written by Tyrese Coleman | illustrated and art directed by Plum
Sent: Sat 8/15/2015 6:03 AM
I shouldn’t show up today, but I’m coming to your wedding. The American wedding. I will stand when the minister asks if anyone objects because I do, and I’ve always wanted to attend a wedding where that happens. I’m a law student, I know how to object. I’ve got evidence to sustain. Your poems. Dick-pics. Clothes in my dresser. Toothbrush in my bathroom. Morning calls. Morning wood. You. Here. Sleeping. Now.
Maybe I am a whore like your mother thinks.
But my bed is warm, body still slick and tender.
Maybe we made a baby.
Sent: Sat 8/15/2015 11:28 AM
Just so you know, I don’t care about Miss Nigeria. The opposite of me with her bright cocoa skin, flawless weave, makeup expertly applied. Yes, I know what she looks like — saved your picture from the Metro Section. Two doctors, first generation, prominent families, two weddings — here and in Nigeria — homes in D.C., London, Lagos. Tell your Igbo-bougie mother you taught me how to make fufu. My southern accent doesn’t mean I’m stupid, just as much as her being asked to repeat herself because her words start with O’s wide like butts in Kente cloth doesn’t mean shit either.
1. I will be an attorney. A judge! 2. You were my first, my only. 3. My father is a professor, my mother a chef, my sister a nurse. 4. I am a good woman.
But — Miss Nigeria is Igbo.
Congratulations. You found a suitable wife.
Your precious mother hates the sight of me. I’m impure, I know, I know. My best friend says light-skin women have nothing to complain about. She pulls my hair like I’m a doll, tells me I need a tan: my legs are Perdue chicken thighs. That shit ain’t funny. My yellow-brown thighs signal wantonness, physical proof of brown legs split for a white dick — you know — we talked about that. Late night, ganja filled our chests, and we pontificated: Ann Petry’s The Street, the sex-crazed mulatta tragedy of Sara Jane in Imitation of Life. Literature doesn’t provide happy endings for women who look like me. Real life doesn’t either. That night you told me about her. Said she didn’t matter. Appease your mother, you said. Does Miss Nigeria know your poetry? The idleness of writing doesn’t seem to fit your mother’s ideal of a good Igbo boy. She hates the influence of my pale otherness on you, yet I know nothing but black.
Black not African.
“Never African. Never Nigerian. Never Igbo. Never for you.” Your mother chastened when we met as if you were a child bringing home a stray dog.
But on some western shore, my ancestor was sister to her ancestor, and they stolemine. I’m no longer littered with sand, not enough grit to grip when the boat leaves, and we are tied feet to wrist. This will get me in trouble, but I speak what’s in my bones. It’s our bones from another lifetime, Nnamdi, lying at the sea bottom. If you marry her, they will never make it home.
Sent: Sun 8/16/2015 4:32 AM
This is not an apology.
I handled myself well. Had your mother not put her finger in my face — her sculpted head wrap quivering with each chicken-like neck jerk — if she had just sat down like the lady she claims, if she had not called me akata with her nose wrinkled like she smelled shit, or like I was shit, and what was I doing there, and who the hell did I think I was, then I may not have had to raise my voice and tell the church where you were at 6:03 AM. I know you said that word doesn’t mean nigger, but that’s how she said it. I know! If anyone out of us is a nigger, it’s me.
I am not begging you to take me back.
But, when she slapped me, was there any part of you that wanted to act? My face cracked, red, glowed with tears and blood vessels. You watched while every woman there spat in my face, your male cousins laughing, high-fiving behind your back. Did your heart stir? Eight years, and you can’t protect me?
Friends warned me about Nigerian men. We’ve all dated at least one, a black woman’s rite of passage. It’s ignorant to generalize. Not all Nigerian men are like you. But, you don’t make it easy. Or is it just men? That’s what Amy Winehouse is singing to me. We staring down this dark liquid tunnel numbing my face, my body, what’s left of my mind. What is it about men? What iis it ab-boouut men? Amy and I, we commiserating.
I saw the real you at the altar. Beautiful — no doubt, that’s why I love you. The ceremony in a golden dusky light, you were an eclipse. In you seeing her, I didn’t perceive romantic love. Nah. Greater. Greater than what I thought we had. I see it now. Saw it when you cried at the sight of her — pride instead of love. Your heart sang some language I don’t understand. Pride greater than any love you could ever have for me. I have no culture. I come from plain old slavery and miscegenation. She’s your lifelong dream. Of dances and song and food and family and hope and everything else. She’s your mother, and her mother, and her mother. She’s the reason why you’re here. The reason I fell for you. And for you…I could never be for you.
I’ll take a wash for the past eight years and just say I’ll see you next lifetime. Maybe then we will both make it through the middle passage. Or not. I’ve got work tomorrow. Come get your shit.
About the artists:
Tyrese L. Coleman is a writer, wife, mother, and attorney. She is also the fiction editor for District Lit, and an associate editor at SmokeLong Quarterly. A 2016 Kimbilio Fiction Fellow and a nonfiction scholar at Virginia Quarterly Review’s 2016 Writer’s Conference, her prose has appeared in several publications, including PANK, Day One, Buzzfeed, Brevity, The Rumpus, Hobart, listed in Wigleaf’s Top 50 (very) short fictions, and forthcoming at The Kenyon Review. She can be reached at tyresecoleman.com.
Plum is an illustration collective based in Brooklyn, NY.