CNF: I Miss My Mommy

I have struggled this year and I feel the only way to get this out of me is to….get the words out. This piece has eaten away at me and the only way to make it stop was to write it. So here it is.

I miss my mother. 

The way she wrapped her arms around me and her plush body covered mine, suffocating me. But it was all okay because there was warmth there, in the folds of older black woman body. The way I would cry and she would say, “Come here, tell me what’s wrong?” even though she knows what’s wrong because she already told me that boy wasn’t right or that girl wasn’t my friend or that jesus loves me even though I’m selfish and stubborn and angry and mean and I don’t like to listen.

I miss my mom.

The way she would stretch out on the couch, with socked feet tucked into the crack between the cushions. Her knees stacked, legs innocently and sanctimoniously closed. A small table before her dangerously balancing laptop, coffee mug, keys, lipstick, the black stick that looks like lipstick but it really covers grey hairs, rattail comb for scratching beneath wigs (or hairpieces?), piles of junk mail never thrown out, a few dollars to give temptation to wandering foster hands, and the computer mouse.

The way she would fall asleep, mouth slightly opened. How I would whisper just loud enough to be heard but quiet enough not to waken: “Can I go to the library please?” and when the grunt sounds like yes, dart out of the house so fast with my bag for appropriate books on top – that also hides lustful romances and murderous mysteries in the bottom. The way she would come darting after me, some hours later, because I’ve forgotten myself between the pages of adventure. Her Navigator squealing around the corner and slam stopping in front of the building. Because “never ask me questions when I’m sleeping”.

How she would wait for me to exit and unlock the doors when I notice it’s her. My head falling forward, my shoulders dropping. And I push the bag down, down, down, between the seats, beneath my feet, hoping the devil’s literature won’t be found. The way she told me to open it up, and the tears filled my eyes, and I reached down into embarrassment hoping the first, second, and third book I pulled out was the innocent Christian series. There it is, with her watchful eye. One, Christy, Two, Christy, Three…Robin Jones Gunn, the tale of Christy. 

I miss my mommy. 

The way she didn’t call me after I nearly died in childbirth. How she didn’t send words of wisdom, or half-listened-to prayers, or didn’t offer to come down to be with me as I spiraled into the depression of someone going home to place they were once deliriously happy. Doors reminding you of hellos and goodbyes. Beds reminding you of the roll-up you no longer have to do because you’re belly is empty. The wine you can now drink collecting dust on counter. 

How those hours in the hospital – doctors pulling at the placenta stuck to my uterus while trying to stop the blood from gushing, gushing, gushing – nurses whispering “you’re fine, you’re fine, you’re doing amazing” while I tried to be still despite the pain – my guy’s face above me worrying – waiting on a call from my mommy. Waiting to discover how we got here.

How that one time, when the angry black lady ran the stop sign and hit me with her truck, she came to the hospital to see me. How she brought daddy and they held my hands, the only parts of me they were allowed to touch. Telling jokes despite the fact my neck hurt, and my back hurt, and my foot hurt, and my eyes hurt when opened and hurt when closed. My daddy driving me to and fro doctor’s appointments and the chiropractor to fix my back. Mommy holding my hair as I puked or wiping my drool because the Vicodin had my brains unspooling into my soup or cleaning my kitchen because I could barely walk. 

The way she said “you expect too much out of me as a mother” when I had just lost my baby. Lost my third baby. The one the doctors swore would make it – the repeating ultrasounds, the blood tests, the sweet thump thump thump of a beating heart, the tiny nose nuzzling against my womb. How maybe after the first loss no one cares anymore and you’re expected to suffer in the silence you should’ve kept in the first place. The way I asked for space, knowing I couldn’t deal with the loss of another tiny soul that was half me and the anger at my mother for listening. And after many years of her ignoring my cries for love, comfort, and a closer bond, she finally listened. Those months were lonely. Long and lonely and motherless. 

I miss my mum. 

The way she said “I knew you’d grow up to be an amazing writer” years and years and years after she told me “Writers don’t make any money, you need to do something that will get you paid”. To which I replied with an acceptance to a Master’s in Architecture program that ate my soul. That ate my time. That ate my creativity. That ate my confidence. That ate my joy.

The one that ended when that boy I swore was my friend held me down. And slapped. And kissed me. And pulled at my lip with his teeth like a lover’s kiss. And how I thought of her when I froze, there beneath his weight. His eyes on mine, clear as day. Smiling, caressing the fear in me, pulling at it until I slapped at his shoulder, and then at his back, then punched at his head. How I knew if I told her, she’d blame me. “Don’t let these boys in, you don’t want to be a slut” I knew she’d say, because jesus doesn’t love sluts. It’s only god who loves everyone. And he’s not listening.

How I walked the dorms a ghost of myself, his eyes on mine in the elevator as we rode in silence. The way he smirked at me, turning until I could see his whole face – not the one he always wore but the one he had only shown me. Classes become beds, textbooks like expensive paperweights on the window ledge, grades dropping, dipping, spiraling until the scholarships were gone and the money dried up.

How she said “If you don’t want to be a part of this family you don’t have to be” when I finally worked up the courage to call, much later. And how it still took years to tell her what happened, to which she replied “well, why did you have boys in your room?”

I miss her, my mother. 

The way I showed her my first nonfiction publication hoping she would say she was proud, although I tried not to care. When I sent the links to my blog, and the photos of my work in print, and the happy texts that really asked if she still loved me. If anyone back home still loved me. The way auto-sent generic replies stuck to my stomach in a sickening thick that had me heaving, no I’m not pregnant, just grieving.

The way I shared my emotions, in the spirit of confident adulthood, and they mattered not. How I cried and I cried, and I piled my limbs into bed tight to my chest, shoulders shaking like they do in the movies, snot clogged nostrils, my guy at feet, rubbing my back, at the loss of my mother. The way her headstone lives in Missouri, walking and talking and judging and living happily, rent free in my head. 

How I thought once I became a mother to a sweet, happy, healthily living baby, it would bring us closer. The way Naomi wraps her arms around me, asking me with those eyes – to heal. My eyes filling with tears because while I worked so hard to be a good adoptive daughter, an honest, trustworthy, dependable daughter, no one had taught me how to be a mother.

How she might call and say the things that need to be said without conditions for her love. That she’s sorry. Truly, irrevocably sorry. How she sees what I’ve grown up to be. That she would see the nurturer in me, the mistakes I seek to correct, the fear I want to quell, the fostered abandonment I hold in my heart, and know that things could be different now. But knowing she won’t.

I miss my mother. 

But it hurts. Despite everything, I fall on this pain knowing it holds me captive. Knowing that letting go and releasing are two different things. Because I not only miss the mother she could’ve been but also, the one she was to me. 

A Brief Analysis of “Overpass” by Ada Limón

I greatly related to the poetry collection The Carrying, by Ada Limón. I understood her struggle with conceiving and reproduction, as I’ve had my own losses, and that connection with death is prevalent throughout each poem. The strongest of poems, and with many layers, is a reflection from years past.

In Limón’s “Overpass”, there’s a subtle reference to how proximity to death allows you to reevaluate your life and see how death intrudes in even the smallest moments. “I don’t think I worshipped/ him, his deadness, but I liked the evidence/ of him, how it felt like a job to daily/ take note of his shifting into the sand” shows an almost morbid fascination with how things change. An obsession with how death changes you and how you see the world. Initially, there’s an unadulterated curiosity about the world and its possessions. The search for “a bottle top, a man’s black boot, a toad” and then, without much effort on the narrator’s part, the inevitable find of death and transformation. 

This change is also alluded to in the first line when the narrator says “the road wasn’t as hazardous then”. On first pass, this line could be read as literal change, a time before new construction in the town. It could also be deeper, referencing a time when the narrator was innocent, before she experienced death and loss, and before the roads to healing and understanding (the whys of it all) were less “hazardous”. I don’t think it too far of a reach to interpret how the narrator’s “bendy girl body” was once pliable, before it failed or experienced the overhaul of adulthood and the risks of pregnancy and miscarriage. It feels that there, through language and imagery, the narrator discovers a monotonous connection with how one might “check on [him] each day” as you would a fetus, at risk of being unborn.


Usually, I am not a poetry reader, but this collection and how someone who has been through what I’ve gone through “carries grief” drew me in. I hope to share more thoughts with you as I read more of The Carrying.

Link to “Over Pass”

Good Readdance,
Jade

P.S. I initially wrote this for a very short essay for my Hispanic Women Writers course but continued it into a blog post because I felt connected to it? I’m not sure. But I hope you follow the link and read the poem and enjoy it, and The Carrying, as much as I did. If you are interested in reading more posts like this just let me know. I never know these days!

P.S.S. As I have the book and didn’t take this from the link, here’s the citation.

Limón, Ada. “Overpass.” The Carrying, Corsair Poetry, 2018, pp 38.

Book Review: The Bookshop of Second Chances by Jackie Fraser

Thea’s having a bad month. Not only has she been made redundant, she’s also discovered her husband of nearly twenty years is sleeping with one of her friends. And he’s not sorry – he’s leaving.
 
Bewildered and lost, Thea doesn’t know what to do. But, when she learns the great-uncle she barely knew has died and left her his huge collection of second-hand books and a house in the Scottish Lowlands, she seems to have been offered a second chance.
 
Running away to a little town where no one knows her seems like exactly what Thea needs. But when she meets the aristocratic Maltravers brothers – grumpy bookshop owner Edward and his estranged brother Charles, Lord Hollinshaw – her new life quickly becomes just as complicated as the life she was running from…

Heya, 

I stayed up all night just so I could finish this book. I really enjoyed it. I think it’s because I’m an avid reader that I really love books about bookstores. I loved the love interest, although felt like he was a bit emotionally immature for his age. That’s the other thing, I really enjoyed reading a book about a main character who isn’t 25 with a hot body, the best hair, and her whole life ahead of her to find love. 

I also loved that time passes in the book and you can really see the character arcs. However, I felt like the time jumps weren’t strong enough. They seemed to be thrown in, and some of the true emotional growth is glazed over. 

I would give this book 3.5 stars! I did really enjoy it and feel like the romance was just as great as the setting. How amazing would it be to go to Scotland and talk long walks, hang on the beach at the book’s Shed, and own such expensive and rare novels from Classics around the world?

Good Readdance,
Jade

Book Review: Ties That Tether by Jane Igharo

At twelve years old, Azere promised her dying father she would marry a Nigerian man and preserve her culture, even after immigrating to Canada. Her mother has been vigilant about helping—well forcing—her to stay within the Nigerian dating pool ever since. But when another match-made-by-mom goes wrong, Azere ends up at a bar, enjoying the company and later sharing the bed of Rafael Castellano, a man who is tall, handsome, and…white.

When their one-night stand unexpectedly evolves into something serious, Azere is caught between her feelings for Rafael and the compulsive need to please her mother. Soon, Azere can’t help wondering if loving Rafael makes her any less of a Nigerian. Can she be with him without compromising her identity? The answer will either cause Azere to be audacious and fight for her happiness or continue as the compliant daughter.

Heya!

First, I want to say how beautiful this cover is. I love the vibrant colors, the representation through skin tone and hairstyle, and the mirror image of the guy through the glasses. When I first saw it, I was immediately like I’m reading that!

Second, I stayed up all night just so I could read this book. Then I immediately fan-girled and wrote a Tweet to the author to tell her just how much I loved it. In Ties That Tether, you get to see parts of the Nigerian culture through words, phrases, and traditions in comparison to the character’s (and author’s) experience as an immigrant in Canada. You get to see the holds that family has over your life and how you might end up with someone you don’t love just because you want to please your parents.

I’m not Nigerian but I really related to this character. All my life my parents have stressed the importance of dating within my own race and how we’ve got to ‘stick together’. I dated a few white and light skins when I was younger and was immediately labeled the daughter who would Most Likely Go White. You should’ve seen their faces when they found out that Tony, my partner and (of course) soulmate, is black.

It also goes along with how you can’t judge someone by the culture they were raised in. It’s hard to tell who is racist, who is a pushover, and who is truly willing to stay and put up with your family because they love you – when you are only looking at their ethnic background. The struggle the main character goes through to listen to her heart or the generations of ancestors is visceral and shows on the page. It might make you agree to anything – as we see over and over.

That being said, I wanted to slap this main character up the head a few times (which I’m sure she might’ve gotten from a parental figure a few times). Girl, get it together! Might I also mention how important it is to show healthy girl-friend relationships!? Everyone needs someone in their corner (even me…I need friends, ahora) and I love how more and more these days you are seeing secondary characters who are more than just a device thrown in to further the plot. Also, I think I’d like to see a sequel with her best friend as a main character and finding love!

Anyway, I thoroughly enjoyed this novel and I’m so glad that I read it. I felt like it was the first romance in a long time that didn’t make me roll my eyes or frustrate the hell out of me – which is saying a lot. Y’all know how I love my mushy stories.

If I had a star system, I’d give this book 4 stars! Thank you Jane Igharo for introducing us to the culture with an experience that is relatable and honest.

Good Readdance,
Jade

Book Review: The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett

The Vignes twin sisters will always be identical. But after growing up together in a small, southern black community and running away at age sixteen, it’s not just the shape of their daily lives that is different as adults, it’s everything: their families, their communities, their racial identities. Ten years later, one sister lives with her black daughter in the same southern town she once tried to escape. The other secretly passes for white, and her white husband knows nothing of her past.

Heya,

One of the things I enjoyed while listening to this book is the narrator. I loved her voice, her inflections, the way she did mama Vignes’ voice, and the emotions felt from her throughout. This is one of the greatest things about audiobooks. You can get into the world of the characters as if they are real. Love it!

It seems weird that I – someone who can not pass for white – found myself relating to Stella V more than her sister. Someone who started over, created new opportunities for herself, recreated who they knew themselves to be, dropped all of her family and moved on with her life (although, I held on to the last few toxic tethers for years before I finally knew what was good for me), and finally struggled with the guilt of it all. I felt that fear she had when she had been passing for white for so many years and the mere presence of a black couple (moving into her all-white community) threatened to reveal her secret. She’s just as strong a character as her twin who is dealing with an abusive partner and single mom life, and her mother whose husband was killed by a white man for no reason.

The Vanishing Half hits so many marks for me. So much so, you want to take a pen to it (or a handy notebook) and point out all the parts that you’ve been through, or know someone who’s been through, and write a long journal entry about how it’s affected your life. Oh, that was just me? Sorry.

I never understood true colorism until I was a teen. Before I had dealt with racism from other foster kids (white) and the white kids at the private school I went to but I didn’t realize it could come FOR me from my OWN people. The Vanishing Half dives deeply into the importance put on skin complexion – not just ‘color’ – in society and among family relations. There’s this part in the book when one sister returns home and everyone is wondering who that ‘dark’ girl is (her daughter) and it puts into perspective the ‘one drop’ rule. One drop of white – to black people – and you’re white. One drop of black – to white people – and you can’t EVER be white. Not even a little bit. You can’t put it on your bank documents, you can’t claim it at school, you can’t say you’re white to your white friends, and you can’t mark ‘White/Caucasian’ when getting a job.

Another interesting thing about the novel is the fact that it spans several generations. Often, I worry that there isn’t a chance to truly get to know our main characters if we make time jumps. Of course, there is no worry with Brit Bennett. The transition from one generation to the next is as smooth as butter. Not only do you see the issues of colorism from the white-passing Vignes twins but you also see it through the white daughter of one twin and the black (and dark-skinned) daughter of the other. You also get to see the world modernize, how things change in opinion about black people, and the job and educational opportunities afforded to them as time moved on.

I would definitely recommend this book, and not just to the black readers of the world. White people, and any POC, should glean the wealth of cultural knowledge between its pages. If I had to give this book a star rating I would give it 4.5 stars! If you’ve read this book please let me know in the comments! How did you feel about the points hit in this book? How do they relate to your own life?

P.S. If you have any books you’d love for me to read, please leave them in the comments!

Link to Book

Good Readdance,
Jade

Book Review: The Word is Murder and The Sentence is Death by Anthony Horowitz

The Word is Murder: A wealthy woman strangled six hours after she’s arranged her own funeral.
A very private detective uncovering secrets but hiding his own.
A reluctant author drawn into a story he can’t control.

The Sentence is Death: Richard Pryce, found bludgeoned to death in his bachelor pad with a bottle of wine – a 1982 Chateau Lafite worth £3,000, to be precise. Odd, considering he didn’t drink. Why this bottle? And why those words? And why was a three-digit number painted on the wall by the killer? And, most importantly, which of the man’s many, many enemies did the deed?

Heya,

I discovered The Word is Murder and The Sentence is Death while looking for another book by the author Anthony Horowitz. It made all of my little girl fantasies come true. I grew up obsessed with romance novels (and their many subgenres) but when I was in seventh grade I came across my first mystery novels. I fell in love with detective stories, murder mysteries – I’d even throw psychological thrillers in there. Arthur Conan Doyle, Agatha Christie, Mary Higgins Clark, John Grisham (because everyone needs a good lawyer mystery) and more.

I also fell in love with the idea of becoming a cross between Sherlock Holmes and Indiana Jones. I wanted to be a professor with a messenger bag and a magnifying glass. I loved the idea of solving crimes, deciphering codes, and pulling apart the mysteries of life. Through the novels by Horowitz, I found that. He puts himself in the book as an actual character. A Watson to Hawthorne’s Sherlock and I absolutely love it.

I love that the books are in first person and you feel like the mystery is unfolding before you. The fact that Hawthorne is an anti-hero with few redeeming qualities, and the fictional Horowitz is slowly becoming a sleuth in his own right (because everyone knows Watson was also a bit of a genius) makes me love the books even more. I have to say plural because I enjoyed both books the same. Often times, when you read a sequel you think ‘hhmm…this doesn’t seem like it has the same PUNCH as the first one’ but it does!

After reading the first book I knew what to expect and so I often found myself trying to find clues in the second book as I went alone. It was absolutely fantastic.

I saw that the second book The Sentence is Death came out in 2019 and the first was 2 years prior. I’m really hoping, seriously hoping, that there is another book coming out in the series next year. I can’t wait to find out what happens next.

If I had to give these books stars I would do 4.5 for both of them! So I definitely recommend you reading them! If you do, let me know in the comments how you liked them.

Link to Books

P.S. If you have any other suggestions for me please let me know in the comments!

Good Readdance,
Jade

I Am You and You Are We

An Ode to Baby Naomi Kai

 

 

When I touch my lips to your soft cheek I think of how I’m kissing myself.

Those cheeks are mine, girl

They puff out so big in smile or pout

and that nose

That nose is mine too, with tiny nostrils round and perfectly tucked in brown skin

and those eyes, the way they slant, they are mine too.

Although that color comes from daddy

the way it’s brighter in the sun when you turn your face up to mine.

 

When I look down at you I want to kiss those eyelids with their whisper thin skin,

how they reflect me, and tear

and light up when you see me

and that forehead, I can’t lie, It’s all daddy.

It’s wide and big and will one day be called a fivehead and yet, I kiss it too

But when I press my lips to your crown I know that hair is all mine.

The silky smooth brown, the rust red, the blonde at your temples and at the tips of your lashes 

and the blonde at the nape of your neck that’s barely there – slowly turning to night.

And your ears, your ears are mine, the way they hug against your skull to burrow closer to your thoughts.

 

When I touch my lips to your shoulder to smell your sweet breast milk scent

I think of how you’re like my elbow

So close to me and yet so far away

So vital to me, the hinge that pulls love closer, holds love tight

Because you are me, when I kiss you.

You came from me and yeah, your daddy too

And I wonder if it means he pecks against my cheek when he’s kissing you.

 

When I grab your thighs to pinch them for giggles you’re all me

They are thick like mine and taper into strong little legs that are mine too

with defined baby calves.

And those feet, I kiss your toes one at a time because each one is as adorable as the next, 

But, sweet thing, they are your daddy’s feet and I’m just so sorry.

Square and thin, with long nails that curl slightly under, and straight across from big to pinky

How’d you get those toes, girl? All daddy-like and strong.

When I push a finger into your bloated belly you giggle and slap my hands away.

Then grab to pull me closer because you aren’t sure what you want

and that’s all me too

Because of you I have a little belly, too. One daddy used to rub when you were in there

Kicking and punching and asking to come out to play.

So our bellies are the same but, curse the nurses from the day you were born, that belly button is all daddy

It looks like a button, one we shined smooth because we thought a quarter would help with the shape.

And when you walk around poking it in, sticking it out, chattering to yourself,

we laugh to think of all the coins we could’ve saved.

 

When I say ‘kisses’? You lean forward and open your mouth wide

And we dodge, side to side, hoping to not receive slobber for our time

And you catch us every moment with a swipe of the tongue.

Because you are all me and you love love

You want to get closer to me, crawl into me, get beneath my skin,

to hold your arms around my throat and lie your head on my shoulder. 

Which you have of mine too, the stocky build of my body, the lack of feminine curve,

And you press tear streaked cheeks to mine, then you smile and wipe that momma’s nose against my neck.

And I pat your booty, your poor flat booty

Girl, I’m sad to say that’s mine too.

But it’s okay because I love everything about my body.

Which means, my dear girl, that

I also love everything about you.

Book Review: My Life in Plants by Katie Vaz

[Katie Vaz]’s newest book tells the story of her life through the thirty-nine plants that have played both leading and supporting roles, from her childhood to her wedding day.

 

I really thought the art in My Life in Plants was very adorable. I am a big lover of plants, as well as nonfiction shorts, so I thought this book blended to the two quite nicely. I did find that I wanted a bit more of each. I don’t know if that’s a bad thing, though. You want to be left wanting more from nonfiction stories – that is, if the author is still alive. Then you are interested in the rest of their story.

I also liked the fact that the illustrations felt more light hearted. When there are tough topics that blend with more mundane ones, it’s easy to go to the darker side. This was cutesy and sweet on every page, and at this time in 2020, we need that.

I have recently joined plant groups and I plan to post this on my planstagram page (Plants.That.Read) as well because I think it helps people understand how plants can affect your life. I think it has something to do with the healing aspect, the growth and cycle of life aspect, to plants. Either way, care for plants and heal your soul!

If I could give this my own rating I would give it a 3.5! Thank you for your stories Katie Vaz.

 

Don’t forget! If you have any book suggestions for me to read, feel free to comment below!

Good Readdance,
Jade

 

 

Link to Book

mylifeinplants

CNF: 3 Diary Entries from Early COVID-19

My musings from the first three days in Louisiana: when things were shutting down in Florida due to the virus and my guy wanted us to get out of the big city and take refuge in the country. We ended up staying for 6.5 weeks.

 

 

Day One 03/22/2020

 

It’s weird being a guest in someone’s home for an undisclosed amount of time. You open your car door – every space is messily packed with canned goods and spice jars and little girl socks – and step out in unfamiliar territory. 

They ask ‘need help with anything’ as if they are true bellmen. Waiting for you to unleash your bags on them, along with a flurry of ones or fives for their good service. 

You shake your head no and shyly look away because how do you tell someone who is so graciously opening their home to you that you don’t want to stay. You don’t want to unspool your hastily packed belongings because it is the last signifier that you will not be going home – to your safe space – anytime soon. You don’t want to appear ungrateful so you ask ‘meaningful’ questions like “do you mind if I use this space” – despite it being obvious that they cleared it out just for you. 

You don’t want to appear bothersome so you stumble over phrases like “no rush” and “hey, if you don’t mind, can I…” and “I’m going to be doing __insert random activity here __” because you don’t want them to think you’re hiding in your room.

Which you are. You don’t mean to but the pungent smell of wet walls mixed with summer heat and spring rain doesn’t bode with the weed they’ve taken up in the living room. And you have the baby to think about, of course.

They did ask “hey, do you mind if we smoke in here? If the baby is in there?” they point to your jail, I mean room, and with your eyes you follow their finger to the closed door that protects your tiny human. 

You prefer they not. You hate the smell. Despite having done it yourself, you can’t imagine making it a daily, weekly, or even monthly affair if you were back home when life was normal. The smell sticks to you like glue. Permeates your dreadlocks, that are already judged for being what they are – and no matter how many detoxes, oils, or deep conditions you do you can’t get that smell out before an interview.

You say yes, they can smoke, and you move to the protection of the door just to turn the knob, reassuring yourself that it’s all going to be alright. 

Everything will be fine, as always. But everything will not be fine. Or always. 

Day Two 3/23/2020

“Be careful, it’s spicy,” she says as you spoon some veggie soup from your plate onto Baby’s tray. You tell her it’s fine but make sure to cut everything into small pieces to make sure Baby doesn’t get too much heat at once. 

You should’ve known. She’s white. She doesn’t really understand what ‘heat’ is. It’s definitely stereotypical of her but also stereotypical of you to think so. 

When you eat it you blow, there’s some steam coming from each bit of potato, bean, meat, and carrot. The soup is a rusty red and it is clean of food bits or spice or debris. This is the first indicator of the whiteness. 

Anytime you cook anything there’s going to be something to it, you think. Something that shows you’ve put your foot in it. It sounds judgy, you might apologize if you had said the words out loud. It’s not her fault, and not completely true with all white people. But there’s a tug of war going on between you and her. You don’t mean anything by it. No malice. There’s nothing behind this struggle – at least for you.

She is used to being the woman of the house. So are you. She’s used to her way of cleaning, straightening, and vacuuming. She’s surely to be offended if you do something against her ways, because when you’re the woman of the house you rule with an iron fist. And it’s not always with a spatula. But there’s two of ya’ll now. And you are just the guest. So, when you see her kitchen and the way she likes to leave it you try your damndest to keep it that way. 

After you cook your food, chicken thoroughly marinated, cut, skin cripsed, meat juicy, corn on the cob slick with butter and garlic, seasoned with salt, pepper, paprika, and rice seasoned with the same, you make sure to tell her ‘I’m going to clean this…I just wanted to let the oil cool first”. 

She smiles and says “ok” as if she had no idea why you were telling her. Basking in the pretense of innocence. But you both know had you left those dirty pots, staining the oven with their orange and black oil sports, she would’ve been angry. 

You might not have seen the consequences. Maybe she would hold that irritation, that small showing of power, close to her chest until one day she explodes with a fire so hot you’d lose your eyebrows. You don’t know because she is a stranger to you, and you to her.  

So, there it is. The power struggle that happens anytime you wake up in a home that is not yours, on a bed you didn’t buy, to the chirping sounds of nature you, and your Midwestern background, are no longer accustomed to due to your 5 year stint in florida. 

But you’ll try. Everyday. You’ll be grateful and gracious. Honest and excited. Content and overwhelmingly sensitive to the needs of others. Because that’s all you can do, to keep from crying. 

 

Day Three 03/24/2020

 

Today has been weird for you. Parts of you wanted to stomp your foot like a child and yell “you aren’t my __. I want to go home!” but you don’t. 

Another part of you wants to be grateful, is grateful, for the time away from the city. You are taking advantage of not having cell-service, the bars that only reach one dot, the smell of fresh air, neon green trees, cloudy (and matter of fact, quite gray) skies and cool nights. 

You appreciate the way Louisiana makes you feel. Big fish, little pond. You think of future days where you might have enough money to contemplate buying that little house next door – white with a coat of green vines and brown sludge. The owners have neglected it. You wouldn’t. You’d take that extra acreage and put together a beautiful herb garden, have a small pond, and windows filled with vining houseplants. And you would take in that stray you found yesterday while getting the stroller out of the car.

You had decided it was time to get out of the house and see nature up close. After packing her into her carseat, you sat the baby on the sidewalk to rest. As you struggle with the mechanics of the compact Hyundai, still packed with all that are important to you, you see a bright tuff of white and brown streak through your vision. 

You didn’t know what it was but it scared you. You sprinted around the car and reached the baby at the same time as a gaunt, swift footed Beagle. It stuck its nose into the baby’s personal space and you screamed out ‘Hey!’ with a voice so hoarse it felt like you never used your throat before. 

The Beagle, Doggy as you will call him, slinks away possibly afraid of you and what you might do to him. You don’t lash out, he seems nice, but you stand like a sentry in front of the tiny human tucked into her carseat. 

Two, three, four times he tries to nose in to see the tiny human. She giggles at his attempts and you can’t help but stare down at her with love in your eyes (because while the world is ending it feels great to see she is none the wiser and happy). Then, when he realizes it’s a pipe dream, he slinks away to the back of the car. You follow him and grab this and that before returning to unleash the stroller from the front seat. 

Doggy follows you on your walk. It’s trying, yelling at him to keep out of the road, but you love it. You love every bend in the road, the smell of air unpolluted, the chirp of birds, the loud barks quickly followed by the cackling irritation of chickens. You love the tiny yellow flowers, growing along the road, that you zoom into with your camera and shoot at different exposures to get the color quite right. 

So you’ll take in that dog for the time you’re stuck in Louisiana, due to the virus. And you’ll let him roam with the freedom he always has, but he’ll stick close. Chomping your scraps thrown out the back door, and barking at intruders, or birds, or squirrels, or anything really.

But you don’t mind. You love this space outside the city. It’s only taken a few days to change your mind about this place. You still don’t want to be here but you aren’t afraid to be here. And you wonder about the significance of this. 

That’s what you think when pondering the house next door to your temporary stay. How you want to go home but one day, you’d think you’d actually want to stay. 

 

***

When your guy arrives on that third day -shortly after you because he had been stubborn and stayed in the city despite the frantic shopping and the terrified winding lines of traffic – you read him the entries from Day One and Day Two. He doesn’t get it. 

He brought you out here, knowing you didn’t want to come – despite the dangers of a city during an outbreak. He made you drive 20+ hours across three states, after having only 2 hours of sleep the night before. Struggling to drive and keep an eye on the sleeping baby, and you’re crying on the floor of Walmart because everything is closed and you can’t find any place to pump breastmilk and dammit, your breasts hurt and there’s no relief and you’re the only one on the road, and you don’t want to be driving here anyway.

He told you – after your hosts were nowhere to be found – to just find any place to sleep. With the baby. He said “I’m sorry baby, I feel so bad,” so many times you wanted to wring his neck. He also told you to go into the major city, when all other places were closed down. The place is so empty it feels like an intrusion just to drive on the streets. It’s sickening, you feel, to see a place so normally filled with verve and pulse to be so still. 

Dead.

That’s what it feels like. Like that scene in the movies and shows when everyone has either been killed by Zombies or forced out into the country. That moment when the hero, or anti-hero, wakes up from his coma, or breaks out of jail cell, or finds a way out of the pine box and stumbles onto a desolate place. He looks in all the corners for answers. Searching for friends, family, and hell, even food. He jumps at a sound, or two, from a nearby alley and discovers it’s just his shadow moving, fighting, pulling him back, silently screaming “get out of here” or “danger ahead”. 

Then the Zombies unleash. And he’s running. Sprinting. His legs moving faster and pushing harder and covering more ground than ever before. 

And then there is no ground. And he’s jumping, climbing, clamoring really. Praying anyone will save him or fight for him or offer their services in exchange for a boon, predetermined or foreshadowed by someone else earlier in the show or movie.

And then he’s free, but not free. He’s out of danger but now there’s another danger. And this isn’t from the Zombies or other mutated beings. This is from those that look like him. Those who would kill you over toilet paper in the grocery store. He must be strong and alert and sharp at every turn. Lest he die. 

You think of all this while getting the baby out of the car at an overpriced hotel and creeping to the door. Watching every shadow as you move. You think ‘I’m alert. I’m awake’ even though it’s been days since you’ve seen a full night’s sleep. You look left and right, although you can clearly see there are no Zombies in suits, holding briefcases here. 

But you do wonder ‘where the hell is my hatchet?” because you’re you and of course you bought one to bring to this place you’ve never been before. 

*** 

Anyway, so you read these entries to him, from the previous two days, and all he – who made you feel all that – can only say in response “I don’t get it. Why is it in 2nd person? It really just sounds like you’re complaining about not wanting to be here” – quoted directly from his perfectly pouting mouth that you sometimes want to slap him in. Because of times like this.

You feel upset, on the cusp of anger, because he knows you don’t want to be here. Why is that a surprise? No offense to your hosts – they are actually very nice. He also knew that you actually meant ‘what did you think’ in a literary sense. Does it flow? Am I crazy? Are my thoughts cohesive? Am I a good writer? Can you tell me something that is real? Are we going to be okay? Will the baby have a future? Will I get to publish anything or will I die before I get the chance? What do you really think? What do you honestly think?

As a writer, there are so many layers to ‘what did you think’ and these layers go even deeper depending on the tone and cadence of the voice when asking. So, you are upset. You try to explain in a deep monotone voice. You tell him what it ‘means’ even though you didn’t want to have to explain. You just wanted him to get it. Fucking get it. 

So, then you wonder if there are only two possibilities. Either: “I am a shitty writer” or “he’s just not my audience”. Which is it? Which one is it? 

Although in this place, stuck in a world that is not ours, during an unexpected time, fearing for our lives and that of our daughter, wondering if this will be The Stand or Pandemic or Station Eleven or The Strain and unsure if we’ll ever be able to go home, I know one thing. Those are not the questions I really want to ask. There’s only one. I really want to know if, in the midst of all this, we will survive. 

 

Book Review: The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware

When she stumbles across the ad, she’s looking for something else completely. But it seems like too good an opportunity to miss—a live-in nannying post, with a staggeringly generous salary. And when Rowan Caine arrives at Heatherbrae House, she is smitten—by the luxurious “smart” home fitted out with all modern conveniences, by the beautiful Scottish Highlands, and by this picture-perfect family.

What she doesn’t know is that she’s stepping into a nightmare—one that will end with a child dead and herself in prison awaiting trial for murder.

Read: August 2020

Method: Audiobook

Heya,

I’ll admit, I wasn’t impressed with the synopsis for The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware. I’ve been playing hide and seek with this novel for months. I usually use Overdrive for my audiobooks and I kept seeing that it was available for lending but I never requested it. I really enjoyed -in a dark, dark, wood – by the same author and I was partially afraid that nothing would live up to that novel. I even put it back on my TBR (To Be Read) pile so that I can read it again. It was that good. I also enjoyed The Death of Mrs. Westaway ( and heck, I might just have to write a cumulative review on this author one day because I’m sure I’ll read more novels by her).

Lately, I’ve been struggling to find a novel that I wanted to read – that isn’t Stephen King, as I’ve been reading a ton of books by him this year. Stay tuned for a review set of his novels – and so I was like FINE!!!! I requested The Turn of the Key and started listening.

I will admit, again, it started slow for me. I had strapped on my bluetooth headphones before I left the house to go shopping and thumbed through the available audiobooks on my homescreen. I tried out two or three audiobooks but it wasn’t until I was standing in Dollar Tree, looking for candy, that I started TTotK. Then, as it began I rolled my eyes. Previous bias. Then I realized that the narrator is British (is the author British?) and I usually love that and so I decided to let it continue.

I was pleasantly, VERY PLEASANTLY, surprised to discover that the book is amazing. The narrator and the low way she says “creak, creak, creak” and how the emotion of a scared nanny comes across through every chapter. I loved the way the story is told in second person, structured as a letter written to a solicitor. I enjoyed the way it unfolds, from in-scene-prose to reader, and back. I also thought that the way the ending is handled – no spoilers here – it was genius! I was about 20 minutes away from ending the novel and I was like OH NO! PLEASE TELL ME ____ HAPPENS! I had predicted what would happen early on, but not some aspects,  and yet, I was happy with the way everything unfolded. So I’ll say, I easily enjoyed it.

The pacing of the novel made me want to listen to it straight through, though it was 10 hours, and so I did. I think I took one small break in the middle to watch a recipe for dinner. Then I was back at it. It was more than emotion from the narrator and pacing. On a sentence level, with phrases and the genius of metaphors, Ware made me feel connected to this character who lived in a different place, narrated by a different culture.

 

If I had a rating system I would give this an amazing 3.5 out of 5 stars! Thank you, Ruth Ware, for yet another great story.

Jade

Link to Book!

If you have any books you’d like to recommend I read, feel free to comment them below!
theturnofthekey