R. Tiara Malone

All Summer ’16

if it’s the summer of 2016 & drake drops views, then you’re 27 and this album becomes the soundtrack to ur life, a lifeline maybe. u start to understand his sentiments abt money being a worthy alternative to love. u understand what he means when he says “all of my let’s just be friends are friends i don’t have anymore.” u start to abandon the stifling politics u have abt urself. it sounds liberating but u know that u are not becoming free so much as u are numb. u are moving towards ur detonation. u do not know how to slow it down or stop it. do you even want to slow it down or stop it? u do know, u will not be sober for ur own implosion. u hope to wake in the aftermath of it and u promise urself u will not notice all the debris. u will pretend it never happened. u learn how to breath in and out and never really exhale. u bloat.

each day u examine ur aging form in ur full-length mirror. it doesn’t matter that it lies to u. the truth is, ur ass and hips sit lower now. and if it’s one thing growing up girl has taught u, is that the hips don’t lie. as ur body shifts and u try to figure out a place for it, u meet a man. u immediately want to love him but u know better. he is beautiful but u know better. u expose the truth of ur body to him. u think, he either doesn’t know or doesn’t care that u are never present. then one day, he confronts u, points out ur detachment. his observation vibrates ur body. it rings thru out ur old apartment that has become a grave for ur ghost-self and a few roaches u don’t care to exterminate—being alone is too heavy. u let the roaches have the kitchen. u let this beautiful man have ur new body. u let him have u to a soundtrack of alt. r&b, emo rap & trap music. u let these sounds fill the spaces where ur feelings used to be. hurt turns hard, u can almost feel it happening in real time. u fade.

not long before the beautiful man notices ur ghost-self, a different man made ur body a ghost town. he turned ur lullaby into heavy metal. sleep eludes u now. it dances around ur bed and taunts u, daring u to come and get it. u use the new man as pillow, as armor, as a goodnight song. u attempt sleep but the scent of a past love haunts the place. it’s on the sheets no matter how u wash them. the cushions of the sofa hold the scent. u are convinced the scent is coming thru the pipes. it’s in the water. it’s not just the apartment, u smell it everywhere now. u smell it in the emotional rappers coming thru ur speakers. u smell it in older women who, in the past, were too old to understand u. or, u were maybe too young to understand them. u smell it in rage. u smell it with a raging red. u smell it in blues. it stinks like ur twenties going bad. u think ur past love made off with ur youth. u are right and wrong about this. u are learning the nuances of scent. u inhale.

the call center job u stumbled into allows u to disconnect and provides a paycheck big enough to send ur sorrows into outerspace. u stay at the job. u are mostly late, always disengaged. it is too safe. u use lunch breaks to finish blunts from the morning and to mix red wine into ur passion tea from sbux. u use lunch breaks to wonder if u should attempt ur dreams again. u wonder if u should try reconnecting with ur family, try to feel something for them. u smoke again and top off ur cup because the thought of trying pains u more than your stagnancy. each morning on ur transfer from train to bus, u grab a smoothie from the supermarket on grand & chicago. u don’t care that it’s overpriced and packed with sugar. u only care that u look like u care. u ask urself if this is what being woman looks like: overspending on junk on ur way to a job that is draining life from ur body? the answer has been on ur mind, on ur tongue, before u cld speak it. u swallow it again because u are still unwilling to stop buying into ur own facade. u hide.

u wonder why u look so much like ur mother now, wonder why the thought of calling her throws u into a panic. she was ur age when she had u. she was only a few years older when she left ur father in chicago. him in his addiction. her with her 8 kids in tow. u start to wonder if you’re more him than u thought. it’s not only ur alcohol intake. u now crave the little pills that remind u of vitamins from ur childhood. u make a case for the tiny crystals the beautiful man places on ur tongue. u tell urself u work too hard to be sober. u become agitated easily. u decide to tattoo ur chest just to feel the buzz of the needle. u spend money on everything but rent and u wait for the bottom to fall out. u pacify.

ur womb starts to cry out for something to hold. this beautiful man does his part to fill u with life. u are not ready to become a home. there is no cub. finally, there is no address. u lose the apartment and are relieved for it. the season wants to wane, give out, but not before a few suffocating dog days. u spend these intensely hot days figuring out an escape. this planning is not new to u. in fact, u can’t remember what it feels like to not want to run. u think as far back as u can but can’t recall a time when fire wasn’t in ur feet. u plot.

u are unable to recognize urself. u are living for this feeling of feeling dead. u want more of it. u want to never make the mistake of loving again. u think it’s easy to replace Love so u frequent petco. u buy fish that die off. u buy a bird that u eventually set free. u want to be the bird but u are becoming the fish. it’s not okay but it’s inevitable, u think. u believe it’s possible to outrun urself forever and so u plan to. u start at lake michigan. ur fear of drowning is alleviated by this new secret u have found about water. u are discovering its healing properties, its remedies. it becomes ur baptism each day after the call center. u think, maybe, u cld make this living thing work after all. u float.

this man, beautiful as he is, is too close. just the thought of seeing him again makes u uneasy but u crave it. he is both a danger zone and a safe place. u circulate from one extreme to another. u don’t know if he is too good for u or vice versa. somewhere between lake michigan and ur apartment u decide it is neither. u decide, his thorns are like ur thorns, so even though it hurts, it’s not a new kind of pain. u melt into this theory, try to find solace in it. u shatter.

u cry but can’t produce tears. u spend hours by the lake contemplating the thought…u disconnect from him. u depend on him to save u. u forget urself. u remember urself. u don’t understand it, u just know u don’t feel the same and it’s time to surrender. and so u do. u surrender over and over. u do this all summer ’16 until u fall.

-lake michigan, ‘16


A photo of a Black woman smiling and wearing gold-rimmed glasses and a white T-shirt.

R. Tiara Malone is a Chicago born writer living in New Orleans. Her poetry has been published by Partial Press. Her stageplays have been read in Chicago, Atlanta, and New Orleans. Her essays have appeared in Prairie Schooner and Peauxdunque Review (forthcoming). Her essay “Mikey Go Boom!” was a runner-up in the 2020 Words and Music Festival. She studied Media, Communication, and Theatre at Northeastern Illinois University in Chicago. She is currently working on a lyrical memoir and is the owner of Minimoon Massage Studio (@MinimoonMassage) in Nola. Never tweeting @ascribecalled.