Hasaan: Part I
by pronounced "ahhh" like a sigh
So I know I promised all kinds of new writing in honor of Mental Health Awareness Month but I’ve been so busy. This is good news but the stuff I’m writing is for other projects with actual due dates. DUE DATES! It’s high school all over again (without the being stuffed in trash cans. I mean what? That never happened… twice.) So anyway, no new writing for the blog until I get a second to focus on my stuff. In the meantime, I’m sharing a short story creative non-fiction piece that I wrote years ago. Not many have read it so it’s as good as new. Right? Right. This is a story about a 24 hour period when I got off one tour for a “break” and only had less than 24 hours before boarding another plane and starting a second tour. I was doing the Def Poetry Jam Tour and also college tours. So when we had “time off” from Def Poetry, I was working. It was a mess. I was stressed out and spiraling a bit. This is part I. I’m not sure if I’ll post the rest of it. Consider this a snippet. a teaser. oooooh….
I promise these won’t be so depressing. I’m just trying to share the journey with you. Stay smiling.
Love someone and mean it,
PS. I know i tend to overuse the time thing but in my broken brain, time is really important. It’s the most effective way of conveying what hypomania feels like.
It’s not so much the traveling. It’s the airplanes and the airports and the security screenings. The security guards and the bored way they ask, “Miss, can you put your belongings in the bin, please.” And “Can you step to the side and wait for assistance.” I hate waiting for flights that are delayed and missing those that come in on time. I hate flight attendants and their tiny, useless bags of pretzels. I hate preparing for take off and landing and the baby four rows back that will not stop crying. I hate the man next to me, who insists on both the seat by the window and a conversation. I hate myself for not telling him that I need a place to rest and have no room for company. But his voice is better than mine. So I listen.
I am flying home. In 3 hours, I will be in New York. But in less than 24 there will be another airplane, another airport, another city.
The plane lands exactly 10 minutes ahead of schedule but the doors remain locked. “Ladies and Gentleman, we apologize for the delay. We’re just waiting for clearance before we open the doors, please be patient.” The captain has assured that it will only be a “short while longer” at least 8 times. I stopped counting when I became overwhelmed with the fear that we will be asked to take our seat again, fasten our safety belts and flown somewhere further from home than Brooklyn feels.
There is something forming in my throat. It has become more and more familiar these last weeks. I am tired of it: it’s an always wanting to cry, it’s the almost crying and it’s the barely keeping it together because there is a small girl, white socks and first plane ride across the aisle from me.
I’ve learned to stare at my shoes until they become blurry and liquid.
The doors have finally opened. I grab the bags stashed under the seat in front of me.
I want to run, push and bump my way past the people in the aisle. But I steady myself wait for others to pass. Smile, “No. Go ahead. It’s fine.” I’ve practiced that as well. I grab my carry on from over head and ease my way down the rows of empty seats– all upright and in their full and locked positions. Manage a. “thank you” to the flight attendants who will forget me before I pass them.
There are no new messages on my cell phone.
I expect no anxious faces at baggage claim, but still search and scan the signs for my name.
I grip the handle of my bag tight and pull; half walking, half running to the nearest exit. The wind hits my face and I breathe for the first time in days. Perfect. I’m right in front of the Taxi Stand. Damn! I forgot to look for an ATM. The idea of going back into the airport causes my throat to swell again. I check my wallet and find $27 and a mountain of change. I can’t remember what it takes to get to Brooklyn. Taxi drivers hate to stop and I don’t have the strength to argue.
The queue at the taxi stand is shorter than I expect. It’s colder in New York than I remember. I am tired.
It’s my turn. The attendant hands me the folded yellow paper that is meant to protect tourists. Usually, I shrug them off, announce, “I live here.” Today, I’m not sure where I belong. The driver lifts himself from the front seat and offers to put my bags in the trunk.
“No. I’m fine. I’ll hold them.” I climb into the back and clutch everything to my chest.
”Where you go, miss?”
“I don’t know.” I whisper under my breath.
”Sorry. Brooklyn. Flatbush to Eastern Parkway. I’ll direct you from there.”
“What’s the exact address, Miss? I know the area.”
I tell him off of Nostrand.
“I know the area, Miss. I live very close by.”
I nod. The thoughts have started to flood. They tumble and race so quickly that only focusing on him will help slow their circling. I can’t stop nodding. I want to start a conversation; make him talk to me. I open my mouth slightly and I’m not sure where to start. I bite my bottom lip and say nothing. I think that maybe he will wonder about me and I wait. No. He’s done with me; concentrating only on navigating his cab out of the airport. I realize that I am tense and leaning forward so I push back and stare at my shoes.
The silence is as thick as the plastic that divides us.
The cab is too hot so I crack the window. Let November enter.
“Miss, which way you wanna go?”
His voice cuts through the air.
“Um… I-I don’t know. Wherever, I mean, I don’t, I don’t— care. Whatever you think is best.”
I can’t seem to focus on his question or my answer. I open my mouth to clarify but he—
“Okay. Too much traffic here so I take you the fast way. BQE.”
I nod and fall back into the seat. As I stare outside, the view rises and falls in a blur of shapes and colors. The arc and speed invites carsickness so I face forward. The ID on the glass shows a small, brown man, smiling for an unknown photographer. His name is Hasaan. Hasaan. I’ve always liked the name Hasaan. I like how the A’s are the only vowels.
We drive from Queens to Brooklyn in silence. My mind, however, is never quiet: yesterday, tomorrow, last night, tomorrow night, the next city, the last city, the next show, the last show, when will this end, need sleep, don’t want food, don’t want sleep, need food, sleep, sleep, sleep, sleep. I sigh and shake my head to clear all the chatter. There’s always one voice that’s louder than the rest. Hasaan looks at me through the rear view mirror. Smile. Invite him to talk. I need his voice as solid rock against the crumbling dust. But I can’t manage a smile and look away. All I have of him is his name. That’s all you need. I say it over and over, “Hasaan. Haasaaan. Hasaaan. Haaasaaaan.” His name is like a mantra reminding me to breathe. I can feel something start but I push it to the base of my throat I stare at this forgotten folded, yellow paper. I find Brooklyn on the small map. Home.
I can feel the fatigue eating through my bones.
“Miss, this is good, yes?”
“Miss, this is good, yes?”
I am staring at my shoes again.
“Not really but it’s the best I can do.”
I look up to find Hasaan facing me. It takes a moment to realize that the cab has stopped and pulled up to a curb.
I sit in the cab and stare out into the street. I’m not sure what I’m waiting for. Hasaan clears his throat from the front seat.
“Miss, if you please…”
I nod, for what seems like the millionth time. Then, pull out my wallet and hand him all the bills. I don’t wait for change or a receipt, or even to see if I’ve given him enough. I just throw my body against the door, praying that it will open. I drag my bags after me. I’m standing on the curb, wallet in hand, trying to suppress an urge to run.
Flatbush pulsates around me. There are several radios full blast; all battling each other for control of the street noise. There’s a mess of Rasta men outside a repair shop and old women in front of the 99cent store trying to keep warm while waiting for the B44. Right then, I decide I want to be somewhere else—anywhere but here. I turn just in time for the street light to turn green and the last bit of yellow to disappear around the corner. He’s gone. I stare at my shoes and swallow.
I stand on the sidewalk and face my apartment building.
There is the faint smell of burning hair in the air and rapid Spanish spilling onto the street from the Dominican Beauty Salon at the end of the block. Next to it is a window covered with plastic flowers and many glowing statues of the Virgin Mother. Across the street is the bodega. It smells like wet dog and hot breath but I am in there everyday buying a gallon of water. The owner always greets me with, “Aye Mamita!” as I enter the door. He always seems glad to see me. I wonder, briefly, if I should take my bags and head to his store first. But I think better of it.
I turn away from the bodega with a sigh and face my building. To the right, underneath a dirty white something that barely remembers when it was an awning is a man the color of sand. He has thick arms and a belly that balloons over his belt buckle. I think he is the owner and has come out to guard his wares. I’m not sure what he’s protecting. He sells nothing but headboards shaped like swans and statues of naked women dancing and shining in black lacquer. He sits in a wicker rocking chair and moves lazily back and forth; cradling a ceramic mermaid shaped lamp. This lamp he holds, like first born, is the ugliest thing I have ever seen. And at this moment, I have never wanted anything more. I want to cradle it like he does, trace my fingers along the ridges and then smash it. You need to own something ugly and destroy it. I am fixated on the lamp, staring at it like it will spring to life.
“You lost or something like that?” Mr. Furniture’s booming voice forces me to look up.
I shake my head no.
He struggles to stand. He and his mermaid lamp take a few steps toward me.
“You all right then”, he asks suspiciously clutching the lamp to his heaving chest, “You stand there a long time.
“I live here. I’m just looking for my keys.”
I open my purse and begin searching earnestly. I pull them out and jiggle them before heading towards the door. I make a big production of sliding the key into the lock. I turn the knob praying that this is not one of the times it sticks. I push the door open with as much dramatics as called for in this situation. I turn to face the man and his lamp and give him smirk.
Satisfied, Mr. Furniture turns, and with a slight juggling of the lamp, shuffles back to his store. Like anyone would want to steal his tacky ass furniture.
The corridor is as dark and dank as ever. I’m not sure if these legs will remember 3 flights of stairs.
They do, but barely.