he morning Ernesto died and a glittering cloud of debris and ash swallowed the neighborhood, Beth Gopin was on her way to see him. Beth had called Ernesto and asked him to meet her at Taj Tribeca. Although Beth and Ernesto enjoyed the atmosphere and well-stocked buffet, Taj Tribeca held greater significance—they could link major moments in their life together to its golden linens and paper dining mats.
Beth will one day tell me how she first met Ernesto at Taj Tribeca. She was on a blind date with someone else, a Junior Vice President at a fiduciary management company. When the conversation had begun to include words like portfolio management, estates, big account, and mutual funds, she excused herself from the table and said she needed to use the bathroom. As she snuck towards an exit to abandon her suitor, Ernesto approached her. Beth remembers accepting his card. He asked her to call him if things didn’t work out with the guy she had come with. He thanked her and then quickly sped out of the restaurant.
Beth will tell me she waited weeks before she called him. She’ll say she called because of curiosity, not attraction.
Read the rest of the post here: “Memorials” by Donald Quist
The Waynes and Johnsons: Albemarle County, Virginia, Circa 1862 and Beyond
In 1840, Claude Wayne exerted his God-given right to his property when he relieved himself inside a slave wench named Norma. The resulting child was his, hazel eyes glinting green in the sun, a mongrel if Wayne had ever seen one. Couldn’t stand to look at him. Sold the mutt to Johnson first chance he got. He sired an heir with his wife the very next night. Twenty-odd years later, those boys stood to shoot one another dead. One black, one white—each a rifle-musket aimed at the other, not knowing they share a daddy. Moist, mudded red clay ran burgundy around their feet, mixing one dead soldier’s blood with the next like that through the veins of brothers. Each man stared into the hazel eyes of the other as if looking inside their own.
It is that hazel shade that will confirm the relation of two women over a century later in 2016, a Wayne and a Johnson, stuffed like creamed French toast inside an IHOP booth. The distant cousins will avoid eye contact, not knowing what to say, if words could even be sufficient. Surprised at the way God’s sense of humor manifests, that theywere matched via DNA from an ancestry website—of all things—they agree to meet, for what reason, neither will know. Will this encounter change their lives? There will be no weddings, no funerals, no cookouts, no showers. No more family than any Wayne or Johnson in this part of the world. But, they will shake hands and sit, exchange stories of growing up in the country, even realize they went to the same high school, their churches only a mile apart. They will watch one another, disguise their curiosity, their mutual examination of shared features, under lowered eyelids and genteel sips of sweetened ice tea with lemon.
Read the rest of the story here: “The Waynes and Johnsons…” by Tyrese L. Coleman
Millions of Tiny Things
When Hammond was very young, he had a hard time sleeping. It felt as though there were millions of tiny things crawling around beneath his skin, and the small, small spaces that separated each of these tiny things was known to him, and so it wasn’t just that there were millions of them, but that he never felt whole, and that he felt always on the brink of dissolving. He knew that the only thing keeping him together was his ability to focus on each of those tiny spaces inside—if he fell asleep, whatever small bit of force that kept the parts of him from flying apart would vanish and he’d be torn into millions of small, small pieces. Sometimes, at night, he felt his focus slipping, could feel the tension in his body as he tried and tried to will himself whole, to keep it together. But the millions of tiny things inside of him kept moving, sliding around. It was hard to keep track of them all, and on this edge of sleep, every time, he thought that he would die. He thought that he could already feel his body going to pieces, breaking up like static, so when his eyes closed, he said goodbye to his parents, goodbye to his dog Mojo, goodbye to the trees, goodbye to his bed, goodbye to the turtles in the pond out back, goodbye to the sky, goodbye.
Sometimes, Hammond makes the mistake of telling the people he loves about this time in his life. They look at him with either pity or amusement, though there was the time that the guy rolled out of bed, put clothes on, and left Hammond’s apartment while muttering something about fucking schizo nutjob. It’s always a calculated risk to tell someone something ugly about yourself, but perhaps this isn’t the best way to describe it because Hammond does not feel shame about his boyhood. He was anxious and heady and sullen as a child. Many people are these things. That he experienced long bouts of psychosis is nothing to be ashamed of, though he has learned to conceal it from people, folding this necessary article of his being away in the way one might wear long shirts over flabby arms or keloids. It’s only on the edge of sleep, when he’s curled up with someone toward whom he is experiencing the first, fluttering uneasiness of love that he makes the mistake of telling them about the times as a child he thought he’d dissolve in the middle of the night. There is always a moment of hesitation, when they aren’t sure if he’s joking or telling the truth, that he realizes is a minor kindness extended toward him, a moment in which he can take it all back and explain it away as a bad joke. It’s a fleeting, narrow possibility into which he could wedge himself and live out the rest of his time. “Oh,” he could say, “just kidding.” But he never takes the moment, never takes it all back. It is what it is, he figures. He is what he is, he figures.
Read the rest of the story here: Millions of Tiny Things
A Beating, A Prayer
After they took the body of my friend away, I lost my ability to move. They’d left the twisted sheet he hung himself with, still tied to the curtain rod. The noose taunted me, its wide mouth ready to claim another black body.
My father thought the Word would save us. It would save me from the uncertainty and panic that kept my knees buckled. “Real men stand up straight, son. Real men hold themselves with the confidence of the Lord.” It would save Satchel, my best friend, from his sweetness, his lilting voice, his soft, piano-player fingers that reached for your arm when he spoke. He believed if we left what we knew and traveled, if we focused on memorizing the Word, repeating it over and over to those sinner-bent strangers with outstretched hands, we would find salvation. We would find our manhood.
Satchel’s reclamation of his body weighed the air in the already stuffy room. I knew that what he did was supposed to be a sin, but in a way it was also an assertion. Even though I wasn’t all the way grown yet, I knew that Satchel had given in to his heart and couldn’t bear a world filled with men like my father: brutal, unwilling to change.
Read the rest of the excerpt from WALK WITH ME here.
Also read HAVE MERCY, HOLD ON