East Flatbush Journal: Pyar Means Love

There’s something that’s been gnawing away at me like slow-burning acid since my sister brought it up the other night. The house had that sickly warm feeling you get when there’s a little too much moisture on the inside and clawing cold winds beating against the outside. With her doe brown eyes and a round afro puff, she came shuffling into the room. This is the exact shuffle that precedes one of her existential questions about life, which I can’t fault her for because I’ve been told on more than one occasion that I was annoyingly the same way. 

“How do you know someone’s the one?” she asked, suddenly.

Crap. Dammit to hell. 

I knew, months ago, I knew at the onset of lockdown that we’d get here eventually. There’s a reason I don’t publish epic poems about love and relationships. As I’m writing this I know beyond the shadow of a doubt that no one I choose to love romantically has or will read this or any other article I write.

It’s like getting to know the writer through reading the works she toils over is completely lost on them. So congratulations to random readers who are still here eight months into a worldwide pandemic and the lockdown in the city, you know me better than most people do outside of my family. Who I am isn’t buried in my stories on Instagram. All the mystery is here, nestled between words and punctuation and voyeurs who want to read them. And if I’m being honest, my sisters are also uninterested in reading this stuff because what I choose to dedicate my life to is old and boring, and according to my editor doomed to make no money without spice and violence. 

That’s okay.

It’s not like I’ll be that hype about Tiktok and the countless young rappers that seem to be murdered by an industry comfortable with siphoning off their anger and blackness for profit. She loves them too, in a way, I guess. They probably remind her of this wonderful high school idiot she’s gearing up to tell me about in a second. 

She plopped down on the bed to momentarily watch me perform some menial task and waited for an answer about love. If I’ve observed anything about kids is that some will wholeheartedly ignore you and listen, while others will lap up every word as they listen. Shit’s terrifying.

I tried to school my face into something less jaded. 

She doesn’t know but I’ve had practice thinking about this. When I used to give short pep talks in the mirror to myself, pretending I was talking to my college boyfriend’s 6-year-old daughter about love and boys. I’d do the same thing. I’d think of something fair to say, not too hopeful that she’d think I’m just blowing sunshine but also not too depressing. I never got the chance to tell the kid these speeches I’d rehearsed just in case I had to be a mom, but I wanted my sister to be able to love and trust in a way that I can’t.

“I don’t know that there has to be a ‘one’ really. We love who we love, and it’s not like it cancels because someone wasn’t your end all be all,” I said. 

I decided to go with logic. I told her to consider the time we have here, under a century for a majority of us. “If you meet the love of your life once, even twice, does it matter if the first or second one was the original ‘one’ in the end? What if you guys grow old and die? What if he leaves? What if you fall out of love?” I asked.

“You can fall out of love?” she asked, as if the possibility that the high school boy could ever fall out of love with her, or vice versa, hadn’t crossed her mind. 

She was sitting cross-legged in a giant T-shirt and ripped jeans. She was so young. She looked just like me. 

“It happens, yeah,” I said.

I told her about the red stuffed bear my first high school boyfriend gave me that was sitting on the chair. I told her about all the threads of people I hold onto just a bit. I make it painstakingly obvious that I am not the greatest source of wisdom on this. I very clearly don’t have the best track record and I am alone. She doesn’t seem to mind.

I told her that sometimes people leave, sometimes they stalk your socials and never text, but, for the most part, they leave you alone and that’s not always about you. At that her eyes widened.

She had the look of someone who would give away her soul if her love asked for it. She looked beautiful and loyal and so willing to invest herself in someone’s happiness because that’s how she loves, even if it will break her open on the sidewalk one day and leave her fried up. 

God, she looks just like me. 

“I mean, it’s not always a bad thing. Just because Grandma and Grandpa have been together for 50 plus years doesn’t mean they were always happy. It just means they decided not to leave. That’s not always the marker of like success,” I said. 

I thought about the people who got married this year and the hilariously high rate of couples tied up in virtual divorce courts too. The inevitable COVID baby boom. I stumbled down memory lane, tallying every person that I’ve slept next to that’s reached out this year, looking to connect in some small way. I thought about how the looming fear of death makes men sentimental.

The first loves who have come back since March to call me friend. 

The awkward dates that spin endlessly into nowhere because it’s not like there’s places left to go. How out of everything I really miss being taken to the movies. Since there’s plenty of solid vaccine talk in the states now all that may be back soon. 

After that, I neatly store my heart breaks away to focus on cracking a few jokes and talking for hours about this young idiot she clearly adores and misses. Out of love, I refrain from calling the kid an idiot out loud. 

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