this is not my story. my story is incomplete & presently unfolding. this is not your story, for i only know the parts that we have shared.
this is a story: my story as seen by you & your story as seen by me.
this is a reflection.
“ hey Granny
you’d be so proud. i’m the only nigga from Newnan knittin’ in Paradise. ain’t that sumthin’?
yeah, i dreamt about you the other day. must’ve been that strawberry moon we had. anyway, thought i’d call you up. yeah, there might a number to play in there.
Uncle Fred’s been on my mind too.
i know. i know…he’s in a better place, i still miss him tho. he’d have such a good time fishin’ over here. you know how we use to catch dem big ole’ catfish down by the lake near Elim? well yeah, we got some crocodiles over here that’d break ya line in a heart beat. we could make some good stew like we use to do wit dem turtles before winna came.
nah, it’s not cold ova here even tho it’s winna for us and summa for ya’ll. yeah. everything’s flipped on this side of the world.
mmhmmm. it’s tomorrow morning over here. crazy ain’t it?
i love you too, Granny.
“g’day mate, how are ya”
“oh, i’m to blessed to be stressed, amen!”
“oh, hahaha! i love that! and where are you from?”
“nah, i mean originally…like where were you born?”
“So you’re from America.”
yes, i was born in North America, but no, i’m not from there. i consider myself a global citizen.”
on may 30th, 1995, you ENTERED the world, filled with love, surrounded by laughter, and wrapped with hope for the future. you were the last of your mother’s children. she couldn’t bear to lose another child, or two.
but one day your siblings will be born.
you have always wanted twins, Mr. Gemini.
may 29, 2021 | 17:10
hues of orange and passion fruit wake me up from my nap. i find Her in an unusual but usual position- watching me sleep. ‘weird, but cute’, i think.
“Happy birthday for tomorrow, and by the way…you’re weird as fuck, but I love You.”
“I love You too, baby. i’ll be back real soon. i promise.”
03 june, 2021
this is paradise. i see mountains, and i see sea.. i see ships sail at a distance with dreams aboard. those dreams aboard are here with me…
but how did i get here?
Moonlight is the only movie that will always make Carlo cry. it WORKS every time. having lived most of his life as gay and all of it as Black, he noticed how commercialized media, often disguised as art, illuminated one or both of these identities…usually at the expense of Character. his Character. it was simple: the media- i mean art- i mean reality had put forth narratives that justified and informed what he believed. but over time, he realized that what you believe to be true can grow obsolete- because when what you perceive to be true is mirrored as ‘reality,’ and YOU BELIEVE IT, your vulnerability then becomes what you believe and perceive to be: the Truth.
Look @ God.
Knowing, that he couldn’t just be himself, he had to be his True self.
he had to Know thyself, from then on…
he had to remember his ancestors, from then on…
because whatever he thought to be true, especially about the future, it was his ancestors who reminded him that it was all subject to change from then on…
there were questions about everything, especially about his sexuality. his questions were free but his answers were not. For he knew that everything came at a cost, even the GOoD that we gain. and the cost of GOoD is Time. and time, my friend, is a matter of DEATH.
it was a beautiful last day in paradise. the climate was cool & breezy as my hammock swayed with whispers from God. it’s was a perfect day in every way. the time was ripe for You.
i called to let her know that i loved her, and that
“I have no resentment for coming back early. The experience was to write the story, not to win the competition so let’s have fun?”
later she tells me how
“i was walking with Faith on a hike and talking about what’s going on in Afghanistan. Have you caught up?”
not yet, not until i leave paradise.
good idea. but yeah, we were saying how grateful we were about being Black women in this country. when you think about it, the fact that we’re able to hike through the woods alone- its a lot. im so grateful my parents were brave enough to make that journey from Zim. everything would’ve been so different.”
Experience = SPACE + Time
That was the equation You and i came up with.
For the reader, who is not You, pardon the play with words, but it was an incredible experience to define an “experience” with a friend who i’ll name as You. It was a playful experience and one hell of a experience to feel and remember it too.
You, the reader, and i, weren’t physically there to share, but if you remember the feeling you can experience this experience, and then i’ll take us there.
Okay, You, where were we?
So, You’s here, i’m here, and the reader is here, but the question remains where are we?
Well, the story begins here:
23 june, 2021
Once upon a time…or was it every time…perhaps it never happened. But those that were there remember…
1 + 1 + 1 = 1
And when 3 becomes 1, that, my friend is REunion.
It just works; like with ‘Moonlight’.
That’s what I’m saying about art, and art as my work.
To create is my work, because Art Works. Art has always worked for me, in my favour…as my healer…and at my mercy.
my Uncle Fred was the hardest to handle. even as i write this sentence, his spirit washes over me leaving droplets of stolen imagination on my keys below. that’s what grief feels like to me: stolen imagination. when your imagination is gone, be it stolen or lost, you have a void, a space, that feels like it can’t be filled. it’s a yearning for Life. we yearn for breath in intangibles as well. we yearn for the Energy of Life to flow in and around all sorts of things. Because where energy flows, focus goes.
When I contracted HIV around 23, I met an angel a few months earlier. He came over so I could fuck him, but I ended up crying in his arms. He knew when he saw me. He knew that the time was ripe, and the stars were aligned. He sat me down. And looked at my soul. And said:
“I see You.”
I never though that I would have to grieve my health, but when your body keeps count You count ii.
In a weird way, my Angel was manifested years earlier. My performance as Tom Collins stirred something inside me- something that told me I was real and worthy. As in life, RENT was an affirmation of my existence- belting to anyone who would listen that My Life Matters, but Moonlight reflected me, showing anyone who was looking, that i’m here.
Both Angels helped me process my grief. We leaned into the idea that to grieve, first, you must hold space for that which you’ve lost- be it a loved one, a pet, a job, or an identity. To Live is to stir both Joy and Pain, so to die, both tend to feel indebted. we figured that the second and most crucial step is the process of letting go. like letting go of childhood trauma from your cancer stricken mother or letting go of painted walls for your still-born child. to let these feelings go can be the hardest experience of grief, but to hold these feelings will only show you what you want to think.
It works…until it doesn’t.
31 july, 2021
I’ve picked up knitting with Mother in the caravan park. I like it. It’s nice.
At 16, Mother and her family would incidentally move next door to her then boyfriend and soon to be life partner. For 48 years, she would marry the “boy next door” and live happily ever after…until she won’t.
When i sat with her to talk about this prompt, she helped me realize that we don’t actually let go of anything when we grieve. I haven’t let go of Uncle Fred, and she hasn’t let go of her husband.
Instead, we concluded that what we actually do is expand and contract certain boundaries to grieve. when we contract our physical space and expand the emotional, we can mourn. when we contract our emotional space and expand the physical, we can deny. wherever these boundaries lie, they guard our privately perceived space from those unknown, because all space is shared space.
That’s what we call “our reality.”
Imagine: I’m sitting with Mother while knitting. And randomly, she exclaims, “Oh Paul, you silly man!” Paul, Mother’s husband, is physically dead. But, “he’s” reminded her that she’s forgotten to turn off the kettle…right as she sat down to knit.
contextually, her mental expanded into her physical. and without my witnessing of it, it would have been kept a private and timely matter.
but i can’t help but wonder, what space was Mother in? was she in her right mind? or had she left it? does it matter? I don’t believe so. I believe Her truth is the purpose of any experience, which simply is To Be:
Her truth is To Feel:
Her truth is To Remember:
Her truth is To Love:
In that experience, Mother’s Truth was To Grieve: And her grief like her truth needed no defense, but to you, the reader, it did need defining. So grief, albeit painful and necessary, may seem like an arduous process, especially until best learned how, but i’m here to tell you, the reader, that it is grief’s ability that allows us, Mother, and Paul to transcend [boundaries] time and space.
after a week in paradise, 2021
You’re just hurt; that’s all. When you were a kid, your mother loved you in ways she only knew how. She measured her love in your potential, and you measured your potential in daydreams. She showed you that you can do, be, and have anything you wanted. She knew this. She just wanted you to know it too. But at the core of it all, it was -is- love. Every time she laughed, albeit few, she laughed with love. It seems that a painful lesson a child must learn is that a parents’ love is never enough…especially when holding abundant feelings of neglect.
With grace and when it was necessary, God’s Angels whispered two secrets: The secret of Death is the process of grief, however that’s understood. And the secret of Life was simply to try, and the lesson was to share.
But you were a child when he shared these things. You spoke as a child. Learned as a child. And did as a child would. But you must now put away childish things, as any teaching Man should.
I used to think that freedom was abstract and unachievable. But I’ve learned that freedom for the heart and of the mind is freedom from boundaries, and the space to grieve their absence is the experience of Life itself.
So, this childhood pain you speak of…hold it.
Hold the fish fry(s), Anita Baker, and Sunday mornings.
Hold the snotty noses, back hands, and long nights.
Hold those experiences in space and time and never let them go.
Hold the experience that she gave you: that nobody’s ever perfect. Hold the experience you’re giving her: that perfect isn’t what you want.
As you write these words in paradise, where things are nearly perfect, hold yourself holding space- that is your reflection of ego.
See that you’re exactly where you need To Be:
as these things unfold.
Then find someone, and look into their eyes and say:
You’re just like me, and I love you.
At the core of who you are, there lives a light.
It grows with love, through laughter, and by yearning for a better and brighter future.
Although covered in scars, you are seen as art.
Because you bend, you shall not break.
In this lifetime, you can know of no fear…
if you struggle with humility and celebrate with grace.
In this lifetime, you must love the unwilling…
including yourself, every day.
And if you’re ever feeling hurt or confused,
L E A D W I T H Y O U R L I G H T
Lead with love.
Lead through laughter.
Lead by yearning for a better and brighter future.
And know that it will all be okay.