Noni Jones in Harlem #23: Flat on My Ass


My director looked the queen mother of an African village, sprawled behind her desk in a loose dress, her arms waving like mad as she attempted to whisk the sweat bullets from her brow with a palm fan. Her locks were arranged on top of her head, like a crown, and beads of sweat dampened the ebony skin on her neck, brow, lip. She was hot. I was hot. More hot from looking at her suffer in the stagnant air. The cotton of her dress gasped for hair. The AC was broke. Again.

I looked at the clock as the second hand seemed to be going counter-clockwise. The play wright can’t make up his mind as to who to choose for the lead and I say at this point flip a coin. I wanted to be anywhere, an-y-where, but there at that moment, talking in circles in a small office where the temperature had to have reached 90 degrees. The window with it ‘s mouth open, breathing hot air on me.

In the days that followed my break down, Paul was being so nice and so attentive, I was suspicious. This was not my man. Showing up unannounced it. Grinning in my face. That shit was actually making me uncomfortable.  Distance is a part of his essence. Distance is what I loved about him and the fact that at moments, he straight dripped truth– which in turn, makes me drip.

Like a moth to a flame– burned by the fire. Thanks Janet.

I had nothing to confirm my suspicions, so I shrugged his niceness off and avoided it. Casting for the next play and I just started spending more time at work and more time crashing at my friends places– playing hide and seek. Maybe giving him a taste of his own Robitussin. I wondered how long we could keep this up. Something was different in the air.

And then the shit hit the fan.

The doorbell chimed at the theater and I jumped to receive the visitor. But little did I know, I was entering Dante’s inferno. She was bony, old and when she found me she looked as if she’d been walking all day. Her tiny jeans clung to her gaunt frame, her pixie cut had out grown it’s straightening and pieces of crudely bleached hair clung to her forehead. She was wearing a wrinkled, t-shirt, and Reeboks.

“Are you Geneva?”



She lunged across the doorway and shoved me to the ground with all of her might. My fall broken by the cold mosaic floors. I looked up at this woman who seemed at the moment to be possessed. Her eyes twitched, like they were performing silent incantations–perhaps she was willing my destruction. The blow sent a powerful pain from my tailbone through out my entire body. My legs were trembling. It hurt to much to sit up. I was helpless.

I though her head my spin. Her eyes might roll back. I thought she’d proceed to beat me with her bony balled up fists.She looked tired. Like she’d never had a comfortable place to rest her head. Like she had witnessed a lot of grief in life. Like she had nothing to lose.

I wanted to scream, but I the shock alone had taken the wind from me. My mouth hung open, just like the window, letting out body heat. My heart pumped. My skin burnt. We were warring on the stoop of hell and I was unsure of the spoils. Then it was clear.

“I told you to stay away from him. I told you, you bitch. You whore! Try me, try to come near me again.”

I heard foot steps, four of them, in a lop sided syncopation. Alternating thuds with the quick taps of the playwrights loafers against the tile. When Mother Africa discovered me staring at the ceiling, writhing in pain she began to cuss. She used the same bamboo fan she’d been fanning herself with to swat the unwelcome visitor away. “Get out! Get the fuck out!” Her voice ascended to a shrill. She looked like she was willing to go to bat for me. I still couldn’t move.

The next thing I could make was the playwright speaking to the police. He was on the phone giving the 911 operator our address.

“Be glad I don’t slice that bitch whore right here. You think I’m scared of you? You think I’m fucking scared of you. Don’t try me!”

“I’m not scared of you,” Mother Africa towered over her. She looked as if she touched her, she’d collapse. “Get off of my damn property. We’re calling the cops. I’ll have you arrested. You will rot in jail!”

It was actually pretty funny.

The woman began back up but she was still yelling obscenities. Calling me a cunt, a whore, a tramp, a witch and a bitch. Spelling out my death. Announcing all the people who would participate in my demise. My back hurt so much, it took over my entire body. I was burning, my lids snapped shut.

I woke up in the ER.

The doctor trying to talk to me looked like a soap actor. He could have been Shemar Moore’s brother. “Geneva? Geneva?” I thought I was answering but it turns out my lips weren’t moving. I turned my head. Mother Africa was by the door shaking her head and muttering something. I turned back, and it was Dr. Feel Good. It felt like I was under water and someone was pulling me up to the surface. His voice grew louder and clearer and louder and clearer. ” Geneva, can you hear me? Can you hear me talking to you? Can you respond.” He put his hand on my forehead and I wanted him to keep it there.

“Yes.” My mouth felt like I’d been sucking on cotton balls. I’ve never been thirstier in my life. I soon learned that I’d spent the past 2 hours unconscious. The shock, the heat, and the pain had ruined me.

I moaned.

“Look, you may have damaged your tail bone. You’re pretty bruised back there.”

“You’ve already seen my behind?”

“We examined you when you came in,” he smiled.

“This is awkward”

“It shouldn’t be. I’ve seen worse.”

His smile revealed a set of dimples. Dr. Feel Good smelled like Christmas. Like chestnuts, and cider and gingerbread cookies. Or maybe I was hungry. And when he leaned over me and wrapped his warm toffee hands around mine, a shock of pleasure flew through my body.

“We’re going to get some x-rays done and take it from there okay.” He stroked the loose hair from my damp brow and left the room.

Long, short, I fractured my tailbone. My back side was black and blue. I was out of the hospital after two days, and I can walk okay, it’s just painful to sit. Hence why I’m writing this in one of those donut seat cushions.

In the week that followed my fall, I cleaned house. Figuratively.

Paul came over the day after I returned from the hospital. Caroline answered the door. My mom, Caroline and Noni are taking turns making food for me. I know. I’m loved. Caroline made him wait outside the apartment and asked me if I wanted to see him. Wait, she was actually scowling. I really did want to see him. I wanted to know if all this madness was really what it seemed. There was a part of me that wanted him to tell me that trollop was just a crazy stalker who lived in his building. Someone who had it twisted. But I followed Carolines judgement. The pain was shooting through my body as a reminder of all the emotional pain he had caused me over the years. I was exhausted so I let Caroline get rid of him. I don’t know what she said. Something stank. The door slammed seconds later.

Then my phone buzzed.

“How you doing queen?”

“My back feels like death.”

“Anything I can do to help.”

Wait, did he figure that if he just acted normal everything would be normal. Because there ain’t shit normal about me catching a beat down.

“You can make sure your girlfriends don’t get my phone number and addresses.”

“Look, I feel I really need to apologize, but for real though. I had no idea she was tripping like that.”

“Who is she?”

My question hung in the air like an ice cycle prepared to cut either of us when it broke free.

“She’s someone I used to mess with.”

Whomp. I felt another hard blow to my stomach. Tears began to well up in my eyes. My face burned. Why the hell was I crying over this fool? Why?

“How long ago?”

“It’s over.”

“Really Paul? You’re going to play games now even though you know I actually got my ass kicked over some of your shit. Really? “

“I mean, it’s over. What else do you want to hear?” Now was not the time to be smug. Now was the time for him to be humble, drop down on his knees, and beg for my forgiveness. Wasn’t I worth that?

“You know what, nothing.”

I hung up. I couldn’t take it anymore. I couldn’t handle the truth, or the sound of his voice, or the thought that all of my suspicions were right. He played me. He played the shit out of me.

When the phone rang a second time, I turned it off. I didn’t even want to see his missed calls. I fought the tears and the darkness, but not hard enough. I curled up in my bed until Caroline found me and promptly scolded me for giving that clown my grief. It was tough love that at that moment I needed. Still, I cried on her shoulder until I had no more water and we drank wine until the wee hours of night.

I woke up with crust all over my eyes and lips. I had a hang over. My back was stabbing because I’d fallen asleep without my back cushion. But I was on a mission. I tip-toed to my bedroom, fished my for phone in the darkness and cleared his number. There. It was a start. But getting rid of Paul and his demons wasn’t going to be that easy.

This trollop still had my number and for a week she called me from different phones just to hang up. Talk about adding insult to injury. Literally. I thought about doing a little investigation and taking out a restraining order. That was Noni’s suggestion. But really, I just wanted to stay at home, nurse my bruised behind, and watch day time television during my week of sick leave.

Right now, it hurts to sit but it feels amazing to be alive. I didn’t know how good it could feel to fall out of love with someone. Looking back on it, maybe God arranged my beat down on purpose. Maybe it was the very brutal wake-up call I needed to move on. I feel excited, for what I don’t know. I’m proud of myself, for not turning back and letting him smother his way back into my world. And now I feel like it’s time to try something new. Travel. Give the stage another shot. I don’t know. I’m going to let myself heal, in all senses of the word, and then see where the wind takes me.


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