Posts Tagged ‘on love’

Why I Love to Love and Hate to Love West Indian Men

June 4, 2015

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Every now and then, an article or two makes the rounds touting the pros of dating “a Caribbean man”, primarily for the elucidation of women outside of the region and our cultures. Sometimes, a few women and men friends of mine post these on Facebook with either an eye-roll, a pointed ‘no comment’ or as comment bait, but more often than not, they often go ignored by most of the folks I know personally. It’s almost like once you’ve been living with it all your life, like sunshine and warm oceans, it’s not that special — The Caribbean Man — and certainly not warranting all that list attention. Plus, we like to try to not feed the machine (cough, egos). Furthermore, not all of us may agree. According to a Trini sistren I know, “Trini man is de worst!” But unfortunately, guess who holds her heart right now? Yes, a Trini man. Cue the sound of sighs. Love dem too bad and hate to love dem.

But what is it with West Indian men? Living abroad, dating West Indian men can be like comfort food. I like hearing my own accent and dialect tumbling in my ear. I like the worn familiar feeling of an old and obscure-to-nearly-everyone-but-Trinbagonians Machel song. I like how they love me — for the most part. I like how they freely wine or stoically rather not. How we fight. How I challenge their worldview as a queer black feminist. Or, watch them leave me, walking away with a headshake saying, “Nah. We are too different.”

I love West Indian men’s carriage and swagger, their walk and heteropatriarchal expressions of protection and care. I love how they hail up one another and embrace, give each other bounces and touch thumbs. I love some of the many things they share all up and down the archipelago, not just Trinidad and Tobago. There is plenty that I don’t love about West Indian masculinity too, by the way. But right now, for the time being, I just want to sit on the verandah and watch them gallery deyself.

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Love in the Time of Fear

May 8, 2014

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“You called?” I inquired. I was responding to a missed call on my cell. It was the waning hours of Valentine’s Day and the late night was winding down; I was ensconced in a short hallway by the bathroom, inside a hipster bar in central Florida. The young man on the other end was visibly uncomfortable. I could hear his discomfort through the phone, and I could see his face in my mind—sapodilla brown, and probably scrunched up with that squirmy look of his.

“Uh, happy over commercialized holiday.”

“Aw, are you telling me happy Valentine’s day? Did you think of me?” An emotionally inaccessible man is ever tortured by me and my endless turns of the screw. I am incessantly excavating—or attempting to.

He might have sighed inwardly then, if he was the kind of guy who sighed—he wasn’t. He dodged my emotional curve ball and tried to deflect away from the matter at hand: the fact that it was Valentine’s and he called me, because he cares.

“Well it’s almost over.” He noted. “And I was also calling about something else.” It was, arguably, 11: 56 pm when I hit the call button.

Of course, I quibbled, “Well it’s not quite over yet though.” I almost cooed it. Almost. Everything is strategy when you love a guy who cannot love you back the way that you want. When you love someone whose emotional maturity level may not always match up with yours. So many things are elusive, too. Sometimes even impervious. It is hard. But yet, I am still here after all these months, with the phone in my hand and the thrum of my full heart in my chest.

When I make him an offer to come by later if he wants to, he doesn’t want to drive over the bridge to my neighboring county, yet he is irked that I am, in fact, out on Valentine’s. I can hear it in the snap of his reply. He worked an eight hour shift until 11 pm and never tried to make plans with me. He buries disappointment so fast sometimes you could almost miss it, but I catch it because I am always on the look-out. I don’t tell him where I am exactly (strategy, remember) and it feels silly because, it is, and I spend my Valentine’s late-night alone in bed with a dull ache in me. I miss him terribly for a while, then I sleep.

This all began when I met him in a mutual friend’s party about a year ago. We’re from the same island nation, Trinidad and Tobago. He was funny and he could dance. He was younger than me, tall, and a lover of carnival and music. We wound ourselves around each other slowly, at first—texts and short phone calls and exceedingly random and sporadic Facebook messages—now my spool is a hot, frayed out mess. We grew to know and like each other more, letting each other in. As communicative air signs, we reveled in conversations, long succulent ones; after his shift as a CNA and my stints at teaching, we talked overnight into several mornings. Conversations like those I had as a teenager, trying to get to know every nook and cranny of each other’s minds. He grew to be one of my dearest friends. I was loving him beyond friendship and one day (night really), we finally talked about it, albeit under the heady influence of Caribbean rum and we acknowledged that we loved each other (me first, naturally).

And because “I love you” is a spell caster, I clung to the magic and reverence of the words in my head and fed myself from it often: the idea and the words. And what about the practice? Actively loving and expressing love fearlessly takes courage and it takes more than simply admitting that you love someone. I have never been in love before, not in this way, so I don’t know what to compare it to. There is so much I don’t know about love and I have considered that it’s also possible that the language has simply failed me. What if I just really like him a lot? And want him to be the best person that he can be? What is it? And if it is love, why would someone try to run from it?

I had two choices when he told me he was afraid of trying to love me the way that I wanted: either that it was crap and he was playing me for a fool or it was true. And even if it was true, then what? He loved me but had never lived on his own before, far less away from home with freer rein than ever before to flex his mettle at being a man. While his mother raised him in the West Indies, his father resides in the US and they have a decidedly terse, though working relationship. His dad is what we call a “sweet man” in Trinidad—a Caribbean ladies’ man who is good looking with light colored eyes. He tells me he is trying not to be his father but he also admits that he knows he is.

But he could just love me, right? Commit to me? Be brave. What good are these musings on cosmic connections and synchronicities that leave both of us occasionally flummoxed and transfixed otherwise? He is there for me even when he is mad at me and I have been hurtful or petty; and I am there for him likewise. He emotionally shows up when I least expect it sometimes, but he doesn’t show up in the other ways I want him to. It feels Sisyphean, between the love and the fear. Between what I don’t know and what I think I know. We exhaust each other sometimes. Breaking up and coming back together, then again. But he is also lovely in the way that he tries to crack himself open to make a call on one of the most stereotypically romantic days of the year. It’s a small bone I gnaw at hungrily.

Last summer, we were on the same flight to Toronto; he went for Caribana and I to visit my sister and wander a city removed from the south east mugginess. We weren’t talking before that flight and I threatened to change seats but couldn’t because I checked in too late. When the turbulence started, I was glad that he was next to me: to talk to, laugh with, his presence was a calming energy and his forearm was where I wrapped my fingers. Our touch often feels familiar, like in a parallel universe somewhere, we love each completely and our souls remember echoes of this. February was also his birth month. I got him two shirts and a pair of socks. He really digs funky socks. I love him but what I fear most is that maybe, he cannot ever love me the way that I want. Or worse yet, he just doesn’t want to. Maybe the fear resides in me.

Image via: Strawberryposh on Tumblr

Late emotional writing

November 27, 2013

Posted this on my Tumblr a while ago and I figured I’d share it here — just ’cause.

I told him, “I just need someone to remove you from me” sweeping my fingers from the swell of pussy, over the navel, up along the length of my torso, to my throat. He looked tortured like the words cut welts into his skin. Me, splendidly triumphant for a moment or two. He recovered his composure as only a young man, smug and sure and deft in the ways of emotional disconnect can. The warmth in his eyes dim; embers flickering, fading, blinds closing in the dark. Me, scrambling with nubs of matches. The muggy Florida rain clanging on your car. Inside smelling like him and Jack Daniel’s from my cup. He take sips too as I rest my foot on the dashboard. He talks about how all he wants to do right now is kiss me, but he knows he shouldn’t. So he doesn’t. And we sit there and we talk. He has no filter. The asshole gene only minutely deactivated if it means he won’t have to see me cry which breaks his heart after he breaks my heart. And so on and so forth. Cyclical. Sisyphean.

Black girls like me are made of words and water.

All I want to do is talk sometimes. Conversational intimacy for air signs like us is magical. Our words enter each other, sit in the moist crevices of skin and joints of bones. You said you are afraid of being vulnerable, of succumbing to the unknown. You and I, we scare each other profoundly at times. I hear your voice in my head when I least expect it: that Trinidadian baritone pouring out of my subconscious, startling me away from what I am doing. You said I remind you of the best parts of home. Like a lot of guys, you want to be nurtured but can’t nurture anyone because you barely know how. Who am I to demand reciprocity? You gathered me in bunches once and laid me down to rest against you, wrapping your legs around and through mine like they were the most precious things right then. Your feet, large, sand papery and in need of some lotion (always). And the ways that we know each other: from breath to breath, the shape of our fears, laughter and anguish. I wanted to scream at the sky some days (and maybe I did).

You texted and I texted. I called and you called and we fell upon each other: sad and angry and hungry and disappointed, cowering under all these burdensome emotional energies. You said you came to help me move that Sunday because you gave me your word once and you couldn’t not come. And you made sure to leave me with a whisper, so cruel and unkind. You wanted to break me which tells me a lot about your fears. And still, I couldn’t hate you then.

And what is it we are meant to learn after all? I suppose it can come down to this: how do I tell someone that sometimes at night, when it’s all quiet in my head—all I want to do is crawl into the base of your throat and sit there, listening to you breathe. And how do you say to someone who is afraid of love and loving that that is exactly what you want to do with them? And what do you say when they tell you no? That they have no courage to love you. Now. Maybe ever.

Emotions aren’t rational. And there is a fissure in my heart caused by you. (Insert the saddest sigh ever.)

More to the point, “What kind of fuckery is this?” (Universe, yes, I am looking at you.)

And what can I say about the end? The bitter taste—betrayal, or was it something else? A lesson forgotten, soft skein slipping away because you had no grip? “Sorry”—but not really sorry, touching but not really touching. We have let the cosmos down or they have let us down. And between us grew spaces we could not fill, fruit fell before it was ripe and our spirits made promises we could not keep to each other.

Epiphany: He has no salve to rub into my raw, tender spots; I will have to do it myself. And I will.

For Women Who Are Difficult To Love

March 21, 2012

“You are a horse running alone
and he tries to tame you . . .

you are terrifying
and strange and beautiful
something not everyone knows how to love.”

This feels like I’ve been looking for these words & knowing them almost all my life! Such beauty. Such achingly astute truth-telling.

Hair, Home and Meaning

January 28, 2012

“To tell the truth is to become beautiful, to begin to love yourself, value yourself. And that’s political, in its most profound way.”  — June Jordan

I come from a culture, it is said, somewhere between where the Ganges meets the Nile, converging with European colonialists, Chinese, Syrians and indigenous people. Where girls slicked their hair back with petroleum jelly and water — cinching cinnamon buns wound close and pulled tight with woogies. Where box-plaits were common and traditionally, you got braids for carnival, even my East-Indian, white and black mixed friend whose hair I’d done, tightly winding the ends with tiny rubber-bands. Her father hated them, she told me — hated how it looked when she plaited up her hair. And my curly haired primary school friend: a Trini ‘Spanish’ — every swivel of her head echoing with the clack of snap fasteners and aluminum foil on the ends down her back.

In secondary school, rebellious girls shaved half the underside of their heads — it was a way to be definitively edgy then. And more than one East-Indian girl came into her own by loping off the long, dark strands she’d been waiting to remove. Many of them, never looked back. Some girls permed their hair straight; some were life long naturals like me. Some of those naturals permed then when natural again — some stayed natural, adding length in locks, in nattys: coiling, clumping, unbridled, twisting, spiraling across shoulders, down lower backs.

Our heads once smelled like Luster’s pink oil, Let’s Jam! pudding and African Pride products. We pulled brushes from school book-bags and dipped them under the tap before dragging them across our scalps and flaked black gel buildup from our tresses.  We leaked jheri-curl juice onto the top of our blouse collars and maintained dry-curls and glittered finger waves.  We learnt about “weave-ons” and sat still with our selves, quietly dancing fingers around and around to put our hair in corkscrew twists.

We traded in banana clips, barrettes, the sharp teeth of tortoise shell hair combs and baubles; and sported bandeaus, bandanas wrapped around buns and metal hair clips made famous by those girls tumbling through the air at the Olympics on TV, instead. Once upon a time, our mothers slow-rubbed Dax grease into our roots, coated strands with coconut oil and wove colored woolies into plaits and styled them to match uniforms. They burnt and sewed the edges of our hair bows so they wouldn’t unravel — and when they did, we ran the length of school yards in vain, searching for them like lost dreams in the breeze.

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On some of life’s ironies

September 13, 2011

Sometimes you meet someone in life and logistically, it’s all wrong:

  • They just had a baby (literally — like less than twelve months ago) with an ex
  • They are yet to be able to procure a visa from the US embassy in POS; you, for the most part, at present, live large chunks of your life in any given year outside of Trinidad
  • They’re direct, you’re sometimes convoluted
  • They’re “traditional” about many issues,  you’re a feminist
  • They have dabbled in illegal activities; you — well, (mainly) don’t, (at least not anything that will get one featured on Crime Watch)

But yet, but yet, something happens whenever you converge because it feels like a meeting of two spirits who already know each other and you’re not certain how that’s possible. You sometimes feel as though you speak different languages but you get each other completely.

There are many times I feel like a dragon, scrambling to unfurl my own wings and foraging for love — all clumsy on land, ridge-backed and speckled and horned and not pretty enough, getting burnt by other people’s fire in the process. This will be a loving friendship in the end, I think, and all I know is that this person makes me feel acutely aware of mental and emotional nerve-endings, as though my mind is this dripping, sensual space (which it is, apparently); and I get gobsmacked because all I might be hearing is simply how it’s raining on The Island on this cool evening and the poetry I hear is clunky, like I am sometimes, yet invigorating — on phonecard calls that inevitably run out from outside a bar in St. James, between the back-fire of a souped up Super Saloon or in the hush of a darkened front porch.

It is filled with hustling stories, sharpened edges, quiet reflection, surprising humour and fierce loyalty. It is poetry that fills me with a reminder that we are alive, upright ticking time-bombs and people are always struggling and loving and fighting to survive in this life. It is most beautiful at just pledging this quiet devotion to me, my happiness — wherever I might find it and with whomever.  It is an open, chafed hand saying, what do you need in this instant? I would do anything for you. Anything.

How not to write a love poem

July 17, 2011

“Only the shallow know themselves.” Oscar Wilde.

First, you need an absence of love—or anything close to it. Second, you need to resist the fact that this is in fact, your reality.

I tried to write a love poem about someone, this week and failed. Also, I’m not even sure that I’m all that good at love poetry. There really wasn’t any love to speak of. There were postulations, fictive projections of what I wanted to see taking place. And more than enough stretches of credibility: well, what really happened then was this and this is what it means. Denying and or reinscribing one’s reality is a hard habit to break. I am working on paring down my penchant for over-analysis and taking what people say as the gospel—making them Christ and Allah (or whomsoever) of their own self spaces.

If people say they are simple, I’ll let them be. How dare I doubt that and give myself the extra work of deciphering what they really mean or what their true intentions are because I suspect there are other things underneath the surface. (There usually always is though and people are rarely as simple as they make themselves out to be, aren’t they?) and this leaves one in a semi-constant state of looking over one’s shoulder (or theirs), constantly on the look-out for an abyss, some darkness, some cruel consternation that you know is hiding just behind their irises.

more words to live by…

April 2, 2011

“When you love you should not say, ‘God is in my heart,’ but rather, ‘I am in the heart of God.’ And think not you can direct the course of love, for love, if it finds you worthy, directs your course.” — Kalil Gibran, heard in the intro to MacFarlane’s “Humanity” presentation on carnival Tuesday.