, she’d walk until she couldn’t walk anymore.  Sometime at 3 or 4 o’clock in the morning.  She was determined to have a tight body with a broken heart.  A heart that pumped resentment.

Deep down inside, she thought Travis would get himself together.  She thought he would be remorseful and apologize for the way he treated her. For his emotional inaptitude.  For his brute ignorance.  He never did and she was starting to turn purple from holding her breath in anticipation.  What was that old saying again??? “If you love something, let it go.  If it stays gone then it was cheating on you the whole time.” No that’s not it.

Why did she always feel like a reject from an old Ricki Lake episode?  What was the problem?  Furthermore, why was she so curious about Mr Demigod? “Curiosity gave the cat an infection.” No that’s not it, is it?

Tamara got to work safely and on time. Her day went relatively well.  She forced everything out of her mind.  Kept that coffee coming. The quart of Poland Spring on her desk was actually Grey Goose straight.  Come hell or high water, she was going to make it through.  Ten minutes before her shift ended she got a call from the security desk:

“Tamara Sprout?”

“Yes”, she answered in unpleasant anticipation.

“The 98 Midnight Blue Ford Contour in the East parking lot….is that yours?”, he asked quizzingly.

“Depends.  What’s wrong?”

“Dont be alarmed but there appears to be a bullet hole through your back window.  I wouldn’t drive home like that because one bump and your whole back window will shatter.”

Don’t be alarmed?  Is he serious?

Tamara enhanced her calm.  She took another sip of her “Poland Spring” and then she spoke,

“Thank s for the call, Chris.  I’ll call AAA.”

She made a phone call but it wasn’t to AAA.  She dialed the same number she dialed the night before when she had this same felling of loneliness, fear, anxiety, and disappointment.  The hairs on her arm stood up.  She felt a chill but it was 86 degrees outside.  Her lip started to quiver.  Her hands got sweaty.  Every time she breathed a knot formed in her throat.  The phone felt like it rang one hundred thousand times.  Finally a familiar baritone voice answered,

“Hello Tamara”, His caller ID gave away her identity.  Tamara took a deep breath to keep from crying.  She placed her right hand on her chest.  She put her left hand over her barren womb.  The phone was silent.  It was an uncomfortable silence.  The kind of silence one would do anything to break.  She waited for her courage to build and then she said,

“I think your brother may know about us.”

(To Be Continued)

-Shaun M Nickens