The Fire Next Time: For James and Octavia

 

 As a writer, and moonlighting teacher, I reflected on If Beale Street Could Talk after the hubs took me to see the movie. I was 6 when he died in 1987 of stomach cancer. And through my middle school and high school reading, I cannot remember him ever being mentioned. Either him, Octavia Butler, Alice Walker or Richard Wright. I think Toni Morrison would call that ‘the colonization of your canon.’  I mean, my Junior year of high school is when I got introduced to Toni Morrison. That was 1997!

I get incredibly pissed off when I think about that now!

Now, do I know, did I know, that Black writers existed? Yes. Most of my books are composed to authors whom I fell in love with on my own. I needed, wanted more than the smattering of Black writers we go in February. I remember being so tired of just reading Knoxville, Tenneessee by Nikki Giovanni! In wanted more of her work. But I’m aware that certain school districts like the safety of Maya Angelou and Lorriane Hansberry’s Raisin In The Sun. I get that Baldwin is confrontational to those whom govern these curriculum spaces; the people that can and do say ‘Yes’ to Washington Irving and ‘No’ to Octavia Estelle Butler. The people that think James Baldwin asking with audiacious sincerity why the country ‘needs to have a n–gger?’ is too much for White teacher in a predominately Black school, whose bosses and administrators are all White. I get that no one wants to have these conversations regarding race and writing. Perhaps, this is the folcrum that Wynton Marsalis talk about when he said this during the Ken Burns documentary Jazz:

“The more we run from race in this country, the more we run towards it.”

Perhaps this is why up until the birth of my parents, and a little after that educating a Black person in Mississippi was seen as punitive and would be punished as such! There is a power in control a narrative in such a way that the people you brutalize cannot even tell what happened to them in a first hand account. That kind of power the oppressor will never give up, be reasoned for or given away without it being identified and overthrown!

A friend of my husband graduated from seminary last week. As all college students do, she was cleaning out her apartment to move. In these three Rubbermaid totes, she just had books. Copious, delicious, incredible amount of books! She called it her Harlem Renaissance collection. I thumbed through them and almost cried. My legacy, my footsteps as a writer in this colonized, thieving nation was in these bins. I almost wept. I couldn’t take them all with me, and I couldn’t just take one.

My mission as I move through this space of writer-teacher is two-fold.

One. I vow to write constantly. bell hooks said that no woman has ever written enough. I agree.

Two. I vow to decolonize my canon. This means that I have to step up my reading to where it was before. This means I have to be willing to talk up other Black writers. Recommend their work as casually as I would any other writer. To quote them, read more of them, and–in the case of the marvelous Tananarive Due–follow them on social media!

For those of you IRL that know me, it is no secret that my passion has been and is words. The dream was–still is–to teach at the university level. Whereas before I wanted to be a professor at NYU, teaching English Literature. I think we can say that I’m passed that. The most amazing way to honor my Blackness, my gifting, my call–all of me that is Oracle–would be to teach African-American studies. I mean, I already got my thesis! No, I’m not telling you, but it’ll be dope I assure you.

In earnest, if I didn’t see folk that look like me setting the world on fire, I would never have believed I could. For that, I am grateful.

 

“The goal of the artist is to disturb the peace.” – James Baldwin

[images from azquotes.com and goalcoast.com]

 

 

Even Up-Lana’s Story

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Think of the most painful thing, and push past that.

 

That’s what I was told.  In order to break a mated bond, you have to associate them, from their scent to their name, with pain. It is the worst type of conditioning. I don’t recommend it. Worst part? I thought it worked.

I really thought it worked.

I associated Nathaniel with the death of my mother. Of losing a limb. Losing my hands or my sight as an artist. I held on to that pain. I nurtured it, grew it like a magnolia tree. I had no choice. He left me no choice. Think of the most painful thing, and push past that. I thought of my best friend dying in a fire. I thought of Nathan dying–of just ceasing to be in the world. The thought, the mere thought of those bottle green eyes eyes and his six-foot-two frame was too much! I remember being in my dorm bathroom and screaming before I passed out in the white-tiled room. It was a Friday night when that happened, the first official night of Spring Break. I opened my eyes, facing the white cabinet doors below the sink. My face was wet, my dark hair a veil and covering my face. My red shirt sticking to me. Think of the most painful thing, and push past that.

It had been four years since that day on my suite bathroom floor. I lay there, grateful for the quiet. I broke the bond. I broke it. Alone. You weren’t supposed to be alone with the bond broke! I remember weeping, loudly. I couldn’t feel him.  I couldn’t hear his thoughts. This feeling of relief, regret, and complete loss. I remember when I researched this during this faithful Spring Break week. I remember Nate and I had this huge fight. “You’re mine, why would you want to leave!” I remember putting my finger in his face and said, “I didn’t ask to be bonded to you! You told me that I was all you could imagine, yet, I found you with a woman not even half of me!” I had seen his eyes grow gold. His wolf nature about to answer me. I heard his thoughts. You belong to me and with me. My eyes were watering, and I bit my lip. You wanted her. Not this! Not us! I’ll get free. Watch me! 

He had reached to touch me, and I turned my back as I walked back into my newly deceased mother’s two story house. The same house I was showering in. The same house that Nate walked me home to years ago. The same house my husband, Johnathan, proposed to me in. Nathan found me. The caveat on the site read:  It is the depth of a trauma that breaks a lupine bond. It is recommended The Breaking take place with witnesses or possible medical assistance. 

Four years I beat him back. Every thought and memory locked away. But when I smelled his soap when I was alone a year ago, I tried The Breaking again. I did it with my best friend Andrea. I remember her cupping my face, willing back to consciousness to breathe. “Lana, wake up! Wake up!” Her sweet brown face, and smooth hands pushing life force back into me. When I came back to consciousness, she said I asked for him. Johnathan was downstairs making tea for me. Andrea sat on my bed, smoothing my dark hair. I couldn’t breathe, heart in my ears. “It didn’t work, Lana.” I closed my eyes, tears leaking down my cheeks. “You have done this twice, if you try to do this again, it might kill you.” She leaned closer, her brown eyes and short red hair super bright. “And Nathaniel.”

I  knew then it would be a matter of time. If the bond hadn’t broken, if The Breaking hadn’t worked, my heartbeat was an antennae. He would either kill John and take me. Or just come and take me. Closing my eyes, I counted my breaths.

And I prayed.

*****

I didn’t know if Johnathan kissed me good-bye when he left for is ER shift. But I laid there in this king-sized bed, with the morning sun invading through the crack in the blackout curtains. “He’s coming!” I got up and put on my hoodie and shorts to go run. I was hot. I was cold. I was sweating. I didn’t want to be here when John got here, or when Nate got here. My mind raced as I slipped on my blue Nikes with my shorts and one of his John’s white shirts. I looked in mirror at the foot of my bed.

I heard a heartbeart. Louder and close. My mouth went dry, I couldn’t think. I went down the stairs as if a fire was behind me. The heartbeat was louder, stronger. Nearer then. I got to the bottom of the stairs, and touched the doorknob. I turned it, and saw him. He was on the sidewalk, heat washing over him and through me. It was pulling me towards him. I walked to him, remembered how his kisses made me forget time existed. That it still passed when we were together.

I got to within a breath of him all tall and golden, in a red hoodie and jeans. He wrapped his arms around me. I put my manicured hands through his dark strawberry blond hair. I cupped his face, and kissed him. I forgot I was married. I forgot I promised God and family I would love, did love, someone else. He kissed me, and–I pulled together again. I pulled into him, and there was us again.

I wept and hung on to him. From wall to floor. And to bed. I was in my marital bed. I was fighting to snatch him from his clothes. Memories flooded my mind, as time stopped for me. For this. This kindness of giving him back to me. He growled in my ear as he pinned me against the wall. Pictures rattled as he entered me, and grabbed my hair. Why? I asked. Please. He answered. I heard my shorts and the black panties hidden in them rip.  He kissed my neck, and slid into to me. As he growled, he bit my shoulder. Opening the old mark. I felt my body meld into him. I opened, and sang.

Now here I was, showering and quiet. Could feel him in the next room. Hurry up and get back in here. I miss how you taste.

No you don’t.

You’re mine. 

You’re mine too.

I’m hungry.

So eat. I turned the water off to find him in my bathroom door, leaning against the door jamb. I held my breath, feeling him count water beads over my lips and chest. I stepped out of the shower stall. I looked at the floor and smirked and my pink painted toes. He tipped my head to face him, eyes gold again. “I will.” he nipped my ear, licking it. “And I still lick my plate clean.”

Even Up-Nathaniel’s Story

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Poor bastard.

I told him not to try and take her from me. She was mine. Deeper than a ring. Stronger than a vow. She had may mark. My scent. She was more mine than she was ever her mother’s daughter. He never should have tried to stop her from coming to me. From coming back to me. She never belonged to him–was never made from him. I know God created Eve for Adam, from him-out of him.

But mates? It is deeper than any rib. It is your flesh in the outermost form. You, peering into you, definite and resounding. I knew her, before I saw her.  After phasing for the first time? I saw her. She went to my high school, glasses and caramel tone. She was quiet and timid. It was her eyes. They drew me. They sent me. It was her.

I had bumped into her outside her English class, she adjusted her red Jansport backpack our Junior year. I bumped into her because I was late to class, trying to get away from a girl that tried to ask me to take her to Prom. It would be the Equinox, I didn’t need to be out and around her. Lana, her name was. I bumped her, outside the S Wing of our high school. “I’m so sorry.” She said, adjusting her glasses. It was warm outside, but she had a big dark denim jacket. Lips and face bare. Eyes big and brown. I heard her heartbeat. Counted her breaths.

I couldn’t feel my knees and my mouth was dry. She smiled, eyes shiny and bright. If she spoke again, I didn’t know if I would keep my hands off her. It was her. I had only seen her, this exact way, a year ago. I let her pass, and I went to my math class as a lit match. I had her scent. I could find her after dismissal, and never be without her again.

******

What, how did she get around this mark? You can’t remove a mark. You can’t cover it up. I didn’t know how she did, I don’t know how I lost her…or she lost me.

I watched the backyard, and smoked. I smoothed my cut hair, and heard the water from the upstairs shower running. I inhaled again, letting my eyes adjust to the dark around me. I inhaled again, held it, remembering how I held her again. How I made her put her veil on as I reclaimed her body. As I entered her again, on this bed not ours, and demanded she open to me. Reopen for me. I had seen her a week before, and waited for this imposter to leave her.

I exhaled the drag of my cigarette, and licked my lips. I tasted Lana. She was still a fresh and sweet as when she was 16, untouched and open. I pinned her to this bed, not ours, and reclaimed her. With her hands above her head, I looked at her, face unchanged by the almost decade apart. I relished those eyes rolling in back of her head, fluttering and lips quivering. Her wrapped her legs around me, clenched my hands in hers.

I thought about how she looked in her veil. “Keep your eyes open.” I leaned to her right ear, and growled as she came again. I felt the familiar flutter through her, and rushing into me. I felt whatever was broken meld, and shift to bringing us together again. I nipped into her shoulder, all of me incessant and needing all of her.

She couldn’t be a wife if she had a mate.

She couldn’t stay with him, not any more.

 

I stood up, adjusting my jacket and putting out my cigarette on the blue porch railing. I could hear her thoughts again. I knew he would come for me. I  can’t be here one second longer! I hadn’t, I had forgotten how good he tasted. How he felt–and, for a minute. I thought he forgot how I liked it.

She was giggling, oblivious that I had taken her ring as watched her sleep. I never wanted to see the damn thing on her again! Mrs. Lana Kenne was leaving. With me, tomorrow. No note. No nothing. As I went back onto the house, to wait for her again, naked and slick. I walked through the kitchen. Seeing the pen and pad there on the refrigerator, I left the good Doctor Kenne this note.

She’s leaving.

She’s gone.

If I see you again, I’m ripping your throat out with my teeth.

-Nate

 

I went to the staircase, taking three steps at a time. I had to remind myself not to phase, there was no need to be in a protector capacity for her right now. I wanted more of her. I shed clothes by the bed and watched the bathroom door. Delighted she was on the other side of it. I would make her remember that I knew her better than he did. And I knew her well enough that she would let me. Over and over again.

Perfume & Windows

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I can still smell her when she leaves.

There is nothing like her, no one that I would rather call mine. It’s deeper than anything a ring or paperwork could give. I know it’s hard for your to understand. But there is, can’t be anyone like her. Like my Ava.

We call it swimming, the depth we feel for one another. This need to know more, push more, have more of each other. It’s…a need now. I  need her. I have her,  I know. But, I need her. As air. As water. I mean, the way I can feel her when she’s not even in the room? My mother, an old mystic, explained that love like this is possible. And she told me that would have it. “Mijo,” she told me. “I did your cards.” I couldn’t have been more than seventeen, fresh from becoming a man with my high school sweetheart in my black Mazda that I saved 2 summers for.

I remember I walked in the front door, damp from sweat and sex. She was at the table and called my name. “Michael.” I heard the methodic placing of cards on the table, her dark hair up in a bun. “She is not it, mijo.” She didn’t look up at me. No anger in her voice. No rise, no aggravation. I huffed, running my hands through my cut dark hair. I adjusted my jacket, heading towards my room. I wasn’t in the mood for a sermon from the spirits she spoke to while at the kitchen table.

“She isn’t it, Michael.” There was a dark chuckle when she said my name. I turned around to sit across from her, wanted to smell the comfort of her soap and rosewater she used. I made it to the back of her head before she spoke. “No need to sit, Miguelito.” The cards shuffled again. “This girl, you are,” she coughed. “taking, because you aren’t making love to her. You don’t love her.” My throat was dry. “But this one.” The cards flipped, and she hummed. “This one?” She hummed. “You will ache for her, whenever she is not near you. You will know her, by what she wears.”

You will know her by what she wears.

I took a shower when she left, like always. The water, hot and slick over me just like her when she last rode me. I could feel her body, taut and warm as she pulled me deeper inside her. I held on to her hips, spreading her wider. Fuller. I needed more of her. It was deeper than cumming insider her. I was filling her. I was filling all of the pieces of her that I felt cry for me when I wasn’t in the room. I wanted to soothe her. Completely.

I leaned against the shower door, soothed by the strength of the glass. I felt her. I felt her hands over my back. My neck. Her lips on my ears, just like I loved her to do. “Ava.” She always showered with this soap her grandmother taught her to make. It had orchids and jasmine in it. The first time I made love to her, it–it bound me to her.  My mother’s words were in my head were in time with my own heartbeart. You will ache for her.

I stood in the shower, the water running over me. I thought of how she rode me. How I took her from being impaled to sitting on my mouth. I drank from her, licked faster as she screamed. I heard the headboard rattle as her thighs found my cheeks.

Never, ever had I done that for anyone. No other woman.

She was sweet, like raspberries. My tongue swirled around every portion of her that she shifted into my mouth. I needed to know how she tasted. Kisses deeper than I could ever give to the plump lips on her caramel brown face. When she climaxed again, there was a note that she released that was something a siren would have hit. This honey, thick and sweet, flowed into my mouth. I sucked on her clit, this button that gave more her honey.  I needed more of her.

I moaned, opening my eyes again. Smelled her. My cock twitched, throbbed, then. I beyond loved her. I needed her. I had to have her again. “Dammit.” Hot tears leaked from my eyes, and I wiped them away. Frustrated at this affinity we had. My mother was right. I ached for her. I felt her. Even when she was not in the room.

It had been a year since we had been seeing each other. But, I knew she was mine. Could, would never belong to anyone else. I couldn’t stand it. I wrapped the towel around my waist, making sure the faucet was off.  I walked to my bedroom, heart as a war drum in my ears. I walked to the dresser and stared at myself in the mirror. I saw her behind me, supple and unclad. She held her breasts, moving over to the bed, laying on her back. Just like the last time I saw her. The last time every inch of me that was male impaled her to my King sized bed. I smiled, and watched that vision fade of her playing herself faded in the mirror. I closed my eyes, biting my lip. My mother was right–she was unlike anyone. Could not be anyone elses. She was mine. All mine. If this was what I suffered without her, I could only hope (and imagine) what felt apart from me.

 

Love & Possession: The Dark Set: (Week 4) BonusWhat Daddy Wanted

The collar on my neck always

Reminds me how far I can go.

How chosen and cherished I am.

How none are as I am to be.

He feels and fills the ripples his

Voice causes once housed

And held in all that he claims

Is, was his.

Does he know that in his taking

Of me, even in thought my mind

Races to please him from wherever

I am?

At his whisper

And then shutting off of

Water I am his warm towel

To drink and dry every drop

Of water graced to flow

Over him…

Until my tastes and senses

Are full of him.

The collar around my neck always

Reminds me how far I can go.

How hard to ride.

How wide to open.

When to clench.

When to just hold

Every inch of him hard and twitching

In my mouth

Or swallow all he contains.

It lets me know, for all my prowess…

I am still beneath him.

As I long to always be.

(c) Janelle Fallon, 4.2019

Love & Possession: The Dark Set (Week 4)-Under Lock & Key

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I touch my neck more now that I have a collar. I touch it more when there’s nothing on it, when it’s naked. Just as I was when it was given to me. When I gave myself to him.

I’d be lying to say that I was shocked or didn’t expect it. It would be a further lie to say that I didn’t want it. I did. It was a need to be his at this point. It is a funny thing that women do when we find a satisfaction in things the world around us finds devious. We are taught to be ashamed, we shouldn’t like it. We shouldn’t like it, let alone enjoy it or want it as often as possible.

I sat at my desk, my inner thighs becoming slick thinking of Baron. I thought of our past weekend together. I held my head in my hands, letting my hair spill on the nape of my neck. I had never been so grateful for a door to my office. I ran my hand through the thick dark curls. I heard his voice in my ear. “You can never belong to anyone like you belong to me.” I felt the flush come over me again. This rightness that let me know he wasn’t lying, couldn’t be lying to me.

I remembered how he had told me to sit in this chair, in this room lit only by candles. Baron was always romantic, in a gothic way. I adored that about him. There were always grand gestures of love, and acknowledgement since we started dating two years ago. As he held my hand down this hallway of his house. My pulse quickened next to his. This buzzing kismet energy passed between us.

This room off his library he had never hidden from me, but he never spoke about it. The house was a century old when he bought it with his first check. A late gift from his grandfather after graduating law school. “I hide nothing from you, Ariel.” My breath caught in my chest. “You are all I want, and a ring,” he snorted as if something bitter passed by him. “A ring can’t covey that.”

He had asked me to marry him, but then he had asked if I was open for more. Could I ‘give’ him more. Last week, this past Wednesday, he told me to leave work early. He left a note on the door, with a key. I was supposed to go in and change into the outfit on the four-poster bed. It was this simple white gown. The note on the gown specified to keep my hair down. I looked in the mirror, the late sunset spilling into the room. I’m sure that, for other women, the suspense would have been too much. But I did as the note instructed. I lay on the bed. And waited.

After waking me with a kiss, his eyes fierce and brown in his walnut colored face, he spoke. “Delicious.” he said. I smiled as he helped me up. Taking his hand, we went towards our destination.

Amongst the candles and the velvet chair I sat in with its high-back, I closed my eyes. I heard him breathing, ragged then smooth. There was rustling of a package, and I fought the instinct to open my eyes. There were footsteps around me, hands touching. The backs of my ears. My lips. Cheeks. The nape of my neck. “Of all you are, wife will be the smallest of these things.” My breathing caught, mind racing to process what he meant. “You and all this marvelous drive and fire,” he kissed my cheek. “I want to guide. To rule.” I held my breath, wondering. “I want you to be mine. Totally. Always.”

I swallowed. Was this the more? What  he wanted of me? I fluttered my eyes to the black box he held. “You can open them, Ariel.” I sat, looking at his face, before looking back at the box he held before his white starched shirt. “I want you to truly be mine, Ariel.” I looked at him, through him almost. I turned my head, tilting my chin. He stroked my chin, softly. “I want you to be mine.” he said again, definite and forceful. It was the tone he used when he was with clients or wanted me to be submissive. It always worked-in both cases.

I sat silent. Thrilled and scared. We had talked about this. We toyed with the idea of him owning me, of me being a wife and possession. Baron had talked about collaring me. I knew this because he left his iPad open once after we dated for six months. I remembered how–settled I felt. I wanted that from him. I wanted that depth, that intimacy–that assurance that I was what he wanted. I knew he loved me. But I wanted him to see what that meant.

“Ari?” he said, he held my gaze. “I want you to be mine. All mine. Bound to me.” The box opened, his eyes focused. “This is yours.” It was this thin gold collar with a lock. “It is no coincidence that I call you Kitten.” I felt my eyes water and my inner walls clench. I froze, thinking all I wanted was this around my neck. I wanted the weight. I wanted the proof. I wanted this with him. I trusted him, beyond a husband, and only slightly less than God.

I wanted this. I needed that anchor that a mere ring couldn’t give me.

This was the more.

“Answer me, Kitten. Now.” I took a deep breath, swallowed before I answered. I opened my eyes. “Yes. I can give you this. I can give you the more.” With the same icy focus, he unclasped the collar, setting the box on my lap. “When I need you to be subdued, I’ll put this on you. When I need you to be my relief and toy, you will keep this on.” He kissed me as the clasp set. His hands were in my hair, love powering the tugs he gave. “This is irrevocable.” He kissed me again. “You are mine. Heart and body. Do you understand?” My eyes opened to meet his. “Yes, sir.” He kissed the bridge of my nose. “My gorgeous kitten. You have made me so happy.”  He pulled me to my feet, turned me to the mirror he was in front of. He unzipped the dress and let it become a puddle around my feet. Kisses traced my shoulders and upper back, while his hands cupped my breasts. “I am going to have so much fun with you.” He nipped the back of my left ear before he growled into it.

The phone rang, snapping me back to the present. “Riggins Law Office.” There was silence before a voice answered. “Yeah, I gotta flower delivery here.” The voice was puzzled and irritated. “Okay, for who and of what?” I thought that perhaps my boss ordered flowers for his wife again. “Four dozen roses. For someone named,” there was paper rattling. “for Kitten.” My mouth was dry. “From Daddy.” I closed my eyes, licking my lips. “Someone will be down to get them.”