Rip Through Me

I’m on my way to drinks with a friend when I realize I’m passing the restaurant where you serve part-time. My eyes dart through the window of the barely lit dining room and a fraction of my beating heart hopes to see you. It is the fraction that misses your laugh and jokes and carefree way of gliding through the world. It is the fraction that wrote you letters and returned to the last thing I penned for you any time a pang of wistfulness pulled at my gut. It is the fraction flooded by nostalgia, the part of my heart that lives waist deep in the recollection of when things were good.

And, yet, when my eyes dart through that barely lit dining room, there is another fraction of my beating heart that hopes not to see you. It is the fraction that knows memories are fun house mirrors, distorting our versions of reality. It is the part of my heart that holds hands with my mind, the two both worn thin from the emotional gymnastics my early twenties put them through. It is the fraction flooded by practicality, the part of my heart that lives waist deep in the recollection of when things fell apart.

I did not see you that night.

But, still, my memories of you are land mines, recklessly dropped across streets of the District.

On the way back to my car after drinks, just as the last traces of flashbacks fell away from me, I passed that Cheesecake Factory. It was the one where we had dinner on my birthday. I idled there and let myself get lost on a dark Clarendon street. I listened to my steps slow down as my heart sped up, the highlight reel of that night suddenly far too fresh in my mind. The Grey Goose before dinner. The way we both looked dressed in all black. Your encouragement that I wear the heeled boots instead of the flat ones. Your hand casually tossed across mine in the back of an Uber. The driver who said you were a lucky guy. The way we made waves rise and crash when night melded with morning.

My memories used to be loaded guns, cocked unflinchingly at my peace of mind. My memories were once defunct compasses, always leading me back down dead ends by way of phone numbers I promised I’d never dial again. But, now my memories are not much more than memories, emotional currents that rip through me and eventually find rest.

That night, I gave those thoughts permission to rip through me. And, sure enough, they eventually found rest.


When You Really Are A Gem

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Adapted from Sunday Kind of Love, July 17 edition

I came to know those walls the same way my fingertips knew the maze of muscles in your back–familiar and foreign, all at once. There was the Tracy Chapman poster. The coffee table from West Elm. The drawing your ex-girlfriend sketched using only ink pens. I knew exactly where you kept the ice trays; I popped three cubes out once and dropped them into a drink you made for me–lemon juice, Jameson, and a touch of water to even it out.

Your father died when you were young. Your mother is still in Sierra Leone. Your favorite beer is Stella Artois. See, my romantic life is laced with half-baked histories about men who no longer matter. I’ve only recently discovered that I’m not proud of this, I’m not proud of how I’ve never been able to embody Lauryn Hill’s advice not to be a hard rock when you really are a gem.

That night was stale with the scent of familiarity. The loss of novelty. The final flicker of the spark. It didn’t feel like the first night I came over and we joked with our Uber driver on the way from the bar or that time we split a bottle of wine and listened to Kid Cudi. No, that night was our default, our convenient place, our skin-deep status quo.

And when we found ourselves on separate sides of the couch, only ankle deep in a debate about whether or not people are happiest when they’re in love, I stopped you. I casually said, “Well none of this really matters because we’re just kicking it, right?” And in some crevice of my heart, the part of me that acknowledged I am a gem trying so fiercely to be a hard rock, I hoped that you wouldn’t agree. I hoped that you would stop me and tell me that I was wrong; I shouldn’t say things like that.

But, you didn’t. You fell silent and when I asked again if you agreed, you softly said that you did.

It has been some time now since you answered with that stroke of silence. We no longer stitch ourselves into the threads of each other’s Friday nights. To say I miss you would be an overstatement, but to say I don’t think of you would be a myth. Except I think of you now the way that women in the autumn of their twenties think of men from their past, with fewer floods of nostalgia and more trickles of appreciation. Because in some strange and contorted way, I needed you. I needed you to remind me that I am not a woman who ever “just kicks it.” I needed you to show me my heart grew two sizes too large to have maintained a charade of indifference. I needed you to be there during a season simmering with young, wild, and free whims of the twenty-something kind. I needed you to carry me just far enough away to feel fire, but not so far away that I couldn’t find my path back home.




How We Mold The Memories

photo1-13I let my third set of tears drop somewhere in the neighborhood of 5:30 a.m. Commonwealth Avenue is quiet at that hour aside from another occasional car whizzing by. In the backseat of an Uber, I pass by Agganis Arena, a place that included a beautiful mess of families and friends standing outside of it only 12 hours before, needling their graduates to pose for photos. I half smile thinking about my own memories from those hours prior. I feel my face begin burn with emotion. The tear drops one minute before the driver asks me if I would prefer him to take a different route. I tell him no, this is perfectly fine. I want to soak up the city of Boston this way for what will probably be the last time in a long time. I want to remember this place with these new rose-colored recollections and a soundtrack of laughter playing behind them. I want to just sit and cry some happy tears for awhile. 

My face has burned with many emotions over the year–dim shame, unbridled anger, and blue-gray sadness. But, this feeling was something entirely different, and I couldn’t quite label it so definitively. This emotion was a special brew of pride and happiness and love. Somewhere underneath those tears, I felt my insides swell with joy because someone I treasure ripped the red tape off of a seemingly unreachable finish line.

This life is filled with days that all blend together with demands and relentlessness. This life is filled with the things we don’t always want to do and the people we don’t always want to see. But, every now and again, this life offers us something rare and platinum, a memory that we forever etch in the sands of time. If we are even the least bit lucky, this life surrounds us with just a few solid people who make our breaths count.

And, if there’s anything I’ve learned in these tender 26 years, it is that you have to show up for those people. You have to get on the plane or jump in the car or ride on the train. Show your face. You have to be there, for the birthdays and the babies, the tunnels and the trenches. If you don’t ever do anything else, you simply have to be present with your hand raised high. This life is about showing up for the people who matter in the ways that mold their memories. There are wrinkles in time that a text message or Twitter mention will never do justice.

Boston is a place filled with my emotional land mines. But, this past weekend took a place I’ve never remembered fondly and finally gave me some blindingly beautiful memories to bring home. This past weekend reminded me that by showing up for the people who matter, they too show up for us in ways we didn’t even know we needed.


Rocking Chairs


Last summer your mother and I sat in rocking chairs on her front porch talking about you. In the thick, hot heat of August, we talked about life. About broken hearts. About getting laid. About pain and God and the hot coals your death left underneath our feet. Noon became 2 p.m., and 2 p.m. became 5 p.m. I wasn’t ready to leave, so we got something to eat at the Noodles and Company in Hunt Valley. It’s that one right across from Wegman’s, the same Wegman’s we ran through as rambunctious teenagers before it was finished being built.

That afternoon with your mother, I kept glancing at my phone, knowing that my mom was calling to make sure I would be on time to see Straight Outta Compton. But, leaving your mother meant leaving the closest thing I have left to you, so I sent up five silent prayers for time to stop. That day, it almost felt like if we talked about you enough, you might just show up. Like if we kept telling stories and sharing laughs, you would zoom up in the red Jetta, waltz up the sidewalk, and say something outrageous and irreverent.

Before we parted, I urged your mom to have a birthday party a few weeks later. And because I knew I’d be in Baltimore, I bought a few flowers from the grocery store and showed up on her birthday to celebrate. I joked with her friends and other people I didn’t know. She told them about the essay, the one I wrote about you that’s now in the book. We ate cake and drank Coronas, but the air felt empty and hollow that evening.

Because it does not matter how many jokes we tell or how many laughs we bellow. They are not your jokes. They are not your laughs.

When someone leaves, the sound of their voice slips through your fingers like water. It’s the first thing you lose in a tornado of torture.

At least the pictures remind me of your face. But, I do not have your sounds anymore. The way it sounded when you laughed or said my name. The base in your voice when you said hello. The intonation when you told the story of your latest fling.

I want to believe the others when they tell me you’re somewhere in the sky, watching over all of us. I want to believe in a God who encourages me that I will see you again. I want to believe that you’ve ascended and climbed away from this ephemeral life on Earth. I want to believe that you moved on to greener pastures and better days.

But, find me on the not-so-good days, and I am not there. I do not believe. Find me on the not-so-good days, and I miss you like hell. Find me on the not-so-good days and I am angry with you for not seeing my new apartment or being the first person I call when I’m wondering if a guy really likes me or witnessing these past five years here. On Earth. Next to me. By my side. I get mad at you, the same way I did when we were rambunctious teenagers just running through an unfinished Wegman’s.

Sometimes I have not-so-good days. Because I am human, and when you left, one fourth of my heart went with you.

So, when I can’t sit in rocking chairs with your mother, I write about you. I let you run through my veins in these sentences and breathe again through these words. When I can’t sit in rocking chairs with your mother, I remember and relive you the best way that I know how.


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This post is part of Write Your Ass Off April, a 10-day writing challenge to create your most naked, brave, and no holds barred writing. Learn about the challenge here and share your work on social media using the hashtag #WYAOApril. 


When I Hear That Song, I Think About You.


This post is an excerpt from Twenties Unscripted: A Journey of Womanhood, Writing, and Relativity. The full essay is available in the book, which is currently available for pre-sale here.

Call me crazy
Shit at least you call me

It’s freezing outside, but it is sub-arctic between us. And I wish the airport weren’t so close because I need more time to think and talk and plead my case. And I wish it weren’t Valentine’s Day weekend because then this wouldn’t feel so cliché. And I wish it weren’t a slow airport morning so I could just drop you off without having to get out of the driver’s seat and stumble through a goodbye. And I wish that just you touching my back didn’t feel so electric because maybe then this moment would not feel so dead. But it did. So it does. And I am silly puddy in your hands. I don’t get it. I never will. Two years will pass and I will still wonder just what the hell all of that was. It won’t make a lick of sense, but the volt that jolts through me anytime you pop up reminds me that some people always remain dangerous and delicious. Every time I hear Diced Pineapples, I think of that debilitating ride to the airport and I’m grateful that we could at least both hum along to that song. It was our greatest common denominator in a moment jumbled by all of the words on our two separate pages. Our bodies spoke a lingua franca all weekend, and then we went mute. But, every time I hear that song, I think about you.