I ain’t no f*cking anchor.
My body does not turn into lead. It will not hold you down. It cannot be both burden and backstroke. It cannot write your story, but be too toxic to indulge in.
I indulge, in you, like a story. I know the direction your waves go in, know which part of the shore you left your ship, know the territories you’ll explore. I know the ones you won’t.
He says I remind him of home-cooked meals, makes “my momma biscuits” jokes while I pull them from my oven. I flick my own, like it’s a casket, waiting for society to remind me of its hollowness at only thirty. He lays flat on the floor, after he’s fed, looks up at my ceiling and describes some girl he met on social media. I smile, tell him about his type, tell him the last one ain’t go so right, and pour myself another glass of wine.
He’s a southern boy. I know both his middle names before he can tell me them. Joseph. Christopher. They are the third and fourth names I utter and he’s flabbergasted, “How did you know that?”
I pinch his chin, “You’re a type, boy.”
Black folks got very similar views of prestige. We crown our kids biblical or society-approved names, when we feel like we’ve come up in the world. I lean into him, “Your daddy sits at the head of the table. You engage in family dinners. Your momma makes the best mac and cheese, uses Velveeta in conjunction with the other cheeses you’ve discovered in your new neighborhood’s supermarket. You have siblings: One you get along with and the other not so much. You went to the best schools. They told you that you could have anything you want, be anything you want to be, to use the blueprint of what society has deemed best and grasp for it.”
But they lied.
He rolls his eyes and mumbles the word “stereotype” under his breath. I lay next to him and whispered into his ear, “As a musician, I know that you are prone to the stereo. I get that you are used to a beat that clings, one that you can keep on repeat or move on from. You recognize that it is a damn good melody, but you skip it anyway. You’ve convinced yourself that there are far more like it and find yourself on shuffle, until you manually make it back to a song you just can’t shake. Boy I make you shuffle. You move things around, like something is coming, leave refrains undone and half-assed because you’re seeking harmony that you’ve already found. Ain’t nothing unique about that, baby. You’re a type.”
My mother walks into my abode, as she does some weeknights. He jumps up to hug her, as he always does. She receives him and mouths the words to me, behind his back.
Pray. On. Him.
My grandmother does the same when I tell her of the butterflies in my stomach, the way he can hold a cocoon-like conversation: one that opens up in his palm in the wee hours of the morning.
We sit in the suede of my sofa arguing politics, good films, and bodega sandwiches when his phone goes off. The light of his phone illuminates his face in the darkness and he’s wearing that I-gotta-go look. I forgo his apology by stretching my arms and telling him I’m headed to bed. He smirks, as if we both don’t know he’s headed to someone he’s deemed worth loving, “Dang. Kicking me out, already?”
I remember my mother’s words as he turns his back, “He’s a good man. He’s always here for you. He’s so involved. He seems to like spending time with you. You need to pray...”
I cut her off abruptly, “I’m praying on me.”
Just because I sprout my arms, gained some pounds, and lay still sometimes, does not make me dead weight. I am not waiting on a buoy to save me. Especially one that seems to float aimlessly. Especially one that lacks navigation, seems to be at a standstill, does not follow the direction of the wave.
While you were getting your head above water, back against the still ripples, seemingly drowning when you’re just out for a swim, did someone tell you those three words too?
Did someone lean across a Thanksgiving table, screw their mouth like a wrench to fix something you never knew was broken? Did you tell them about some random, hoping to save face and time? Did they smile and stuff a forkful of their own path into their mouths and then sputter “pray on him?”
Tell them you’ll pray on their food, bless it so that it does not choke alongside the presumption in their throats.
Pray on your friends, so that you’ll have that Joan-Toni-Mya-Lynn love. Dysfunctional and diverse, black queens sprawl from your kitchen with tea in their palms, literally and figuratively. Start all your sentences with, “Girl let me tell you.” End all your arguments with, “But we’re off that.” Pray that you have friends that don’t dismiss the therapist’s diagnosis as just-another-thing-holding-you-back. Hope that you’ll have the kind of friends that will put their palms, in the small of your back, as an anxiety attack rocks you from the inside. They will whisper into your air, “You matter.”
Pray that you are meticulous and strategic. We fling anger, like babies throw unwanted food. Our wrath is a hurricane, withering anything in its past. We learn how to construct and deconstruct through our mother’s dialogue. We’ve watched her turn our crystal fathers into shattered glass. We have mastered the art of putting a man back together, while slicing our fingers, and telling the lie that they feel like paper cuts.
Pray that mother nature forgets your name. For as long as it took God to create the Earth, we crack spine, back to fetal position, in pain, and are reminded that we are not yet fertilized. Some dumbass will think he needs to remind you when you stain the sheets you share, as if your body isn’t a reoccurring reminder. He will point to the spot, like you couldn’t birth worlds from a ten-inch fold.
Pray for the discernment, not to smack the cashier when she reminds you of the price for the third time. Pray that she never experiences an empty pocket.
Pray for humility: not the kind that spawns to make others feel comfortable, but the innate ability to always be a part of the whole.
Pray for strength to say no. You ain’t superwoman. You can sing Alicia Keys to high heaven, but you ain’t. Self care with regular shit. Go wash your clothes. Change the lightbulbs. Meditate. Hum that melody your momma used to sing during Saturday morning cleaning, before she bought all the groceries, picked up the dry cleaning, checked in on grandma-an-dem, picked up her prescription even though she has three other children that live close by, gave them money, drove someone’s child that ain’t hers home, cook dinner, and made love. Hum it all the way through. Only stop when you’ve had enough or when you’ve learned to say no.
Pray that your sons come back as whole children. Watch them leave your abodes and fall to your knees, knowing they’re perceived as everything but the boys that they are. Pray
Pray for a career that plants your feet firm, in the soil. You’re a flower, girl. Act like it.
Pray that that style comes back around, so the back of your closet can make sense.
Pray that you no longer see your temple as a burden, that you no longer see your yoga mat as a prop. Anyone that visits your abode would assume that you salute the sun, when in reality you’re afraid to walk into spaces that might take in the ridges in your body and mistake your climb, for a fall.
Pray that you never had to see your favorite auntie wither, before your eyes. She went to get a mammogram on a Sunday and told us that she was leaving us on a Monday. Pray that you don’t run your fingertips over your breasts at the start of the week, knowing there’s a correlation.
Pray that a routine traffic stop, ends in a ticket.
Pray for forgiveness. Watch the light leave his eyes, as he swears he would never touch you in that way. He will say, with that weird tick he does when he’s lying, “She’s family. Why would I...”
Pray that someone in the clouds has a fury of a woman damaged.
Pray that you allow it to be left up to the heavens.
Pray that your little cousins listen to you, that they yearn to fill their minds instead of their wombs. Do not cringe when they give birth before you. Smile. Hold them close and tell them that you’ll be the best second cousin ever. Hold their babies in your wanting arms and still your yearn, convince yourself that you’re good at waiting.
Pray that you read yourself into oblivion. Let revolutionary scribes scrawl on your cerebellum and question everything.
Pray that you never become an anchor.
Pray for patience: waiting on someone that prays on you, sees you in your current existence, loves you unconditionally.
Pray that no man ever gets close enough to you, because someone told him that he had rights to anything he wanted. Tell him you ain’t no thing. Tell him you ain’t praying on shit. Tell him that you’re praying on you. Tell your auntie-momma-grandma too.
Erica B. is an author and arts educator based in Brooklyn, New York. Erica writes fiction and memoir that elaborates the experience of the millennial woman of color. She’s written/published three books: (Intention, Boroughs Apart, and Of Micah and Men). You can find more of her work at IfNoOneHasToldYou.com.