Journey Through La’Isla, Jukai – Raw Preview

Lali stood in her mother’s kitchen washing dishes, staring listlessly out of the window over the sink. A car horn blaring in the front of the house broke her out of her trance. Lali didn’t bother to check on the noise. Her neighborhood was blustering with activity at any given time during a Summer Saturday. She continued washing the dishes, this time staring at her own reflection until she was almost completely returned to her autopilot state. Her best friend, Charlotte’s face popped up on the other side of the kitchen window. Her nostrils were flared, and her tongue was slightly poked out, held tightly between her full lips, with only her top two gapped teeth revealed.
Lali squeaked at the unexpected sight before she opened the window and asked, “What are you doing, weirdo? I have a front door.”
“Waiting for you to come outside! You didn’t hear me honking for you?” Charlotte asked excitedly.
“No, well yes, but no. I didn’t know it was you calling out to me. Whose car do you have?”
“Nathan’s.” A mischievous smile flashed on Charlotte’s face.
Lali rushed to dry her hands, “I’ll meet you out front,” she told her friend as she quickly shut the window and booked it to the front entry.
“Bye, Mom! The dishes are done,” Lali yelled over her shoulder before slamming the front door closed behind her.
Lali ran up to Nathan’s brand new, candy red, Jeep Wrangler and jumped in the front seat.
“We removed the doors and top this morning,” Charlotte told her as she shifted in gear and peeled down the street.
“Whoa, what’s the rush?” Lali asked, gripping onto the dashboard for balance.
“He was asleep when I left.”
“Your brother is going to kill you!”
“Us. I think you mean, he’s going to kill us.”
“Why ‘us’?”
“Because possession is nine-tenths of the law and you, my friend, are in the vehicle with me. Which puts it in our possession.” Charlotte laughed maniacally before admitting that while he didn’t know she had the truck, he will once he wakes from his nap.
“Oh, that’s good, I suppose,” Lali replied, sticking her arm outside of the car where the door should have been.
The sun penetrated Lali’s deep brown skin warming her body to its core. Her unkempt, knotty hair swayed in the wind. She closed her eyes, tilted her chin towards the sky, and inhaled deeply. She had one more month until it was time for her to start her sophomore year at university which gave her one more month to convince Charlotte to enroll in school. While Lali focused on soaking in the sun and thinking of ways to get her friend to commit to getting her higher education, Charlotte focused on her need for speed and took a sharp left onto the highway.
“Let’s go to the beach,’ Charlotte suggested.
“What? Which beach? I don’t even have on a bathing suit,” Lali whined.
“We don’t have to swim. Besides, I am still wearing jeans too. We’ll be fine.”
Charlotte continued barrelling down the freeway, passing each exit Lali knew to have a beach on it. After a whiled, Lali let go of her concerns. They drove for about two hours, singing along to the music on the radio and talking about their plans for the upcoming weeks before Charlotte pulled off of the freeway onto a small parking lot. There was a sign that said “Scenic Outlook.” And though the view from where the car was parked was amazing, this wasn’t what Lali had in mind.
“I thought we were going to the beach,” Lali remarked.
Charlotte hushed her.
The young women jumped out of the car and stared at the body of water disappearing on the horizon. Charlotte parted her own soft and full curly hair down the middle of her head and put two French braids on each side. Then she walked away from her partner and into the wooded brush nearby. Before Lali followed, she gathered her thick, coily hair into a ponytail on the top of her head. Their sneakers skidded down a dusty walking trail that ended at the bottom, near the shoreline. About a mile down the shoreline is where the homes of the rich and possibly famous could be seen. The girls continued to walk until the shore was less pebbly and more sandy. Lali sat down and removed her canvas sneakers while Charlotte walked ahead a bit further. Wind chimes clanged from a deck nearby. She dug her toes deeper into the sand and watched her friend pick up a small piece of driftwood, squatting low to scrape it into the sand. The girls remained silent for a while but would occasionally shift their attention to the setting sun.
Lali could still feel the warmth lingering on her skin, her face, arms, and hands were now the color of black cherries. She looked up at Charlotte, who was still drawing lines in the sand, unaware of her friend’s observing eyes. Charlotte’s tan gave her melanin the appearance of a bronze statue. The light from the disappearing sun reflected heavily on the tip of her round nose and atop her high cheekbones. Feeling Lali’s eyes taking her in, Charlotte looked up, her face lit up starting with her bright white teeth and ending with her dark chocolate eyes.
“You look like you’re wearing eyeliner,” Lali said. “How’d you get so pretty when your brother looks like a foot?”
They began to laugh hysterically.
Charlotte replied, still doubled over with laughter, “He does look like a foot, doesn’t he?”
Charlotte raised from her haunches and brushed the sand from her pants. She took a small silver cigarette case from her back pocket and opened it up to reveal pre-rolled joints. She sparked a joint before walking over to join Lali sitting in the sand.
After a few pulls, Charlotte passed the spliff of marijuana to her friend then began removing her shoes as well.
“This is the life, isn’t it?” Charlotte asked rhetorically.
With the joint still on Lali’s lips, she rested back on her elbows. Together they watched the last sliver of sun disappear into the crack between the water and the sky. A half moon and a handful of stars were left to lead the way.
“We could build a bonfire if we walk a little further down. You want to?” Charlotte asked.
“I don’t know, Cholly. It’s getting kind of late. Shouldn’t we head home? That’s a long drive.”
“I told Nathan we were keeping the car until tomorrow.”
“You did what? When? What did he say?”
“Lali, relax. You don’t have to be such a mom. We’re fine! Come on, let’s go. We’ve got all the time in the world.”
Lali took another puff of smoke then passed it to Charlotte. They each gathered up their shoes and began walking further down the shoreline. There was a mess of driftwood both big and small pieces that blocked the entrance to the beach near the homes. Lali prepared to turn around and head back to the car but Charlotte was already wobbling on the mound, her joint barely hanging in the corner of her mouth. Charlotte turned to look for Lali but she was still standing on the other side with her arms crossed.
“Oh, come on,” Charlotte goaded, “you can make it across. It’s really not all that bad,” she told her. She held out her hand for Lali to take.
Lali reached up to her friend and they continued walking the nearly ten-foot boundary hand in hand. She wobbled a bit then steadied herself to take the joint from Charlotte’s lips. The increased strength of the breeze pushed a strange pride in her chest. After taking another inhale of marijuana, Lali raised her hands over her head and whooped as loud as she could. Charlotte didn’t hesitate in joining Lali in shrieking at the top of her lungs.
“How’s that feel?” Charlotte asked her.
“Like I’m under a spell, Cholly. I love you so much,” Lali answered. “I couldn’t have a better best friend.”
“I love you too, Lali.”
A roll of thunder in the distance called attention to the midnight blue sky turning black. Sparks of lightning over the now turbulent waters startled the girls, causing Charlotte to lose her balance.
Lali gasped for air, lunging out of her sleep. The beads of sweat on her forehead rolled down her temples and burned her eyes. She couldn’t breathe.
“That’s not what happens. That’s not how it ends,” Lali said between her frantic gulps for air, her hands erratically grasping at the sheets.
“What’s wrong? La’Isla, what’s the matter?” Nathan reacted. Lali’s panic attack startled him from his sleep.
“Cholly, Cholly isn’t gone yet. There wasn’t a thunderstorm. She’s not gone yet. We still have to make the bonfire!” La’Isla continued to frantically grab on the bedding.
She tried to jump out of the bed but her mid-length white nightgown is tangled in the sheets. She fought against the bedding like a rabid animal. Nathan gripped onto her shoulders, trying to pull her into his bare chest. Her body tensed and twisted away from his hold, tangling herself further in the sheets.
“No, help me! l have to find Cholly. I need to get Cholly so we can make the bonfire. She can’t leave until we,” Lali cut her own sentence short with her continued struggle to get out of the bed.
She kicked at the sheet wrapped around her feet. Nathan pulled on the sheets to loosen them from around her ankle. Once she was able to move freely, she swung her legs off the side of her bed and tore out of her bedroom and down the hall. She screamed for Cholly as she ran.
Lali ran down the stairs of her parents’ home, stumbling and sliding down the last three or four steps. Her mother, father, and Nathan ran after her but didn’t beat her to the front door. She swung the door open and kept running, her bare feet were getting scraped by the pavement.
“Cholly!” Lali’s screams echoed down her silent block. “Cholly, please we haven’t finished our trip, please.”
Her eyes darted around the front yards of her neighbors as if she were hoping for Charlotte to reappear from someone’s garden. The solar lamps lining the streets made it difficult to see past anyone’s front sidewalk.
Nathan cursed under his breath before racing down the street behind her. Lali kept running until she reached the dead end of her block. She pushed herself through a narrow clearing among a thick brush of trees and weeds. When Nathan reached the same clearing, he cursed again. Along the path, there were twigs and sharp rocks.
“La’Isla!” he called through the brush. “La’Isla!” he repeated.
She didn’t answer. Nathan looked over his shoulder to see if her parents were following them but they had yet to reach the end of the street. He gingerly stepped onto the debris on the path, careful not to put too much weight on his feet. He walked the path, now whispering for his friend.
“Lali, are you here? Where are you?”
Lali could be heard whispering somewhere in the distance. The only audible word was Nathan’s late sister’s name. He continued along the dense path for another short stretch before it opened up to a field. Lali sat in the middle on her knees, sobbing for her lost friend. Her nightgown was ripped and the bottoms of her feet were littered with nicks and cuts. The blood from her feet stained the hem of her nightie.
Nathan approached Lali with caution, quietly kneeling beside her, pulling her to his chest. He hushed and rocked her, wishing he could take her pain away only he was in as much pain as she was.
Tears rolled down his soft, hairless cheeks and crashed on top of Lali’s head. She continued to sob while Nathan swayed their bodies rhythmically. They lingered in the embrace. Nathan’s hands pressed into Lali’s back. This was something Charlotte would do for them whenever they sought comfort.
“When I push into your back, it’s like I’m relieving the pressure and releasing the pain,” she would say. Her large eyes would light up before she’d offer a sympathetic smile.
Lali could hear Charlotte’s voice in the wind, snapping her back to reality. She quietly closed her burning eyes and lifted her chin towards the tree occluded sky. A heavy breath escaped from the bottom of her chest. The corners of her mouth turned down once more, her eyebrows twisting in pain. She released her agony through clenched teeth.
“Come, Lali,” Nathan whispered, standing to his feet and raising Lali to hers at once.
Her shoulders slumped, deepening the curve in her spine. Her eyes, still closed, creased deeply across her lids. Lali’s joyful, dark eyes were now adorned with rings and puffs.
“I can’t live without her, Nate.”
“You have to, Lali.” He paused then said, “We have to. Come.” His hoarse voice ached his throat.
Nathan effortlessly swept Lali into his arms and cradle carried her back to the narrow clearing in the brush. He gently lowered her to her feet before proceeding into the clearing, walking backward so that he could hold Lali’s hands and guide her back to the street.
Once they were back on the street, he lifted her off her feet once more. Lali winced from the sting she felt when her weight was relieved from the soles of her feet. She wrapped her arms around his neck and rested her head on his shoulder.
“Have you been talking to anyone about the last time you were with Charlotte?”
His question suspended in the humid night air. Lali pressed her cheek into his shoulder, her lips tight and her shoulders stiff. He felt her weight increase in his arms. With her family’s home now in view, Nathan could see her parents stand from the steps on their porch and begin walking to meet them.
Her mother, Heather, held Lali’s slippers and her father, Charles, gripped his phone in his leather worn hands. The closer the pairs were to meet one another, the faster Heather walked until she reached Nathan and La’Isla first.
“Lali! Lali, are you okay?” her mother, wrought with worry began to frantically search and frisk Lali’s body.
Grey and white streaks stained Heather’s sepia brown face. Her weary eyes settled on Nathan. His burnt umber skin had lost its glow. He inhaled deeply and rested his eyes but his shoulders remained taut and erect. Heather turned to see if Charles had caught up. He stood apart from the rest of the group. His calm demeanor chilled Heather but she knew he was grieving in his own way. If not for Charlotte, he most certainly grieved for his La’Isla.
“Let’s get her inside,” he croaked, rubbing his forehead then pressing his thumb and middle finger into his eyes. His eyes felt heavy with sand. “I told you not to bother with those slippers, Heather. Look at her feet, they need to be cleaned first.”
“Are you alright, son?” Charles asked, directing his attention to the young man whom seemingly held it together throughout this entire ordeal.
“Yes,” Nathan answered, still hoarse. “I’m fine.”
Charles turned to walk back towards the house. Heather followed behind him, reaching for his hand. Her fingertips tickled his before his large palm engulfed hers. She rested her head on his shoulder after taking a glimpse at the young pair trailing behind them. Sprinklers watered their ankles before returning to the abundant, colorful perennials and thick green grass that that graced the front yards of every home.
They turned up the walkway to the Harriot home. Charles’ feet heavily tapped on the pavement before it thunked on the first step. He pushed the front door open then stepped aside for Heather, Nathan, and La’Isla to get by. Nathan sidestepped through the doorway, walked to the living room, and laid Lali down on the sofa.
Her mother disappeared into the kitchen and returned with a small basin filled with warm water. She dipped a cloth into the water, rung it out, then placed it on La’Isla’s head. She then sat on the coffee table and dipped another cloth in the water before wiping the bottoms of her daughter’s feet.
Lali winced a bit before sinking into the sofa. Nathan sat on the edge of an armchair nearby while Charles watched pensively from the living room’s doorframe.
“Rest, Baby,” Heather whispered, dabbing the nicks on Lali’s feet. “Charles, honey, can you get Nathan a blanket from the linen closet?” she asked.
“No, thank you, Mrs. Harriot. I think I should head home,” he interrupted.
“Nonsense, you’ll stay. At least until the morning,” she retorted.
“It’s just around the corner,” he quietly replied.
She looked up at her husband for his assistance.
“Come on, son. I’ll get you home.”
“Charles,” she implored, “he can go in the morning.”
“Heather,” he asserted.
She nodded before getting up from the edge of the coffee table and taking the basin to dump in their half bathroom.
Charles turned to go upstairs, Nathan followed closely behind him.
As they walked towards Lali’s bedroom, Charles stopped short causing Nathan to bump into him. He turned and said, “Son, I think between the four of us in this house, you are pained the most. I knew Cholly damn near her whole life and saw her as my second kid. You,” he paused for a beat, “You are a close third.”
They chuckled, attempting to clear the tension.
“My point is, y’all need to heal. Now, I’ve been lenient. You walking around the house without your shirt and whatnot but you and my Lali are moving too fast. You’ve got to face your grief first, son,” Charles advised. “You don’t have to face your grief alone but you came into this a single young man and before you find yourself in a relationship, you have to ask yourself if you’re gonna be the same man once you’ve learned to cope.”
Nathan stared at Charles, tears welling in his bottom eyelids. He nodded stiffly, trying not to blink, fearing that his blinks would allow his tears to escape. Charles inhaled sharply before pulling Nathan in for a firm hug. Nathan tensed, restraining his sobs.
Charles stepped back, holding Nathan an arm’s length away with his hands on his shoulders and said, “It’s okay to cry. She was your baby sister. It’s okay to cry.”
He pulled him back into the fold of his chest and Nathan’s knees slacked.
“You stay up here and rest. I’ll sit with Lali, okay?” Charles instructed. “You shouldn’t be in that empty house alone when you have family right here, okay?”
Nathan nodded slowly, walking into La’Isla’s room.
“Get some rest,” he said. “And put your shirt on,” he called over his shoulder.
Charles walked over to the linen closet and retrieved a blanket. He trudged down the stairs to see his wife standing at the foot.
“He’s going to stay?” she asked.
“Yes. And you’d better call his mother before I do,” he advised before brushing past her.
“I told Claire that we would look after him.”
“Heather,” his tone softened when he turned to look at her tenderly, “you cannot replace that boy’s mother. He needs her and Lali needs us.”
He clicked off the light for the stairwell, leaving Heather standing in the dark before retreating to the weathered armchair.

Pre-Order Now – Releasing October 25, 2018

:Random 49:

I’ve been cradling my grief like a newborn baby. He’s mine. No one can see him, no one can touch him, and if he does somehow make it into someone’s view, you can’t tell me what to do with him. Some days it seems he’s getting big and growing to be too much for me to nurture alone. Other days, most days, I manage with him just fine. Today we’re getting ready for work and I pray he behaves himself.

I am mad at you for leaving me again. When I was 14, I left my lil boyfriend, a young man that saw past my awkward physical appearance, for an older young man who was sofisticated and smart. One night,  after we’d decided to be in a relationship, I had this dream that I told you about. We were standing in a dark room with a spotlight over our heads. I held your hands tightly as you held mine.  Then you dropped my hands, turned your back to me, and walked away. I called for you but you didn’t turn around. I was devastated.

So I told you this dream and you were somewhat unphased, I think. You were 19. Oh the trouble we’ve had since. You left me every other season. Literally. We went on this way until I was 16. I’d be crushed. I’d chase you until my youthful legs couldn’t bare it any more and my heart had enough. I’d turn on Etta James and lay across my couch. Her words were a blanket for my mourning. Then, when you’d finally managed to shake me from your coattails and I was covered in your dust and I’d found someone new; you came back. There would be a knock on my mother’s back door that grew to be expected by the time I, myself, was 19 years old. The finality of our end grew to be less finite.

When you moved out of state and didn’t tell me, it was par for the course. You’d call and ask me if you could come home. The answer was always yes. It was yes until I found out why you were leaving. There was another girl. She was the same age as me. I wasn’t hurt anymore. This time I was confused. Anyway, we  managed to get through that as well. We fought a nasty fight but then you took me to Macy’s and bought me this beautiful, modest ring. I adored it. I still do but my mind and body were no longer dedicated to you. I was tired of picking up the pieces of my little broken heart.

You were finally ready but now, I’m 19 and I know what the freedom feels like. From my current adult eyes, I understand why we couldn’t get our shit together. I had a new freedom that I didn’t have at 14, 15, or 16. I learned there was more to life than chasing a boy that doesn’t want you. Then I started leaving you in my dust. Lord knows you chased then I would turn around and try to chase you away but you never left. You were always two steps behind me and closer if I’d let you. I loved you still. That never changed and you loved me but our love was different.

Years pass and things happened. Things that don’t matter. We started families with other people and that dream of us standing in the spotlight didn’t matter anymore. Three years passed and I didn’t think of you much. Then you sent me a message. “Happy birthday.” i both laughed and scowled because I knew what that meant. You wanted to come home but this time I wouldn’t let you. Three years of secrecy and of touch and go. Three more years and I was falling in love again but this time with a married man. We were ready to come home. Argument after argument and separation after separation, we’d decided the only way we’d get over the pain was to be together. But I knew better. You had a wife. She’d become a fixture in your life. There’s more than “I’m leaving.” There’s children and family members and everything needs an explanation. So we argued again. I threatened to tell her if you came back to me without an answer. And you came back anyway. You always came back. You asked me what to do and I refused to tell you. We argued again but this time when you returned, I was ready to tell you what to do.

Now you’re gone. The dream in the spotlight resonates differently and I’m so mad at you because we couldn’t get this right and you left. Or rather, you died. You left me in my life to mourn alone. My heart feels rotten. My soul feels like it’s being ripped out of my back and no one will ever understand why. 

Now I see you in a new dream. I think it’s the resurrection. We’re dressed in white you’re holding my face in your hands. You kiss me on the top of my head and tell me that you always find me, no matter what. That’s the trouble with grief. That’s the catch. You stop knowing what’s real. You’re eager to know if there’s an after life but you know you can’t leave this present life yet. I wish this feeling would go away. 

Grief … a diary entry

Paralysis. I’m so hurt and angry that I just want to scream. Scream from the bottom of my stomach at the top of my lungs. I want to scream until my throat burns and my ears explode. While the rest of the world mourns the death of many, I am still mourning the death of one. Constant sickness. Inexplicable nausea and dizziness. Sometimes I can feel my heart rate sky rocket and my knees get weak. There’s no one to talk to. Who can I talk to about the burning and aching in my chest? How am I to explain to my children that sometimes I have a hard time moving?

I was driving along the highway with y hand draped out of the window. I was fine. I was lost in thought but I was okay. Then in the far right lane, there were two men. Each were riding their own motor cycle. My mind flashed to you. I remembered the last time I saw you with your bike, you were wearing some sort of armor. You were riding safely. These men, however, wore nothing but loose, short sleeve t-shirts, and small bucket helmets. There was no doubt in my mind they would make it to their destination safely nor was there any desire for otherwise.

It did cause me to question everything. The questions rolled into consciousness faster than I could attempt to answer. My head started to spin. I had to pull over. In the blink of an eye, I went from trying to discern the different ways to describe the air I’ve been breathing knowing that I can’t share it with you to trying to discern why some people make it to old age and others do not.

I thought about your funeral. I thought about the many lives you touched and why it was decided in such a short time, your job was done. What did we all learn? I sat on the side of the road and thought for what felt to be a very long time. What did I learn? What did you leave me with? My mind quickly navigated our memories together like fingers through a rolodex or an infinite scroll on someone’s social media website.

My mind streamed and my chest caved. In February, we talked about spending the entire week together because we would have the time. That was what triggered our last disagreement. Before that, I was short on my rent. Or short for my car note. I can’t recall but you came by and gave me what I needed. Before that, you helped me bring boxes upstairs to my friend’s house. I had just moved in. All of these occurrences were great but not life changing.

I started to panic. He wasn’t finished with me so why was he taken so early? So my mind kept sifting. I had an insatiable desire to know what your purpose in my life had been. My mind flashed to the beginning of us. I was thirteen going on fourteen and you were eighteen going on nineteen. I had a boyfriend and I have no idea what you were up to. You were funny and cute as hell. I had fallen in love. I left my boyfriend and we were officially together.

The difference you made in my life transpired long before my adulthood. You were my angel, my caretaker, my light. Around the age of fifteen, I was always getting put out of my mother’s house. And if I wasn’t being kicked out, my mother wasn’t home. Whenever I found myself with nowhere to go, I was welcomed into your home and whenever I found myself home alone without any food or water, you were there to supply it.

There are people that would argue that you were just taking care of the person you were involved with and this may be true but it was you heart that made the difference. It was your desire to see me grow. At fifteen, my life could have gone either way. I could have started taking drugs or become someone’s property. Under your watchful eye, I became neither. You were my home.

At a time in my life where I was the most malleable, you allowed me live and grow in a safe environment. While I know we spoke of our teenage years often, I don’t believe I’ve ever formally thanked you. This is how you touched my world. This is the difference you were here to make in me. For you to make such a significant difference in my life, what did you do for the other people you met?

My heart constricts when I think of the possibilities. The dizziness resumes. The silence is deafening. I’ve entered the state of denial. I’ve concluded that your difference is so great, that your time could not have been concluded so soon. I can recognize the denial but it feels so much better.