Borderlands

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We who are darker than blue are consigned to endlessly gather our body parts, our psyches from the four corners of the earth. We have been scattered like bread crumbs and devoured as such. I can’t find a trace of me….I am in a bird’s treacherous beak, I am trampled beneath a small animals scrambling, scurrying feet. I am no where and everywhere. I am in the belly of the earth. I am hands digging and endlessly gathering. 

We who are darker than blue are forever archaeologists, searching for ourselves, our tombs..our birthplaces..our homes.

I am in no mood for dissection. To have my skull cracked like a bluebird’s egg and peered into.

I can’t find my car keys. I did not sleep well. These same nightmares that wait until dawn to unravel and leave me torn between fight or flight far too early in the morning, these same nightmares rest in my belly. I burp fear and shit ghosts.

When the psychologist from the Veterans Hospital Women’s Trauma and Disorder Clinic calls me to confirm our appointment,  I am in no mood for her soft way of speaking. I will not break from loud noises, strong voices. I will not break. Trauma has not made me fragile. I am not a bluebird’s tiny egg.

I survived a man pushing himself into my apartment and grabbing my breasts and forcing his fingers into me, telling me I wanted it. Some dumbfuck Portuguese construction worker who decided because I smiled a little too often and offered him an ice coffee on a hot day, that I wanted his ragged dick.

Hell, don’t speak softly. Speak loudly. I will respect you more. I have become much like those who have preyed upon me. Weakness makes my belly growl…I ll eat you alive, you and your kindness. Speak up. It wont break me.

I am a woman who has been through shit…a lot of fucked up shit.

I arrive 30 minutes late to my trauma assessment. Despite the fact the psychologist called at least three hours before the appointment to remind me.

There is something off-putting about her. She has the ability to over talk me in a breezy, breathless manner..as if her heart is caught in her throat.

I know this much. She doesn’t bother with messiness. I can tell from her tightly crossed legs and boring jewelry. She wears those flat shoes every white woman in Boston is sporting, the ones that turn up at the toes making them look like Christmas elves or urban fairies.

She doesn’t listen. She..(why bother with yet another name ) is giddy in her new Ph.d just as I was with my freshly inked law degree.

I sit in an office that is not hers. Wonder about the person it truly belongs to, another Ph.d, I know because his credentials are displayed throughout the space. It is too cold in this space and the chair is uncomfortable. Every thing is wrong. The papers she shuffles in her hands, her smile – which is a generic non prescription smile served to women veterans like me. Those who come up slightly chipped like worn tea cups and then finally get dropped a little too often.

Now we are broken. Broken and breathing. The system was not equipped for our survival.

“Are you familiar with Border Line Personality Disorder?” she asks. I feel sick. What in the fuck? I drove an hour in Boston traffic for her to deliver this label. I instantly raise my hands. She begins telling what my answers on her assessment have indicated and wants to hand me a report. I don’t want it. She can shove her neatly typed, organized report up her boring jewelry, elf shoe wearing ass.

I am more than numbers and scores and recent research. THIS BITCH HAS ONLY MET WITH ME TWICE. SHE CANT POSSIBLY KNOW FROM NUMBERS AND BRIEF ANSWERS WHAT FITS ME. FUCK THE RESEARCH.

” I am not that, before you say it…I am not that,” I say firmly. This is not a protest or debate. Three months before I agreed to a diagnosis of Bipolar disorder just to receive some sort of treatment.  Bipolar was not a new diagnosis, I have heard it for years and never digested it. I accepted the treatment as a means to an end. It was something.

Along the way, the path of least resistance cost me my trust of the mental health care system and my own decisions about health care. I just gave my body over to science without so much of a whimper. I guess this was the easier path and I always figured that I knew less in the situation. Who was I to protest. Besides a label, gave me a way of dealing with myself.

It made everything easier. Like a canned good neatly labeled. You just know what you are getting or supposed to be getting. It never dawns on you that you may open a can labeled black eyed peas and there be baked beans in the damned can. That never dawns on you. The damn label, may be wrong.

I have been on Lithium, Paxil, Rispordal, Clonopin, you name the drug and I have probably had it and damn near lost my mind taking it. Lithium caused me cystic acne that took two years of intensive dermatology treatment to get rid of and now this..She wants to tell me that was all wrong. Years of that diagnosis now caves in to this diagnosis, one she admits gets a bad reputation.

Let me be clear. I have never done a drug in my life,  engaged in risky behavior or had a problem maintaining relationships…not even the relationships where the man had one foot up my ass and one hand in my purse taking what he could.

She, I explain has reached me in the place in between. The place where women like me are forced to live.

The borderlands. Feminist, Latina, POWERHOUSE WRITER, Gloria Anzaldua, wrote of this type of living.

It is a defiant life. The tiperope balancing of language, culture and resistance to the movement that insists on dismantling and dismembering women of color.

A calloused foot in one world, another foot in an opposing place. This is where most of our existence is centered – the place of opposition. Only briefly do we rest. She has met me in that place. Where I am told my skin is too dark, my hair too nappy and wild, I am too angry, I don’t work hard enough. I am just visible enough for the majority to say I am nothing.

I am a black woman.

I am black woman shedding skin to a white woman with shoes curled a the toe.

Everyone knows white women save worlds…well, at least don’t tell a white woman with a Ph.D  she aint doing shit but taking up your time and making you spend gas money you aint got. Dont tell her that…because then you are angry and she begins to over speak you and then finally she says, you don’t want to do the work of healing. As if I have been crawling towards healing for 46 years of my damn life?

Since I am 30 minutes late, that gives her exactly 30 minutes of our alloted hour to speak and I’ll be damn if I will let her get a word in edgewise. I tell her what the Veterans Hospital is doing is abuse. I tell her she is wrong and that to say I don’t want to do the work of healing is frankly insulting.

The work of healing has been my legacy. I am healing for generations of black women. I am healing for the first woman to step off a slave ship belly round with life and ears tuning desperately into foreign tongues and strange red earth beneath her feet.

I am healing for grandmothers whom I shall never see but whose reflections probably peer back at me from the looking-glass.

I am healing for the wet-nurse that probably fed this woman’s great-grandmother or great-grandfather.

Do I want to do the work of healing with my legs spread so far apart – I am straddling worlds. One leg here and another here. My heart is split. Beats irregularly. Is that Borderline Personality Disorder?

One identity and another straddling one another. Living in between the two. Homeless or rather a nomad, traveling between my two homes?

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Navigating the Afterlife

IMG_20150930_150702Walking forward through hell.

That is what I am doing.

I live in a boarding house with crack addicts, alcoholics and God knows what else.

And yet my therapist is asking me to walk backwards in hell. This is what folks who have no idea what life in these circumstances truly means…my therapist tells me to put my things in storage and move into shelter in order to qualify for a housing voucher. She says this will get me out of my current situation. I am living in building with crack addicts, drunks and God knows what else. Two months ago, someone took a shit in the parking lot, next to my car…it could have been a dog – but rarely do dogs take shits in between parked cars, besides that I have never seen a stray dog in this neighborhood – not even once.

My therapist with her small brown eyes and always a wisp of hair escaping her ponytail,  is asking me to return to where I left,  ignorant this fresh hell is my haven. The place I have claimed as my own since leaving the stink of the shelter.

I can close the door behind me, eat when I want to, and have more than three pairs of shoes beneath of my bed.

I remember being on my knees in the shelter and praying for a door to close behind me.

God, I have realized takes prayers literally.

I should have prayed for a door, a private bathroom, and a kitchen.

I have a door to close behind me and room with a refrigerator and microwave but I share the bathroom with eight people in building that boasts a sign on the front porch that says, “Wishes are granted here”

I don’t know what wishes are being made in this building, nor is it any of my business. I think selfishly of only my prayers, my wishes, my needs.  Still, my therapist suggests I return to the before that existed before this after.

I feel betrayed.

Most of our sessions have been me crying over the circumstances that have led me here. The ruined marriage, the fire that consumed my home, the department of social services taking my child, the men and most of all, me living here… in this place. It is hard to not get caught up in the before.

I live in the after now.

After the marriage.

After I lost my child.

After the fire.

After living in the shelter.

The after photo is always supposed to be the better photo, the happily ever after. The story always ends with After and yet, it begins there. Truly after, is the beginning.

And this is where I write from the After which is in essence, a beginning. I am confused at this beginning. I don’t know where this beginning leads to and remember in the before I was fearless. I didn’t fear the outside of the door nor did I lay awake at night with fear slowly mounting for what came with sunrise.

In the before I was independent of anxiety. There was no time for it. Failures were mere bumps in the road. Joblessness was a brief interval between the next job and hunger was a transcendental experience between evening and morning, somehow a meal would somehow come together.

Then I was Jesus with a fish and loaf of bread. I could make it happen.

In the before anything was possible.

In the after, anything was possible to fail. The impossible became real and instead of growing into a lioness, weather worn by experience. I just became worn. I am tired.

I rise in mornings with anxiety trapped in between my throat and chest. I dry swallow Xanax and lay in bed with cartoons playing continuously. I set goals to get out of bed. I negotiate with the time. Check the cell phone and count the minutes down until the time I have designated for myself.

This is my luxury.

The ability to unravel at my leisure.

I did not have this in the after. There were always demands. The demands of motherhood, being a wife, and then finally, the demands of being homeless.

There are demands to belonging nowhere.

Lights on by 530 am.

Make your bed.

Eat breakfast.

Get a shower before the cold water runs out.

Complete the designated chores as assigned by the women’s shelter manager.

Negotiate breakfast. Please, no eggs instead extra toast? Is there anymore coffee? May I have another fruit cup? The last one the strawberries had turned dark red and pulpy from rot.

Be out of the shelter by the required 730 am.

Look for a job and pretend that you are not without stability. Pretend that you belong. That there is a space that speaks intimately of you. The bed sheets whisper your scent, the pillows have memory of your head.

Meet with social workers who are experts at the delicate dance of offering hope and simultaneously pulling it away before you can let it rest neatly in your needy palms.

And there were the classes…trying to make it to classes at Massachusetts School of Law with nothing. Literally nothing. Sneaking on the train to make it to the class and keeping my colleagues the fact that I had less than nothing.

It is not hard to hide nothing.  Most people look through each other each other and fail to recognize any part of the person in front of them. They don’t notice a mole or lazy eye and homelessness…they push that stark obviousness from their intuitive selves. They know.

How the fuck do you hide being in purgatory?

The place in between there and nowhere.

At 6pm there is the line for dinner and once again you negotiate a meal. Less potatoes please, more green beans, no salad, is there any bottled water?

Finally at 9 pm there is mandatory lights out.

So I am walking forward in hell. I am afraid to even look back and my therapist is asking me to go back. Walk backwards into hell just for a fucking housing voucher that I may or may not receive.

The Memory of Blood

avatar_1451241080099Dear Love,

I gave you far too much.

More than I ever had to give. I beg, borrowed and stole to feed you and when I realized you would have fed from the very marrow residing in my bones. It was too late.  You have devoured me like a well roasted chicken. I have witnessed people feast in this manner, they pull the flesh from the bones at first delicately and then grow comfortable with devouring recklessly.

This is how greedy men devour women. I suppose women must consume men.

Everyone devours their young in some manner. We take our children as small appetizers at the altar of own needs.

Isn’t it said, the road to hell is often paved with good intentions? But this writing isn’t about that, not for now. My sins we will get to…my own greed, if not reflected in this letter to you will be detailed but, for now – dear lover, lets discuss me – resting in the basin of your belly, coursing through your veins – still apparent on your too full lips and peering at you from behind your own cloudy lens shaded by too long lashes.

You are not the first to hold me irreverently on your tongue.

At this writing I have declared you the last. So in  a sense have I not been Christ? Having provided myself as last supper to your insatiable greed. Having paid for both of our sins with my life? Have I not been the lamb barely fattened for slaughter? And finally, have I not risen from a bastard death to write to you. Have I not rolled the stone from my own mouth to declare my new testament?

Take this flesh and eat in memory of me.

Drink for this is my blood and in its consumption, you will remember me. It is good that you should remember, perhaps you will be shamed into regurgitation – spitting me whole back out of your blasphemous mouth. This is what I desire. Wholeness.

I have resided in the belly of men who never were able to be sated. They feasted on me and others women like pigs at troughs. Sloppy, messy eaters.

You ever sit back and watch yourself be eaten alive? You ever watch as you allowed yourself to be as that roasted chicken, I have described?

I have observed from a distance as I have been feast to the famished. You soon realize, these men and women will never have bellies growing fat with you – somehow your limbs regenerate and they consume again and again.

When the meat is gone, the bones sucked until they are gray, they are then snapped between greasy finger and thumb and the marrow awaits. Dark brown and elusive, fortifying the bones – this is what last remains of any living thing. Blood, now dry and clumped together memorialized against the hollow of jagged bone is sucked into an ever hungry mouth.

I wonder if there is memory in blood. If there is an intimate connection between the soul and the substance that fuels the body containing it. Somehow there must be a ghosts residing in white and red cells, forming like embryos in the nucleus from the time our conception. Little selves coursing through our veins…carrying our other cells from head to toe.

You would have taken the food off of my tongue had I not closed my mouth in time. You, man/boy would have eaten from my open mouth as a baby bird earnestly feeds…ignorant that the one feeding also needs, craves…desires.

I don’t know if it was self-sacrifice. When I resisted, you pulled away. Retreated into silence or the warmth of another woman, really what is the difference? You were unreachable and once I settled into the dry place of lonliness, you would briefly reappear – state your need and if I could not fill that need, you retreated once again. I was useless if I had nothing to use.

Pussy is an abundant resource and not unique in its market value.

The phone went to voicemail and I called endlessly. I called and even slept with the phone beneath my pillow.

I have mothered so many sons such as you. Dearest love, you are not unique in your greed.

What woman has not been me?

What woman has not loved so desperately her bones have splintered and her heart has been her greatest betrayer?

What woman has not thought she could fuck away loneliness?

The nobler of men like you will resist sex, say you want more than a physical relationship with palms turned upward as if in prayer but truly this is your foreplay. The neediness, the taking. It is the offering plate by which women like me tithe. We give until our flesh is raw from pulling away our own layers of dignity.

This is how I became homeless.

Literally.

Even then, I scrambled to line your nest with comfort. Awoke in a dormitory of women whom I thought I was better than, simply because I was in law school. I was educated. I was beautiful. But how was I different from these women?

The one in the corner, scratching endlessly, lousy with scabies.

Mimi, the woman next to me, wearing a blonde wig and refusing to remove it. A black girl like me claiming to be Irish and naturally blonde, not knowing or realizing I could see her nappy hairline peaking from beneath the crooked “hairline” of the wig. There was her identity peaking at me from beneath a matted blonde wig.

I often fell asleep to Mimi speaking to me from the top bunk and often I would speak with her…listen to her discuss her family, her boyfriend waiting for her in Sweden. It wasn’t until another woman in the shelter approached me and said, “She’s not speaking to you. Those are the voices in her head she speaking to…” still I answered and would drift off to sleep with Mimi singing Disney songs and clutching a stuffed animal.

How was I different from these other women with no homes? An education did not separate me from economic realities nor did it separate me from women struggling with emotional demons.

I slipped away in the middle of night (there were no bed checks), to go fuck you.  I slipped away to sleep in a bed that did not have to be sprayed with Lysol or that was not threatened with the prospect of bed bugs. In exchange for this, I allowed you to put your electric bill in my name and still refuse me a place to stay. I used my food stamps to fill your refrigerator and the food I purchased for myself you made me take with me, there was no room in your refrigerator for my things.

I told you I was hungry once and you gave me four dollars for the McDonald’s Dollar Menu.

Still I fucked you.

Lover, was it my foolishness or stark desperation that kept me in your thrall? Where you ever to blame? Blame is actually useless and so I guess I will not venture there.

I can’t begin this with blame, though there is plenty to go around.

Lover, I just wanted you to know I survived. I survived the betrayal, the consumption, disambiguation…somehow I survived it.

You should know I survived you.

I survived my choosing of you.

And this is where I am now. Writing you furiously, exuberantly, morosely, always a contradiction but unwavering in the fact that I made it through somehow.

Remember you videotaped my meltdowns on your IPhone?

I wonder if you saved that video?

You said it would be evidence of my craziness. You said it proved why you had to treat me as you did. Truly the evidence of my imbalance was remaining with you? Sitting in the snow on your front steps with my clothes in grocery store bags begging to be allowed in – this was more than enough evidence and is probably imprinted on the underside of someones eyelids – a passerby, wondering of the woman in the cold, sitting on snow slushed steps.

So what does this writing prove?

Dearest, I am not interested in proving a thing. I just decided that if my story is to be told. If my life to be replayed, it will not be from your fucking IPhone. It will not be of me begging you from the living room couch to allow me to sleep on a bed or at least call a cab to take me back to the shelter.

That will not be the story that will memorialize me.

This will be the story, as best as I can write it. This will be the truth that is memorialized.

The blood that holds memory and casts shadow on all other tellings.