Stories that Stick: On Different Pages Pt. 1
Posted on January 16, 2014
I didn’t become a real writer until I learned the power of telling my story, in any form; whether though poetry or speaking at an event. I’m grateful for the spaces God opened for me to share my gift. As such, I committed to creating the same spaces and opportunities for other artists and writers.
Over the next few weeks I will be running a blog series, “Stories that Stick.” Each Thursday will feature the work of an aspiring writer, or someone with a remarkable story to tell. Their work will be personal narrative, short fiction and poetry.
The first writer in our series, Ayinka Nmami, shares her short fiction story, “Different Pages.” This story will be broken into several parts so you’ll want to keep coming back to see how it ends. If haven’t done so already, subscribe to the blog. And if you would be interested in submitting a piece for Stories that Stick, send me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
On Different Pages Pt. 1
By: Ayinka Nmami
His spontaneity first captured me. Then his thoughtfulness, his charm, his handsomeness, and all the things Joshua did right seemed to erase, in my mind, all that he did wrong. Like when he took me to a show in Harlem. After months of working at the coffee shop serving sticky Danishes filled with cream cheese and endless mochas for nitpicky customers, he was the first one I called when I finally received a new job offer. He picked me up from my last shift and took me to our favorite poetry spot in Harlem where he knew one of the poets, and without my knowledge, asked him to dedicate a poem to me. When the poet called my name, my mouth dropped open, and Joshua smiled across the table with a mischievous glint in his eyes as the audience clapped.
Or when I took up jazz dancing again, he was at our group’s first performance, bleary-eyed, unshaven, and dressed in a wrinkled button-down after an all-night shift at the hospital. He greeted me with an apologetic smile for the wilted yellow roses he picked up on his way.
“It was this or sunflowers,” he said, stifling a yawn. “I know you hate sunflowers.”
“It doesn’t matter,” I said truthfully, as I tiptoed to kiss him. It didn’t at all matter to me.
These were the memories that drew me back to him even after he ended our relationship. The other memories—the ones that made me weep, the ones that made me realize that he might not be right for me, the ones that required a friend’s comforting hug –those I suppressed. Joshua and I still called each other. He, every once in a while, but mostly, it was I who called him wanting to know the little things like if he was keeping up with our same shows that we used to watch together, and if he’d made the only thing he knew how to make (tacos) for dinner, and when I could expect to see him again. Sometimes, he would pick up and other times he wouldn’t, and it could be days before he returned my call.
It was the type of thing where I stopped telling my friends after a while because if he didn’t call for days, I became overanalytical, wondering what I had done and did this mean it was time for me to move on. But when he called again, I’d speak pleasurably of him for days. Eventually, my friends began to think I was delusional, and they labeled our relationship unpredictable, like sitting on a stranded plane not knowing when it was going to take off. But I knew I had to take the good and bad in any relationship. It was the same as making a latte, taking a bitter shot of espresso and blending it with the sweet, frothy milk, you needed both.
So one afternoon, when I saw his name flash on my phone, I looked at it briefly and slipped the phone back into my purse, knowing that I would return his call. I would wait until Brie and I had finished our lunch. I heard a second notification letting me know that he’d sent a message.
Brie heard it too, loud and intensified even inside my purse. She caught my eye. “Who was that?”
“No one,” I said.
“C’mon, Elise, you don’t think I know who it is?”
“Then why ask?”
Brie smiled. “To see if you’ll tell me the truth.”
“I don’t really feel like talking about it. Not here.”
We were sitting in our favorite Thai restaurant, which was right across the street from my new job. It had a flimsy orange awning and little yellow daylilies pasted on the huge window. Waiters bustled from table to table, and customers’ loud conversations surrounded us.
Brie twirled her noodles on her fork. “He only gets in touch when he wants something from you,” she said.
“He doesn’t have anyone else he can talk to.”
“Tell him to find a therapist.”
“We’re friends. I couldn’t do that.”
Brie sighed. “Are you serious? You two stopped being friends when he said it was over.” She said the last two words slowly as if she were about to start spelling out the words.
“Then why does he still call?” I asked.
“Because you’re still giving into him.”
I moved the rice on my plate in little circles. Brie could never understand. When Joshua called, it was as if everything was as it had been in the beginning, and his absence had just been a little blip, like the fading of a signal until it came back strong again. Sometimes, if we met up, he would hold me in his arms; I would feel safe again, and whatever pain he had caused me would disappear in that moment.
“I’m not trying to be hurtful,” Brie said. “I’m just worried.”
“I know, but there’s nothing to be worried about.”
“It’s been six months since you two decided it was over.”
“He decided it.”
I squeezed a lime into my glass of water. “We were friends first, and I still want us to be.”
Brie sighed. “Take it from me. You can’t be friends with an ex.”
“You never tried.”
“I did try. Remember Chris?”
I laughed. “Chris? All the way in California? You talk once a year, if that.”
“That’s the only way it works.” Brie was matter-of-fact.
“Only in your world.”
“I think you could take some lessons from my world. He’s no good, Elise.”
Brie was the type of girl that could get over a guy in the length of time it took to get rid of a cold. When it was over, it was over. Rarely tears and she’d ask me not to bring up his name again. There’s always another one waiting, she’d say, and she was usually right. Men flocked to her bold personality, her outrageous hairdos, and lively spirit. For Brie, waiting on someone was like waiting on a missed train, she’d much rather walk or think up a new route than wait for the same one to come around again. But me, I wasn’t like Brie.
“Brie, you never know what could happen. It could turn into something again.”
“Did he say that?”
“Not really, but it feels like nothing’s changed since we broke up.”
Brie looked at me sharply. “Are you sleeping with him again?”
Come back next Thursday for more!