Fiction, Writing

Excerpts (+ Housekeeping)

I love when I find these random, abandoned scraps of stories or failed writing exercises and I actually like them:

My first boyfriend had skin the color of parchment paper, with large reddish freckles painted across his nose and cheeks. His eyes were round and grey, his eyelashes brown and short and stubby.  He blinked slowly when he lied. My friends did not understand what I saw in him. We were sophomores in college, and he had already been arrested twice that year, once for drugs possession and the other, for public intoxication.  He’d left a party in Norfolk high on ecstasy and with a blood alcohol level three times the legal limit.  He took off his shirt and pissed on the sidewalk before he ever made it to his car.

He had another girlfriend at the university across the bay.  I saw her car parked across the street from my apartment complex for five nights in a row before she finally knocked on my door.  I knew it was her because the green and yellow plates were her school colors. When I opened the door, I expected her to throw acid on my face.  I shut my eyes and awaited the pain.  Instead, I heard her sob.  “You’re so pretty,” she said.

When I opened my eyes, she was just standing there, crying. She wore several heavy layers of mascara and the tears dripping over her nose led trails of soot down her face.  She wasn’t ugly.  We were about the same height, just over five feet.  Orville was only five six; he liked smaller girls.  She had rough coppery skin and wore a waist-length weave the same red-brown color as our boyfriend’s freckles.  Weaves weren’t as popular or as realistic back then, and I could see the lump of tracks around her crown. Her hands were tiny.  There was a slim gold band on her left ring finger.  She saw me look at it, and twisted it around and around.  Her hot pink nail polish was chipped.

“He promised,” she said.  “He promised we would get married after graduation.”

I said nothing.  She stopped crying at my silence.  It seemed to make her angry, that I had not reacted to this news.

“You’re wasting your time,” she said.

“Maybe,” I replied.  “Maybe we both are.”

Her eyes narrowed.

“You think just because you live in this fancy apartment and go to this bougie school and your dad is a judge and your mom is an AKA—you think he’ll choose you?”

The fact that she knew these things about my parents made me flinch.  I knew nothing about her, except that my boyfriend was her boyfriend, too, and that she was standing outside my apartment yelling at me, with her makeup smeared all over her face and a fistful of tissues that she hadn’t used.

I held the door between us.  Maybe the acid was in her purse and she just hadn’t reached for it yet.

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Fiction, Trinidad, Writing

Ode to Homemade Sorrel

You are sweeter than you know.  Special occasions and holidays only, so I waited for you all year.  Christmas was my favorite; Easter, a close second.

I clapped when your daughter tossed plastic packets of the dried crimson flowers into her basket at the West Indian food market.  It was always cold there, big drafty windows overlooking rows and rows of alien fruits: soursop, guava, chinet, pomerac. I played with the heart-shaped pomerac, felt its thin maroon skin give away under my probing fingers.  My mother yelled, but you laughed, like chimes in the wind.

The house was warm, though, as I watched you work.  Water, cinnamon, cloves. The only sound in the kitchen was the sound of bubbling liquid, pockets of air slipping and swirling in swift circles under the closed lid of the sauce pan.  I sat on my hands in anticipation.

“You must wait,” you told me.  I did not understand waiting. I wanted its spicy sweetness now.

“The flowers must steep overnight,” you said.  I sighed.

In the morning you were waiting for me, straining soggy bits of petals from the plum-colored liquid.  You made four bottles.  One for me, one for you, one for my mother, one for my sister.  A cup of sugar went into each bottle.  A dash of rum in yours and mine.  “Don’t tell your mother,” you whispered.  I crossed my heart and smiled.

I did not tell for years.  Easter came the week after your funeral.  I could not drink my mother’s sorrel because it didn’t taste the same.  I told her, “Grams put rum in hers.”  She replied, “You don’t need any rum!”  I only drink her sorrel now after I cut the sugar with an ounce of Old Oak.  She scowls when she sees me pouring rum into my cup, but she always asks for a splash of her own.  She knows it tastes better that way.

 

p.s.  I scheduled this post before I left for Spain. Today makes it eight years since my Grams passed.  I wrote this piece when I studied at the Writers Studio back in 2009. It’s one of my favorites.

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