Exile on Broad Street




“It is the transitory nature of life that lends itself to criticism by those who refuse to simply live.” ~Theodicus

It may have been something I said. I do have a big mouth, or at least others have claimed as much in the past. But I think I’ve changed, at least to an extent, and regardless it could have just as easily been something I did instead. Apparently I do things without thinking about how they affect others, like I’m stuck in my own little world without consequences, where I think people will just be around. Until they aren’t anymore. And it may or may not have been my fault.

Or sometimes I try to hang on too long.

Seriously, though, there are people in our lives for just a small time to accomplish a purpose. Maybe they’re around to teach us something, or for us to teach them something. Or perhaps we need someone to hold us up at a bad moment and they fulfill that role, or we do that for them. But then it’s over, and we try to stretch it. Or at least I try to stretch it. Calling, trying to make plans, posting little avatars on their Facebook walls (timelines, whatever). And when I get nothing in response I don’t just leave it. I try again, thinking maybe they just didn’t see the avatars, or didn’t get the messages I left, or didn’t receive my texts.

Okay, so I don’t honestly believe any of that, but I try to trick my brain into believing it, because the alternative is too devastating to believe. They’re done with me, as so many throughout the course of my life have inevitably been. I would always do better to recognize it for what it is instead of trying to deceive myself, because I only make it worse by being “that guy.” You know, the one who leaves long voicemail messages that are supposed to sound casual but are instead merely desperate.

sadman1Then I notice I’ve stopped seeing their updates in my newsfeed, so I check out their wall (timeline, whatever), and it asks me if I want to friend request them. That’s when I know it’s over, that I’ve been unfriended, and it hurts. It doesn’t hurt because it happened. I half expected it anyway. What hurts is that I became “that guy,” the one they wanted to avoid so they did it the nice way, by simply unfriending me instead of getting into why, which can never help me come out in a good light. What hurts is that they took the time to press that button, because they felt I wasn’t worth it anymore.

And I can say that it’s their loss, but I would be lying. We had reached wherever we were supposed to reach together, as friends, and I tried to keep it going. My bad. We had no longer been living as friends. We were unfriends, even though I had tried hard to deny it. He was just the one who made it official.


Like a Ghost

I got into Philly around 4 this afternoon and surprisingly enough only hit minimal traffic down around center city. I don’t usually come all the way into the city but I’m staying with my sister and she lives in town now. What an adventure to find a parking space though.

21st Street was torn up close to my destination so I took it easy on my new car wheels, cruising down past her street peering left and right to find a space that would accommodate my SUV. It’s the one time I’m not proud of my car’s size, when I’m in the city. The spots I found were so tiny half of my car may have fit comfortably. And the honking from behind as I paused at each spot to gauge my prospects. When I stopped looking one showed up out of nowhere. Go figure.

Isn’t that the way it always seems to work? I eased into the spot, working with parallel parking skills that are sorely lacking from living where there are no parallel parking spots. It looks good in spite of all that though. Although it took me about five minutes to wiggle back and forth until I was satisfied. Which means until it looked the other cars in the block, snugly tucked up tight to the curb.

I locked up tightly (meaning I pressed the button five times — to be sure) and headed off on foot. Hell, I’m in Philly, my favorite place in the entire world. It’s like a fairy tale… with homeless people and cigarette smoke everywhere. I love it. Then I went on a stroll.

Six blocks to South Street and down, past small shops and condos, around dog walkers and smokers, head down so they don’t think I’m trying to make eye contact. That’s frowned upon here. I had almost forgotten. We pass each other by as if we are ghosts living in the same space but at different times. So I slid past in my rush to get nowhere and everywhere at once, taking it all in without missing a beat.

I was home. So I kept strolling, keeping time with the natives who still happen to actually live here. But I still belong, like one of those aforementioned ghosts who doesn’t know when he should stop haunting the place.


Imaginary Friend

imaginaryfriendHer name was Chrissy, and I wanted her to be my daughter, but that meant I was going to have to find a woman named Chris and marry her first. But that would all be years in the future because I was 7 years old and not in any position to get married, even if it were just an imaginary one. And where would I find a woman named Chris anyway? She only existed in my mind, and even that grasp on her was a tenuous one. But let me start at the beginning.

We were supposed to have imaginary friends, or at least that’s what the other kids would say on lazy summer days when we sat on our porches or played in the stream from the hijacked fire hydrant. I would sit there and listen to them go on about their own, about Mark, and Sandy, and Guinevere, and Taniqua, and Jeff, and Lonnie, and I felt like I knew each of them intimately. They had histories and presents. They were involved in the day-to-day household affairs, and they had unique personalities that always bordered on the fantastic. But for me there was no one.

So I went home and discovered my imagination wasn’t a stagnant thing after all, that I could create flesh and bone too, all in my mind. And her name was Chrissy. She was a wee child in swaddling clothes, and I didn’t know what to make of her. I still don’t. I think it’s telling that when I finally came up with an imaginary friend she was more than just a friend. She was a child of mine, even back then, even at 7 years old I was dreaming of being a father.

I told my sister about Chrissy the day after the latter was born, about how she came to me in a dream, in a puff of smoke born from jealousy and release. She laughed that I was so specific, that the child I knew I would have could at that moment really exist in my mind, the blueprint of which blew in from the ether. But she knew I was serious, or as serious as a 7 year old could possibly be. That’s when I knew I would have to find and fall in love with a woman named Chris, so we could have our Chrissy for real.

But I never did find that woman named Chris to fall in love with, someone who I could convince to name our child after her, and I did a lot of searching. My imaginary Chrissy, meanwhile, grew up along with me, through years of tribulation and pain, but also of joy and discovery. Her smile lit up my world, even if it was only in my mind, until I found that woman who would be my life’s mate, and we had daughters who are made of actual flesh and blood. Then Chrissy began to fade.

Because I didn’t need her anymore. And that’s as it should be.


Waiting For Miss Crow

sherylcrow03“Did you know when you go it’s the perfect ending to the bad day I was just beginning? When you go, all I know is you’re my favorite mistake.” ~Sheryl Crow

There were at least 20 black folks camped outside of the HMV on Walnut Street on that cool September night in 1998. Behind them in line were a motley crew of pretty much all other races and ethnicities, but it was clear that they had been there an awfully long time, and they were ready to go the distance. As the clock crept onward towards midnight the chill in the air grew more distinct and the shifting of the people more pronounced. You see, they were waiting for the dawning of a new day at midnight, when the store would open for business and they could get their mitts on the new Jay-Z record.

The $20 dollar bill burned a hole in my pocket as I stood there three people from the end of the line, content in my position, knowing that a few extra minutes weren’t going to kill me. After all, the last subway train of the night didn’t come through center city until 1:28, so I had more than enough time to purchase my CD and get back to Market Street. I drew my coat tighter around my thin frame, collar flipped up to deflect the breeze, and listened to others around me who had come with friends.

And I didn’t even care about Jay-Z back then. At the time I was still all about West Coast gangsta rap, even though by all accounts it was old and stale by then. Oh, and Oasis. In fact, those boys from the UK were even playing in my headphones, in the background, as the clock finally hit 12 and the line began to move forward. The black folks disappeared into the store in a cacophony of sound, the mad dash of feet and riotous sounds of shouting as each one found the display (which was conveniently located at the front of the HMV) and grabbed their own copy of Hard Knock Life.

HMVWhen it was my turn I slid inside and to the right, past the swath of bodies, past the larger than life display, and even past the small group of people just milling about near the new release wall. Because I wasn’t there for Jigga, even though I, too, am of dark skin color. And I didn’t care about the new Soul Coughing record, or A Tribe Called Quest, or even the dynamic PJ Harvey. They were all spread out across that new release wall, but down near the bottom was what I coveted, and I reached eagerly for it, the only one in the store who seemed to even know it was there.

All summer I had been waiting for Sheryl Crow, needing new music from her like a drug. Just a month before that midnight rendezvous I heard My Favorite Mistake and fell in love. I promised myself I would camp out for the first time ever to get the entire album before anyone else. HMV didn’t do those midnight events that often either, so I had Jay-Z to thank for it, even though I wasn’t at all interested in that opus at the time (I love it now).

Then I got into another long line, this time with my prize in hand, staring at the song list on the back and sighing to myself. It was almost as good as my birthday, that trip to HMV to wait for Miss Crow. Almost. I paid for it and was out of the store by 12:30 with time to spare before the subway passed me by. I ripped open the packaging and placed the disc gingerly into my discman, turned up the volume, and lost myself in the music as I waited for the train.


patience1Dear Journal,

Honestly, I should be more patient than I am. I mean, I used to be more patient when I was younger. Either that or I just didn’t want to make waves so I pretended. Yeah, I was really good at pretending back then, and not so much now. Perhaps getting older cuts through the bullshit, or maybe all the years of pretending just wore me to the bone. I’m leaning infinitesimally toward the latter possibility.

I remember a time I was really pissed off at my sister because she didn’t want to play a game with me. I don’t even recall the exact game right now, but it was all important back then, because for me it wasn’t about the game. It was about just wanting to do something with my sister, about craving her acceptance and affection. So I was ticked at her because she said no, but instead of being patient about it and asking her again later I went inward and pretended it didn’t matter. But it did.

And it still does, not just with my sister, but with anyone who I find interesting. Maybe that means I come on strong when I first meet someone. I don’t have the patience anymore to just sit back and let things happen the way they will, so I try to move it along. That’s the reason I think a lot of my friends are laid back type. Maybe God is cursing me for not being patient, so he sends me people who love and appreciate me, but they also just happen to take their time to correspond, therefore further destroying my already fraying patience.

I know it’s not them, either. We all have different definitions of time, and mine just happens to be RIGHT NOW. I know I need to work on that, but the first step is admitting you have a problem, right? There should really be a 12-step program for impatients (I’m coining a new phrase for people like me) where we sit around just waiting for each other to speak. That would be a brilliant way to teach us a collective lesson, or to cause some kind of mass riot.

So I do these breathing techniques, centering I think it’s called. And while I’m doing them I feel good, like I could wait a million years for anything I want, but directly afterwards it all comes back in a rush, like a waterfall on fast-forward. And I want to just talk to somebody else about it, someone who understands because she’s been there, but I don’t know if I’ll have the patience to wait for her to show up.



People in a bar.She knows the way I look
When I try not to look at all
This disinterested gaze
Hazy at best
Warning her that I’m here
Waiting for the pause
That proves she sees me
This shyness of spirit
Buoyant in recognition
Peeking from the shadows
Watching for a reciprocation
That almost never comes
But then hesitation shifts
To reveal her rare smile
Radiant as the noonday sun
Until I have to look away
Knowing she’ll do the same
Because she knows me
Even though we’ve never met
Doing this complicated dance
This shifting of feet
To prove we’re in control
Even though we’re not
So we strive to look away
While the world stands still
Waiting for us to connect
Even though we shouldn’t.



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