I finished the story, Friday

hi *waves.* The lovely people at BlackWomenBeLike recently asked me to contribute a short story to their Finish the Story Friday series, in collaboration with Storymoja Africa. The series and the platform itself exist for the purpose of allowing African women to tell their own stories from their perspectives. My piece closed out the series, the previous three also written by East African women. I had fun trying my hand at fiction! Here’s a snippet below, read it in full here.

“So, what did you do with all that cake?”

“Netsu, after I have just told you the disaster of that day, the cake is what concerns you? Mtsm. Just pass me the comb.”

She slid the bristles through my hair, easing the tangles out along the way, dipping her fingers into a jar of Dax for extra help.

“No, no, sorry mommy. Please continue, forget the cake.”

I’d heard this story before but I still entertained it, as I often do. She tells me each one with the same gusto as when it was still new. Sometimes I can’t feign even an ounce of interest and exasperated, I blurt, “I know, I know, you already told me this story.”

“Oh,” she mumbles, and shrinks away.

I can’t bear to see her shrink like that so I backtrack – “but that’s okay, I want to hear it again. Tell me.”

My mother is the type who thinks she’ll burst open at the seams if she’s made to hold her stories in; if she must swallow her anger, hold her tongue upon mistreatment, and bury her pain, though she does all three more than she cares to admit or show. But most days, she vents and I listen, with ears as open as my mood will allow.

“He said nothing. Barry said nothing. He just lay there on the ground, faking injury, even though we all had a bird’s eye view of his invisible wounds.”

Barry is the first father I ever had, a placeholder of sorts for the first two years of my life. But as soon as he learned the truth, he vanished, in much the same way as my real one.

“As they say, silence speaks louder than words. He loved Eve, long past their six-month union. But I wanted him to pick me, I wanted to be chosen, to be someone’s wife finally, wholesome and stable and respectable.  But Satan knew too much, with her big mouth and cheap weave.”

I already knew who Satan was.

“As Eve stood there chanting ‘they have a daughter, they have a daughter, they have a daughter’ through blurry tears, she told on herself. She loved Barry, too.

Satan said ‘do they or does she?’

That jolted Barry back to life. In the next instant, it seemed his cuts and bruises had healed and he staggered to his feet with bewildered eyes.

Amina, what is Shiku saying?’

Barry, what is Shiku saying?’

That moment broke us. We knew too much to continue pretending that we didn’t.”

The cake became inconsequential, that’s what happened to it.

Of course I don’t remember any of this, 2-years-old and swaddling around the wedding reception hall in my poofy white dress. I was the ‘daughter,’ oblivious to the drama unfolding in my name. Who did I belong to – Barry or someone else?

Read the rest.

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I always felt out of place

“When I lived with my parents, I used to take long walks by myself, even when I was very young and was forbidden from doing so. I couldn’t help it. I was restless. I always felt out of place. I didn’t know it was permanent, though. I thought eventually I would find a house or a street that seemed to have been made just for me. I think I have walked more miles than just about any man I know, and I have learned that if I were to walk every day for the rest of my life, I would never find such a place. That is nothing to be sad about. Many people have it worse. They dream of belonging to a place that will never have them. I made that mistake once.”

– p. 99-100 of Dinaw Mengestu’s latest book, All Our Names

monday morning blues.

there’s a level of dissonance that comes from sitting in a new york city office desk, glancing over at a framed photograph of the poor, unlucky women I come from. in the usually creepy way of pictures, the gaze of my mother, two aunties, grandmother and cousin are fixed upon me. they’re watching me, from their distant vantage point. in this particular moment, which envelopes the past and the present all in one, we occupy worlds that could be no more different. them, sitting in front their humble home in debre sina. or maybe it’s on the grounds of the local abiye high school. I wouldn’t know for sure, I haven’t set foot in my mother’s birthtown since I was five or so.

meanwhile, I sit in a swivel chair staring out at a cold and rainy city gripped by blinding fog and myself overcome by monday morning blues. they look anchored, welcoming the camera into their world for this rare occasion of sitting for a photograph. it was probably my uncle behind that lens. and if not him then a camera person or service he arranged for his family, the exemplary one who made it out but still looked back to tend to the needs of his mother and sisters. he’s not in the frame and my grandfather had probably died by then. or maybe this was the period where he and my grandmother were no longer husband and wife, though he came back to her later toward the end of his life as he transitioned into his deathbed. she and her daughters nurtured the husband and father that left them long ago, without grudge or resentment.

from where they’re sitting, close and huddled like that, they seem to be saying to me ‘we look to you, the girl who came from us and has gone farther than any one of us could ever imagine. we’re waiting for you to become. make us proud, although you’ve already surpassed all of our wildest visions for you. this is where we belong, we are destined to this land, this house, these circumstances.

but you. you’ve already gone far, so far away from this small place. it’s almost as if you exist on a different plane. so, we’re waiting for your big news. for the names and legacies you will create for yourself, and thus for us. we were born and raised unlucky. God hasn’t blessed us with long age, wealth, or even a large many of us to keep one another company. we are a small people, in size and magnitude.

but we place in you our desires, hopes, and dreams. we labored for you, cared for you. now we are waiting. our lot in this short, predictable life has already been settled. but you, my dear, your lot is only just beginning. we can’t wait to smile down on you from heaven, and make our pride known.’

fam

I like to be melancholy

I like to be in my pajamas all day and sometimes I don’t wash for days because I like to read and sit around, and there’s food in the bed. I like to eat in bed and read. And I like to be alone, I like to be melancholy. I like melancholy, the feeling of sadness a lot. But only if I’ve imposed it on myself. I like to pretend that I’m all alone in the world and that I am the raft of love and so on, I’m just sort of abandoned, and then I make my way in my mind. I like that feeling.

– Jamaica Kincaid, Time magazine

vintage fotos and antique shops

I went antiquing this weekend (can’t say I say that often) in Brooklyn and found priceless old photographs, only after sifting through probably hundreds of images. It didn’t surprise me that I didn’t come across many images of nonwhite people but it did get kind of exhausting after a while. There were countless pictures of families, friends, and individuals navigating both ordinary and special days, covering a span of life events, down to the minute. But the absence of images of people of color, specifically African Americans, was discouraging. It’s almost as if they were written out of the American family, memory, and citizenship. But I am grateful for these gems that I did manage to find, enjoy:

text written in red ink on the photo: Jack Henderson, 1910-1974. based on that, I assume this image was captured in the 60s? toward the end of this man's life.
text written in red ink on the photo: Jack Henderson, 1910-1974. based on that, I assume this image was captured in the 60s? toward the end of this man’s life.
there's no information on the photo but I want to say that they're sisters? they have to family, they have the same eyes.
there’s no information on the photo but I want to say that they’re sisters? they have to be family, they have the same eyes.
how regal is this woman?
how regal does this woman look?
there's no information on this picture either. I love her pose.
there’s no information on this picture either. I love her pose.

The following images are from postcards I purchased at the Brooklyn Book Festival:

LOL is it just me or do you love this man's facial expression? I wonder what he was thinking in this moment. the postcard caption reads: Portrait of a New York family - 1905, Photograph by W.S. Ritch.
LOL is it just me or do you love this man’s facial expression, too? I wonder what he was thinking in this moment. the postcard caption reads: Manhattan Series #106. Portrait of a New York family – 1905, Photograph by W.S. Ritch.
two women on a stoop. postcard caption reads: NYC Tenement Series #110. West 53rd St., Manhattan - 1927
two women on a stoop. postcard caption reads: NYC Tenement Series #110. West 53rd St., Manhattan – 1927
postcard caption: Historic Brooklyn Series #322. Local 135 workers on strike, picketing Colonial Laundry at Lexington and Grand Avenues. Clinton Hill, Brooklyn - 1934.
postcard caption: Historic Brooklyn Series #322. Local 135 workers on strike, picketing Colonial Laundry at Lexington and Grand Avenues. Clinton Hill, Brooklyn – 1934.

back to images from the antique shop:

and the ultimate gem, looks to have been published in a magazine: March 25, 1965 - Montgomery, Alabama: Dr. Martin Luther King leads estimated 10,000 or more civil-rights marchers out on last leg of their Selma-to-Montgomery march. (UPI Photos).
and the ultimate gem, looks to have been published in a magazine: March 25, 1965 – Montgomery, Alabama: Dr. Martin Luther King leads estimated 10,000 or more civil-rights marchers out on last leg of their Selma-to-Montgomery march. (UPI Photos). Coretta Scott King ❤
the talented Debbie Allen in an advertisement for the 1981 movie, Ragtime.
the talented Debbie Allen in an advertisement for the 1981 movie, Ragtime, which was actually set in the early 1900s. #HowardUniversity #excellence
Debbie's costar in the 1981 film, Coalhouse Walker. I love the phone he's holding.
Howard E. Rollins, Jr., Debbie’s costar in the 1981 film, which was actually set in the early 1900s. I love the phone he’s holding. I love everything about his features, from his hair, eyebrows, eyes. #perfection

I conclude this post with #ThankGodForMelanin.

the magic of storytelling

I believe that telling our stories, first to ourselves and then to one another and the world, is a revolutionary act. It is an act that can be met with hostility, exclusion, and violence. It can also lead to love, understanding, transcendence, and community.

– Janet Mock, Redefining Realness

weekend bliss: farmer’s market

peppers in all phases.
peppers in all phases.
my first time seeing Maitake mushrooms, the vendor said they're super delicious. I didn't buy any though, don't have too much experience cooking mushrooms.
my first time seeing Maitake mushrooms, the vendor said they’re super delicious.
they had an assortment of beautiful flowers.
they had an assortment of beautiful flowers.

berry trio:

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sunflowers and bees:

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I bought a bundle of these beauties to take home, minus the bees.

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my purchases:

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attempting photography: serenity in the woods

Using the generous gifts I received for my recent graduation, I bought a camera, and took it with me on a mini getaway to the woods [Shenandoah in Virginia]. There was no phone reception, i.e., no email, social media, calling + texting – basically a dream come true for introvert me. Here’s the product, let me know if you have any tips, advice, comments as I delve into amateur photography.

our humble abode:

the Little Bitty cabin [its actual name] was so cozy. if you know me, you know that I love miniature things.
the kitchen: it looks small but had everything we needed. delicious meals were prepared here.
the kitchen had everything we needed for delicious meals.

the mighty mountains:

signage
signage

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leisure:

at the stable
at the stable
introducing myself to Leah, my horse for the 1.5 hour ride. this was my first time and I was nervous.
introducing myself to Leah, my horse for the 1.5 hour ride. this was my first time and I was nervous.
getting strapped in and saddled up.
getting strapped in and saddled up.
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and we’re off. about 10 minutes into it, I felt comfortable and relaxed.
I survived my first horse riding experience :D
I survived my first horse riding experience 😀
hammock life.
hammock life.
fishing at the pond, not that we actually caught anything.
fishing at the pond, not that we actually caught anything.

dipping my toes in the Shenandoah River [before a snake paid a visit and we all ran away]
dipping my toes in the Shenandoah River [before a snake paid a visit and we all ran away]
landscape:

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always thought these mailboxes were so cool.
always thought these mailboxes were so cool.

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