Bassey's World:

Tales of An Underachieving Overachiever

Category: Creative Non-Fiction

Challenge Day 7: Letter To An Ex

Written for my last serious relationship. In the voice of Bassey, 26, a week after the break up. 2003

Dear name withheld,


it’s early here. my clock reads 7 AM. could barely sleep last night, kept waking to these fits of stomach curling anxiety. same feeling has been my alarm for the last few weeks – some would say years. this rolling ball of something moving from my knees to my chest. a strange tug of war between my toes and my chin. I’m not sure who is winning – certainly not me. this thing makes me ill. makes me shake. makes my stomach drop. and empty. i’m sorry about last night. selfish of me to ask you to help me feel better. i just needed to cry. i spend too much time living in, “i’m all right. really.” it’s become second nature, this pretending. i go there before i go to truth. whatever that is.


i’m on my computer now. i wish i could sit in a park somewhere and write letters on beautiful stationary monogrammed with my initials. and lined with a quote i find beautiful. or touching. have always wanted to be one of those girls. soft and pink. princess and mermaid. flowing cursive letters and hearts dotting i’s. i am chicken scratch. I am pen awkward and uncomfortable between my fingers. my father told me years ago, that it’s because my brain is moving too fast. my hand can’t catch up. That may be true. so much races around in me. not much can catch up. often not even sleep. i want only a moment of silence.


Despite all that, after all these years i still want to be light purple, princess and pink. i have never been that girl. was 5’1 and 100lbs at 12. all muscle. was skinned knees and tumbles. was daredevil bike tricks and hardest football tackle. was skinned knees, climbing trees. was rough and tumble voice. was whispered about. was grit and oyster shell. was waiting for pearl self. was never sure it would come. am never sure it will come. i am scared often. of losing. of being wrong. of other’s being right about me. of not being able to prove them wrong. of being disowned. of being disloyal. of being selfish. of hurting others. of deserving whatever bad happens. of losing this battle. of never learning who or what this battle is for. or against.


i stay awake sometimes wondering. worrying. the words a tumble and jumble in my mind. i try desperately to catch them on paper. but i can’t seem to do even that these days. i’m not sure why i’m telling you this. i’ve wanted to write you a letter. about you. about us. wanted to sit somewhere with a pen. even took notes about my day last week. about my train ride into the city. about the young white girl, scared and small next to me. she was so young but was wearing her youth like an ill fitting sweater. so small. wanted to tell you about how she asked me question after question. about how i felt immediately protective of her. afraid for her and the reason she was in the city alone. she seemed so unsure. who was she meeting? wanted to follow her. make sure she was okay. but didn’t. wanted to write you about the way the city is wearing gray now. about how i long for spring. about how the gray is pressing down on my chest. about how much i need the sun right now. about how much i feel like i need you right now. about how difficult it is to do what’s right and not what’s easy. about how difficult it is to exist like this. empty and afraid of losing. always afraid of losing. i took notes. i was going to sit and write you a letter. but i’d write the first word. your name. and it never looked right. i wanted the letters to be more defined. wanted it to be more clear. wanted to give you something you could put in a box. years later pull out and read. i want you to get this and smile. almost gave the notes to someone and said, “you write it. your handwriting looks better across a blank page.” like it belongs there. I wanted to be free but i can’t do that with a pen anymore. too aware of how it looks. too much like chicken and scratch. my mind slowing down to keep up with my hand moving across the page. typing is easier for me. it’s just as fast. sometimes faster.
right now. i’m feeling empty. my head hurts. right eye owns the pain, but the left throbs with empathy.


it’s cold this morning. there’s a draft escaping from the window near my computer. where is spring? this winter has gone on far too long.  could use something more familiar than this echo inside me. this inexplicable, intangible sadness.


i’m sad about a lot of things right now. scared and sad. threat of next phase often does this to me. i’m trying to have faith in all this unknown, to look into the dark and anticipate light and warmth. right now, i’m preparing to live in this eyes closed and waiting. waiting to find the strength to rescue myself. waiting to find the strength to be rescued. waiting for god to remember that though silent and frightened –i still am.


i want only one thing, for you to know that this silence is not directed towards you. it is the only unselfish thing i can muster. letting you go. you deserve more than my quiet. i want for you a love that screams and vibrates from it’s highest, most sacred spaces. i want that for myself.

always. in all ways,

Bassey.

 

30 Day Letter Writing Challenge

As many of you know, I live with bipolar II disorder. I’m currently on medication in order to manage my symptoms but one of the symptoms that don’t really make sense is how I process memory. I don’t remember dates. I remember things in emotions and how I felt physically and what was my emotional space during when it happened. I remember very specific but odd things but not the big stuff most people would notice. I remember the day my first boyfriend and I broke up. Because I remember that I was furious that he wouldn’t let me leave the room. He kept standing in front of me. And I recall the frustration I felt and how it heated and even now, I can feel my body temperature rise in that same way. But because I remember that, I know what happened next and then after that. I’ve been working on my book and because my memory is so shaky, I have to be cognizant of how I present stories.

One thing that’s helped me is letter writing. So when I saw this posted on tumblr (Mine is basseyworld.tumblr.com) I knew that I needed to participate. And I asked some of my twitter followers if they wanted to join because I’d love to read some of the stuff out there. And I’m also asking YOU to join. And you can put the letters where ever you want. You don’t have to send them if you don’t want to. You don’t have to do anything but write the letter. So if you want to participate, let me know. If you have a blog or tumblr, list it in the comment section here so that other people can find you if you want them to.

So yeah, I’m going to still blog the way I normally do when I feel like talking about something but I’m working on the book now so I need these exercises to help pull me into the memories of my days.

It should be an interesting ride. Please come on it with me.

I’ll bring snacks,

B.

The 30 Day Letter Challenge

WRITE A LETTER TO THESE PEOPLE :

Day 1 — Your Best Friend

Day 2 — Your Crush

Day 3 — Your parents

Day 4 — Your sibling (or closest relative)

Day 5 — Your dreams

Day 6 — A stranger

Day 7 — Your Ex-boyfriend/girlfriend/love/crush

Day 8 — Your favorite internet friend

Day 9 — Someone you wish you could meet

Day 10 — Someone you don’t talk to as much as you’d like to

Day 11 — A Deceased person you wish you could talk to

Day 12 — The person you hate most/caused you a lot of pain

Day 13 — Someone you wish could forgive you

Day 14 — Someone you’ve drifted away from

Day 15 — The person you miss the most

Day 16 — Someone that’s not in your state/country

Day 17 — Someone from your childhood

Day 18 — The person that you wish you could be

Day 19 — Someone that pesters your mind—good or bad

Day 20 — The one that broke your heart the hardest

Day 21 — Someone you judged by their first impression

Day 22 — Someone you want to give a second chance to

Day 23 — The last person you kissed

Day 24 — The person that gave you your favorite memory

Day 25 — The person you know that is going through the worst of times

Day 26 — The last person you made a pinky promise to

Day 27 — The friendliest person you knew for only one day

Day 28 — Someone that changed your life

Day 29 — The person that you want tell everything to, but too afraid to

Day 30 — Your reflection in the mirror

Peter James Conti

It had been awhile since I’ve seen him. Peter had a tendency to disappear. He’d slip into this darkness or latest boyfriend and he’d be gone. We always knew he’d be back. I remember the phone call. I was on the Amtrak headed towards DC and staring out the window oblivious to the scene passing outside. I was in my head so deeply that when my phone vibrated on my lap, I jumped. I smiled when I saw Peter’s name pop up on the caller ID.

“Dude, where have you been?! I haven’t seen you in forever.”
“I know. A lot of stuff’s been happening.” His voice sounded thinner than I remembered. Peter was Sango. He was fire.The trickster Elegba.  He was always top voice and top energy, there was something there that I couldn’t pick up but also didn’t want to know. “Bass… I gotta tell you something.”

“Pete, I’m on the train on my way to see my family…” I don’t know why I told him this. I wanted to stall the thing hanging from his voice, keep it from falling and shattering into a million pieces.

“Bass, I have cancer.”
“What? What do you mean you have cancer? Do you have cancer like the last time you swore you had ebola?” In our group of friends, Peter was the resident hypochondriac. He’s had every ailment monkey pox, ebola, bird flu, heterosexuality. Of course none of these were true all Peter’s drama. So I refused to own what he’d just said. “Come on, Pete. You don’t have cancer.”

“No,B…” His voice hung quietly, “I do. I have it. Remember all that back pain from a few years ago?” I nodded into the phone. “It was my kidneys… and its spread.”

I covered my mouth before I could scream, the tears seemed to shoot out of my eyes instead of dripping. “Peter… Peter… Peter…” I said his name over and over.  Hoping it would help. Cure him.  “But you’re going to be ok, right? Chemo and surgery. You’ll be fine.”

“When are you coming back from DC?” I noticed how he hadn’t answered the question.
“Sunday.”
“Come to Rockaway. Come see me. I miss you.”
“I’ll come. Soon as I get back. I miss you.”
“I have to go. I’m a little tired.”
“Go rest.  You’re going to be ok. You will.”
“I love you, Bass.”
“I love you too, Pete.”

I hung up and stared at my hands. The words “Peter is dying.” kept trying to force themselves into my head. I shook my head with an audible, “No.” The man next to me was pretending not to notice. I leaned against the window and cried for 2 hours.

When I got back to Brooklyn, I was scared to call him. I didn’t know what he would look like. I didn’t know what I would say. I wasn’t sure if I held any comfort in the confusion I was carrying. It was May, the weather was finally behaving. After six months, of side effects and set backs, my meds finally seemed to be working. I put off calling Pete for a week.

Wednesday, I was in Union Square Park trying to figure out what to do for dinner. I opened my phone to see who could join me when Pete’s number scrolled by. I hit talk before I understood why. I was surprised and scared when his mother answered the phone. I tried to hold my voice as I asked, “May I speak to Peter, please.”

“May I ask who’s calling?”
“Bassey.”
“Oh Bassey, honey, how are you? It’s good to hear from you Peter’s been asking for you.”
“I’m sorry I haven’t called sooner, I’ve just been…” My voice trailed off. I had no reason.
“No worries, baby. Peter actually isn’t here. He’s at St. Vincent. Do you want the number to his room.”
St. Vincent was 4 blocks from where I was standing. Why was he there and not at home?
I hurried to scribble Peter’s room number onto a receipt in my bag. My handwriting is so much like chicken and scratch. Peter always said, I wrote like a 8 year old boy with no hands. I said my goodbyes to Mrs. Conti and stared at the receipt. St. Vincent’s was 4 blocks away from where I was standing. I had to call.
The phone rang once before Peter’s voice appeared on the other line. His hello was thin and strained.
Immediately, the tears appeared in my throat. I cleared my voice twice before I could respond.
I told him that I called him at home and his mom said he was here. I asked if I could see him.
“Of course!” Peter screamed. “Get your ass over here.”

I allowed myself a laugh and asked him if there was anything I could bring him. Food? Or gum? Or a body without cancer? anything. Peter said he needed deodorant, toothpaste and a People magazine. I ran across the street to the Rite-Aid. Peter and I had spent so much time here after a night out. Union Square was where we first met. He took one look at me and said, “You look like Lauryn Hill. We have to be friends.” That was Peter.  I couldn’t allow this space to be haunted. Peter was still alive and he wasn’t going anywhere. Outside, I started walking briskly then found myself running to the hospital. I stopped before I entered. I needed to make sure I was normal as possible for Peter. The front desk directed me to his floor. I knocked on his room door, quietly. “Come in.”

As soon as I saw him, I burst in tears. He was so skinny. So pale. So sick. He reached towards me, “Bassey, we have no time for the ugly cry.” I collected myself and handed him the bag. Peter thanked me and told me to sit on the bed with him. “I’m finally as skinny as you. Now tell me what’s going on with American Idol. I haven’t been able to watch for weeks.”
It was Peter. We laughed and joked and when he cringed in pain, I bit my bottom lip. I asked him about the cancer. He told me.  We said nothing else about it.
I laid myself next to him and listened to his heartbeat. I wanted to stay there forever to make sure it was always beating. When visiting time was over, a nurse knocked to alert me. I gave Peter my goodbye and hugged him longer than I understood.
“I love you, Peter.”
“I love you, Bass. Come see me again.”
I will. I’m flying tomorrow but next week. I promise.”
Next week, turned into next month, turned into Fall and then Winter. I never saw Peter alive again. I didn’t want to see him get sicker and sicker. It was selfish of me but I knew Peter, I knew he wouldn’t want us to see him like that.

On December 16, 2005 Peter James Conti passed away one day before his 30th birthday. Leave it to Peter to make sure he was forever in his 20s.

Ramble: Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Fuckery

The last few weeks have been crazy. I’ve been lucky to have my career line up and start sputtering towards what I want again . I’ve been working hard for the last 4 years to get my “career back”, what I failed to realize is that my career was in remission. I needed time to relearn how to live and breathe and be a mother and manage illness and be a friend. To be properly lined up so when that time came, I was healthy and ready. The time is here and I’m so grateful for that.

This weekend, I was in Philly for some events with Art Sanctuary. Friday, I hosted an open mic and heard some fantastic stuff from people who were too shy to come up to the mic. The teen duo of Poetic Flowze was absolutely jaw dropping amazing. Though, I hope they out grow the “poetry moniker” and just use their real names. Friday, I met Ntozake Shange. I was introduced her and I was struck speechless. I couldn’t talk. I could barely move or think. Her Personal assistant and friend, Claude heard my name and said, “Bassey?? Bassey that wrote the articles in the Huffington Post? We LOVED it!!” Claude gave me a huge hug and both he and Ms. Shange started talking about my article and what fans they were of my honesty and writing. Excuse me what? If ever there were a moment in my life where I can look back and say, “I’m going to remember this forever.” It was that moment. Shange’s work has influenced and changed my life in so many ways. And for her to know my name, let alone have read something I wrote and then liked it? What does that even mean. I stated on facebook that I don’t really believe in blessings because it makes it sound like God plays favorites and I don’t believe that. I think my life was enriched by that moment. Ms. Shange is such a fount of wisdom and grace and sass and jagged edges and smooth, honey tongue. Though illness has slowed her body, ain’t nothin’ came for her mind.

Saturday, I sat on a panel called “A Laying On Of Hands: An Afternoon with Ntozake Shange. The other panelists were writer and filmmaker Aishah Shahidah Simmons producer of the powerful documentary (www.nothedocumentary.org), Dr. Kimmika Williams-Witherspoon, professor of drama at Temple University and moderated by Dr. Imani Perry of Princeton University. The panel was set up to discuss the impact of Ntozake Shange’s work on our personal lives and work as well as her global influence. It was powerful and emotional to hear women who found such profound change and movement in their lives based on this woman. And I wondered what it felt like for Ms. Shange to sit there and be showered with so much love and positive energy. I can imagine it feels wonderful but I wonder if it’s overwhelming. As much as I wanted to cling to her side, I made it a point to keep a respectful distance.

The event was especially powerful for me because I revealed something that I had been holding for 14 years. I’m not ready to blog about it but it definitely freed me from some emotional blocks I’ve had since I was 20. The revelation was cathartic and the love I was surrounded with by strangers moved me to tears.  This weekend changed my life in more ways than one. I was honored to be a part of it.

I made some mistakes this past week as well, I violated a trust and hurt someone that didn’t deserve it. I was angry on her behalf and went off without thinking how it might affect her. She and I have talked and it’s all good but I really do need dim the parts of me that make my mouth move while my brain is still standing in line.

There was another incident that I won’t speak of publicly that also changed my life. It was a necessary decision to do what was right for me but I would be remiss if I didn’t say I wasn’t profoundly disappointed by the necessity to do so.  I will say that I won’t speak of it at all so if there are any unfair attacks or conversations that are one-sided, they will remain so. I know my truths and have taken responsibility for it. The rest is between me and the universe.

I’m happy. I’m very happy. I’m tired. I’m making such great progress on my book that the words just seem to be flying off the page. Or… flying on the page? Which one makes more sense? Ok. That’s the one I meant.  I received the advice to “stop editing just get the words on paper.” and that was like a lightbulb moment for me. It seems so much “easier” than before. I think it’s just part of all these things lining up and all these distractions being removed from my path.

Speaking of Twitter, it’s actually helped my writing more so than hurting it. I’ll explain that some other time.

A lot has been happening and I have no idea what to say. My son turned 4, the Positive Change campaign launched and you can view it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ew9GX4bFMWs It premiered last week but AIDS effects people every day. Please RT, comment, get tested. I have some secret things that are happening thanks to the wunderkind that is my publicist and friend, Meg Smith of BrownstonePR. She is amazing. I love her more than she knows.

I also want to thank my friends for tolerating me and loving me and pushing me and kicking me around when I need it. Especially, Tarana Burke. The big sister of my heart. I wouldn’t have made it through this weekend without her.

At the end of it all, my heart is still big, still good, still learning to do things right and forgives me often for my missteps.

This was boring. I just wanted to take a break from the book in order to write something else. I was hoping it would be a poem but I’ll take what I can.

I hope you’re well.

Never apologize for how you choose to take care of yourself,

B.

 

 

When You’re Missing Someone’s Soul

Resist the urge to call. again. Your phone, quiet as a misunderstanding must be placed 2 rooms away. Turn the ringer down. Not off. Just down. Tell yourself it is because you wish for a sleep filled night. Something without dreams spilling into the morning. Ignore the fact that every 2AM and 3AM and 315 and 325 and 337, your ear is turned to the door. Your stomach a mess of jumps and starts. You get up to check, see if maybe the phone has trembled a bit; maybe just a message that reads “I miss you.” You send a quick plea or a casual prayer towards the only God you allow. Realize that she is probably still a sleep. The phone is two rooms away, balanced on its side; turned away from the door. When you get like this, you start to believe in superstitions. Maybe create a few of your own. Hold your breath before you look. The sharp intake of disappointment is not painful. Don’t let your brain trick you into thinking it is. But something must have punctured. You swear you can hear him leaking. Find a towel to remove the melted bits of yourself from the floor. Resist the urge to call. again.

Illadelph Bass-Life: Mama Said They’d Be Days Like This

At the time of this sentence, it’s not even 11 yet and this day has been trying.  It actually started last night, after a lovely sushi dinner with the homie, Tarana, it started pouring raining. We jumped in a cab and I let her out at the train station but dreaded the 3 block walk from the train station back to Charles’ apartment. My hair takes way too long to dry and in its current up-do, it would take even longer. I decided to take the cab all the way home. Philly cabs take debit/credit cards and I needed the cash I had on me to finally purchase a week long fare card. When the cab pulled up to the building, for some reason, I changed my mind and decided to pay him in cash. I think it was because it was raining and thought maybe he could use some cash. I don’t know. This is just how I think.

When I got in the apartment, I remembered my past due phone bill and decided I needed to pay it quickly. I don’t know what it is about me and bills. I just can’t seem to ever pay them on time. Even if I have the money. I keep pushing it and pushing it until I get the phone call or worse, the phone is disconnected. I’ve been meaning to pay all weekend but kept letting things distract  me. I had to pay. I rooted in my yellow balenciaga knock off, that though many seasons out of style, I still love like the day I bought it. I searched for my debit card. I opened up my little Coach wallet/key chain. Nothing. I lifted my iPod and unzipped every zipper in the bag. I pulled out business cards and pens and make up. No card. Thanks to the three red pill bottles in the bathroom medicine cabinet, there was no panic. Just a, “Oh… I must have left it at the restaurant.” SIDE BAR: Seriously, if you’ve ever wondered whether or not you should be on medication, I highly recommend you see a doctor. It might work for you. I’ve been highly stressful situations these last few weeks teaching, maneuvering around this complicated city, letting my mind wander into emotional hoarding territory and I take everything in stride. If something happens, I figure out whether I can fix it. If I can’t, I sigh and let it go. Just that simple. A few months ago, losing my debit card would have sent me into a whirlwind of panic and anxiety. But last night, just “Oh… I must have left it at the restaurant.”

I called the restaurant and they did have my card. They made me read the last four digits of the card plus the expiration date. I actually had to get online to find them because I had no idea off the top of my head. Are these things that grown ups are supposed to know? It took me way longer than I care to admit to memorize my social and my new cell number, I really don’t need more numbers in there taking up space I need to learn Justin Bieber songs… I mean read books. Anyway, after all that, they verified that I was the owner and I told them that a friend of mine was going to pick it up for me tomorrow because she works down the street. Once I knew the card was safe, it was all good. I checked my bag and my other wallet and found about $12 and change. Enough for lunch the next day. I was good. I was also tired and the internet was acting weird so I decided instead of taking my hair down, to just go to bed. (You care about all of this.)

Around 2AM, my phone rings. It’s my sister. I panic immediately. Why is she calling at this time? What’s wrong? I pick up and say hello but there’s no sound on the other end. That’s when the panic kicks in. I say her name a few times and then get up and pull on some sweat pants. I don’t know. Maybe I was going to run to Newark. I didnt’ really have a plan. I call her back at the same time and she groggily explains that her pillow must have called me. I try to relax and go back to bed but that was over with. It took me another hour to get back to sleep and even then, I was jumpy and a little anxious. That’s what gets me. Family. If there’s something wrong or possibly wrong with my family, that’s when I panic.

When I woke a few hours later, I was much more calm but for some reason, dreading the day. I only have a week left here but it’s really starting to weigh on me. I’m not built for this kind of atmosphere. I’ve seen more fights and aggression in the weeks I’ve been here than in my entire life. I’m not even kidding. Each day, is a slower drag to get up and out. I start leaving the house later and later (Yet still always make it on time. I don’t get it either.). Today, I’d planned on wearing a dress I’d never worn before and instead of the flats and flip flops that had become my uniform, I was going to wear a pair of wedges. Dress up a bit in order to get my mind right. Put the dress on and… The dress no longer fit. I’d gained weight from the Philly food trucks and the coming straight home and going to bed. The material hugged my ass a little more seductively than I’m comfortable with. The seam across my belly was less like Sheri Shepard’s view of the earth and more like the actual curve and dip. The belly, I was used to. Ever since my son was born and the tumor was removed, I had to settle into the fact that my mid section would never be “cute” or presentable ever again. I was fine with that… or rather, I’d learned to live with it. But I was shocked at how wide and bulbous my ass was. The dress was ill fitting and suddenly too short. It was uncomfortable and I actually got a little sad at how bad it looked on me.

I took it off and surveyed the suitcases on the floor. There were clothes everywhere but I suddenly had no idea what I was going to put on. I was determined to wear the wedges so I had to find something that worked with the colors. I finally settled on a denim 70s style skirt and tank top with summer sweater over it. I felt completely wrong but couldn’t manage anything else at the time. I put on the wedges but after weeks of flats and flip flops, I suddenly felt too tall and too unsteady in the shoes. I started thinking about the walk too and from the train station. The walk from the station to the school. I thought of the fights and whether or not I could move swiftly in them and I quietly slipped them off my feet and eased my way into the brown flip flops that have been my uniform. This saddened me.

While transferring trains, I saw a woman, tall and thin. Her shoulders browned and fit. She had on a a gorgeous, cotton mini tube dress in cream, with a brown leather belt hugging her slim waist. Her hair was gathered into a casual knot on her head and she was walking swiftly and confidently in a pair of sky high wooden sandals. I watched her as she sailed through the corridor and hurried onto the train platform. I envied her. She reminded me of my brooklyn self. Same ease, same reed thin, same comfort with towering high heels. There was a safety there that I welcomed. Philly is still strange. I still walk in the wrong direction too often. Never sure enough of my footing to feel comfortable in anything other than as close to the ground as I could get. I suddenly felt too wide, too bloated, too unhip, too unable to manage this place that I handled with such ease just yesterday. As the train approached, I watched this gazelle of a woman breeze her way into the train. I made sure to enter another car. I couldn’t explain if she caught me staring at her as intently as I was. I sat down and pulled out my book, turned up my ipod and watched as the stations sailed by me. A few stops later, we were at my stop. As I emerged from the subway, I saw her again, tiptoeing around the trash and homeless on the street. I didn’t know where she was going in this neighborhood but decided to cross the street and talk another way to the school. I didn’t stop for my usual smoothie and cup of ice. I needed to make sure I had enough cash for lunch and without my debit card, enough dollars for tokens to take me to pick up my card. I saw her disappear into the doors of Temple University Hospital just ahead. I sighed into my flip flops. Steadied myself for the day, for the fights, for the “fuck yous” and “Bitch, I know you not talking to me”s. I gathered as much of myself as I could. Anything that wasn’t left on the sidewalk or carried away with the clicking of heels on the pavement.

I flipped and flopped my way towards the school. Stood in front of the mural depicting famous Philly natives and sighed. A man held the door expectedly and I had to enter. I prayed there would be one less fight. One less act of defiance. One less curse word hurdled in my direction. Today was not the day for it.

But mama did say,

B.

Illadelph Bass-Life Doris Day: Or I Can’t Remember What Day We’re Actually On

I have no sense of direction. None. Even when I have the instructions/directions in front of me. Even if my phone maps out every single step I should take from the place I’m leaving to the place I’m going INCLUDING how long it should take me to get each step of the way in both miles and minutes.  Even if I can hear the GPS clearly tell me to turn right. Even if the train conductor taps me on the shoulder, personally and tells me that my stop is next, I will find a way to get lost.

I got lost. Getting to school was fine. I walked to 40th (Even though Charles told me to walk to 46th because it was closer. I kinda forgot he said that.) and Market. First I stopped to get an iced coffee and a donut. I didn’t really want the donut and I shouldn’t be drinking caffeine on my medication but I needed to break a $20 because Philly is all anal with their subway system and you have to have exact change or they will point and laugh at you. Or tell you that you need to get exact change. Same difference. So I walked to 40th street Station, I gave the lady $2 because I didn’t have any tokens and there was no machine (#youcareaboutallofthis), the train came like 30 seconds later. I hop on. Ipod blasting showtunes. I’m feeling sassy and ready to conquer my day, I have a skip in my step and I’m prepared to teach the children theatre! I told you I’m not supposed to have caffeine on my medication. I am WIRED. When it’s time to transfer, I checked my phone to make sure that I was transferring at the right place. City Hall. I get off and kind of pick one random dude to follow and luckily, he lead me to the Broad Street line. I got on that until I recognized the station I got off on when I was staying with Chris. I’m feeling awesome. It’s 7:30. I’m early! I can get a smoothie from the Korean dude at the corner. I can go to Rite-Aid. I’m planning the 30 minutes I now have free. Like I won some sort of space time continuum lottery. Now, please refer to the first sentence of this entry. “I have no sense of direction.” So when I emerged from the train station… no I burst out of the station like a scene from a musical. I was doin’ it! OW! I realized when I got to street level, that I had no idea where I was. Nothing looked familiar. None of the landmarks were where they were. Where was the PNC bank? Where was Church’s? Where was the crackhead with the plunger and one chinese slipper? Where was my Korean smoothie?? Panic. I tried to stay calm but I wasn’t sure what to do. Did I get on the wrong train. No. Broad Street line is the line I was taking for the last two weeks. Erie & Broad. That’s where I get off. What is the problem? Because I’m a genius, I decide that in the 3 days since I’ve been here, they’ve done some renovations. (Because that makes sense.) Now, here’s the thing about me. Whenever I’m lost. No matter where I’m going, the idea is not to look lost in case someone has been following me and wants to kidnap me and sell my organs to rich people in Narnia (or whatever M. Night Shamylan movies are about.) so I make a left and the more I walk the more I realize that I’m not seeing any Temple flags. I don’t see the hospital. I don’t know where the fuck I am. I walk for about 5 minutes when I see a magazine salesperson. I figure he’s not going to kidnap me and if he does, at least I’d get to read this week’s People. I ask him, where Ontario Street is. He points towards the direction I just came from. I’m sure he’s wrong because I don’t recognize any of this shit. So I decide to ask him for landmarks. Where’s Temple University Hospital. He again points in the direction I just came from. Ok, dude… where’s Church’s Fried Chicken…. he points across the street and down the block. And there it was on the corner like what I imagined Columbus or Gallileo or… some other explorer I learned about in the 6th grade must have felt. I was on the opposite side of the street. Yes. I’m so bad at directions, that I got off at the other side of the train station and didn’t recognize a thing. I bought a KitKat and thanked him and went about my day.

Damn shame. We won’t even discuss how ridiculously lost I got coming back. I had to get out of the train station and then pay to reenter it because I lost my bearings. Lost my bearings. I don’t have any bearings. I should get some bearings… I wonder if they sell them at Churches…

Day was good. Most of the kids were great. 2nd grade remedial class and 7th grade shouldn’t be let out in public. I’m pro caning in this instance.

All in all, it was a good day. I contemplated going out and exploring the city a little bit but I had bags with me and I wanted to get back here before it got dark because if you think I suck at life in the daytime, imagine me trying to get home for the first time at night. I feel like I had other stuff to tell you. I tweeted a lot today. I just felt like it. I’m tweeting differently than I did at my old account. Nothing personal. Not sharing too much. Very careful about what I say and how I say it. Holding things a bit more private. And also just not feeling the pressure to say anything at all. But today I felt like it so I did. I really don’t care who has a problem with it or me. I don’t live my life for the people who dislike me. Hell, I don’t live my life for the people who like me. I appreciate them but at the end of the day, I do whatever the fuck I want (within legal and moral limits.).

Also, I looked really cute today. I’d take a picture but I don’t want to. I’m going to eat this fruit and do some non-blogging writing and get on with my night.

Que Sera Sera,

B.

PS. You see what I did there?

Illadelph Bass-Life Day 26: Bassey Dirty Money

So I’m back in Philly. (We’re just going to act like no time has passed between my last blog and now. If you can pretend Tyler Perry is straight, then you can pretend I’ve been blogging every day. Try.) Teaching is difficult. Especially teaching people who don’t want to learn anything. Class is 45 minutes long and I spend about 20 of those minutes telling Rasseem (Yes.) to stop hitting Nefertiti. And telling Brie’yon (yes.) to stop caressing my leg. He’s in the 1st grade. By the time all of that happens and it’s time to get into the activity, everyone… and I do mean everyone decides that they don’t want to do it. It’s corny. It’s embarrassing. Why can’t we just play cards? On Thursday, I benched the entire 6th grade class and lectured them about how they need to figure out what they’re going to make of themselves because if they keep behaving in this manner, they’re not going to amount to anything. *sigh* I don’t even know who I am anymore. Today, I bought flats. FLATS! On purpose. From Payless. Next stop is mom jeans and and an Olgivie home perm. Somebody save me from myself. These children are trying to eat my soul and turn me into a vampire or a shirtless werewolf or monotone teenage girl too stupid to realize she should pick the shirtless werewolf and not the sparkly pale vampire… or whatever Twilight is about.

Tomorrow, I’m going to attempt to get them to read Pinocchio. I will not kick anybody’s child in the back of the forehead.

I have the best friends in the world. I just do. I’ve been beating myself up a lot lately for some things I did when I was in BP crisis and I’m really shocked anyone still likes me. But if a person is measured by the company they keep, then I’m doing something right. I’m just so grateful. The last two weeks, I was staying with my loca, Chris and his husband. The next few weeks, my brother, Charles has opened up his spare bedroom to me. I have my own bathroom. I want to cry. And when I reached out to some other friends for help, they came through above and beyond what I expected. Denene, Quentin, Michael. Thank you. And everyone who said “Give me a few days.” Thank you. I’m blessed beyond measure. People always say, “You would do it for me.” and I always mean it when I say it but when people actually do help and are concerned and so caring about how I am and how I’m doing, it’s overwhelming. It’s easy to focus on what I’m not doing right, I’m blessed to be reminded that somewhere at some point, I did something right. Not only because of this boy I’m raising who says to me, “If Philadelphia isn’t nice to you, you come right back, ok?” and my friends who jump to “How can we help?” to my family who rallies to make sure that I don’t feel lost. I’m just so thankful.

Philly still doesn’t quite feel like home. This week, I’ll have an opportunity to discover the neighborhood and maybe find a corner coffee shop to write and read and get back into this business of being Bassey. I’m determined to create my own peace. I’m happy but still searching for balance and focus and a way to put all these new feelings of “normality” into practice. I’m not sure if you’ve ever read Flowers for Algernon. It’s one of my favorite stories. It’s about this mentally challenged man who is part of a science experiment that raises his IQ considerably. He sees the world in a new way and is astounded by how his mind expands but also a little confused about how to handle it. Eventually, the experiment wears off and he returns to how he was before. I remember reading it in the 7th grade thinking, “Well, damn… it must suck to know what you could have, have it and then lose it.” I feel like you’d be happier in your life not knowing rather than losing. I’m not in the “It’s better to have loved and lost” camp. That shit is stupid. Why in the world would it be better for me to have something and then lose it than to never even know what it was before it went away? Ridiculous.

Um… clearly, I’ve lost my own point. OH! So I’ve got all this new found clarity and feelings of normality and last week, I was plagued with guilt and shame. This week, I’m settling into the fact that I can’t change the past, I can only move forward and do better… Ok. That was not my point at all. I got all side tracked by Flowers for Algernon. You should go read it. I’m sure it’s online somewhere. Maybe I’ll locate my point soon.

OH! My point was this, like the dude in Flowers For Algernon (Algernon was the mouse not the dude.), I have all these new feelings and sensations and it’s wonderful but I also need to know how to handle it and how to make proper use of it. Maybe Flowers for Algernon was a bad example, I should have said Spiderman or some other superhero learning to make use of their new powers. Was that Spiderman? Clearly, I don’t know what I’m talking about.

You’ve missed me. Admit it. Give me a hug!

I should probably go before I run off on another tangent. I just wanted to make use of my ultra clever blog title. I was trying to work Danity Kane in there and then I realized that nobody cares about Danity Kane. I did like that song Damaged. But that’s the only song I even remember. Did they have more songs? And you know, I can’t even think of one song that Day 26 sang. Every time I think of one, I remember that it was Jagged Edge… wait who sang that “I’ll poke you with my penis when we’re dancing” song? Was that Jagged Edge or… Blackstreet? or… Men at Large? Whatever.

And at some point, someone is going to have to explain Diddy Dirty Money to me. But not now. I just took a sleeping pill and the last thing I need is Diddy and his teeth showing up in my dreams.
He annoys me. He’s prime example of what happens when someone has too much self esteem. Sometimes it works out well and we get Kanye. Other times… well, we get something called Diddy Dirty Money. Is that his name? Is it a sentence? Is it code? What does it mean? Is he saying he’s dirty money? Does he want dirty money? I have questions!

Ugh. Now I’m thinking about this. Where’s my iPod? I need El DeBarge to erase dirty money from my mind. No… this is a job for Billy Ocean.

The tough gets goin,
B.

Illadelph Bass-Life Day 2 1/2: Reaching For Normal

What is wrong with 7th graders? Why do they hate everything? I don’t even remember 7th grade so it must not have been that bad. Or maybe it was terrible and I blocked it out… I don’t even remember who my homeroom teacher was in 7th grade and I remember EVERYTHING. Hmmm…. I take it back. 7th grade must be the most traumatic year ever. That’s why 7th graders are so miserable.

So I got students today only 3 classes but it is a huge step up from the zero of yesterday. First class was 7th grade… I’m going to pretend that it didn’t happen. But my 5th graders were lovely and enthusiastic and sweet and just ready. Then I got first grade and they were so sweet and cute and they just wanted to participate.

I’ma pray for those 7th graders.

Today was my Friday. I’m going home tomorrow to take care of some things (send all the love you can to Boogie tomorrow.) so I’ll be in Maryland until next Tuesday.

My train leaves tonight at 10:30. This week has taught me a lot about myself and the way I present myself. It sounds like the punchline to a joke but my meds are working. I’ve never felt this peaceful and quiet and normal, for lack of a better word. I feel normal. I don’t have that negative self talk, thoughts aren’t racing through my head, I’m not stressed out and anxious about every little thing. I feel normal. Little things don’t upset me and huge things don’t overwhelm me. I’m just taking it in stride and thinking clearly and acting on reason and not impulse. It sounds weird and it sound like um… “so?” but you have to understand what it’s like in my head most days. Imagine those amusement park rides where you’re strapped to the walls and it spins faster and faster and faster and then the bottom drops out and you’re just spinning and spinning… that’s what my head feels like most of the time. Is that a thing? I feel like I made that up or saw it on Doug or something. Anyway,  I don’t want to go into too much detail but I finally made peace with where I was in 2009… hell from 2005 to 2009. I did some things I’m not proud of and I’m just now starting to understand how wrong I was in a lot of situations. I couldn’t see that before. I’ve talked about my broken brain numerous times but always from the depression side. I don’t talk much about the hypomanic part and that’s a beast of its own. I don’t talk about it because I don’t think people really understand what it is. It sounds like your making excuses for bad behaviour when as my friend, Tony Brown says, ‘It’s not an excuse, it’s an explanation.” I’m still hesitant to get into it now because I know that people are waiting to take my words and twist them and I don’t have the space for it.

The most incredible thing, is the lack of anxiety. Things that just a week ago, would send me reeling physically, now my brain registers, ‘That used to upset you.” but my body doesn’t react. I don’t get dizzy, I don’t get short of breath, I don’t feel like my heart is going to beat out of my chest and my stomach is going to fall at my feet. My brain just says, “That used to upset you.” and I have a sharp intake of breath and then I keep it moving. I wanted to cry the first time I noticed that. It’s going to take awhile to train my brain to stop reacting like it always reacts and I’m fine with that. If you lived in a house and the bathroom was on the left and then years later you move and the bathroom is on the right, every once in awhile, you’re going to want to go left before you catch yourself. That’s what it’s like. I don’t feel like I’m a slave to my moods anymore and I can’t tell you what an amazing feeling that is. I haven’t felt this in years. And I’m just grateful for the fall because I didn’t even notice I fell until I stood up.

That makes sense.

I’m going to do everything in my power to keep this. And to do better about living from here on out. This isn’t a cure. It’s management. And a lot of people think once they feel better, they can stop treatment and that’s not the case. It’ll take years for your brain to start working the way it’s supposed to but when it does, it is so worth it. I’m not out of the woods yet but I can see the clearing in the distance.

Um… this entry took a left turn there for some reason. Whatever, you love it. I’ll probably write some more while on the train and go further into detail about my day. I have to tell you about the assistant teacher they assigned me. *blank stare*

Did I tell you I lost my voice? Yeah. I went from talking to squeaking to nothing in about 20 minutes. I think it’s hysterical laryngitis. Only because I saw that movie Hysterical Blindness with Uma Thurman where whenever she got stressed out, she’d go blind… in the 80s… or something… I don’t remember.  Juliette Lewis is in it too. So yeah, I think it’s karma and I’m fine with it. I’m just going to accept this and I’m going to learn from it and when I’m done learning my lesson, my voice will return.

Or somebody’s getting punched in the throat.

Namaste,

B.

Illadelph Bass-Life Day 2: It’s Hot as Balls In Here (And Other Things You Shouldn‘t Say Around Children)

Yes. I did. In my defense, it was hot as balls in there. My classroom doesn’t have air conditioning. It has one fan in the corner encouraging the hot air entering from the windows. It is hot as balls. I’m teaching them about similes. You’re welcome!
Actually, I didn’t teach anybody anything today. I sat in my hot ass classroom for 7 hours and only one child came in… to ask me where room 408 is. Next door. Today was the first official day, it was a clusterfuck. I’m teaching at a summer enrichment program but the kids are essentially in summer school. So when they run out of time or are scheduled poorly, then the art classes take a backseat. So I didn’t do anything all day but sit in my class and update my Facebook statuses. I was so bored, I did math. Yes, I got up and I made up math problems and solved them. The classroom has pictures of important people in Black history on the wall. A drawing of their face, their name and then underneath, the year they were born and the year they died. So I created this elaborate solve for x formula. I will spare you the details but if you thought I was a weirdo nerd before well, now I‘m inventing word problems… By the way, if Mary Mcloud Bethune was alive today, she’d be 135. You’re welcome.
It was weird because I had all this time on my hands, I could have written, I could have read a book. I could have learned how to carry the 1 (I seriously can not remember. It was hilarious. Failing my own math problems.)  but because I kept expecting kids to come… any minute now… yup… just hold tight… they’ll be here any second… what’s that sound? Oh… kids walking past my door. *sigh* Seven hours of this. The principal called me to her office after the day was over to thank me for my patience and promised that things will be better tomorrow.
We’ll see. I can only complain so much because I’m getting paid a lot of money to write my name in bubble letters on a chalkboard. Tomorrow, if the same thing happens, there will be full out dance routines choreographed. Won’t catch me doing math again.
So not much happened today. I didn’t go to 30th Street Station. I just came straight to Chris and Frederic’s house.  I was exhausted and hot and hungry. I took the train back instead of the bus. And it reminded me of when I first moved to New York and I didn’t know how anything worked. I didn’t know how to come in, I didn’t know I needed change, it was a mess. A man took pity on me and handed me a token like, ‘Here… I can’t watch this anymore.”
I’m grateful that I had somewhere to come back to and shower and change into my pajamas (yes at 4 o’clock) and order food and fall into a couch. Chris and Frederic have extended themselves and welcomed me into their family. I’m so grateful. After yesterday’s revelations, I’m just blessed to have folks that still love me and my wonderful, beautiful, annoying ass flaws.
I’m a work in progress… a delightfully neurotic work in progress.
Today’s entry was boring, I know but I am really exhausted and not much happened. I didn’t feel like searching for a story. I want to own some of these things and figure out the parts I want to share.
I’m sure tomorrow will be chalk full of fuckery. So I’m going to appreciate the sheer exhilarating nothingness of today.
Chris and I are watching the BET Awards again. It’s much more fun this way.
Tomorrow,
B.
PS. Arthur is totally my bestie. He kept coming in to check on me and ask if I wanted to hang out in his classroom with the air conditioning. I’m totally making him a friendship pin.
`
Edit: I have no idea why it’s not letting me have space between “paragraphs”. Oh WordPress, why you treat me so bad?