Psychopomp Magazine Summer 2014 - Page 6

Shilita Montez


An' my hea't was beatin' so,

When I reached my lady's do',

Dat I couldn't ba' to go—

          Jump back, honey, jump back.

          —“A Negro Love Song”

          Paul Laurence Dunbar

I know why the third day is so hard. See, on the first day, you still mad and so you tell yo’self you don’t care. On the second day, you start gettin’ real salty, and if they don’t call you, you sho’ ain’t gon call them. But that third day’s a bitch. On that third day, all that madness give way to the truth and your soul go into hidin’, leavin you by yo’self, tryna get your mind around it all. This here is where you wake up with that feelin’ in the pit of your stomach and you cup yourself between the legs and pretend your hand is his.

I’m standin’ in front of the counter at the neighborhood butcher over on PCH, the street near the housing projects where I grew up. PCH really ain’t no street. It’s more like this super-long highway that supposed to run down the coast by the Pacific Ocean. But where I’m standin’ at, it’s about twenty blocks from any ocean. The street that cross PCH right here is called Atlantic, and if you follow it all the way south, you eventually get to what pass for an ocean. Ships come from all around, from all kinda places bringin’ stuff to Long Beach. That seem like a real cool spot to live, right? But in order for all them ships to make it to shore, somethin’s got to be done about the waves. They can’t have nobody million-dollar ship flipped over before they get a chance to get to port and get paid. That’d be funny: Nikes and Levis and all kinda other made-in-China stuff a be floatin’ around in the ocean. People who don’t even know how to swim be out there tryna loot. So what they do is, see, they build this big wall-thing right in the middle the ocean. And this here wall-thing keep the waves out. Somethin’ like that.They told us ‘bout it at school. S’called a breakwater.

The thing they musta forgot, the thing you gotta remember, is this: any time you wall somethin out, you end up wallin’ somethin in, too. In this case what got walled in is this nasty-ass, dark, green cloud that always be there, floatin’ right under the surface of the water. You can’t see nothin’ below that cloud,

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