So many things have changed over the years. So many times I have looked in the mirror-my reflection staring back at me. Those dark brown eyes that aren’t light enough. Or big enough or slanted enough. I scrutinize every detail. My cheeks are far too puffy. My cheekbones aren’t defined enough. My nose is far too big. Why did I have to inherit the famous nose? My lips, not big enough, not kissable enough. Barely even there. My neck far too long. My shoulders have accumulated a padding of fat for all these years. My waist isn’t small enough. Neither are my hips. My thighs…too fat. My legs…too short. My feet are too big for a lady.
Prying myself from the mirror, I began to walk. Through the comfortable cream colored hallway simply yet tastefully decorated with pictures of the family, their eyes continuously following me, I walked. Walked past the modern country-themed kitchen filled with the aroma of the maple glazed chicken that I had just taken out of the oven. Walked through the family room, ignoring the softness of the cream rug, ignoring the beckoning of the dark chocolate chair oozing wthi comfort, ignoring the pleads of the adjacent patio filled with the aroma of the rising sun to turn back, get a cup of steaming hot green tea and a book and relax. Ignoring them all, I walked. I walked through the door and never stopped. I don’t know where I was going, no idea how to get there but I kept walking.
The more I walked, the more the words resounded in my head. The more I walked, the more they kept pounding and pounding, screaming, bellowing to be released. I held the door. No. They could not escape. I will not let them. I must not let them. I walked. I walked. They grew and grew and grew. Too much! No! They must not be released! I sighed in resignation.
Now they were no longer solid. Ingenious things words were. Liquefied, they poured freely through the cracks of my mind. After all these years, the walls had begun to disintegrate, slowly chips of the bricks and mortar had begun to crumble into dust. Dust settling. Amassing. I could no longer see, my eyes swimming in tears. I realized then I had always been blind. Blind to the world and its obvious warnings. No. I was never blind. I refused to see. I refused to believe. I stood unseeing. The world no longer needed me. Well, it never needed me in the first place. I guess I had always wanted to feel as if I had some purpose here upon this earth. How long I stood there staring at the nothingness, I will never know. I just knew that I stood there long enough to be immersed into the blackness. It pulled me down further and further into its core. Sticky like tar, it fought to keep its catch but it need not to-I had given up.
I don’t know how long she stood beside me. In fact, I was not aware of her until she spoke:
I did not respond. I heard nothing more. I must be hearing things.
Then she touched my shoulder. Her warmth radiated, trying to reach me, trying to pull me from the darkness. I turned to face her. She smiled. I stared at her.
“The sun don’t shine like it used to anymore.”
It took a moment to register what she had said. Still I did not comprehend. My eyebrows knitted in confusion. The sun always shone that way. What on earth was this woman talking about? On this day out of all the rest, I had somehow managed to attract one of society’s oddities.
She smiled once more. Again I felt it, that small tug.
” You’re crying.”
I gingerly touched my face. I thought I had stopped crying long ago. The tears would just not stop. Why was I crying in front of a stranger? Stop it! I commanded my brain to tell my eyes to stop pouring forth their souls but my brain heeded not. Then she hugged me. Strangely I did not push her away. I did not wonder why. All I knew was that this woman had such unbelievable warmth and I wanted more. I needed it to be mine. I cried until I had exhausted my reservoir.
Finally I pulled myself away from her, embarrassment flooding over me in huge torrents.
I opened my mouth to ask her why she had chosen to talk to me, but nothing came forth. The words were there I knew it but they were stuck in that sticky, black tar. She smiled once more. Ah that woman and her smiles. Keep smiling! I felt it! Another tug. Smile. She stared into my nothingness; I felt the tar grow restless. It did not want to release its catch. Now I was in a liminal state. Did I want to go? Did I?
” I was like you once.” How do you know who I am? You don’t even know my name. I frowned.
“I know who you are. Because you are the way you are, the sun don’t shine like it used to anymore.”
She sat on the grass as she said this. I remained standing, unsure of my next step. Something about her made me stay; maybe I wanted to be pulled free from this ever-consuming, multiplying, bubbling, thick, hot tar.
She spoke once again. This time her voice was not quite a whisper yet soft and not quite a shout yet resoundingly loud:
“It is dawn.
It is time for my lover to go
He has marked his territory
I am his
But he is not my own
My love like soaked leather
But a Samson he is
And loosens himself
His kisses reassure
Ah! They press sweet longings
(the hardest kind)
I want him
I need him
I am his
But he is not my own
Night after night
When demons walk as men
The gilded serpent comes
An entanglement to behold
Michelangelo’s gut-wrenching sighs echo
As he looks but cannot capture
Mark his path
Covered with gold
The sun rises
Sends the wind to tarnish my gold
Aware of my naked shroud
I plead for my butterflies to return
They don’t touch me
They fall to my feet as dust.”
She turned to me and said, “That’s how you feel. You gave him your all, he made you feel loved. Then he turned right around and threw your heart on the ground, stomped all over it and called it nothing. You don’t know what to do; the butterflies just won’t turn into gold anymore.”
Pensively I stared at her. What right did she have to knock down my already dilapidated wall? What right had she that enabled her to dig into the cervices of my mind and divulge its secrets? She smiled once more as if reading my thoughts. And looked at me. And looked. Her eyes holding no accusation, no sympathy but wisdom and strength. Suddenly I heard words. They were coming from my mouth. They were tumbling over each other, fighting for freedom-the light. Ah she must have loosened the tar, the witch.
“There are so many things I wish that I could change about myself. Why did God create me this way? Was I a sick, sadistic joke on his part?”
What was this woman saying? Normally people would say,” Child, you are graciously and wonderfully made,” and boy had I prepared a rebuttal. Now here I was a grown woman, taken completely aback.
“If you don’t like what you have, then change them. People do it all the time.”
“Listen to me.”
Her voice stopped all my blathering. It entrapped me, holding fast in case I decided to run. But it need not to. I was going nowhere.
She began once more:
Sitting in the well-worn sofa I finger the tips of my nappy hair; I had long discarded the wig. My wandering eyes sweep the small room. Nothing out of place. My Atomic Physics text gapes at me with its crisp pages and white smiles. My notebook lies beside it. I had begun the first question when he had arrived. He. It was always him. Always. Him. I lean forward intent on finishing what I had started. I always finish my tasks. But my mind wanders. Absent-mindedly I wipe at the light dusting of snow that serves as the only reminder of my last visitor. He had spoken in deep, sweet, caramel entanglement of a baritone. His lips had begun to leave a sticky trail which I had no time to clean. I had stopped him. Effort was not necessary.
Silvery dust settles upon my scantily clad body. Shimmering black stockings with strategically placed holes cover my legs. My thick, warm legs that hold sweet honey. I touch my thick, full lips and catch a scent of him. He had been on me for far too long now. I rise to shower. Holiness washes over me. I watch as my sin flows down the drain. Every night my sin flows down the drain. There must be a reservoir of my blackness down there. Good. The lord has washed me whiter than snow.
I sit in front of my mirror. An ironic smile spreads across my face. He had been the reason for the mirror. What did he see? Did he see beauty or did he see another black gal with the sweetest treasure he had ever known? I leave. I did not want to know.
He knocks at my door. Again. Why must he always come? I frown but then I remember that I need him. I open my door. Milk infused with the lightest sprinkling of cinnamon floods my entire space. Nothing is my own now. I fight back the anger. He cannot leave-he must not leave. He touches my face and whispers, “Coffee in my milk.” The ignoramus! Was I to be pleased by that? Was I to be pleased that someone had sweetened this strong coffee?
I stare at the unopened letter, my Atomic Physics book beside it. It has been four years since he had first visited me. Will he come again today? I didn’t want him to. I open the letter.
I sit in front of the mirror. An ironic smile spreads across my face. He had been the reason for the mirror. What did he see? Did he see beauty or did he see another black gal with the sweetest treasure he had ever known? I reach for the black, thick high boot lying leaning by the chest of drawers. I hold the heel. I feel the blackness seeping within my soul. I smash the blasted mirror, shards flying everywhere. Some have marked my face. I smile. He was not coming today.
There was silence after she had spoken. I had lived her life. I was her and she was me. She knew my innermost secrets. I looked down at the woman who had dared to destroy my rotting exterior. Her hair was the dark earth curled with the tears of forest nymphs. Her cheeks high with royalty were kissed with orchids for roses were not hers to bear. The Blue Mahoe loved her and loaned her his stature. The stealthy panther cried and his teardrops found a home in her eyes. Mother Earth had hugged her ever so tightly, proclaiming her love and gave her broad, plump hips. Venus saw her and bade Cupid to kiss her lips. Her lips cried for her Nubian god instead, and swelled when they saw him.
She stood and left without saying a word of farewell. I did not stop her. I have heard all that I needed to hear. Spotless, I stood, not a speck of tar had remained. She had been the solvent that had doused the tar, burned it away, rendering it immobile and useless. At last, I could see. I had walked and I had reached my destination.
A whimsical unified chaos of majestic royal robes is seen. Purple meticulously mixed with the softest lilac infused with a passionate auburn, speckled with purposefully arranged heavenly snow that seems to bathe itself a magnificent golden radiance is the canvas upon which I now gaze in awe. The air is filled with the faintest scent of newness. Diamonds shimmer upon the verdant knoll that I have temporarily dubbed my earthly abode. Mother Earth had begun to shine in all her glory, ushering the birds to their homes, sending the animals that have worked and played all day to their well- deserved rest. Bathing me in a cool breeze, she beckons me to look to her sky once more. I refuse. Instead, I run. This time I knew my new destination and I knew just how to get there.
I did not stop running until I passed the majestic oak door that bore the secrets of my home, through the family room seeping with comfort, past the kitchen barely holding onto the scent of the maple glazed chicken and down the hallway with its incessant stares. I paused, a bit hesitant but it must be done.
I looked in the mirror-my reflection staring back at me. I stared long and hard with these dark brown eyes that aren’t light enough or big enough or slanted enough and smiled with my lips that aren’t big enough, not kissable enough.
And walked away.
It was then I heard the imploring cries of the patio and I succumbed. The wind that I had run away from found me and wrapped me with surprising warmth. It kissed my eyelids, kissed my shoulders and hugged my every curve. It began to tilt my chin upward, and I sighed. Not the sigh of the hopeless but the sigh of the content. Gently the wind caressed my cheek, leaving golden butterflies. My skin warm chocolate was now glistening with honey. A new fear seized me. What if the sun grew envious and made this wind taint my love? The wind reassured me with whispering sighs and begged me to open my eyes. I saw the remnants of the sun’s majestic robes sweep across the sky. It sent one lone beam to accentuate my golden shroud. I smiled. The sun just don’t shine like it used to anymore.