Behind the Scenes

This weekend was a wash. As you notice, there were no blog posts on Saturday and Sunday. I couldn’t pull myself together enough to finish a post. I was mentally tired. This doesn’t mean that I didn’t write anything. I took the time to plan what I would post next (including this). At least one piece will be posted over on Medium, and I’m working out the kinks on the other stories.

So, stay tuned! There is more to come! I’m not done with this blog challenge, yet!

A photo by Aaron Burden. unsplash.com/photos/xG8IQMqMITM

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1000 Words

Last May, the official White House photographer, Pete Souza, shared some of his favorite pictures of the Obama family and staff, taken over the last eight years. Some of the images that touched me the most, were the pictures of the president interacting with children. He didn’t just hold and kiss babies for the photo op. He engaged them. He ignored the cameras and got down on their level. He spoke with kids like they were people – because they are people.

There are two pictures that stood out to me the most. Pete Souza didn’t just capture a moment in history. He documented legacy.

Below is a picture of little Clark Reynolds meeting the Barack Obama. This is the first president Clark has ever known, a man that looks like him. He probably doesn’t understand that the man touching his cheek is the first American president of African descent. But for the relative standing behind him, this moment is so much more. She brought Clark to see a possibility that used to be something she didn’t think would happen in her lifetime. They are standing in this moment together. Barack Obama gently touching Clark’s cheek seems to say, “You’re next,” and there’s no reason for him to doubt that one day he can be the president when he grows up.

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The second picture (below) is one of Souza’s more popular captures. This picture of Jacob Philadelphia was taken in 2009, shortly after Barack Obama took office. Jacob was five years old at the time, and seemed to know there was something peculiar about this particular man being the president. His classmates told him he looked just like the president. He had to investigate this notion. So, when his family visited The Oval Office to take a picture with the president,  Jacob took the opportunity to ask the president if their hair felt the same. The president bent down to Jacob’s level and allowed him to touch his hair. This picture could easily be titled, “Are You Real?” At that time, most Americans were still surprised that we really had an African-American president. This image expresses the shock and wonder many of us felt in the days following the 2008 election.

Author Jamila E. Gomez says about this image, “When possibility stands so close, you can literally touch it. And it looks and feels just like you.”

I couldn’t have said it better.

See more of Pete Souza’s work, here.
See The Guardian article by Jonathan Jones, here.

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I Wish I’d Thought of That!

Every now and then, I find myself in awe of what someone else has written and say to myself, “I wish I’d thought of that!” This usually happens when I’m listening to a song.

Three songs in particular come to mind:

  • Let My Love Adorn You by Miguel
  • More Than Words by Extreme (NOTHING beats that original version!)
  • Break Even (Falling to Pieces) by The Script

With Miguel’s song, the spiritual concept of covering (protecting)/dressing someone in your love. Think about it. How beautiful you must be if you are covered in pure love. This is my favorite verse from the song:

Baby, these fists will always protect ya, lady
This mind, oh, will never neglect you, yeah baby, oh baby
And they stay trying to break us down,  but don’t let that affect us, no, baby
You just gotta let my love
Let my love adorn you

SIGN. ME. UP. FOR. THAT!!! How intense is that? This guy and pretty much begging to be the girl’s knight in shining armor! I wish I’d thought of it!

Now, I’m telling my age, but More than Words was a HUGE song when I was in high school. It’s a simple song that says, “Don’t just tell me, show me how much you love me.” No heavy band in the background, just the guitar and voice, which adds more impact to the what the song is saying. The words are perfect:

 

I could have written the lyrics to Break Even by The Script, but I didn’t. That line at the end of the verse, “‘Cause when a heart breaks, no it don’t break even.” Those are the truest words ever written and I wish I’d thought of it first. The entire goes through everything she gains in the break-up (none of them tangible items) and he loses. One person is usually a little bit more accepting of the end than the other. That’s the one that moves on with his or her life a little faster. It sums up the pain of heartbreak perfectly.

 

One television show has this affect on me, and keeps me coming back for more because it stirs up all of my emotions. They don’t have dramatic plot twists like Scandal or How to Get Away with Murder (two of my other favorite shows). No, this is what I call, “Gentle Drama.” This show is like an onion. It has layers and it will make you cry. Every week. I’m not exaggerating. The show, This is Us, is a story about a family. That’s it. Do you really need more drama than that? The three main characters are siblings, all born on the same day. The story follows their lives from the moment they were conceived, into their adulthood. What’s awesome is that they flashback to the early years often, so you get the back story and insight into what shaped each character. But they do it in such a way, that it doesn’t feel like information overload. Everything they show you is important. I can’t say that I wish I wrote this particular story, but I want to write with this much detail and thoughtfulness! I want to tell this type of story! I want people bawling and completely wrapped up in their feeling every time they read some thing I write, the same way this show has me all in the feels week after week!! (I really want to be a fly on the wall of their writing sessions for this show! I can’t even imagine how many boxes of tissue they run through in one sitting!)

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Lucid Moments

Mama had good days and bad days. I was grateful for the days she remembered my name, or her wedding day or any part her childhood. I started to record her voice on my phone. I didn’t know how long I would have her with me, so I made it a point to capture her moments of clarity. I tried to record her on video once, and she cussed me out! She called me everything but a child of God!

Sometimes, she talked about daddy. But mostly, she talked about good times with Winston. What I learned about my very proper, buttoned down mother during these moments of reminiscence was, she was a freak. She and Winston enjoyed each other every chance they got, everywhere they could. Not that I wanted these details, but she didn’t speak of daddy so passionately. She spoke of him fondly, matter of factly. For the first time in her life, she removed the filter and spoke her truth.

“It bothers you, doesn’t it?”

“What bothers me, mama?”

“That I wasn’t in love with your dad.”

“I’m fine with it mama. You had a life, a past. It’s not a bad thing.”

“We were good friends. But that was all. You were an accident. I didn’t want children. He did. Now, I’m glad I had you. You weren’t too bad as a child. You were a good kid. You turned out to be a good woman. And now, that I need someone who knows me, you are here. I’m not entirely alone.”

I pretended that her words didn’t sting. I pretended to appreciate her disease driven candor. Somewhere in that moment, I found myself wondering how much longer she would linger. Then, I quietly admonished myself for thinking such a thought and not enjoying her lucid moment. There were fewer moments like this, lately. My feelings would mend, eventually. She didn’t realize that being unfiltered was not her natural state of being. She used to be more diplomatic. At this point, I settled for any moment that brought my mother back to me over the stranger who didn’t recognize me most days.

Today, she felt like talking about the love of her life, Winston.

“Did I ever tell you about how Winston and I met?”

“No mama,” I lied, “Why don’t you tell me?”

“Well, I was young. Maybe about fifteen, if my memory serves me right. I received and invitation to go to Tiffany Jackson’s birthday party. She was the rich, snooty girl at school. I’m still not sure how I ended up on the invitation list. But I heard that Winston was going to be there. I had to be there! It took a lot of convincing for my parents to allow me to go. Daddy was dead set against it because boys would be there. Back then, boys were considered more dangerous than street drugs are today. No parent wanted to lose their precious little girls to some fast-ass boy. Being seen in the company of a boy with no chaperone, was a BIG no-no. Anyway, after much debate, Daddy agreed to let me go, under the condition that he attended as my plus one. Embarrassing, to have your parent as your date! You just don’t know!

“Anyway, I was surprised to see a number of fathers had the same idea when I arrived to the party. Some of the dads sat at the bar watching their daughters like hawks as they danced. A few of them walked up to their daughters while they were on the dance floor to warn the boys not to let their hands slip anywhere below the waist line. They followed their daughters around the hall, and stood outside the ladies room to make sure the girls weren’t trying to sneak off with the boys. My dad intended to dance every dance with me! I drew the line when he tried to  Walk the Dog. I went and sat down in one of the seats along the wall. Daddy didn’t leave the dance floor. He and Mrs. Jackson tried to do all the teen dances that night to demonstrate how silly they thought we looked. He wanted to make sure he embarrassed me enough that I didn’t dance with anyone. He succeeded! All the girls laughed at me until their fathers noticed my daddy’s tactic worked, and began to follow suit.

“Winston noticed me sitting along the wall, pouting. He brought me a drink and sat beside me.

‘Hey there, Wallflower,’ he said. That became his nickname for me. He sat with me until the party was over. He tried to look aloof and uninterested in me to make my father feel good. Daddy came over a few times to make sure I was ok and that Winston wasn’t bothering me. That Winston was so smooth! He was exactly what every parent wanted for their daughter, the perfect gentleman. But when he got me alone, ooooowheee!! That boy was fire!”

Mama gazed into the distance wistfully, a smile playing at the corners of her mouth. I watched as she retreated to that place where Alzheimers hides her away from me. I saw the light leave her face, as she turned to me.

“Have you seen Winston? Did you make him leave? Winston! Winston! Where are you?” She stood, and began to wander through the apartment, searching for her first love. I remained in the living room, wondering how long it would be before I got to speak to my mother again.

Photo Credit: Wallflower by Bunky’s Pickle
Inspiration for this post came from the Daily Post’s word prompt: Invitation

Why Loving You is Killing Me

We are tightly wound together

Bound forever by the heart.

You’ve forgotten

How much you need me

And don’t realize

How much I have left to teach you.

You want to run,

But haven’t even learned

How to roll over onto your tummy yet.

You aren’t strong enough

To hold your up.

But you think you’ve seen it all.

You don’t understand

The process of letting go.

You still want to run beyond the gate,

While still clinging to the edge of my apron.

You think the world

Is a glistening marble.

Even thought I’ve tried to tell you

It’s nothing more than jagged rocks

And rough waters.

You want to jump into the deep end of the pool

But think you’re drowning,

When standing in ankle deep water.

You’re a baby in an adult’s body

Demanding that I let you be you,

While you are led astray

By every gentle breeze,

Or seduced by every turn of phrase.

You don’t believe that I once stood

Where you are standing now,

Ready to take on the world

And not even knowing how to spell the word.

But this is life.

Neither one of us knows how live

Something we’ve never done before.

We muddle  through it the best way we know how.

But maybe we can do it without

Ripping each other’s heart out,

If we remember that

We are tightly wound together,

And connected by the heart.

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The Situation

“So, what are you going to do?”

“Nothing.”

“Nothing?!”

“Why do I need to do anything?”

“But…well, don’t you love him?”

“I don’t know.”

“How could you not know that? Either you do or you don’t.”

“I don’t know. I never really thought about it that deeply.”

“But you kissed him!”

“So?”

” You don’t just kiss people you don’t love!”

“I kiss you.”

“That’s different. I’m your sister. It’s not even the same kind of kiss.”

“I give you kisses, but I don’t always love you.”

“Jerk.”

“Dope.”

“Don’t try to change the subject. The man asked you a question and I’m sure he’s expecting an answer.”

“I don’t know.”

“You don’t know what?”

“Anything.”

“Let’s try this from a different angle. What do you know?”

“I hate you.”

“Why? Because I’m making you examine your innermost feelings?”

“Yes.”

“Well, suck it up buttercup! Answer the question. What do you know?”

“I know I like the way he looks, and talks and smells. Oh my GOSH, that man smells wonderful!! And he’s hella sexy.”

“Yes he is, Pumpkin. But, how does he make you feel?”

“Like I’m the only woman he’s ever loved.”

“What does that mean to you?”

“It means if I say ‘yes,’ I need to be damn well sure about it!”

“Why aren’t you sure?”

“Because I’m not”

“That’s not an answer.”

“It is, too!”

“Stop being a two year old.”
“OK, here’s the thing: What if I do love him, but he doesn’t love me as much? Or what if he loves me now, then realizes what I’m like on my worst days and changes his mind? What If I realize what he’s like on his worst days and regret saying ‘yes’? I think I do love him, but his isn’t a light decision.”

“That’s deep, little sis. So, what are you going to do?”

“I think I’m going to tell him, ‘Not yet.’ We still have a lot to learn about each other.”

“And what are you going to do if he says, ‘Marriage or nothing.’ Then what?”

“I’ll come to your house and cry on your shoulder. Stock up on ice cream and wine, just in case. OK?”

“I got your back kiddo. So, are you going to call him and tell him?”

“Now? No way! I need to do this in person! I mean, he proposed to me in person. I at least owe him that.”

“When are you going to make that happen?”

“Why are you so pushy?! Tomorrow! OK? Are you happy?!”

“I need you to give me word for word deets on the situation.”
“You’re nosey, too!”

“That’s what sisters are for!”

“If I give you deets, you need to provide snacks.”

“I’m already buying ice cream and wine! What more do you need, Fatty McMatterson?”

“Pie. Apple pie.”

“You’re lucky I love you.”

“I sure am!”

Overload

Sometimes the issue isn’t not having enough to write, it’s having too many things (writing related and non-writing related) rolling about in your head at once!

Today was one of those days. :-/

I’m going to try again tomorrow.

 

Out of Time

Today’s short story is a continuation of a previous post, Ripples. (You might want to read Ripples first!) It’s also a fun twist on the Daily Post prompt: Unseen. Enjoy!

Semaj couldn’t find information on her – no family tree, no school information, no social network information, no pictures, nothing. Neveah Early didn’t exist. Even he was able to find bits and pieces of his own history on line. He didn’t remember the life he found in his research, but somehow it all made sense. He wondered how much Neveah already knew about his past life. Hopefully, not more than he did. He would have to walk into this dinner date cautiously.

He reached the restaurant fifteen minutes early, hoping to scope out the area and see the moment she arrived. She was already standing outside of the restaurant waiting for him. She saw him as he pulled up and smiled. Semaj smiled back but wondered what her game was. Their first meeting was not random. It was planned and deliberate. The fact that she chose the restaurant and was there more than 15 minutes ahead of the suggested time struck him as suspicious.

Dinner was pleasant. To anyone who might have been observing the couple, they appeared to be on their first or second date. Her body language gave the impression that she was interested in him. She leaned in when she spoke to him, her shoulders rounded and pointed toward him, she tilted her head to the right and looked him directly in the eye when speaking and listening to him. Her left hand caressed her exposed neck from time to time. She smiled flirtatiously at him when she wasn’t speaking. She hung on to his every word. He noticed all of this, as well as the direction of the conversation. Where did you go to school? Did you play any sports? What kind of work did you do before coming to Providence? Why the sudden move? Do you enjoy your current line of work? He noticed that she didn’t reveal much about herself and she hadn’t talked about the “ripples” she’d mentioned earlier. She was trying to gauge how much he already knew about his past life. She had no intention of giving him the whole story.

“So, enough small talk,” he said, “Why don’t you tell me about you. Who are you and what is it that you do? You mentioned there was a problem with me being here. You said something about ‘ripples.’ Tell me about that.”

Neveah’s position didn’t change much, but she tilted her head to the left and her expression became less flirtatious.

“Very direct,” she noted with a slight smile. “I’m glad to see that hasn’t changed. I was sent to find you. You may not believe what I’m going to tell you next, but bear with me. You’re out of time. The life you’re living now, is not the timeline you belong to. You and I did use to work together. We were partners at Infinity Events. The event planning business as a cover makes it easier for us to connect with the people we’re looking for without causing major ripples in the timeline. We were on assignment when we lost you. We found you about a month ago and have been watching you since then. We believe the individual we were in pursuit of captured you, wiped your memory and left you here. During the six months that you’ve been here, you’ve come in contact with people that will have a major impact on future events. Your contact and influence over them, has already changed the course of several lives. We have to get you back to the moment you went missing, capture the criminal, and hopefully, that will set some history back on course.”

“I see,” was all he said. He felt like she was leaving out some important details. She leaned back and watched him for a moment.

“Is that all you have to say?”

“For now.”

Neveah nodded, pulled a small photo out of her purse an slid it across the table to Semaj. He picked it up and looked at it. It was a picture of woman. She was sitting on someone’s lap and laughing. The other person in the picture was cut off. Only the hand around her waist and part of the leg she was sitting on were clearly visible.

“She’s beautiful. Friend of yours?”

“No. This is who we are looking for. Have you seen her?”

“I can’t say that I have.” The truth was, he recognized her immediately. “Why are you looking for her? What did she do?”

“She saved a life in our present day that was not supposed to be saved. She’s here, protecting that person.”

“So, what does that have to do with me?”

Neveah didn’t respond right away. She tried to keep her expression blank, but Semaj saw her eyes squint slightly. She knew.

“I don’t know. But if she tries to make contact, we’ll need you to contact us right away. You have my card.”

He nodded. She reached across the table and touched his hand.

“Thank you for meeting me. We’ll be in touch.” She got up to leave before the check came.

“What about the bill,” he asked, not that he minded paying.

She smiled, “It’s taken care of. The restaurant is a part of the Infinity Events network.”

He looked around in surprise, then back to her, but she was already gone. By the time he stepped outside, she was nowhere to be found.

. . . . .

Semaj stepped into his apartment, sat down on the couch and replayed the events of the evening. If they’d been watching him for the last month, they probably had his place bugged. He couldn’t trust anyone. Thankfully, they’d planned for this. He grabbed his tablet, opened his email and sent a group message to his students. The subject line would be enough to alert her. He typed their code word on the subject line: Class canceled.

Breaks and Breathing Room

I took a break from the 30 day challenge yesterday. It’s necessary sometimes. Writing happened in the wee hours of the morning, but nothing coherent that I thought you would appreciate. (I certainly wouldn’t appreciate just reading story notes! I want the meat with the potatoes!)

I spent the last day chewing on some thoughts about the latest Black*ish episode that everyone is talking about. Because those thoughts are more political in nature, I posted my thoughts here. I’d love it if you took a read and shared your thoughts on Medium. I like to keep this site focused on the sharing fiction, poetry and writing tips.

I will be back tomorrow with a short story. It’s going to be a continuation of a previous post that I left with a bit of a cliffhanger! (You all have been asking about the rest of this story! 😀 ) You’ll have to wait until tomorrow to find out which story it is!

Until tomorrow, friends!

 

There is Always One More Time

My shift was finally over. I couldn’t wait to get home and get out of my clothes. My feet were sore in spite of the shock absorbing ergonomic mats they purchased for each register. I stepped outside into the cool November air and was warmed by the notes of a saxophone. It had been a few weeks since I heard that sound. My friend had returned. I smiled and walked over to Drew’s Rotisserie and ordered two platters.

My co-workers told me not to encourage him by feeding him. But he wasn’t homeless as they all had assumed. Leo was an old man that needed something to do with his time.  He just wanted to share his gift. He loved to play. He never accepted my money, but he looked forward to a good meal and a dinner partner from time to time. I stood outside of Drew’s and listened to Leo play.  He was playing, “Learn to Love.” Something in the air made the notes sound perfect. Not too much echo. None of the notes seemed to float too far away. The song could be heard clearly no matter where you stood the parking lot.

I sat on the half-wall across from him. He opened his eyes as the last note drifted above us. I handed him his platter and drink.

“I haven’t seen you in a row of Sundays.”

He smiled at what he referred to as my “old soul” terminology.

“I’ve been a little under the weather. But they patched me up and I feel like new!”

I wanted more details, but didn’t want to be rude and pry. So all I said was, “Well, I’m glad to have you back!” He offered an appreciative smile as he began to eat his meal.

“I’m going to be leaving again. You probably won’t see me here after today.”

“Are you going to a different spot? Let me know where. We can still do dinner.”

“I meant, I’m leaving town. My sister is already here. She had apartment packed and called the movers to haul my stuff before I left the hospital.”

“This is your bossy sister? Not the other sister from New York, right?”

He gave a hearty laugh at my reference to his twin sisters.

“Yes, the bossy one, Loretta. She’s taking me back to New Orleans to live with her. Tracey is actually going to be moving down, early next year. It’s hard to keep up with each other with the distance between us.”

“I figured you’d move with in Tracey. It’s a closer distance to travel. No need to fly.” He told me how much he hated flying, once.

“It is, but Tracey is a bit of a jet setter. She’s always on the go. But she’s moving down next month. She and I were the rebels! We couldn’t wait to leave home and see new things! I saw the world while in the military. She saw the world traveling with this orchestra and that. We’ve had full lives, but this seems like a good time to go back home. That’s where the rest of our family is. All but our kids, that is. They have set up their lives in other places. Living away, just like we did.”

I nodded my head. I planned on “living away,” just like his kids. But not having anyone you knew around, especially if things went south, was a bit of a risk.

“Yeah, I know that look.” I looked up. I didn’t realize that he’d been observing me. “It’s worth the risk. It’s not always lonely. And from what you’ve told me, you come from a good family. They’ll be there if you need them. This is the time for you to live! Take that job overseas! Fall in love, but don’t have no babies too soon! Don’t laugh! I’m serious! Kids will stop you in your tracks! See some things. Build some memories for yourself, then come back home and build your life.”

“Travel, build memories, don’t get pregnant, come back home. Got it!”

We both laughed then fell silent as we finished rest of our meal. I gathered our trash when we were done, and dropped everything in can a few steps away from where we were sitting.

“I hope you’ll come see me in your travels.”

“Of course! I think it might be my first stop! I need to check Mardi Gras off my bucket list!”

“Good! It’s a date!” He handed me a slip of paper with his new address and phone number on it. “Put that in your phone,” he instructed, “I expect to hear from you before the month is out! We may not live in proximity after today, but we can stay in touch.”

“Yes, sir,” I said, pulling out my phone obediently. Leo picked up his sax.

“So, any special requests?”

“There is Always One More Time. It’s my favorite.”

He nodded and played.