Exploring the stories of women who live by a ride-or-die philosophy

[SHORT STORY] awakening (part 1 of 3)

By jeff Tanaka

[Note from the Editor: jeff tanaka is our guest male contributor for the month of February]

by now, she was regimented. each morning her alarm clock would pierce her dream world and she would rise, summoning herself to life through some sort of inherited inertia. she learned from her mother to never stop.

the world hit her those mornings like a dull yet violent slap straight across the face. slowly, one by one, her hatreds hit her, in cyclical loop and she chanted:

“i hate those who come before me – they hate me – i hate my professors for they never quite understand this pain – i hate my friends – they possess a hatred that at times tastes almost exactly like my own – i hate my lovers – sometimes they try to come too close and then my hatred inevitably meets theirs and then together our hatred dances, hanging in the air like a distant yet intimate reminder of some familiar genocide”

but perhaps, it was early, and perhaps her mind was playing tricks on her. perhaps hatred was too strong a word, perhaps she just disliked all these things. she knew when draped in bone-deep cold that she too often felt like a walking reaction to the world, harsh because her sleep had been light, her night blunted by one too many hits straight to her lungs. she remembered how her mind would get, she, the pain of all these things that accumulated and lingered in her body.

always, without fail, always, every morning, she asks herself: today, can i be? she laughs, because she knows this supposed choice is really an illusion – that she is bonded deeply and sometimes sadistically to her own being.

yes, of course, she will find the strength to do what they had said she must do.

yes, of course, energy will appear as magic water amidst a century long drought.

yes, of course, she will resurrect a phoenix, charred, offbeat but always rising.

they didn’t understand just how much it took to raise her body from the dead and get out of bed on a day like today. she had called on four gods in just that moment of waking and only from their collective blessing and conspiring did she find the strength to say yes. yes, i will stir from this half haunted sleep to face the world. yes. yes, i will awaken to this cold air constricting my lungs, no matter how bitter it tastes.

her eyes zero in across the room on what could only be called the remnants of a roach – the reminder of a big ass spliff from the night before. she jokes to herself, wondering whether she will light it up, but in reality she has already decided. the smoke hits her lungs and at once a spectrum of emotions takes her over. she turns on that song, the one that gets her mind, the one that knows her pain. she feels alive and almost suddenly her thoughts drift to worlds strangely unbroken by violence. she witnesses a whole people, head held high, she mirrors them. she is amidst the mountains, flying over ancestral villages, plotting the return of her energy, living out fantasies – taking on whole empires and turning them quickly and not quite so gently on their head.

now, again, he is by her side. he is beautiful and strange, easy and forever difficult. he has no answers but he has witnessed her pain a thousand times over. his smile tastes like home, a place she used to know and between them, there is never a need to explain.

she lives in these thoughts and they surge in her like life, the smoke twisting across the shards of light scattering the dim room. off key, and off beat she sings along to that song. then, as the most rudest reminder her neon clock flashes a warning and slowly, and rhythmically, her hatreds again hit her one by one, all separate, still all at once and she staggers slowly but decidedly out of her bed.

(to be continued…)

these songs filter through her head as she comes to face the world. they are her medicine:

1. Warriors – Dawn Richard
2. Pressure – Jhene Aiko
3. Break Down These Walls – Melanie Fiona
4. Day Ones – Rochelle Jordan
5. Focus – Ashanti
6. Win Again – Nicki Minaj
7. Pretty Fly – Sasha Go Hard
8. Like A Boy – Ciara
9. Sexy Lil Thug – Beyonce
10. Warriors – M.I.A.
11. I’m Out – Nicki Minaj and Ciara
12. Sisters – A Tribe Called Red and Northern Voice
13. Commander – Kelly Rowland
14. Blow – Dawn Richard

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 presetjeff tanaka. jeff writes when he is supposed to. he believes words have influence and hold power so he uses them intentionally.

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