Freewrite

I had to wake up. I had to leave Over There  so I can be Here. Back here, with my head buzzing with voices and people from Over There. I sit for a moment, dizzy with what had just happened. Searching, feeling for, in this cold and lighted world, for my North Star and the little confidence left to guide me home.

I was back where I started: I had to build piece by piece my staircase up to God. I had stopped asking for help from right and left because people kept stealing my tools and I didn’t know who it was because they all smiled at me with their milky white smile and their wine red tongue.

I happen to hang out with those who hate me because their honesty is quick to kill that little vermin of laziness that’s rampant up and down under my skin.They put a cord around my neck and they gently pull until all my 250 lbs (246 lbs on a good day) is supported by my toes and once I’m there, they give me back my tools and ask me to finish what I started, but to hurry up because that oxygen wasn’t going to last forever. The worst part of it all is that I was losing my sight now that everything was on the line.

But then again, you see, my life and the life of mine has always been on the line, funny thing is we have never realized how short that line was.

I finally was going to meet God and put on a face on that name. All I had to do is wait a little while. Wait for the oxygen to run out, for my fear to gas away and my soul to sing its way out. And to think angels and demons envy us for having bodies. But they decided to let me down just when I started to make out His features.

So I am back to where I started: Building a staircase to go meet God. one piece at a time.

Hunger

Hunger

It rocks you at night

right and left while sleep slips under you

to never come back.

Hunger

you try to drown it in water

it resurfaces moments later, the shadow of a smile on its face

hunger

it plays mind tricks on you

it creates before  you a table filled with delicacies

that are too sweet and too mouth watering to be named

but your stomach trumpets its approval

while you smack your lips together with expectation

Hunger

It slips its lengthy tongue inside you

and sucks out all the niceness out of you

leaving you: Armed and Dangerous

Hunger

It kills slowly and without mercy

it has devoured the weak and the strong

it has eaten up the old and the young

but drives you mad when it can’t kill you

hunger

it wakes you up at night

when you were lying in your bed pretending to sleep

trying to hold in your cupped hands your little self

trying to hold to the little part of you that’s still there and kicking

refusing to let go

refusing to let you go

keeping your heart beating even when your mind has died

but dreams and visions still pass through your eyes

reminding you that tis shall pass too

that when all is said and done

you will walk out here

whatever is left of you will walk out here and tell the tale of

hunger.

 

Note from the author: Hunger is not black, pot bellied, snot nosed and arms raised toward white, benevolent hands. Hunger is not on TV. Hunger knows no color, no creed, no religion, no class. It changes names, becomes bulimia for the rich, but hunger never goes away. You have to meet your hunger and hold it captive. It just might save you.

A child’s faith (part 2)

My mom never really liked Esther who she thought to be too uppity, but when we got separated, she was the first one to ask us not to break what God has joined, but I doubted God had ever had any say in this relationship in the first place and more importantly we didn’t share her faith. In her resiliency, she always acted as if Jack didn’t exist, and it was only a matter of time before me and Esther got back together. Jack tried everything to get in her good graces, but she shot him down so abrasively, he always walked like a dog with his tail between his legs when he was around her. I remember I almost lost it once when she brought up the subject one too many times, but she was quick to put me back in my place by reminding who was the parent. She did take the hint and started dropping little hints here and there when she felt the mood was perfect.

Amani reacted like any 6 years old would react when they learn their parents are not together anymore. She went through the cycle of denial, anger, negotiation, and then acceptance far a lot quicker than expected, and it helped that me and Esther made every effort to make the transition as smooth as possible on her. It was around that time Esther gave her the nounours, Mr. Rogers. She might question our decision later to divorce and maybe, just maybe, we wouldn’t be able to convince her that our differences were that irreconcilable. Yes, I flirted with the idea of getting back with her, but that’s all I did, just flirt.

I heard her talk to someone on the phone and I went back to the living room and asked her who it was.

“It’s Francis. He’s at the hospital, dad we need to go visit.”

“Give me the phone”

I took the phone and Francis told me that he had a minor accident on his way to our place, he was ok, but the car took most of the hit. He was home now resting because he was having some headaches. I asked why he didn’t go to the hospital. He must have had some kind of trauma. I don’t know why I was concerned all of sudden. He told me in his reassuring teacher’s voice that it was just a little discomfort that would go away as soon he rested. He had called his night job already to notify them that he was indisposed for the moment. I felt and knew that he was wrong. My daughter seemed to agree. She had her pink jacket, pink bag and her pink boots on and Mr. Rogers poking out her pink bag. She was ready to go. I told him I will call him back.

“Honey, where do you think you are going?”

“Dad, Francis is sick and needs to go to hospital”

She probably was right and I felt the same way, but I told her: “Francis doesn’t want to go and we can’t force him.”

She pouted and went to sit by the windows her nounours held closely. She just kept looking at me with those big brown eyes, getting all teary, and breaking my resolve at the same time.

“Ok, let’s go” I said grabbing my keys and my jacket.

We showed up at his door, and I explained to him that Amani was worried about him and that it wouldn’t hurt to get his headaches check by a doctor. He tried to protest, but he was no match to Amani’s pleas. So we went to the hospital and waited for 3 hours while he got checked out by the doctor. Amani was reading her children’s book in french about Peter Pan.

The doctor finally came and told us that they were going to keep him over night to run more tests because his blood pressure was elevated and his MRI scan showed a minor swelling on his brain that could be serious or not but he needed to consult with others doctors on his team tomorrow morning. We were welcome to see him though. We went in his room and I stood awkwardly by the window while Amani and Francis talked.

“Look what I have been reading” she showed him her book.

“That’s great, don’t forget to keep practicing your lessons and you can ask your dad to help you.”

“But it’s not the same. When are you going home?”

“Probably tomorrow as soon as they are done running some tests.”

“I don’t like hospitals.”

“Me neither, but I get to watch all the TV I want.”

She laughed. Francis looked to me and said: “Thanks for this, you didn’t have to do it.”

“Don’t mention it. I’m sure you will be fine.” I said with little faith. Brain injuries were anything but just minor, doctors always tried to smooth things over even they weren’t supposed to.

“It’s time to go Amani, you got school tomorrow and we have to let Monsieur Francis rest.”

Bonne nuit Amani” said Francis.

Bonne nuit Monsieur Francis” she replied.

We got to the door when she turned around to give him Mr. Rogers. Mais c’est pas vrai !

“Mr. Rogers will keep you company, Mr. Francis tonight.” she told him

He hesitated and looked at me for approval and I made a slight nod of approval.

“I will be honored to have him and promise to return when I get better.”

“It’s ok.”

Merci mademoiselle Amani”

De rien.”

He thanked me one more time and we bid adieu. During the drive, I kept glancing at her as she sang along to the radio’s tunes. I couldn’t believe she had given Mr. Rogers just like that when the two of them were inseparable. By the time we got home, she was tired and I carried her to her bed where she fell asleep quickly. I watched her for a moment, gave her a kiss and then went to watch TV in my room. I thought about calling Esther, but I didn’t want to have to deal with Jack.

Two hours later, she came to my room and got in my bed, asking to sleep with me. Sure,  I said as I put my arms around her.

“I dreamed that angels visited Monsieur Francis and made him all better.”

“hmmmm, that would be nice, where have you heard about angels?”

“Grandma had told me about them. Do you believe in angels?”

“I can say I do. I met one today.”

“Really? Where?”

“She’s in the bed with me right now.”

She looked around trying to find her. I laughed and kissed her and said: “You’re my angel.” She hugged me.

Monsieur Francis didn’t get out of the hospital for another two days, but the doctor gave him a perfect bill of health. He walked out with Mr. Rogers in hand. The lessons of French started again the following week and neither of them brought up Mr. Rogers that Francis had. I learned some years later when Amani was about to graduate from high school that he still had it in his closet and had become a sort of inside joke for his wife and children who teased him that he had gotten himself a companion because he had been lonely all these years. He never tried to set the story straight only God knows why, but I know he stayed in touch with Amani over the years.

As for me, well I finally decided to start dating again since Amani was about to leave the nest, and I was glad that she knew that I was always going to be there for her. Esther and Jack were still together but never exchanged vows for reasons that I couldn’t fathom. Et c’est la vie, we make it or break it, seeds are planted and some of us will be surprised when the harvest comes along.

A Child’s faith

“Just wait and you will see: He’s going to come back home.” She said to me, her brown eyes glittering with the determination she always shown when things happened to stand in her way.

“Come sit with me and let’s watch Bugs Bunny.” I said. She looked at the TV, then at me then her eyes went back to the streets, desperate not to miss the appearance of her friend. I just couldn’t understand how a stranger could have such an impact on her so quickly, and to be honest I didn’t like it. If it wasn’t for my mother who had recommended him to me, I wouldn’t have accepted. This was our only time together and Francis was standing in my way to have a good time with my daughter. I prayed for him to not show up.

“Come on now, I thought Bugs Bunny was your favorite. Stop worrying about it, he’s going to come soon or later.”

“But what if something had happened to him, we should call 911.”

Honey, we are not calling 911, he must have had some family emergency and hasn’t had a chance to call”

“But it’s been 3 hours!”

“I know, but I’m sure he’s going to call anytime now.”

Well, I didn’t care if he did or not. For all intents, I hoped he didn’t show up today, now that I see how he has stolen the heart of my little girl. C’est ma fille apres tout.

“What do you say if I made you a sandwich?”

“Sure.”

Amani, what did I teach you?”

Merci papa”

“That’s more like it”

I got up and let out a sigh as I saw her return faithfully to her post.

I didn’t know much about Francis and didn’t care either way. All I have heard from my mom is that he used to teach middle school French, English back home in a private school in Kinshasa. He also knew some Italian apart from speaking Swahili, Lega whenever he met my mom or someone from Kivu where I grew up. Now that I come to think about it: I didn’t any specific issue with him, but more generally with his entire generation and my mom’s generation. The generation that had the potential to make Congo one of the leaders in Africa, and screwed up dramatically. Now, they were telling us to pick the crumbs they left and build what they couldn’t or wouldn’t have done. It didn’t help that he looked my uncle who used to over exercise his powerful hand on my behind whenever I got in trouble.

Like a lot of other immigrants of all ages who ever come to United States, he was working two jobs and saving up for his family to come also. And as if it wasn’t enough, my mom talked me into paying him as a French tutor for her grand daughter who only spoke English to her. I still remember how happy she was when Amani was born. A healthy 9lbs brown little girl whose brown eyes seemed to dip inside you and melt you all over. Like her mother, Esther used to until we separated.

“Irreconcilable differences” was the word. I didn’t like it, but all I knew is that parenthood, new position in the company, life and whatever else you want to throw in got in the way and we slowly stopped doing the things that had held us together till then until it was too late. It’s been 2 years now, we have been separated and been sharing Amani. More like, I have been trying to stay involved in my daughter’s life since her irritatingly lovable new boyfriend Jack and Esther were winning quickly my daughter’s heart . And as if it wasn’t enough, Francis who just got here already had her wrapped in his little finger. I mean he was an excellent tutor and Amani was making visible leaps, but I thought at times of cancelling these lessons just so I may have more time with her. N’oses meme pas y penser, had said Esther, her French heavily peppered with a British accent, from growing up in London with her parents who were diplomats from Ivory Coast.

“If money is a problem, I will be happy to take care of it.”

It’s not about the money.”

Then what’s the problem because Amani is enjoying her lessons and he seems like a gentleman to me.”

I knew where this was going because I could feel this knot forming in my stomach so I reassured her that it was nothing and hang up.

A suivre…


Holiday blues (part 2)

Arianna noticed my sad puppy eyes and asked: “So how is your mom doing?”

“Strong as an ox, I know she will outlive us all.”

She came and sat on my knees, handed me a card and said: “I was going to wait for Christmas, but I know how you get after talking to your mother so here you go.”

I smiled as I read her note:” To the one who melts my heart even the world breaks it.” There was a gym membership card and an address with a phone number. I was like: “What’s this?”

“Well I read somewhere that working out is a great emotional booster and also I thought it wouldn’t hurt us to lose some weight, you know.”

“Oh, but aren’t you afraid that we would lose what was so physically attractive about the two of us when we first met?”

“You are funny, but you are not going to get out of this one. WE are going to start working out.”

“What’s the address for?”

“Oh that? It’s a workshop for aspiring poets. I thought it would be a good idea for you to get your work out there and start getting reviews.”

“I don’t think the world is ready for me.”

“I don’t think YOU are ready for the world. Anyways, it’s every Tuesdays evenings. I checked the reviews online and no one would be bashing you over the head, believe me.”

“Honey, it’s me who bashes people around and not the other way around, you better get it right.”

“Sure” She said quickly waving the white flag to my displeasure. I would have loved to exchange a few more rhetorical jabs with her, but she was already moving on. She got up and left.

I picked up my pen and wrote down:

There’s not going to be any tomorrow if today can’t be lived in its fullest. There has to be a death of some sort before any life worth living comes to fruition. Until then it doesn’t help to smell like death, you have to actually let that other you be dead and buried before you meet yourself. You have been passing yourself down the street and not even recognize yourself because you don’t know yourself but when the time comes, you will shake hands and go on each merry way. You can’t marry someone else until you have married yourself…

I looked up and saw the Sun winking at me before going to sleep.

Holidays Blues

My clunky self reached its heavyweight right arm for the last of 20 chocolate cookies that was on the plate; lovingly cooked by sublime and divine girlfriend Arianna. I have to be honest and admit that I don’t understand why she would still be with me. I mean, look at me: I was this clunky, heavily armed with words, aspiring but failed poet who has only been good so far at failing consistently weight loss programs and uttering unintelligible (read nerd) words to friends and family.

Despite what you may think of me, this consistency was actually the best thing, only second to Arianna and her lovable self, that was happening right now in my life. I needed that consistency as bad as an amputee needed his prosthetic leg. I couldn’t imagine what the opposite would look like. I would probably sink in Hell or an Abyss where even Jesus wouldn’t want to come down to save me.

It’s been seven years now since I left the Demo crassy Republic of Congo, but this page of my history was going to be buried pretty soon under my loud, proud and shining American ID that I will be in possession six months from now and I shall enter in the glorious reign of the New Americans where I could sing daily God Bless America and Curse Every Other Country. (Note to self: Refrain from actually saying this when I will swear to the flag).

Seven years. It feels like yesterday when I look through the Facebook pictures of friends’ weddings and their children and wonder where did I go wrong. That’s when Arianna poked her head out from the kitchen and ask: More cookies? No thanks, love, I replied. I know what people said behind our backs when we passed by. She had a lighter skin than me from being a quarter black, a quarter Native American, a quarter Asian, and a quarter white. She just got her degree in Graphic Design and Art History and was saving up to open her own shop. She was one of those mixed girls who had the perfect face and if it wasn’t for the fact she had some love handles and had some trust issues,she could have easily done modeling. She has had in the past, athletic, cute and jerks for boyfriends which she never liked to talk about anymore. She told me later when we started dating that I was the funniest guy she has ever met combined with sad puppy eyes, she said she found me adorable. I should have known that when she said “puppy eyes” that there would be a dog in the picture.

Let’s just say that we didn’t like each other because we seemed to have come to an understanding that we were competing for the same person. We would sometimes have stare down with each other which sometimes I won, sometimes he won.

Before the elections,the third in our country’s history, and for which I just didn’t care for because none of the candidates was going to bring the change of fortune that the people needed since 1960, I found myself worried about my mother. I was sometimes too nice for my own good. I called her and after the civilities, she reassured me that everything was ok, reminded that she was preparing me a wife there as soon as I finished school and returned home even though I already told her about Arianna and that I didn’t care for whatever girl she had ready for me. Instead of reminding her of that, I decided to let it pass and told her that Arianna and I will be sending her a Christmas gift very soon. She told met that she didn’t care for her, but she would be glad to receive it, but before I could hang up, she went for the jugular and said: “What can’t you be like your brother who had married one of our own? Anyways, Merry Christmas, I will be expecting my gift.” I couldn’t believe it, but she had done it again. I must be a masochist for always doing this.

My brother, le beau gosse( cutie), the perfect son, the engineer, the winner of science prizes, the one who talked to her on the phone all the time, the serial dater who always went out with white girls, but who was desperate to find a Congolese girlfriend when mom had put him on the phone with his ex-girlfriend in the hopes to rekindle their flame; my brother Luc would forever remain the dark cloud in my blue sky. It’s not like I didn’t like him, but I could easily have kept on living without his name coming up in a conversation.

I still remember how Luc, the inveterate charmer had gotten a laugh of his ex-girlfriend and then got his mother back on the phone to tell her that he was seeing this Congolese girl and that they were serious and there was no need for her to try this again because she might be the one. She got really excited because she had started to worry about her son’s celibacy- not knowing that he has ever been anything but celibate, she asked to be put on the phone with the lucky girl and that’s when, Luc, my brother, knew he wasn’t going to get away so easily. He told her that she wasn’t around for the moment, but next time he will make sure to get her on the phone.

It’s been six months and he had to come the realization that his reputation of a player couldn’t vanish easily from people’s minds just because he said he had changed so he avoided mom every time she called and when she had mentioned him, I was more than ready to open that can of lies that my brother has been feeding her, but I simply said: “Merry Christmas, mom” and I hung up, not waiting for her reply.

A suivre…