Hood: Index 3

You just want to be the baddest bitch in a pair of two dollar pair Beauty Mart chancletas, rocking a fresh tip set and a perfectly combed doobie. You want to fit into the hood easy: no designer nothing, all Conway everything, with attitude that could sail your ass back to the island your family ran from. No matter how many hip hugging pants you buy, you always end up with your ass-crack out. You wish that your hips would spread like those coke bottle women. Instead, you are straight like a fucking pencil and your family calls you maaaauger and blaaaack and you wonder why they hang on to the a so long.

No mind, you just want to be bad. You want to be sexy even though you don’t like sex. When it was explained to you, in detail in a middle school bathroom, you retreated into a sadness you are just now escaping.

You want to be hard. Badness is hard. Like concrete hard. Like slamming into a brick wall hard. Like never having full access to your mother because her silence is too loud hard. Like losing your love in a man who promises to stay but doesn’t know how to keep his feet still hard.  Like the floor is never too far for a fall hard. Like pushing every stone of life up a hill hard. 

You do not know how those who achieve the best levels of badness can be glass carafes and hide all of their hairline cracks.

At night, when all is quiet, the hood sleeps. You sit outside with your feet bare and your ass-crack visible to anyone who chooses to look. You get loud and you cuss out all the motherfuckers who laughed at you when your glasses slipped down your nose and off your face because, after reading a particularly resonant chapter of a meaningful book, you cried. You feel like the only people who see and understand you are dead. You are still learning and it hurts the same way having learned does. And you cuss and cuss. Didn’t know curse words could descend on your heart like obeah. Didn’t know the island was in you enough to know what obeah was. But here you are, alone in the hood— ugly— unable to perceive your own hurt as beauty, buying into so much bullshit of how you should look that you remember wearing long sleeved shirts on your head and letting the sleeves dangle by your ears just so that you could be that Pantene girl once. Just once. Just once you want to have someone look at your spaced and bucked teeth, held together by cement and wires, and say, “Girl, them gaps tell stories. Will you share them?”

Let’s say that throughout the universe there are innumerable versions of you. Let’s say that you can be you can be you can be you can be you. All of those yous are ever so slightly different. And let’s say in one universe, Hood: Index 3, there is a version of you that popped the chicken pill and your ass is thick and your hair is laid and Conway is the only store with elastic pants stretchy enough to fit over your curves. Let’s say, in Hood: Index 3, your family does not break into the lower middle class and the braces you eventually got here, in Universe Prime, are not even a consideration. So you, version Hood: Index 3, have gaps in your teeth with no chance to bridge them with cement and wires. Buck toothed and apologetic, still, even though you in Hood: Index 3 are so much more of what you in Universe Prime wants to be. But you both are essentially the same person: your hands are clumsy, your heart murmurs, your expanse of emotions red circle around words like ashamed and embarrassed and fearful. Same person: you. Anyway, with all them gaps, you, in Hood: Index 3, smile even less than Universe Prime you does. Them gaps are so wide, when you part your lips, your friends say the distance between your two front teeth requires an airplane. Diaspora teeth. That’s what it is: diaspora gaps, teeth of travel. 

The thing is, in Hood: Index 3, when your glasses do slip down your nose and off your face, because after reading a particularly resonant chapter of a meaningful book, you realize that you haven’t heard your glasses hit the floor of the school bus and someone has their hand outstretched. They catch your glasses and your tears land on the plastic bridge. That someone looks at you with a smile. They have diaspora gaps of their own. You smile too. They say, “Where did your family run from for you to get gaps like that?”


2. On What to Want (Metamorphosis 5) [365 project]

I think that, if I don’t get this right, if I keep this up, I won’t get married until I’m 60. At the earliest. If I don’t figure out what good sex is and if I don’t get the urge to have good sex, it’ll just be one of those things I can claim to have lost but, you know, it was never really there. And if I don’t figure out how to let someone love me without guiding them to love me, I won’t ever feel the level of fulfillment that I both expect and need. Which is to say: if I maneuver people away from the rough spots of dry,ashy skin; away from my uncombed hair in the morning; away from the secrets that line my veins. If I misdirect them to the small chest of Things I Can Be instead of carrying them to the trunk of What I Am, I will constantly have to curb myself with my own hands.

I think that, if I didn’t feel like beauty was an attainable thing that maybe I could feel the spirit of the universe inside of me and I wouldn’t have to try, I would just be beauty. And maybe, if people stopped writing articles about why Black women are objectively the least attractive; and why Black women can’t seem to find husbands; and why there is something pervasively wrong in the Black community that leaves us with single parent homes and lives stripped of love, then I would feel like I have a chance. That we all have a chance. I could put the meaning of love within the context of love and wouldn’t have to handle all of the variables that determine the kind of intimacy I’m allowed to have.

Because what I am is a young woman poisoned by heartsickness. I don’t know if it’s something you can die from but I know, if left untreated, it will douse the fire that has told me to keep going. And I know that heartsickness has a way of making mornings and evenings — the equal creases of the day — awfully difficult to deal with. And that’s because I know both of those times motivate me: morning, to see life through; evening, the desire to see life again. And sometimes, it gets lonely, you know? Sometimes you just want to see it with someone else, through someone else. Sometimes love acts as the only motivation.

Anyway, I have to get this right. I have to get it right because I am imperfect. I’m imperfect and I realize it and it means something. I have to figure out how to be embarrassingly honest with someone I can grow to love. I’ve got to let the hard parts shine. There are a lot of those. I’ve got to be unafraid of someone leaving and taking a part of me with them. I have to accept that people we don’t want to be without will leave us at inopportune times and infect us with lovesickness. And that’s okay.

I just don’t want to be 60 and looking back on my life saying I never loved enough and no one loved me and that I gave up because after awhile, spilling my pain all over New York city left puddles of sorrow in every sewer. I don’t want to be 60, or 70, or 80 and look back and say anything but: what beauty can I breathe now?