The words poured from above my head as I searched around Save-A-Lot for some pasta sauce. There were children galloping in and out the aisles, while a middle-aged woman pushed a cart behind them screaming curse words. Near the produce section, I could hear a high-pitched voice of another woman bickering with an older man about the prices on fruits and vegetables being too high. And around the corner in the cereal aisle, a younger woman with thick box-braids groaned and smacked her lips so loud it sounded like a hand clap. She stood slumped over holding her iPhone in both hands. I could read the aggravation in her snare nostrils and eye-rolling that she wasn’t happy with whomever was on the other side of that screen. My eyes began to toss through the shelves like policemen frisking a black brotha in a Benz. Meanwhile, I hear Aretha Franklin’s heroic voice pierce louder as I reach the end aisle, “cause you make me feel, you make me feel like a natural woman”.
Her words landed below my chest sinking deep within my gut. For a moment, I began to feel a little melancholy. I was never a die heart fan but losing one of our strongest sista’s in the game was heart breaking. Then as quickly as I drifted into grief, I was interrupted by the young mother shouting, “didn’t I tell yo’ stupid ass to grab the fuck’n cart.” I turned my head the other direction to spare the little girl from embarrassment. I continued down another random aisle, and there beside a can of spaghettios was the pasta sauce. Finally, as I approached the one and only line at check-out, I could still hear the angelic words of Franklin’s. I began to look at all the women in the store, some of their faces hung low or twisted with a scowl. None of their spirits reflected the sweet words of feeling loved, not even mine.
I returned home to listen to Franklin’s song again. I couldn’t help to think if other women of color ever felt as loved as Franklin did. For myself, I never knew what being in love looked like on a woman. I wondered would it resemble Stella, when she got her groove back or would it sing the blues like Love Jones? Unfortunately, neither had been familiar to me. I thought about all the faces of the women in my family and each one cried a different song. Most of them painted on smiles to keep folks believing that their roses smelled as lovely as they appeared. While others-built walls to protect themselves from being hurt. I took a vow to never become neither. And yet, I’m still broken. There I was standing in a long line of women who in some way was disappointed by love. Whether it was early childhood, young adult, middle-aged; we all had welcome people inside our homes, who didn’t deserve to be.
I began to stir the pasta sauce in a slow rotating motion as the men from my past circled around my mind. I thought about each relationship, situationship, and booty-call thoroughly. I peeled back pages of tangled words that contradicted actions as well as unresolved endings that left me wanting more. I realized I was drawn to men that didn’t know how to love. And still, most of them knew what to say to keep my nose open and my pants around my ankles. I read into their phone calls, good morning texts, Netflix and chill pop-ups as if it solidified us being in a relationship. While on the contrary, I ignored the disappearing acts, unanswered texts messages which lasted for days, and emotional roller-coaster rides that led me to blaming myself for not being enough.
As my pasta grew cold, I sat starring off into space reflecting on my first experience with love as a child. I flipped through old scenarios of my mother and father relationship then my relationship with them individually. I remember my mother wanting to have a family, while my dad was hungry for the streets. The constant give and take soon overwhelmed my mother, she would pack up our things and leave like a thief in the night. Then my father would come back around sniffing like a hound at our doorstep, howling and scratching for us to open our door to let him inside. My mother’s desire to want a family convinced her every time to soften for him. Once he felt he had us where he wanted us, we would go through this cycle all over again.
My father, the first man I loved, hurt me. Even though, we had many adventures of visiting museums, cheering at baseball games, ordering deep dish pizza and watching scary movies on Friday nights, he was still missing in a delicate part of my life. He knew to work hard until his hands felt numb and his belly was full. However, he did not know how to love. There wasn’t any tenderness that cushioned his hugs nor did his words bring ease. Every day, he would come home wearing his shoulders slightly hunched, face frowned and his walk hard. His greetings were as stale as old bread, and I knew not to expect more or less from him in our daily passing’s. He was just existing with us like a half-dead house plant. This guard he had wedge between us pour down inside me like a never-ending rainstorm in April. From there, those emotions settled like fresh soil then sprouted into an underline resentment towards men. I had been looking for a love I had never received from my father in every man I had been with. I was spinning on a merry go’ round of the same man and I didn’t know how to stop the ride.
A cold breeze had snuck inside raising the hairs on my arm. I had been day dreaming for almost a hour, with a half- eaten bowl pasta waiting on me. I realized there will never be a man to make me feel like a natural woman. Although, the idea of it seemed fulfilling. I knew it took more than just having a man present in my life to feel whole. If there was any way this carnival ride was going to end, I would have to peel back my unhealed parts I had normalized as a child and rebuild myself for myself. I decided to take the pasta out of its misery and dumped it in the trash. And with it, followed the pain of my past. I realized my father did the best he could with what he had been given. I knew I would have to forgive him as well as all of the men that had taken his place. And that was going to take time..