Simone waddled into her baby blue bathroom and assessed her exhausted reflection in the mirror. Memories began flitting between her eyelids and the back of her cerebral cortex. She wasn’t sure how she got here. Why she deserved the quality of life she’d had now? For years, she’d struggled with a deep case of imposter syndrome. For years, she wasn’t sure that she deserved anything remotely good. She was scared that everyone would leave her. That they would somehow find out she was a bad person or had been faking who she was the whole entire time. Sometimes, she would have sharp pangs of anxiety that writhed in her chest like a snake on its belly, deep in uncut grass toward its unsuspecting prey. She was born into trauma but somehow managed to wriggle her way into a new life free of it. Simone even managed to find a nice guy. His name was Jaxson and he had skin the color of an unprocessed Hershey’s bar – special dark chocolate edition. He didn’t have any preservatives, gimmicks, or time to waste. He brought his own sugar to the table, sweet and romantic on more than one occasion. She brought out a side of him that no one else had. Like her, his past had been rocky, and filled with behavioral patterns he’d learned out of survival. Right now, they were both in therapy trying to heal and reset. Jaxson was serious about her from the moment that they met. But he was even more serious about opening up to her about his blackness and what that experience entailed. Rather they confided in one another. She struggled with being heard and found worthy in the ugly eight-headed monster that was corporate America. He struggled with not being perceived as a wild animal to the general public and otherwise. Simone felt invisible all of the time. Whereas her partner felt too visible, to the point that he struggled to be seen and treated as human. Sometimes they stayed up late at night talking about race, identity, barriers to entry, and the like. Other nights they binged popular shows and cooked together in the kitchen to keep from losing their sanity. Their favorite meal was firecracker meatballs and jasmine rice with green beans. In the two and a half years they’d been together, they bought their first house, met each other’s families, and fell deeper and deeper in love. The first time she’d seen Jaxson, they’d met at work. At first, she wasn’t sure about him. Certainly, she didn’t want to mix business with pleasure. And certainly, she didn’t want to become the subject of office gossip. She stuffed the feelings she’d had for him back down her throat. She figured that love deterred was better than a love that never stood a chance in the first place. But she couldn’t resist. After breaking down a wall of immense insecurity, she asked him out. Jaxson obliged. They went indoor skydiving and the rest was history. Over Philly cheesesteak eggrolls and drinks, he told her how he’d always been interested. And that he knew it was only a matter of time before he fell in love with her. Simone was the life of the party, but also a deep thinker. Whereas Jaxson was a wallflower by nature, but also good with his hands. Labor was his middle name. Thinking of their first kiss, Simone smirked, her eyes crinkling at the creases like folding paper one would use for origami. Simone’s 4C Afro was as big as her belly. Her curls were as tight as the kicks in her stomach. They didn’t know the sex and weren’t in a rush to figure it out either. They wanted it to be a surprise when he or she came out. She was in her third trimester and wondered what kind of mother she would be. She was 26 ½ and had felt ready to settle down because she had already seen how cruel the world could be. But on the contrary, she found out how kind it could be in rare instances. She slid her wedding ring finger over the basketball that wasn’t dribbling in her stomach for once. On her finger lie a cluster of diamonds in the shape of a four-petal flower. Jaxson had proposed. It wasn’t long after that they decided to get married at home because they had enough land for it. Sitting on an acre or two, they used Mother Nature to their advantage. Simone worried about how she would protect her black daughter or son. She couldn’t protect them from people of different colors and races who judged them solely on something as silly as race. If she had to, she would lay down her life for her child’s. She wasn’t beneath doing so. She just never wanted to be in a situation where she had to. She wondered profusely what their features would look like. She was the color of the popcorn found in a Crackerjack box, caramel in some places but milk chocolate in others. On the other hand, Jaxson’s complexion reminded her of the block of chocolate straight from the cacao bean her Aunt Karen had given her ages ago. She wondered how hard of a time her child would have if the baby took after her husband’s features. She didn’t want to think like that, but she couldn’t afford not to. She loved her husband and while there wasn’t anything she would change about him, America was as judgmental as its infrastructure. America had been broken for a long time. And had a habit of discarding or abusing black and brown bodies. She feared what had happened to Ahmaud Arbery, Breyonna Taylor, or George Floyd would happen to her son or daughter. She feared that following their death the media might crucify them based on their past, as opposed to their present. She feared she’d be burying her child before they had a chance to bury her. Wasn’t it supposed to be the other way around? She feared that her child would be subject to microaggressions that they were helpless to. She feared that corporate America would chew her child up and never spit them back out, like it had done to her. She feared for her child’s safety. She feared that her child might be treated differently in comparison to his or her counterparts. She feared her child might not be compensated fairly in terms of labor even though they had the same skillset and ambition as his or her peers. She feared racism turning her child into a shell of himself or herself because of how poorly he or she internalized it. She feared her child not knowing where she had come from in terms of history and lineage like she hadn’t for so long because the textbooks or Eurocentric rubrics didn’t cater to black and brown people. It wasn’t until her early twenties she discovered the lingering effects of slavery. And how when one system dies, another one is already in its place. She was overwhelmed by all of it. It was Jaxson who told her to quit her job so that she didn’t drink racism with a bendy straw and pass it down to their newly planted seed. He didn’t want her nor his unborn child to suffer. She and Jaxson had a saying when the going got tough. Or when they felt that they had to hold onto each other a little tighter because of the tumultuous state of the world.
“Love you”, Jaxson would remark.
“Like a piece of cake”, Simone would affirm.
Simone still remembered the first day she saw Jaxson. How his skin had zero blemishes or breakouts. How broad his shoulders were. And how his height made him seem like a gentle giant amongst men. How his eyes simmered from dark chocolate to a caramelized butterscotch in just the right light. Before they began dating, she wondered to herself what it would be like to have a slice of him. Even if it were just a corner piece with little to no frosting. She wondered what his aspirations were. And how stable he was emotionally. If he had all of the ingredients to make the batter for a healthy relationship. Simone was willing to bake their love on low-heat.
After reflecting about their journey, she climbed into bed with Jaxson. She kept seeing Ahmaud Arbery’s face as she laid in bed. Jaxson looked just like him. In the past, they both had made comments in passing about it. Jaxson even had the same endearing gap between his two front teeth as Ahmaud. Following Ahmaud’s murder, Jaxson wore out the conveyor belt on the treadmill in their basement. He was running for Ahmaud. And for himself. The couple even had a framed picture of him on their wall in the living room because they wanted to immortalize him and pay tribute daily. He was among their ancestors now. And they figured that Ahmaud would be proud of their progress together.
“You look like him”, Simone softly lamented.
“And what do you think our baby will look like?” Jaxson coolly retorted as he held back hot tears.
His beard was as moist as Simone’s jaw.
“Hopefully not a threat”, they both answered, as he placed his hand on her bustling belly.
Nayomi is a poet, flower child, & healer. She believes that the arts are a healing mechanism. Her work is mainly curated from an autobiographical standpoint. The themes she loves to explore in her pieces are: relationships, healing, grief, loss, sex, & mental health. Also, she uses writing to connect with her Ancestors, paying homage at every chance she gets. Currently, she is editing her memoir, “Pretty Bird”, for publication.