I Was Interviewed by BRILLA’s Maria Rodriguez!!!

How exciting this was for me! I am very proud of the creative work that I am doing and how it is essentially connected to literacy, my greatest passion.

I am honored to not only have been interviewed but to also collaborate with Maria Rodriguez aka BKWRITA and founder of BRILLA (Broadening Representation in LatinX Literature & Art).

Peep the interview below!

Angelique Imani Rodriguez is Booked and Busy in the Bronx

In addition to the interview, my online book club, the Boricongo Book Gang, has collaborated with BRILLA Media for an EPIC Instagram giveaway.

Check out our Instagram pages for more details on how you can enter to win: @theboricongobookgang @brillamediaSpecial thank you to the contributors of this giveaway @cafeconlibros_bk @sistersuptown @wordupbooks @astoriabookshop and @rae.paintings (1)

It’s been a LONG time…

Hi all–

I know…I have been hella lackadaisical about posting here, but I wanted to put you on to some updates on what I actually have been up to in the interim:

  1. I told myself at the start of 2018 that I would submit more and I have! I am editing some of the drafts of the essays I have posted here and will delete posts as I finish working on them. Side note: I am not open for emailed notes, so pretty please refrain from hitting me up with your notes on these drafts. I have an amazing writing circle (or coven..ha!) and I am a huge believer in the idea that too many cooks in the kitchen ends up in meals that don’t get made. Feel me? I got this.
  2. My last post was for a call for submissions for an anthology of writers and chefs of color on food. If you are interested in submitting, I have extended the deadline and am still accepting submissions! See previous post or email breakingbreadanthology@gmail.com for more details.
  3. I am always running the Boricongo Book Gang, my online book club that focuses on the works of writers of color. I have just recently created an Instagram for the book club and am partnering with Maria Rodriguez, poet and founder of BRILLA (Broadening Representation in LatinX Literature & Art) for an epic September 2018 giveaway. If you aren’t yet, please follow @theboricongobookgang and @brillamedia for soon-to-be-posted details on how to enter to win and join the group for awesome books while being introduced to amazing writers of color. Trust me, you will NOT want to miss out. Please note going forward, I will be posting more about the book club as well on this blog.
  4. I have fallen in love with flash prose, y’all. Flash prose are pieces that are each 1,000 words or less. I submitted to the Writing Our Lives/Tin House collaboration (which is still open for submissions for Writing Our Lives alumni…check it out!). The submission was a real challenge for me but I legit have fallen in love with the genre. Reminiscent of Cisnero’s “The House on Mango Street” and the work of Eduardo Galeano, the genre allows my inner poet to play around a bit and creates the need to really know and understand the power of diction. That being said, I am scribbling and scribbling away piece after piece. Its coming out of my pores, y’all! Ha!
  5. Lastly, I am currently researching for a project that is pure magic and that excites me so much. I want it to come into fruition a bit more before I talk thoroughly about it, but needless to say….STAY TUNED, MI GENTE!

So much going on, mi gente….with lots of living, laughing, and loving in between.

I want to thank those who have kept up with my writing and with me. Your support and encouragement mean so much to me.

There’s Trauma When There’s Pressure: My Thoughts on the “Grace” and Aziz Story

We met at a beer hall and had cheeseburger sliders and lager. The conversation was cool and he was adorable. I liked him and his sense of humor, liked the way he put his hand on the small of my back, how he stood up with me when I got up to go to the bathroom. I liked the way he smelled and I liked the way his hands looked. He was attractive, a great smile with coffee freckles across the bridge of his nose and full lips.

I dug the dude.

We laughed and chatted and drank until our heads were fuzzy. I asked him over for a night cap, said I had a six pack of Purple Haze beer in my fridge that I had yet to tackle. I told him that it would be nice to continue our conversation there but that I’d be moving around the apartment, putting a load of laundry in, dishes in the dishwasher, emptying the trash. He shrugged; smiled, said it would be nice as long as I didn’t mind having him there.

I really didn’t.

But then I did.


I’m going to keep it real with y’all. I didn’t read the Babe.net article in its entirety. I stopped reading about  “Grace” describing her date with Aziz Ansari and then on to talk about how violated she felt, right around the section that talks about the “claw” of his hand.  Most of the conversations and think pieces that then came out about it were, to say the very least, conflicting, shaming, and perpetuative of the status quo. I read some and ignored others.

I won’t shame “Grace” though because I know what that shame looks like, I know how that shame feels. I shame the writer of the piece because they are the one who dropped the ball. The writer trivialized an uncomfortable and potentially traumatic experience for “Grace.” On some real shit, when you’re trying to talk about this woman’s story and her trauma, spare us the details about how fly her outfit was or what she was or wanted to drink. Nobody gives a shit and it completely deflects from what should have been an insightful piece.

The article in Babe.net, a website which I never heard of until this story, was a too-explicit expose of that night that completely missed the opportunity to garner real discussion about sexual pressure and what that looks like. I won’t even get into the details about one of the publication’s biggest investors being Rupert Murdoch or that the publication sought out “Grace” for the story, or that the Babe piece completely disregarded race and class dynamics. Those are things other people have tackled quite well.

It is because of this lazy writing that people are being quick to devalue the progress made through the #MeToo movement, that people are either shaming “Grace” or Aziz. And yet, no one is talking about the kernel of truth in the description of that night. Sexual pressure needs to be talked about, not devalued, not trivialized and it should not be fluffed up for public consumption. The writer of that piece should be ashamed of themselves.

The story and the conversation it garnered between me and my friends, seriously got me thinking about how we define sexual misconduct. How I have. It made me think of how often I had been pressured to have sex, how I sometimes gave in to the pressure, and all of the reasons why.  And it made me think of the shame that clung to me like a motherfucker afterwards. That shit clings and it follows you like a shadow.

One thing did not escape me while talking and reading about Grace’s experience.

Every woman I know has an Aziz Ansari story.


We got to my apartment and I did as I said, opened up some beers, put on my favorite Spotify playlist, lit some incense and scented candles to freshen up the air, and then I started loading the laundry, wrapping the garbage (the reason for the scented candles and incense), rinsing off dishes in the sink to put in the dishwasher. All the while, I sipped at my beer and chatted with him. He sat at my kitchen table and went through two beers as I sipped at my one.

“I apologize if it looks like I am distracted; I am just trying to multitask with you here. Actually, you being here must have me motivated to get it done. Otherwise, I’d probably be Netflixing,” I joked, closing the dishwasher.

“Yeah, I am starting to get offended. You lit all of these candles and things. I thought we’d be getting romantic,” his laugh sounded like a snort. “So, tell me about single life as Angelique. Why are you single?”

I wiped my hands on a kitchen towel and scanned the room to see if I missed any chore or something I could do. “Single life is a lot of guys who assume they should get a return on their investment of a $50 dinner.”

He laughed and finished his second beer. “I don’t know what means. You’re going to have to be more specific.”

Clearly, I thought to myself.

I told him about a guy who after four dates felt it necessary to bring up the fact that we hadn’t gotten physical with each other, as if he was owed something. I expressed frustration that four dates doesn’t mean I am obligated to do anything, let alone have sex with someone. The dude hadn’t known my last name, who my family was, what I loved and hated….but yet he felt entitled to my vagina.

“I am not about that life. Look, if we do our thing on the first date and we move forward, then so be it. I don’t shame anyone who navigates their sex life in their own way. I’ve definitely been there…shit we all have. But this guy was cool, I liked him, I was vibing and moving at my own pace. I didn’t know there was a deadline for sex and I certainly didn’t think it was after four dates.”

“I think he misread you. He liked you and you didn’t like him. Girls know when they want to do a guy in the first five minutes,” he set down the beer bottle and asked for another. He took a swig of the fresh bottle before speaking again. “He just liked you and you broke his heart.”

“I didn’t break anyone’s heart. What you are saying is that after four dates, I am obligated to have sex to prove that I like him? Like sexing him is the only way that would show him, above every other way that I have showed him, that I like him and enjoy spending time with him. Come on, b….miss me with that.”

“Guys are like that, I guess. I mean, I’m not like that, but a lot of guys are,” he sipped again. “Can you sit down please? Let’s change the topic. I don’t want to get you upset before I had a chance to get to know you.”


What happened to “Grace” was not like the horror stories we have heard from women about Harvey Weinstein or Matt Lauer or many others. What happened to her was not an “assault,” as she herself admitted. She was not forced to do anything she did that night nor was her livelihood or life changed because of the harassment.

It was, for lack of a better way of saying it, a completely shitty date.

But that doesn’t devalue what DID happen.

A woman said no to a man she liked and was attracted to because she wasn’t ready to take that step and she was ignored. I won’t presume to know why she went as far as she did that night and I won’t shame her for it.

Because that, after all is not the point.

The point here is that she said, no, chill babe, let’s not…and she was ignored over and over.


I kissed that guy that night. Yes, even after that conversation. I wanted to kiss him and I wanted to be kissed. So, I kissed him. It’s as simple as that.

When I saw him getting aroused, I stepped back and grabbed an empty beer bottle off of the table, hoping the disconnect would be enough to, “change the subject.”

“You feel so good. Let me just…” I will spare y’all the details of his commentary. It is unnecessary. Just know he started to ask to do things with and to me that I was not down with that night.

“I like you. I want to see you again. It can wait,” I said, wiping my kitchen counter down.

“I know, but I’m here now,” he reached for me and kissed me on my shoulders, then my neck.

The shit felt good, y’all. I ain’t going to lie about that. But I didn’t want to do anything else.

You’d think that would be the end of it.

Homeboy proceeded to try to keep the momentum up because well, because HE was up. But though I kissed him and allowed him to hold me, I pushed him away when he got too handsy, when his hands tried to sneak to the waistband of my pants. I pushed him away and started easing my way towards the door. Clearly, he wasn’t going to listen to me.

“You want me to leave? Am I making you uncomfortable? Do you not like me kissing you?”

“I am asking you to leave, yes.  I absolutely do like you kissing me. But I don’t want to get any more physical than we have,” I said.

“But what’s wrong? Are you not feeling well? Do you have your period? That I can understand, but honestly, we’re adults.” I shook my head to all of his questions. I could feel myself getting more and more annoyed with the situation.

He grabbed me by my waist and kissed me and I could feel that shit in my toes. I will not lie and say I didn’t enjoy it.

“You’re such a tease. Just let me kiss you for a little longer,” he whispered into my hair.

When his hands went to my pants again, I asked him to leave for the second time.


I’m not going to tell you a horror story though sadly, I have plenty of those.

I am telling you this specific story to describe the kinds of conversation that happens when sexual pressure occurs.

Homeboy left with a smile on his face and we left things in a good space. We planned another date soon and texted about how the evening went. He later said he felt like he was getting carried away and I agreed. He asked if I didn’t want to get carried away, too. I told him anticipation is the best foreplay and if I didn’t want to fuck with him, I wouldn’t respond or look for him. He laughed and said he couldn’t wait to see me again.

I think what dudes need to understand is that if I went on a date with you, if I drank with you, if I invited you up to my apartment, if I let you kiss me and I kiss you back…..that is STILL not an invitation to pull out your dick or pressure me for sex. If I say no or chill, back off, get your ego out of it, and we can continue the night and enjoy each other’s company.

Enjoying my company doesn’t mean you get to enjoy my vagina. I call the shots with that, b. Period.

This isn’t a rejection of you. I clearly like you if I am spending the few precious hours I am not working with you. I clearly like you if I kissed you, asked to spend more time with you. Stop thinking that me not wanting to do anything sexual at the moment you have a raging hard-on means I am not attracted to you. Take your got-damn ego out of it.

I am not “Grace.” I am not a 23-year old gentrifying white woman who has access to Emmys after-parties. But I am sure we have all been in a situation where we like the guy and even though we are giving him all the clues to chill, homeboy is still roaring. It’s uncomfortable, it’s scary, and it never ends well for the woman. We end up feeling defeated, violated, grossed out, ashamed of ourselves. She resents you for not listening to her and what she needed, for thinking only of what you can get, of the nut you can score.

I haven’t always been this way, you know. I haven’t always been so matter of fact, so clear. I wasn’t always able to say the things I said to homeboy that night. At one point in my life, I was very much like Grace, giving in for a number of reasons that I am only NOW starting to navigate: lack of self-love, the sheer naiveté of a young girl believing a dude will stay because you give him what he wants, ignorance of my own boundaries, even the fear that if I didn’t just give in that it could get violent….so why not pretend that you want it so that he can just…..leave you alone?

I haven’t always maintained boundaries because I didn’t know I even had them. I didn’t know I could enforce them.

But I know my boundaries now.

And as a woman who has had some crazy shit happen to her, I will say this: If the dude ain’t listening because he is thinking with his weiner…..SPEAK LOUDER. And if he still doesn’t listen to you, get out or get him out. Ask them to leave or grab your shit and leave. Please know you have EVERY right to use your voice and to enforce a boundary. Please know that you HAVE a voice and that your discomfort is your body and your spirit and your mind telling you to put up that boundary and do what is best for YOU. Fuck his feelings and ignore his whining laments over “blue balls.”  If he stops fucking with you because of that, ladies… he ain’t the motherfucking one. And that’s that.

This, of course, is with the ubiquitous and ever present fear and knowledge that things may get uglier in some situations. If that happens, fight like hell, run, call the cops, scream, hurt him. Badly.

Perhaps this comes off as if it’s easy to do. Let me be clear: IT IS NOT. IT IS SCARY. Fucking with a dude can be a gamble with your life and I do NOT say that lightly.

Something for the men to sit with: Why would you even want someone to reluctantly fuck you anyway? Y’all need to step your game up if you think acquiescence is them giving you the green light, b.

Because that right there is that kernel of truth that the Babe.net piece failed so miserably at tackling: Acquiescence is NOT consent. There is a difference. The actual definition of “acquiescence” is “the reluctant acceptance of something without protest.” Operative word is “reluctant.” That is not consent, people. That is giving in to pressure.

And there is trauma when there is pressure.









Week 22: #52Essays2017 Day Three -VONA

Morning of Day Three:

I woke up feeling really positive. Exhausted and in dire need of coffee, but positive. Day Three was the day I would be getting workshopped by my group. I was nervous because my essays are personal and hit all the bruised tender spots in my heart.

But, knowing the cerebral and delicious conversations my workshop had been having, I knew that seeing my work through their eyes would be an interesting ride.

Day Three:

I sat in the workshop with every intention of not getting emotional. This work on my identity, on dismantling my shame and my trauma is extremely difficult for me. I sometimes forget that posting my essays on my blog means that people can actually see and read what I have written. Isn’t that silly?

Knowing this, I asked myself what I have been trying to tackle. Am I trying to just tell people what I have gone through? Am I trying to unload on the world so I don’t have to carry the weight of it? I sat there and told myself, “I have no reason to refer to my life as traumatic. My life has never been as bad as others have had it. How dare I?” I beat myself up for downplaying the reality of my existence.

I simmered in self-doubt again. I boiled there.

And doubt is dangerous. Doubt makes me think I have nothing to be healed from. Doubt makes me think that I should be ashamed of telling the world these things. Doubt makes me think of my family, makes me think they’d be angry or upset at me telling everyone my business, our business, their business. Doubt makes me think that they’d never understand. Doubt encourages the fear because the fear tells me that I have a lot to lose by writing these essays.

Doubt tells me that writing is not just a solitary act but can be an isolating one as well.

I sat there in that workshop before my pieces were discussed and felt sweat dampen my spine, felt blood rush to my head. I was nervous. I was scared of being judged. I was scared of being told that it wasn’t enough.

And instead, I was told my writing was animated, had movement, was effective. I was told that my language had sensuality, that the sense of the body and the awareness of body was a thematic thruline that added to the writing. I was told that I capture the reader with my writing.

So far, so good, I thought to myself.

Workshopping at VONA forces you to relinquish your ego,  forces you to really look at the work you’ve created. It asks you craft questions about spacing and theme and if structure and language are effective, which are all necessary in the revision process.

But more importantly, it helps you to see the areas which you are avoiding or running from. It helps you to see the patchy areas where you could’ve dug a bit more, pulled that band-aid off a little further.

And my fellow workshoppers did just that: They urged me to sit in my vulnerability more, asked me to take a look at the hard shit I was writing about and stay there until it was all out on the page, until I had squeezed out all of the infection. They asked me if the moments of self-deprecation was my voice.

And they asked me the questions that are starting to shape the very intention and direction of my writing:

What makes you so terrible and why do you write that? 

What does your empowerment look like?

I lost direction for so long with my writing. I was so unclear what it was that I have been trying to say and to a certain degree, I still am. But writing essay has really helped me put some discipline in my writing. Writing essay has been productive, not just for my writing practice, but for my spirit.

The first question is a different way of asking what I have been asking myself since I began the essay challenge:  How do I cater to shame in my writing? How has shame shaped how I define myself? Why and how has shame become a part of my existence and why do I need to write it?

But it’s that second question, scribbled in blue ink in my journal that hit me like a ton of bricks:

What does your empowerment look like? 

I don’t really know how my empowerment looks. I am not healed. Shit, I am still looking at what I need to be healed from.

And again, I don’t think healing is a finite thing. I think facing traumas or pain in one’s life creates an unearthing of emotions that one may have no idea they have been avoiding.

I think healing is a constantly evolving thing. It is a recognition and acknowledgment just as much as it is an unlearning. It is often a revisit. It is often triggering.

But it is necessary.

I suppose then, the answer to that question is:

I’m working on it.



Week 21: #52Essays2017 Day Two-VONA

At the end of Day One, I sat with friends at CopaBanana, a local eatery right off of the campus. We munched on salty french fries and sipped on whiskey and ginger ale. The conversation turned to submitting work. I asked myself then if that would be my intention for the next year, to submit more work. I promised myself that I would make that decision once I was workshopped on Day Three.

I knew that getting my piece workshopped could do one of two things: light a fire under my ass or make me run under a rock to hide.

As we walked back to campus, I asked myself if I was ready for submitting work. I asked myself if my work was ready. I asked myself if it was good enough. I told myself I was just playing myself, that my work was mediocre at best, that I had to try harder, be better, do more before I could submit anything.

I felt the self-doubt hanging itself like a weight from my ankles as I walked, dragging me back to earth from the high of the earlier part of the day.

I went to bed thinking I had no idea why I was even there.


Day Two: 

I woke up and dressed carefully, putting on a flowy dress to combat the heat, piling my hair at the top of my crown with pins. I tried not to think of the beat-down session I gave myself the night before. I ate breakfast, kept a smile on my face, and then started the trek across campus to workshop. I noticed three white males walking extremely close behind me as I walked. It made me uncomfortable, not just because of their whiteness (though that played a part), but because of their maleness. I don’t like men walking extremely close behind me. It makes me feel unsafe. It makes me feel watched. It makes me feel vulnerable.

I stopped short and the person directly behind me bumped into me, of course. They sucked their teeth as they walked around me. I stared at them with icicles in my eyelashes as they did. It was too early and I hadn’t had much coffee.

The incident made me appreciate New Yorkers, who just like me, like their personal space. Walking on someone’s heels is just not a New York thing, despite how crowded and cramped it may be. The only place motherfuckers will forgive that shit is in a crowded train and barely then. On the street though? Unacceptable.

Finally in workshop, we dove right into workshopping people’s pieces. The conversation circled around the disruption of idols and what that meant for us. We talked about one of the pieces assigned to us to read, an interview in a 1984 issue of Essence magazine between Audre Lorde and James Baldwin. In it, Baldwin’s male blindspot is garish, put into light.

How do we accept that the man revered for his writings during the Civil Rights movement had a HUGE male blindspot? Does that take from his work? Does that makes us see him differently? How do we reconcile our respect for our icons of Black and Brown movements with their flaws, with their humanity?

Zhayra, a fellow workshopper, raised a powerful point to us by referencing what she said she believed was an ancient Greek saying: “The greatest disappointment and liberation is knowing that your gods have feet of clay.”

I thought about that quote for most of the remainder of the day, journaling about it while wrapped in blankets in the dorm room later that night, fighting sleep to get the words down.

The conversation reminded me of a scene in a memoir written by the granddaughter of Lolita Lebron, in which she talks about the funeral held for her mother. The government allows Lolita to attend her daughter’s funeral and the funeral overflows with people who hold Lolita as an icon for Puerto Rican Nationalism. The little girl at her mother’s funeral wonders why so many people are just there for her grandmother and not to mourn her mother. She watches as her grandmother waves to the masses, hugs people, talks to them about Puerto Rican nationalism. She watches her grandmother and strips her of the idolatry everyone else gave to her. At that moment, Lolita is not a Puerto Rican nationalist icon. In that moment, she is just a flawed woman.

In the quote Zhayra brought up, it says it is not just a disappointment to see your gods’ flaws, but a liberation. A liberation! The idea that who we respect and revere can also be flawed, reminds us of their humanity. They are no longer icons, they are people with shit…just like us. They are human and humans are flawed, fucked up, messy. Perfection after all is an illusion. Imperfection is the reality.

In our disappointment in our fallen icons is the recognition of their humanity. And in recognizing that they are human and flawed like we are, it gives us the freedom to accept our own flaws, our own imperfections as facets of who we are. It helps us to be more gentle with ourselves. Even our inspirations have rot.

I didn’t beat myself up when I put my journal down that night. I didn’t sleep with doubt that night. I dreamt of goddesses with feet made out of red clay washing their feet in a river. I bathed in the river, leaving watery streaks of red on my skin.

I woke up the next morning no longer questioning why I was there. I knew why I was there. To become a better writer.

And the only way for me to do that, was to continue working on being a better person than I used to be.




Week 20: #52Essays2017 Day One – VONA 2017

Night of My Arrival

I forgot a pen. How can someone attending a writing workshop forget a pen? The irony of it all.

This is my third VONA and I am excited to be here for one reason. I missed this energy. I remember, for my first VONA in 2014, arriving in Berkeley, California and looking so pale and anxious, my sister friend begged me to put on lipstick. I was anxious. I was also completely hungover from my 30th birthday celebrations, but that is an entirely separate essay.

I suppose I was more prepared for this VONA. I was anxious all week, felt the anxiety settle into my stomach, gurgle there. I was nauseous for most of Saturday before I got here. I was dizzy and jittery. When I hugged a sister-friend, who, also attending, offered to drive me to Philly, she remarked that I was shaking. I didn’t even realize that my entire body was buzzing until she said that.

I ask myself what VONA brings to my life and all I can say is energy and ink. The VONA experience is one that is about mastering balance. You must balance the work, the ink, the language, the craft with the emotional, social, and spiritual current running through the entire set of people in VONA. I want to make the best of this experience and I don’t want to squander the it. I am a sponge and VONA and all of its wonderful spills and overflow of energy, is the life-giving water. I want to grow this year as a writer. I want to laser-focus on what I am working on.


Day One of Workshops

I hadn’t really slept well the night before, but I was up and at ’em at 5:45am to make sure I was showered and dressed for the scheduled sound circle with Gina Breedlove. I went down to the dining hall with my dormmates for the week. Sat down to scrambled eggs, two sausage links and two pancakes, a take out cup of coffee and I was out. I had never done a sound circle before and didn’t know what to expect but I was open to the emotion and the experience.

The room smelled like sage and roses when I walked in. The scent of sweetness and herbs is calming for me, reminds me of botanicas and altars.  Gina, an elegant woman shrouded in spirit addressed us all with the salve of her voice. She wore a floor length, long sleeve dress with greens and blues twisted throughout, shoulders framed with lilies of the valley, a tattoo of a butterfly on her neck. She has the kind of voice that soothes, that eases. Her movements were smart, intentional. Her gesticulations and breath were calculated, measured. Every thing she did was with an intention. Her voice was the sage in the room. I would like her to narrate my life.

The sound circle was meant for us to move energy through our bodies with sound, with the sound of our voices. Each sound was meant for a specific chakra, each Sanskrit word seemed to vibrate against us as we chanted them. The energy was lifted in the room. I felt it. I suppose I was vibrating hard because a number of people said they could feel strong waves of my energy. Sarah even came and placed a hand on my back and checked in with me, told me she could feel my energy from across the room. I thought to myself that this energy I am exuding is all because of VONA. I am allowing myself to be open to waves of energy that in any other way, I am guarded and wary of. New York City can do that to someone, force them to create walls around their spirit.

I felt the places where energy is blocked. I know it is blocked. No, not blocked. Locked. I know I have the key. I am working on loosening those joints so I can be fully open in my spirit. Solar Plexus chakra, the place that holds grief, the stomach, flipped and flipped when we chanted for it. I cried when I felt the chant reverberate there. I know the grief and trauma I feel is pushing against my solar plexus, my stomach, my bowels, my “gut.” I feel it there. I am swallowing to keep it all down. I have to allow myself to process and release. It’s all so complicated when you are unsure of how much you are holding there. Gina Breedlove referred to this release of energy and grief as having a “productive cough.” That resonated with me.

I know I am an energy carrier. I hold weight in this room, in this world. During the sound circle, we were asked what one of our favorite sounds are and my response was the sound of summer, cicadas in the trees, the buzz much like the hum of those chant words. I realized that my spirit is as wide as the ocean, as powerful as the ocean, and as vulnerable as the ocean. I must protect myself always. Ocean and roses.


After this opening of spirit, we went straight to our workshops. Our facilitator, Kiese Laymon, is the kind of spirit that reminds me of this beautiful Philly summer weather we are having. Warmth and light and cool, cool, cool breeze. He is a tentative and real soul. Someone that doesn’t parade as a facilitator but more like a prodding stick: Let’s think this, let’s ask questions, let’s make this messier. His brain and his language and writing are brilliance. His heart though. I know that is where he is the shiniest.

The conversations were just stunning. The sound circle work really opened us up and thought and heart poured out of us. I am choosing not to talk fully about what was discussed out of respect to some of the personal things the other writers spoke about, but I will highlight what crossed my mind throughout our workshop discussions.

I wrote in my journal, “When I forget things, I get scared about losing my mind.” I think about Titi Li. I think about Tita. I think and worry about my aunts, uncle, my mother. The loss of lucidity is my worst fear. I want to die with clear eyes and no cobwebs in my brain. I suppose I am pressed to publish and write these things because I am scared that if I don’t, I will forget it all. I will lose it in the mist of dementia one day.

And I want to die with clear eyes.

I thought about being 7 years old and telling all of my secrets to Velvetina, my velveteen rabbit doll. I told her all of my secrets and shared all of my child hopes with her. I whispered so much to my doll, that the seam in her pink satin lined ears had begin to tear. Pages and ink and words became the tear in that ear. I write for that ripped satin ear.

I described writing as being about fucking with your wounds constantly. Healing is not finite. One day you’re ripping off your bandages, exposing them to light and air. Other days, you pick at the scab, the stitches, the scar. The next day you coddle and recharge, you’re gentle, you try to heal yourself. There is no end point to this kind of work really. There is a constant rekindling, , a constant new lens on your wounds, your trauma, your pain. This kind of thinking made me think of Alex La Salle, advising me that too often people use the word “revolution,” when we should be saying “evolution.”

When we workshopped the first person’s piece, I think what came across is the line between technique and emotion, text and intention.The need to make sure that you are present when you write, that you put yourself in the story, and not just in a way that you are just a mere moving part. Place yourself in the story because you are a functioning and emotional part of the story.

We discussed the need to be compassionate with ourselves. Most importantly, we discussed the need to give ourselves permission to do this work, to trust ourselves with the art.


And that was just day ONE.





#52Essays2017 Week 19: I Don’t Want This Anymore

“The way that people feel changes everything. Feelings are forces. They cause us to time travel. And to leave ourselves, to leave our bodies. ‘”- Helen Oyeyemi

The other night, I travelled back in time and met my younger self.

I was on a date, a first date. I had met the man when I left a meeting I had in midtown Manhattan. He got my attention as I was walking with my headphones on by waving frantically. I was a little taken aback, thinking I had bird shit on me or something so I stopped. He smiled. He was shorter than me, but had a great smile. He put his hand out to shake mine and we laughed at his waving.

“I had to get your attention somehow! You have headphones on!”

The conversation was pleasant. We exchanged numbers and agreed to meet for dinner later that week. When we spoke on the phone, he let me know he was a business owner with multiple businesses and that I “had nothing to worry about.” Our first conversation was really just him talking. I didn’t mind really though I did make a note that he dominated the conversation. Without any prompting from me, he told me about his ex-girlfriend and the reason they broke up. He broke up with her because she didn’t accept an extravagant gift he gave her. He was offended that she didn’t want to accept something that her man had given her and he left her because doing that showed him she didn’t value him enough.

I’ll be honest with you, that should’ve been a red flag, but I shrugged it off, thinking to myself that at the very least, it would be a decent dinner and decent conversation, even if we never hung out again afterward. I thought if there was no romantic chemistry, there would at least be some friendly banter and a fun night.

I was wrong.


I was a “sexy matador” the Halloween that the film “Black Swan” was smash hit. I plan all of my Halloween costumes meticulously, so all the details mattered. Fake rose in my hair, a double ring that had red roses on it. I was all in. It was cold, a snowstorm expected the next day. My friends and I had all purchased tickets to a boat ride party, something we had done in the past. I called a guy I had a physical relationship with to accompany me, hoping at the very least, that the night would end in some drunk sex. He arrived late and we were all the last to get on the boat before leaving the dock. I was a little irritated, but I shrugged it off, ready to enjoy the night. His costume was a cheap dollar-store orange prisoner jumpsuit costume that clearly showed last minute effort, and was highwater, showing off his dingy white socks and crispy clean sneakers. He looked like an asshole, but it was Halloween, so we got on the boat and proceeded to get shitfaced.

The night, overall, was decent. When we all left, my friends and I jammed into his car. I asked him to drop off a friend of mine a few minutes away from the boat and he went ballistic. He was so angry that my friend asked to be let out so that she could take a cab. I was furious but said nothing. I knew the fool would end up, despite his bitching, driving the rest of us uptown, so I sat back in my seat, expecting that the situation was squashed and we would ride in peace.

I was wrong.

“Why the fuck are you so stupid? I swear I told you I didn’t feel like driving anyone. Do you not listen? Are you deaf or something? Am I talking to myself, stupid? You are just so fucking stupid, I don’t even know why I fuck with you, I swear!”

My friend Ciara piped up in the backseat.

“Stop calling my friend stupid already. Just drive the car!”

I sat in that front seat and let him drive us back uptown, knowing that the night would end with him wanting to be physical. I knew sitting there, biting my sharp tongue, that I wouldn’t let that happen.

Whatever my intention though, I sat there and absorbed all the words, absorbed all the stupids, all the venom.


My trip back in time started with a royal blue vintage dress and heels. First dates are always fun for me. The meticulous care to detail for me. Which perfume? What outfit? What jewelry? Fresh curls. What makeup?  I take my time getting ready. It’s special to me. Who is to say that this first date won’t be my last first date? Call me vain, but in our “how we met” story, I want him (whoever he will be) to say that I looked and smelled beautiful and that the night was full of my brilliance which added to how amazing I looked.

Yep. I’m a little vain. I get it.

I smelled like a fucking rose for this guy. The Universe must have known that shit was about to go down because I grabbed the wrong set of keys and locked myself out of my apartment on the way out. I had to go get my landlord’s extra set and the whole process made me extremely late for the date.

When I called homeboy to apologize for my tardiness, he said, “Don’t worry. Get in  acab. It’s on me. I told you. Don’t worry.”

I did just that.

I arrived in the front of this fancy Cuban spot in the Theater District of Manhattan and stepped out of the cab. He came out of the lobby of the restaurant and walked towards me.

“Did you have to wear heels? You’re already tall.”

“Hi.” I laughed awkwardly.

He didn’t laugh with me. He rolled his eyes and turned to pay the cab.

“Now people are going to look at us weird because I look shorter than you. You don’t put much thought into shit, do you?”

I felt the familiar sting of venom but ignored it and followed him into the restaurant. The place was beautiful, spacious and warm, with booths of  quilted light blue fabric and greenery hanging from the walls. I loved it. He greeted the concierge with a hug, chatted with the staff as I stood off to the side. He didn’t introduce me but instead made a show of knowing everyone there. The people waiting to be seated stared and I smiled back sheepishly.

He requested a booth for us and we sat, the waiter serving us glasses of red wine. I giggled and told him that I felt like we had stepped into a scene from “Scarface.”

“Was she taller than him though? I don’t know. Next time, let me know what you’re wearing so I can tell you if it’s okay or not.”

I gritted my teeth as I sipped at my wine glass. I could feel time trying to pull me back. I could feel the past tingling at the hem of my dress. I sipped more wine.

“So, look at the menu. What do you want to eat?”

“I looked at the menu online. I like everything on it. Since you’ve been here before, choose for me what you like best.”

He rolled his eyes and looked to the ceiling. “Here we go…”


I was drunk after that boat ride. I was fine when the music was bumping, when I was surrounded by people and music and laughter. But in the front seat of that car, trying to ignore being berated by the dumb ass driving, the world began to spin a little bit. I was able to make it into my friend’s apartment. He followed inside. My homegirls decided their night was not over. The room was a blur in its spinning. I declined to go. My friend shrugged, said to leave the slam lock when I left. He and I were left alone. He reached for me, his eyes no longer venomous, but full of lust. I pushed him away.

“I don’t even like you as a person, you know that? I think you’re a terrible person.” I slurred.

“Oh word? You hate me?”

“I don’t hate anyone. I just don’t like you.”

“Well, fuck you then, ho. Figure out how the fuck you’re getting home then.” He pushed me hard as he walked past me to leave the apartment. I was too drunk to really care.

As soon as he left, I struggled to stay lucid as I sat on the couch of my friend’s apartment. I knew a snow storm was coming and I didn’t have any clothes or snow boots at her apartment so I forced myself to wake up and call someone. I had a homeboy that lived close enough, so I called him and asked him to come get me.

“Damn, Ang, my boy borrowed my car tonight. Are you okay? Are you safe?”

“I’m just drunk and that guy was an asshole.”

“He didn’t hurt you, did he?”

“No. Not at all. He got mad and left.”

“Well, get in a cab over here and I’ll take you home when my boy drops off the car. You can sober up a little on the ride. I’ll see you in a bit.”


The dinner was expensive platano maduro and churrasco. I’ve had better for cheaper in the hood. The restaurant was beautiful and it should’ve been a really fun night. Instead, it was tense and awkward and for most of the evening, the dude berated me for everything: the way I responded, the responses I had, the way I didn’t look him in his face for every word he had to say against me.

“You’re so disrespectful. No wonder you’re single, baby. You need to learn how to listen to your man.”

You’re not my man. 

I sipped at my wine and tried my best to lighten the mood. I have a large tattoo on my right hip to thigh area. The very edge of it was visible. Homeboy I suppose caught a glimpse and pulled my skirt up my thigh to see the tattoo better. I yanked my skirt down and scoffed.

“Are you crazy?”

“No. Are you? I’m here with you, treating you to dinner. You’re supposed to be sweet and nice to me. I just wanted to see your stupid tattoo.”

“You should’ve asked instead of sticking your hand up my skirt.”

“I can’t believe you. I hope you’re not always this ungrateful.”

We ate mostly in silence. There was something pulling at me, a familiar sense of confusion, of trying to see through muddy waters. This man was fucking with me, right? No one could be this ridiculous. I thought back to those times in my life when I had felt bad about shit like this, bent over backwards to appease the dude I was with because if I didn’t, he’d up and leave or he’d start to call me all the names I already called myself. Either way, I would be alone. That past shimmered there in the dim restaurant like a mirage. The wine didn’t taste good anymore, the food was subpar. I saw myself as a younger woman, apologizing to the man I was with. I gritted my teeth this time, pushing time ahead with my silence, knowing that if I opened my mouth, I would spaz and all I wanted was to end the night peacefully.

The waiter was a handsome older Cuban man wearing a light blue guayabera and rust colored shoes. He had a nice smile halfway hidden by a thick black mustache. Every time he came back to the table, he would joke with the dude I was with a bit and then turn and ask me if I was okay. He didn’t ask me if I needed anything and maybe I read too much into the question, but he kept asking me if I was okay when he would come back. I thought to myself that he had probably seen this guy mistreat women before. I nodded and remained silent. I was swimming in the treacherous waters of the past and I was trying to keep my head above the water, trying to keep clear and cool.

When the bill came he smiled and asked me to guess how much he spent on me. I answered and he laughed telling me I wasn’t used to men spending their money on me. I was all fire on the inside at his arrogance. I swallowed it and asked if we could leave. When I stood up and grabbed my scarf to wrap around my shoulders, dude rolled his eyes again.

“You look like a friggin’ tree next to me. I can’t even reach your shoulders to help you with your scarf. No more heels for you ever.” He smirked. “Let’s get in a cab to my house. I’m in the city and I’ll have him drop me off first and then give you cash to go the rest of the way to your house. Okay?”


I followed him out of the restaurant. Our waiter was outside smoking a cigarette.

“Be safe, young lady.”


“‘Forget’ sounds like such a passive act, but anyone who has experienced the powerful force of repression will know the effort it takes to unforget, to remember.” – from “The Black Notebooks” by Toi Derricotte


I took the cab that night thinking I wouldn’t be waiting there long, but when I got there he wasn’t even dressed yet. He asked me to relax a bit while he showered and we waited for his boy to bring back the car. I passed out in my costume on his bed.

I thought it was a dream when I felt him on top of me.

He had pulled up the dress of my costume and was kissing my neck and breasts, whispering how beautiful I was, how good I felt. I could feel him undressing me, but I couldn’t move. I was fuzzy as if I was eating cotton as if my brain was made of it. I felt him push himself inside of me and I could feel my mouth moving and saying no but I couldn’t hear my voice and I couldn’t lift my arms, which felt like lead, like someone was sitting on them.

I pushed him away in my mind. I yelled no in my mind.

When he finished, he kissed me on the lips and I turned away. He turned to the wastebasket and threw out a condom.

He took the time to put on a condom. He thought about this before he did it. 

He thanked me for spending  time with him, offered me water, coffee, helped me sit up, handed me my panties.

“I don’t feel well. I need your bathroom.”

I threw up in his bathroom. I stuffed my fist into my mouth and held back screams. I felt as if my body wasn’t my own any longer. I felt like he had taken it and stripped it of me. I was no longer me. I was no longer me. I felt lied to. I washed my face and rinsed my mouth. I wiped smudged mascara off of my cheeks. I swallowed it. I absorbed it. I soaked it in.

“Get me a cab.” I said it softly.

“You don’t wait for my boy anymore? I can take you, babe.”

“I’m not your babe. Get me home like you promised.”

He paid my cab, slipping me twenty dollars as he tried to embrace me. My arms were limp. I was nauseous still, the room still spinning. I was still drunk. I stumbled down the steps outside. I slurred when I gave the cab driver the address to my apartment.

And then I thought, How could you let yourself be here again?

I cried the entire way home. I slept for days after, called out of work. When I returned to work, there was an email from him asking why I was acting weird with him. Didn’t I realize that the moment he shared with me was so special? So important to him? I didn’t respond to him. I never spoke to him again.

But I wasn’t even awake. I should’ve just stayed on K’s couch. I should’ve slept there and dealt with the damn snow somehow. I did this. I did this. It would’ve never happened had I just stayed where I was. I did this. 


After eating expensive platano maduro and drinking copious amounts of red wine, I got into a metered cab with dude. I was kind of happy to be on my way home. I couldn’t wait to take off my bra, enjoy my red wine buzz alone with the doggy bag I had taken with me without his ass berating me. It was going to be a great end to my night.

Instead, he lunged at me, sticking his tongue in my mouth and his hand up my skirt. I could feel his fingers trying to shove my panties to the side and his tongue slimy and stale against my teeth. I shoved him off of me. Hard.

“What the fuck are you doing?”

“Are you serious? You pushed me off of you?”

“It’s our first date, man. What is going on? I am not okay with that.”

He didn’t respond but instead turned away from me and looked out of his window. We rode in silence mostly. He muttered the entire time.

“Ungrateful. You’ll never find a dude that will do what I did tonight. Stay with these broke dudes then. You don’t deserve this shit.”

When the car came to a stop near his building, he paid for his ride and jumped out, slamming the door. I shrugged and told the driver where I was going. I couldn’t find my wallet and I could feel myself getting anxious, so I asked the driver to pull over and put the light on so I could look for it. As I was looking, the dude came and opened the door.

“I’m sorry I acted that way. I promised to get you home. I just called a cab service. It should be here in a few minutes. Get out of this so you don’t have to pay a metered cab. I’m sorry. I really am.”

I hesitated.

I should’ve stayed in the car. Instead, I got out. He handed me some money and reassured me that a livery cab was on its way. As I waited, he asked me what my problem was.

“I was just being nice to you all night and you went crazy on me.”

“That wasn’t nice. Are you crazy? That was inappropriate. Period.”

I was holding the money in my hand when he reached over and yanked the money away.

“Give me my fucking forty dollars, stupid bitch.”

And that’s when I unleashed the Bronx on his ass.


“The stomach, is the core seat of the Solar Plexus. This chakra, governs all physical systems related to digestion – we’re talking the stomach itself, the intestines, the bowel, and all peripheral digestive areas. Energetically, the Solar Plexus governs core self-esteem, self-worth, self-value, and overall feels of empowerment.

In fact, many people see the stomach as the seat of your personal power.” –Sarah Petruno 


I’ll be honest, I didn’t really tell anyone about that Halloween night. I kept it to myself for a long time. In fact, I told one person at the time. It was a male friend of mine, someone I no longer communicate with. His reaction was seared into my brain for years, a keloid in my psyche.

“You allowed this man to disrespect you. How is it his fault if you allowed him to do it? You put too much trust into these dudes and then want to blame them for what happened. If you hadn’t trusted these men, you’d still be unharmed, you wouldn’t be damaged the way that you are.”

How could I disagree with him? I called that supposed homeboy that night. I asked for a ride home. I passed out on his bed. I was too drunk to function. I was too drunk to communicate until it was too late. I was damaged and it was my own fault.

So, I pushed it down. I pushed it all the way down and ignored it. I let it sit in my stomach, let it fester there. I didn’t talk about it. I didn’t tell anyone because I was ashamed of my choices that night. I was able to get away from one abuse only to allow another that night. Not only had this happened with someone I thought I could trust, it was not the first time. I had been sexually assaulted when I was a teenager. I had promised myself then that no man would ever violate me in that way again. I felt nauseous, as if my life had become a chaotic tornado and I was spinning. Spinning.

I thought I was stronger and smarter than that.

One day, I told the story to some of my sister-friends, one of them being the friend that I was with that night, the friend whose house I had left. Her eyes went wide when I told her. I could see tears brimming in them and she reached out a hand to me. I don’t know why, but I pulled away and shrugged.

“It was nothing. He was just a jerk that got what he wanted. I don’t talk to him anymore. We’re not friends. I was drunk. I should’ve just stayed here that night.”

“Ang, so what if you were drunk? So fucking what? He was on top of you when you woke up! Mama, that’s rape. He raped you. I’m so sorry he did that.”

I excused myself and went into the bathroom, feeling as if the room was moving around me, as if I was being swallowed up by her words, her watery eyes, the hand that reached out to me. I didn’t want it. I sank to the floor in front of the toilet bowl and vomited. I threw up and cried and threw up and cried. When my friend walked into the bathroom, she didn’t say anything. She stood there and let me cry. Our other friends had no idea I was sick.

“You can’t hold on to shit like that, Ang. You’re getting yourself sick like this.”

I nodded, head dipping towards the cool of the porcelain. I felt sick. I felt as if my insides were rotten. As if I were rotten.

How much shame can you carry before it weighs you down and pours out of you?


When he grabbed the money out of my hand, I flashed back to the car ride home that Halloween night, flashed back to all of the times in my life when a man put his mouth to talk down to me, all the times I’ve been treated like dirt. I had tried to keep it cool all night but the moment he snatched that money out of my hand, I felt fury rippling through me.

And I fucking spazzed in the middle of the street.

I called him all kinds of names, told him to shove his money in his ass and twirl, told him he was a fucking psycho and to stay the hell away from me. I headed towards the corner where I saw a cab waiting at the stop light. I ran towards it and heard him yelling “Babe! Babe, wait!”

I turned, my hair slapping me in the face with the force of my turn.


I walked to the cab and jumped in, slamming the door shut and locking it, as I watched homeboy walk towards the car. He reached for the door handle, pulled. His face softened as he looked at me through the window.

“Why are you acting like this?” I heard him say.

“Fuck you! Leave me the fuck alone.”

There was a guy sitting inside the cab I had jumped into, paying his ride. I didn’t even notice until he cleared his throat.

“I am still paying for my ride.”

I turned to him with laser eyes. “I don’t give a fuck what you’re doing. Pay and get out but I’m not opening this door.”

I watched as my date handed the money he ripped out of my hand to the driver. I hated that he was watching me with sad eyes, as if I was indeed the one who was bugging out, as I was the one who had violated him, his space, his time, his body. I was furious and scared and tired. I just wanted to go home.

I could feel my body begin to tremble, the familiar heat of anxiety creeping up from my toes. When the car pulled off, I burst into tears. I was in full panic. I sobbed out of fury, out of fear, out of relief. I was on my way home. I was safe.

I thought of that young woman I used to be, the one who people said allowed men to mistreat and violate her. I mourned her pain. I cried because for so long I kept her pain inside of me. I probably still do.I don’t know. I know that the curls in my stomach, the nausea that swept over me, the panic attack he triggered…it all took over me. I was a mess.

The cab driver asked me if he was my boyfriend. I shook my head vehemently. He smirked.

“So then why did you even go out with him?”

“It was a first date!”

“You should’ve gotten to know him better then, young lady.”

“It was a first date!”

The cloak of my shame wrapped itself around me. I told myself I should’ve stayed in the metered cab, told myself I should’ve walked away when he started his bullshit in the restaurant. I told myself that I was the one who let it get this far. I went on to Instagram and did a live feed, knowing that one of my tribe would see me, a puddle of tears and anxiety. I was right.

“You did nothing wrong.”

“This isn’t your fault.”

“You’re safe now.”

Simple words. Powerful words. Words I am grateful for.

I got home, went into the bathroom and threw up. I purged out all of the expensive platano maduro, purged out all of the venomous shame. I let myself cry.

And then I forgave myself for traveling back in time.


I didn’t tell the story of that night because I was trying to show you all how much I have grown past moments like that Halloween night. I told the story of that horrific first date to remind you all that sometimes in the journey, you time travel back in time. The Universe puts a repeat episode of your past right in your face. It tests you, asks you where you want to go with it, pushes you to make a decision.

Are you going to move forward or are you going to fold and repeat history?

I can’t tell you how many times I have repeated history or how many times I will.

I can tell you that on that night, I promised myself that I wasn’t going to blame myself any longer. I can tell you that on that night, I felt myself step out of my body as if I was watching myself react to this arrogant douchebag.

I was the Universe that night, asking myself what I was going to do.

And all the memories of trauma forced themselves to be seen, like a movie screen before me, bright and clear. The past and all of its bullshit, all of the tears and fear, all of the anxiety, the shame, the fear…it all was sucked into that moment there.

I don’t want this anymore.

That is exactly what I thought to myself before I spazzed on homeboy.

I don’t want this anymore. I won’t forget. But I don’t want this anymore.

Here’s to the past and for all I went through. Here’s to the future and all that may come. But most of all, here’s to being present and being aware and refusing to step back in time.












#52Essays2017 Week 18: Cascadas y Mariposas (or Being Alone is a Superpower)

“And sometimes the best cure to loneliness is, in fact, to be alone.” – Samuel Leighton-Dore, from “The Difference Between Loneliness and Being Alone”


The trip was supposed to be a cutesy coupley kind of thing with the dude I was briefly dating this winter. I won’t even get into details about why it ended only to say that we were not compatible. He had purchased the Niagara Falls weekend couples package off of GroupOn and at first, we were both super excited. As time passed, I could tell that his enthusiasm had disappeared. When I confronted him about it, he denied his behavior, telling me everything was okay. I pushed a little because my intuition was telling me that he just wasn’t 100 percent into dating me any longer.

And I was right.

He finally ‘fessed up to the fact that he didn’t feel we were compatible, but not before he tried to paint the picture that it was because of something I had “done” to make him feel that way.

“Look, J… if you need to blame me for things ending, then go for it. I am okay with that. Just know that I am aware that it’s only because you’re not totally into the situation.”

Cue La Lupe’s “La Gran Tirana” here.

Now….what to do with that GroupOn? Homeboy tells me it’s mine, to go for it, makes a corny joke about wanting half back if I take a dude with me. The next day he hits me up and asks me about the refund policy because he “highly doubts” I will go alone.

I bought the bus ticket the day he texted me those words.

He must not know about me.


I planned every detail of this trip. I made a checklist of things that I needed to take with me so I wouldn’t forget, paid for excursions beforehand, wrote down every detail of my itinerary. I crossed every T and dotted every I.

This was the first time I would be taking a solo trip in my life so I wanted to be prepared. I had traveled alone before, sure, but there was always something waiting for me at the other side: a friend, a lover, family, a community. I had never taken a trip where it would be just me for the entire trip.

It occurred to me, at age 32, that the “couples” trip I was supposed to have would be the very first “couples trip” I would have ever taken. I can’t lie, the anxiety of the entire thing had me asking around.

“Do you have the time to accompany me? It should be fun.” No one had the time.

The Universe though, had other plans for me.


My bus to Canada left Port Authority at 5:15am. After taking a Lyft ride to Port Authority, I waited in the dingy waiting area for my bus to arrive. Something about Port Authority before NYC wakes up is creepy and sad all at the same time. Part of me kept my eyes open for my own safety as a woman travelling alone but prayed for every soul wandering around and wanting a warm place to sleep in the middle of the cold concrete of the city.

The bus ride was long. Nah, not just long but extremely long. Eleven hours to be exact with transfers in between. I slept in between transfers thanking the Universe I hadn’t forgotten my airport neck pillow. When we arrived in Rochester, border patrol came onto the bus and asked each of us for our passports. There was a beautiful couple sitting in the back, like one of those couples that should be in a perfume ad or something. They had been sitting together since NYC, cuddling and nuzzling each other in between their own naps.

Apparently,  the handsome male of that couple didn’t have proper paperwork. He was asked to get off the bus. They both tried to explain they were on a romantic weekend trip together but the border patrol officers insisted they exit the bus, one of them resting his hand on his holster in that way cops do when they want you to know that you should do as they say or else.

They both had accents, they were both brown. The young woman with him, eyes wide with fear, was told she could stay on the bus, but of course, she grabbed all of their items and waited outside for him. I applauded her in my mind for that. I watched as the border patrol walked the young man off the bus, towards their patrol car, frisked him, digging their hands into his pockets, patting him down.

I watched this happen, just like every other passenger watched. I asked myself if he could feel everyone staring. I was ashamed for watching and made myself look away.

A redhead in back of me with a short haircut sucked her teeth. She had already been irritating for a lot of the ride, talking so loudly on her cell phone that I could hear her over the music in my headphones. I wasn’t the first to be annoyed. An elderly woman asked her to lower her voice and she snapped that she was almost done and for her to “hold her horses.”

She was a pain in the ass and she was sitting directly behind me.

“Good riddance.” She spat between her sucking teeth.

“I think his passport was just expired or close to expiring. They are getting very strict about those things.” I said this out loud to the air, knowing she would hear.

The redhead leaned forward in her seat so I could see her face clearly as she spoke. She had thick glasses that made her beady eyes beadier and a row of sparkling braces over still-crooked teeth. I could see the spit forming in the corners of her mouth as she spoke.

“Nah. I’m glad he got kicked off. I don’t want no terrorist on my bus.”

I turned away from her. I asked myself later why I didn’t acknowledge her or why I didn’t tell her that her comment was problematic. I can admit to myself now that I did not want to engage a long drawn out conversation with a bigot. I was exhausted from the trip and the anxiety I was feeling from travelling alone and to engage her would zap me of the energy I had left. I can admit to myself now that I was also scared of the conversation escalating and my being kicked off the bus for being the browner of the two. I was apprehensive about being kicked off a bus I had already paid for, losing my money, and losing time on a very short trip. I was apprehensive about this happening without someone to get off the bus for me like the young woman had done for her beau.

I was apprehensive about this happening while I was alone.

But, on the other hand, I was ashamed for not saying something. I was ashamed for not standing up for that beautiful brown couple. I was angry at the redhead for her words, for sparking shame in me for my own inaction. I put my music up and held back hot stinging tears.

Sometimes that kind of shit can make you feel a hell of a lot more lonely.


When I finally arrived in Canada, it was not the brilliant springtime weather I assumed it would be. High temperatures did not take away from the chill in the air. I arrived in the hotel completely drained and wanting to hide. Upon my arrival, I found out that I was unable to use some of the vouchers for the GroupOn because they were only valid for couples. I cried in the lobby waiting for my room to become available while I contemplated how much additional money I would have to spend, unloading all of the energy I had absorbed on the trip over there, unloading the redhead, the shame, the anxiety of being alone.

I called my mother and she comforted me by saying I deserved the trip, that a man would take away from the experience, that I needed to calm down, get to the room, and relax. She told me that I did the right thing by protecting my own energy from the ginger on the bus. I thanked my lucky stars I had thought to pack a bottle of red zinfandel in my bag to keep me company this weekend.

I spent the first night using the hot tub that came in my couples suite, sipping wine, and munching on rice crackers and trail mix, watching whatever came on the television. I took selfies and slept and kept the blinds and drapes shut tight. I hibernated that night and gave myself quiet time to replenish my drained energy. I didn’t want to deal with anymore people or talk or look at anyone. I was protecting myself from bad vibes by cocooning in my hotel room.


I woke up early the next day swimming in anxiety. I stared at the empty side of the bed, a side I had left empty because I don’t know how to sleep in the middle of a big bed. I always make room for someone else, even if they aren’t there. I wished I had someone to curl into when waking, someone who would hold me and encourage excitement for the day.

But there was no one. I frowned.

I stayed in bed for a half hour, urging myself to get up, even if it was just to brush my teeth. This was a familiar conversation with myself. It’s why I put my alarm clock for half an hour before I am supposed to get up every day. I have to convince myself that I need to get up and handle the day, give myself a pep talk.

I stared at the ceiling. “So, you’re going to pre-pay for all of these excursions and just stay in bed? You really want to waste money and do what you could’ve done in the Bronx, minus the eleven hour bus ride? Get the fuck up!”

I sucked my teeth at myself. I was mad. I was grumpy. I was anxious.

“Let’s go. At least get dressed and go eat downstairs at the IHOP. At least do that. You’ll feel better after coffee.”

So, I did. I started small. I put music on and sang along with it as I moved. First, I brushed my teeth and pulled out my outfit for the day. I unfolded one of the hotel towels and hung it on the hook right outside of the shower. Then I pulled out the papers and junk I needed for the excursions I had paid for. Showered and washed my hair, lotioned with my favorite vanilla lotion, stared at myself in the huge hotel mirrors in my black bra and panties.

I stared at the bed behind me, imagining the man I loved lying there, smiling at me, staring at me with eyes that desired me, adored me. I blinked, imagined a man sitting at the edge of the bed, tapping his foot, looking at his watch, his face contorted with annoyance.

Except there was no man there. Not a sexy, kind-eyed one nor an asshole perched at the edge of the bed rushing me.

A part of me was sad by this and a part of me was relieved.


After breakfast, I walked towards the falls, using screenshots of Google Maps because once I left the safety net of  the hotel WiFi, I had no use for my phone other than its camera.  The day was neither cold or hot. It was a bright sunny day with warmth and breeze. After stopping at an information desk and getting all of my questions answered, I walked to my first excursion. It was the boat ride that went to the front of the falls called the Hornblower Cruise.

Excited, I stayed on the top deck, clinging to slippery silvered barricades, sliding across the slippery gray floors of the boat that reminded me of the cheap New York City party cruises I would go to in my 20s. People crowded together on that deck and as the boat moved, everyone readied themselves for I don’t know what…war? Magic?

The closer we got to the falls, the mistier it became. It became clear why those plastic raspberry-colored ponchos were necessary. The water looked like it had been painted and it was a teal blue that looked like I could’ve swam in it like a fish, like the kind of teal blue Crayola would never be able to recreate. The front of the boat where I was standing began to feel as if it were being pulled into the falls. As we hit the Horseshoe Falls, the water falls on the Canadian side of Niagara, the power of the water around us was astounding. While everyone around laughed and took selfies, I watched the water pouring over the sides and listened to the roar of it crashing down.

The power of the falls scared the shit out of me. So much in fact, that I turned away from them a few times. I felt as if at any moment we would all be swallowed into its power and be lost to the swirls of misty teal blue waves, into the crashing white thundering down around us. I had never felt more out of control, more powerless, or more miniscule outside of that night in December all those years ago. Except, this time, I was exhilarated, replenished almost.

I was reminded, standing on that slippery gray deck in my flimsy plastic poncho, that we are all guests on this Earth. I was reminded as I felt so small there surrounded by these skyscrapers of blue-green and frothy white water, that humans spend so much time trying to control things that were never ours to control, that we never had a right to control. I was reminded that power is beautiful.

I was reminded that something that can stand alone can be powerful and gorgeous and provide the world with energy.

I was content in that moment. I knew that I wouldn’t have enjoyed it as much if I were focused on a man or a friend with me.

I looked around me, saw couples, old and young, gripping each other, kissing in the mist and I felt a pang. That would’ve been a classic, right out of the movies moment for sure.

I looked up at the falls again as the boat began to go back to the dock.

And she roared that I was not alone.


Every man that wasn’t related to me that I told about this weekend solo trip to the falls thought I was just being pathetic and lonely. Can I say their words didn’t sting? Nope. Can’t say that at all. It sat with me so long I wrote them down, chastising myself for being what one had referred to as “mad desperate for attention.”

One even told me I was stupid to try to “prove a point to a dude who doesn’t give a fuck.”

“Now, you’ll be at one of the most romantic places in the world alone. You’re going to look like a dumb ass, watch. How you gonna go without a man? Why didn’t you ask me?”

Because every man’s assumption, outside of my older brothers, thought that for a romantic weekend getaway, I should call them.

Because of course, I wanted them.

Por favor.


I visited the Butterfly Conservatory next. It was a bus ride away and the transportation in Niagara Parks was fairly easy to navigate. I arrived and walked in, sat for the informational video before the walk through the conservatory.

“Butterflies can’t hear but feel vibrations.”

Oh shit, they’re empaths like me.

“These sound wavelengths they feel, we are oblivious to, but it is how they move about the world and how they sense their enemies.”

Kinda like women’s intuition. 

“The colors on their wings are created by millions of scales that are layered and reflect brilliant and sometimes vivid colors.”

I’m made up of a million layers, too. 

“Please make sure not to touch their wings because as beautiful as they are, their wings are extremely delicate.”

Sounds about right. 

As I wandered around the conservatory, beautifully colored butterflies floating around me in iridescent blues, yellows, greens and reds, I couldn’t believe I was seeing these gorgeous insects face to face, some that I had really only seen in pictures before. A beautiful black and lime green winged butterfly landed on my pointer finger, greeting me almost.

I thought of that silly movie where Ashton Kutcher fucks up history by touching a butterfly in the past when he time travels and wondered what would change since that little black and green lady landed on me. I thought back to the Hornblower Cruise and the power of that kind of beauty compared to the delicacy of the butterflies. Could beauty and power be both hard and soft? Could there be a balance?

“Most species of adult butterflies are solitary creatures.”

So, there’s beauty in being delicate and alone. Okay, I can dig the shit outta that.


I can honestly say I enjoyed the rest of that day. I was overjoyed and super proud of myself that even with anxiety trying to nudge its way into the day, that I was able to get through it and motivate. I was proud that I was able to really enjoy the day and best of all, with no one else. That was such a huge accomplishment for me.

And then came the steak dinner at Keg’s Steakhouse.

I dressed up for myself meticulously, wearing special earrings and a beautiful dreamcatcher necklace I had purchased in a gift shop there. I used extra vanilla lotion and fluffed my curls. I walked to the restaurant from the hotel and regretted not packing boots as I shielded myself from the chilly wind rushing past me.

I was seated after a short wait and ordered a glass of a dark red zinfandel. I munched on the amazing complimentary bread. I ordered bacon-wrapped scallops, a filet mignon with asparagus. I relished that food, sipped at my wine. I even ordered a mini creme brulee for dessert. The meal was expensive because the couple voucher for the restaurant was invalid for a single person but I had decided upon arrival that I wouldn’t nix the steak dinner.

As I was paying my bill, a woman sitting at table next to mine with her homegirls approached my table.

“You really ate that meal alone? So did you get stood up? Me and my friends were all wondering.”

“No, I’m alone. I am visiting the falls alone.” I tried not to be offended that I was a topic of conversation at their table.

“Wow. You’re brave. I dunno if I could do that without someone here wit’ me, ya know? You don’t see all these couples, girl?”

“I see them. But I was hungry.” I shrugged, signing my bill, and placing the pen down.

“That’s it though? Just hungry? Or you’re trying to prove something to a man?”

I sat back in the chair, handed the billfold to the server as he walked by the  table and smiled.

“I guess I was at first. Not anymore. I guess I’m trying to prove something to myself now.”

I smiled again, stood, and wished her well.

I never asked her name. I didn’t need to. I knew why she had approached me and I thanked the Universe as I walked back to the hotel.

I proved to myself that I was capable. That I could enjoy myself. That I could love myself enough to do exactly as I planned without anyone there. That I could shield myself from negativity like that stupid ginger on the bus by being certain and sure of me. I proved to myself that I could give myself the care I needed to recharge and that I didn’t have to rely on external things to ground me. Love and the desire for it stopped being a salve, a fix-all, a hoped-for safety net. I proved to myself that the anxiety about being alone wasn’t enough to hold me back.

I proved to myself that what made me vulnerable, what made me delicate like those butterflies is what also made me powerful like the water. I was both.

I realized that I could be both cascada y mariposa.

#52Essays2017 Week 17: Loogies, Pogonophilia, and Creamy Crack Crowns

When I was a child, someone spit in my hair. And I don’t mean sprinkles. Nope, I mean a big, fat, gross loogie. I was standing with my mother at the corner of Jerome Avenue and Fordham Road, right under the 4 train, when my mother looked up and started cursing and yelling in Spanish. Someone had spit their glob of phlegm into the tracks and because the train is elevated on Fordham Road, the tracks were right above where people walked.

Where we were walking.

“¡Animales! ¡Sucios!” My mother was horrified. She pulled out a tissue and tried to wipe it from my curls.  I reached back to see what had fallen in my hair.

“No! Don’t touch it!”

When she washed my hair that night, I remember her gagging as she washed my hair twice. Her fingers rubbed shampoo into my scalp in soapy swirls, combed through my hair with her fingers with such vigor that my head pulled back with her movements. She washed and re-washed my hair as if the loogie would somehow leave an imprint, leave a residue I wouldn’t be able to get rid of.

“Your hair is your crown, so you always keep it clean, Imani, okay? Y cuidado con el mal de ojo que te mira a su corona, okay?”

When she finished washing my hair, she rubbed coconut oil into the strands and braided it. I remember hating when my mother combed my hair.

Now, I ask her to comb and braid my hair every chance I get.


The great majority of the men that I have loved have had facial hair. I blame my father.

My father’s beard was always a part of him. In fact, I don’t recall seeing his chin until I was a young adult. It was always long, thick, and as he got older, became a salt-and-pepper identifier. It was how I defined maleness as a child. He had a beard and that meant that he was un hombre, he was in charge, he was strong and would love and protect me.  My father was all of those things and I suppose in some weird psychological way, my subconscious still defines facial hair as being attached to maleness, to love, to safety.

My father doesn’t have a beard anymore. He lives in Florida now, where the humidity makes his face itch if he has too much facial hair. He doesn’t like the way his beard smells in that kind of humidity. He’s used all kinds of face washes and fragrant beard oils, but something about Florida humidity affects his beard. He shaved it off and hasn’t had a beard since he’s lived down there.

Florida made my father a different man in a lot of ways. He has always been a man in movement, doing something, creating something….a man as rhythmic as the congas he can’t live without playing. He tells me he can’t take the pace of New York anymore, can’t live through the cold winters and ice and snow that hurt his bones and make his joints ache. But warm, humid Florida has slowed him down a bit, though the congas are always and will always be there. His rhythm is now just a slow clave compared to the bomba of his youth.

When he shaved his beard, I knew things would be different.


I rarely straighten my hair. I can’t stand the smell of salon in my hair, the mixture of shampoo and burnt hair. I can’t stand the length of time, close to two or three hours, that I have to spend in the salon. Because I am not a regular at any salon, I feel uncomfortable around women who chat as if they’ve known each other for years. I become fidgety. I hate sitting under the hair dryer for hours. And then when I leave the salon, I hate having to worry about rain or humidity making the silkiness of my straightened hair turn into frizz and poof.

I prefer my hair curly. Don’t get me wrong, it’s nice to do something different with my hair, but I look at my senior picture for high school and ask myself, why did I always think straightening my hair meant something special? To look at my high school yearbook, you’d think I always wore my hair straight when I didn’t. People remember my curls, the straightening was for the picture. Because it was a “special day.”

When I became an adult and began looking for work, people recommended I pin up my hair or straighten it because it was more “professional.” Curls were deemed too wild, too unreliable.

I suppose I prefer to be wild.


I have clear memories of my mother relaxing her hair. Mami would sit in a wooden kitchen chair, towel draped around her shoulders as her best friend from next door, Lucy, would coat sections of my mother’s hair with white cream that looked like paint. Lucy would make sure every strand was coated in the white paint which smelled yummy until it started taking a hold of my mother’s hair. Then it smelled funky, like if it was burning her.

They would chat while they waited for the burn smell. When Mami would start reaching for her hair, poking fingers into her cream-covered scalp, Lucy would help her wash it out as she bent over the bathtub, using a plastic cup that had a handle and a picture of the Simpsons on it. Then, Lucy would take big plastic rollers and Mami would sit and wince as Lucy tightened each roller so that no piece of hair was crinkled. She would sit under the dryer for hours until her hair was dry and then she would take out her rollers. She would blow dry the roots and then do a doobie, wrapping the hair around her head and covering it with a silk scarf she used specifically for her hair. Only then would she be able to do anything else, which was usually just go to bed.

The process would take hours of her night. It would be planned. This had to be scheduled into her week. My father always hated it, says he prefers her hair natural, kinky, big. I remember chapters of my life where Mami had her natural texture and it always looked just like she said, una corona. When I tell her that Dad prefers her natural hair, she smiles at first, the kind of smile that makes you think of a young girl being wooed, but then she scoffs that “Ay plis!” reaction she is a master of.

“These aren’t afro days….we’re not in the 70’s anymore, Imani. Your father has no idea what it was like with his straight hair. It’s not as simple for me.”

My mother has a short haircut now, cropped close to her head, and her hair is evenly silvered, the kind of gray I hope to inherit. She says it’s much easier to manage than before.


The first time I ever straightened my hair I was 12 years old. My mother took me to the salon when she had to do her hair. When they washed my hair, they pushed and pulled and yanked at my hair with a detangling comb. My neck hurt with each yank. The lady, chatting with her friends the entire time, cut my hair with sharp shiny scissors. My mother, who had been getting her own hair washed, walked up and spoke harshly in Spanish to the woman who had cut my hair. She hadn’t asked for my hair to be cut, let alone that much. The lady apologized, offered a portion of the bill to be taken off. Infuriated, my mother sat to get her hair put into rollers.

The woman put my hair into rollers, pinning them in with metal hair clips. I had never been to a salon before, so I did as I was told. This was supposed to be like this, the metal clips poking me in the head. I sat under the dryer and waited. At first, it wasn’t that bad. As the metal clips became hot, I could feel their imprint in my head. I sat there, thinking to myself that this is what women must do all the time and all I had to do was get used to it. I cringed and squirmed, put my hand under the hairnet to lift some of the clips. The woman saw what I was doing and scolded me, told me my hair wouldn’t dry right if I moved it again.

So, I sat there, legs bouncing up and down because I was so scared to move and ruin the rollers. I knew my mother was paying for my hair. I didn’t want to get anyone upset. So, I sat there for what seemed like an eternity, feeling the burning but thinking to myself that I just wasn’t used to this, this is what getting your hair done felt like. Eventually, about 2 hours later, I was crying. The pain was too much for me to take. Mami came from under her hair dryer on the other side of the salon when the woman told her I was crying. She knelt,  pulled the hood off of my head, and comforted me.

“What’s wrong? What’s wrong?” she asked.

“It hurts, Mami. My head hurts!”

She untied the hairnet, and began pulling out the rollers one by one. When she realized that the woman had used metal hair clips, she balked. The woman said she didn’t realize I was so soft-headed and my mother’s eyes bulged in fury.

“¿La quemas y dices que es ella?” she stared at the woman. “You must be crazy.”

The woman used her blow dryer on high to finish my hair. I cried every time the roller brush with metal bristles grazed the burned tender spots on my scalp. My mother sat there, watching, her hair not done, her face ruby red with rage.

When the woman asked to be paid, my mother told me to put on my jacket and wait outside. Before I walked out, I heard my mother say, “Tienes suerte de no hacerte daño ahora mismo, m’ija. You’re not getting my money for burning her. I won’t be coming back here.”

Mami tells me that they didn’t try to stop her. I had huge patches of scabs on my scalp from the burns for months.

I didn’t get my hair straightened again until I was a senior in high school.


It took me years to find hair products that helped my hair texture. I spent a great majority of my adolescence putting basura in my hair in hopes of taming my curls. I am considerably low maintenance when it comes to my hair as I hate the salon and I’ve only dyed my hair once in my entire life. Once I realized how much work it would take to maintain the color, I vowed I wouldn’t color my hair until I get much older and begin to really gray. I don’t have the thick, coarse texture of my mother so the products for her hair weighed my hair down and made it flat. I don’t have the thick, straight texture my father has, so the products made for that texture hair never helped with frizz or hold and left my hair feeling like straw.

I found products finally that worked with my texture curl. Shea Moisture. And for some time, it was my go-to. I would hunt for bargains in the “ethnic” hair aisles, haggle over prices in beauty supplies, cut coupons even. I remember not even being able to find it anywhere for some time when I first started using their products. As the brand became more and more popular, I was happy because I knew it would be easier to find.

Then, they dropped the ad.

In the ad they released, they were no black women that helped make the brand what it is represented at all. A Latina looking woman and two white women. Look, the reality is that people should use whatever works for their hair texture, whatever race they are. If Shea Moisture works for a red-head with curls, then so be it. The problem is not white girls using Shea Moisture or even white girls in the ad. The problem is that they stripped the ad of the very customer base that made them what they are, the very customer base that supported it when it wasn’t as popular and wasn’t as easy to find.

This isn’t about inclusiveness at all. This is about erasure.

I told myself I could still use the products and not feel bad, because their products work with my hair and blah, blah, blah. But my spirit wouldn’t let me relax. How can I fight against the erasure of people of color and use products that did that very thing? Perhaps, to some, the conversation about hair, stories about hair politics and so forth, seems frivolous. But the whole Shea Moisture situation is what made me think of these stories of my mother and father and myself. The way that experiences with hair have shaped parts of my memory, of my identity.

It’s just a small piece of the puzzle though.