“As Far As I Can Throw You”

Photography by Shaun Liriano

He threw her.  Just threw her with full force like you chuck a football through a field. He threw her. She flew through the air.

I always knew I could fly, she said.

For the first time there was someone he could trust with his life and he wanted to show her that he cared.  He wanted to show her that she was special.  He wanted to show her that he’d be “mush” without her.

I trust you about as far as I can throw you, he said.

Then he threw her.  He hurled her body and watched it spiral through the air. His love poured out of the sweat that beaded on her forehead.  His faith sprouted wings in her back.  His hope stripped her naked and replaced her bland clothing with an aerodynamic super suit colorful enough to match her vibrant personality.

At first, she was afraid. Fretfully, she gathered herself and tried to get her bearings.  She tried to get used to being in the company of birds, high branches, and jet planes approaching their landings. She screamed in excitement.  No one seemed alarmed that she was up there.  They expected her to be in the sky.  It was as if she didn’t belong on the ground and everyone knew it.

He didn’t look at her though. Once he threw her he didn’t wonder if she could take flight.  He BELIEVED she could. So he obliviously kicked a ball through a field and watched it roll on. He read an article from time to time. He viewed television shows at leisure. He felt the warmth of an onlookers admiring glance. He chugged along knowing she was soaring through the sky for the first time.

Isn’t he wondering if I am okay?  How does he know a larger creature hasn’t consumed me?  Hasn’t he thought about my loneliness? Sometimes it’s cold up here.  I don’t know anyone up here.  Sometimes I’m scared.  I’ve never flown before.  I’ve never been thrown before.  At first it was fun but where is he?  What is he doing?

Her fear ignited a fire so fierce it singed her beautiful wings. It incinerated her custom costume.  It sent her flailing through the sky clumsily…falling.

She landed in a bed of roses.  The thorns, long and sharp, pierced her skin and her blood mixed with the crimson red of the rose petals.  Her body naked and covered in ashes and blood writhed in pain.

She screamed out in horror, “My love! Where are you?  Why didn’t you fly with me?  Why did you leave me all alone?”

Silence.  She waited in the cold.  Naked. Vulnerable.

All the while, he returned to the field of her original launch every day after breakfast.  He wondered why she never returned. He assumed she must be enjoying the clean air, the ascension.

Why didn’t she ever try to throw me?

He felt her absence but he also felt her presence.

-By: Shaun Liriano

*Dedicated to my muse.

My life is part humor, part roses, part thorns.

~Bret Michaels

 

 

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Bats*$t Crazy!

I reached into the bottom cabinet to hide some reduced fat Oreos from myself  (I’ve been “dieting.”) I looked to my right while putting away some other items and literally fell on my ass in fear. There seemed to be something unfamiliar in the darkness. Thinking a strange assailant was in my home, I jump up to my feet in a right lead  fighting stance.  

Why isn’t the invader moving? 

I quickly realized it was an overflowing laundry bag that never made it to the trunk of my car. Accepting the fact that I am going completely bats*$t crazy I decided to grab a snack, a blanket and hit the Netflix on my Roku.

More importantly I knew it was time to write and let out some of these voices in my head.

Time seems to be doing some sinister things. I am turning 30 in less than a month. Although I am really proud of some of my accomplishments I have to admit I am light years away from where I would like to be. I say light years because it relates to distance not time. In some instances, I think success has to do with distance as opposed to time. It is distance not time between your cubicle and an actual  office.  I say that because it is my belief that whatever boundaries have been placed before you can be demolished with strategy.
More important than strategy is the health of your heart and mind while you exercise the patience and FORTITUDE to actually make it!

When I was in school a good friend of mine took the clock out of her dorm room and put away her watches. I dont remember how long this lasted but I remember asking about it. At the time she was in a strenuous Health Science program. To my knowledge she was doing really well in school. She simply looked up at me and said, ” I am tired of time. I am sick of always racing the clock. I am on strike.” Now…

…obviously we know the old adage “time waits for no man” but this personal revolution made my friend feel better. I completely understand.

I was on the parkway the other night coming home from work.

POP!!!

RIPPLE RIPPLE RIPPLE

“Oh man, who’s car is that? That sounds terrible.”

As the cars sped past me I learned the depressing truth.

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My sad deflated tire.

It was my car.

It was 1am.

There was no way I was waiting for AAA so I drove 10-15 miles an hour all the way home. I noticed stores I have never seen before. I was more cautious. I was more focused. I was literally forced to slow down.

Have you ever had a loved one in the hospital?  Every moment you can hold their hand is a blessing. You hang on every update from the medical staff. Uncertainty has a way of making time not only stand still but lay down in a fetal position.

My favorite time of day is late at night (right about now) when everything is quiet. There are no deadlines and appointments to keep. It is just me, a blanket and my words. Like the guys you see walking down the street or in the subway just rapping to themselves out loud. You grab your purse tighter and you think,  ” He’s bats*$t crazy!”

Maybe it’s you with all your schedules to keep, trying to race time…

…fighting laundry bags…

…maybe you’re the crazy one or just human.

By:Shaun Nickens

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Imagination

I got home and dinner was ready at the table. The kids were seated nicely. The placemats were set so that the tablecloth wouldn’t get dirty. The house was clean but messy…you know…lived in. The love hit you at the door along with the smell of biscuits. There was yelling but not the “nails on the chalkboard” type. When dinner was done I didn’t have to load the dishwasher. No blaring flat screen to misuse the little time we had to spend with one another. We had quality conversation.  We looked in each other’s eyes. We connected with one another.  He took care of everything.

By the time I came out of my work clothes, my shower was running.  There were lavender scented candles in the room.  The kids were in bed. Their bedtime stories already read. The profits he made for the day were displayed on the laptop.  Our household “to do list” had a few more items checked off of it. He rinsed the day off of me. Covered my skin in a rich lather of mango and cinnamon scented body wash.  I patted my skin dry and moisturized in coconut oil.

The sheets were newly cleaned and had the slight scent of peppermint linen spray. He held me like he had been waiting to be close to me all his life.

He told me every nook and cranny of his day.  He vowed we’d never argue again.  We chuckled at how silly it sounded. We engulfed ourselves in one another.  We planned a new family vacation.  We discussed politics and our plans for the future. He didn’t mind that it was time to get my hair done or that my toenails needed to be painted.  He didn’t mind anything at all. He was so content with being able to make me happy.

It took sometime to get here…
.. this place that could now exist outside of my imagination.

By: Shaun M N

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Show Em Whatcha Got

Recently I went to an annual gathering with some close friends from college.  We’ve been doing it since we were in school. We used to do secret Santa and potluck. We’d play games and tell stories. Over time our lives have evolved. Everyone is pushing thirty and growing families.  So last year we brought our significant others. We had a great time and the guys got better acquainted with one another. This year it was ladies only.

We ate food we couldn’t pronounce at a cute restaurant in the city.  Then we walked down the block to a little lounge. Now it was only 9:30 so no one was there but that was OK! We have always been that way. Never needed to fraternize in order to have fun. Just us girls, a comfortable place and maybe a couple of drinks and we would certainly have some laughs. Besides most of us have children now and have to do the mommy thing when we get home.

We sat in the lounge laughing with one another and seat dancing to the music. I glanced at my friend in a leopard mini-dress and envied the fact that her shower must be long enough to shave above the knee. With my crying little one, I have to make it quick. Sometimes shaving gets cut! I donned leather pants and a fur vest. The others were in cute and classy ensembles. We were all equally excited to see one another. There was only one issue…the music.

I don’t know if he was warming up but DJ Pandemic (or something like that) just couldn’t quite get it together. He would cut songs at the wrong time. He would let some songs play out too long. It just wasn’t going well for him. Then it happened!
DJ Terrible (or something like that) played “Love U Better” (2002) LL Cool J. Everyones head went back, hands went in the air, and eyes closed. It was like an r&b prayer.

“A toast to the queen, you’re back in my life
But this time I’m a do it right
Trust me from the bottom of my heart
Nothin’s gonna tear us apart, promise…”

That’s when I thought about the power of music and creativity. How can a song do that? How can music take you so far away?  Words are so powerful. Everyone was in the same reflective space. LL was singing our ghetto pledge of allegiance.

With one Old School at Noon hit on your local radio station, we get time travel.
“Flashlight” by Parliament and I’m in the basement dancing with my eccentric father.
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“The Power” by Snap and I’m back at St Benedict School of Dance onstage in Jamaica Queens. I’m back to dreaming of being a singer, then a lawyer, and then a physical therapist (I was an indecisive child.)
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Back to the sole responsibility of keeping my room clean. Back to a place in my heart I faintly remember where all you are expected to do is dream. If I hear “Weak” by SWV, I’m in my bedroom rewinding the cassette tape over and over on my karaoke machine. Careful not to rewind too far back because then you would hear the commercials from me taping the single from the radio. I’m in size 6 old navy jeans and a Tommy Hilfiger t-shirt and baby blue and white Nike uptowns with the strap undone.

I encourage you to “dig in the crates” and listen to the music that used to make your parents want to hide your Sony Walkman (yeah no iPods back then.) I encourage you to take a journey away from bills, car repairs, pressures, work, and the credit card debt you just accumulated from Christmas shopping. Go to that place…tilt your head back…raise your right hand…close your eyes or ShutYaMouthAndCallMeUgly.

By SMN

A Bisness or a Business? (Cold sweat series)

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While at a stoplight the other day I saw a sign. The sign read “Support small bisness. I employ 7 local people.” It was one of those moments when you second guess yourself. 
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“Wait…how do you spell business? ”

I sent a text to myself just to use the spell check.

Once I reassured myself of the spelling (my second grade teacher Mrs. Kunz would be so disappointed) I then became angry.

Why didn’t someone (preferably one of those 7 employees) tell that “bisness” owner that his sign was incorrect?! As a consumer I have always been infatuated with marketing.  I like aesthetics.  I used to drink Nuvo just so I could save the bottles.  My business cards for this blog are gorgeous.  The   logo is in the center with a glossy finish.  Ambiance is everything. Your product can be average but the way its packaged will determine what target audience it attracts. 

My grandmother was a small business owner.  She had a wedding and party center. She was a very proud woman.  She poured her life into that little shop on Farmers Boulevard.  There was no official closing time. All Occasion Decor Inc closed when all orders were done or when diet Pepsi couldn’t keep her awake anymore.  She would then go to her nearby apartment and eat Breyers vanilla ice cream and fall asleep with the TV watching her. She was dedicated but was she studious and detail oriented?

She left a legacy. The hood still misses “The Balloon Lady.” There was standing room only at her funeral.  Yet I wonder if she ran a business instead of a “bisness”, would she have been more successful?  Orders could have been more timely.  Bookkeeping could have been tighter. I’m sure there were seminars that could have been attended or more books to be read. Meanwhile, she missed crucial turning points. We were family owned and operated because that was the only time we could spend with her.

Ask yourself this…

Are you going to leave behind generational wealth or debt? Are you a “bisness” or a business?

How do you market yourself?  Are there poisonous pessimistic pissy people pushing you down?

What fear causes you to wake up at night in a cold sweat? 

Are you a small “bisness” with the potential to be a large globe changing BUSINESS? 

~Shaun M. Nickens

 

God Forbid. . .Knock on Wood

I am currently reading a business plan guide.  In one of the chapters, the author asks, “What would you do if you knew you could not fail?”  I struggled with the answer.  The arrogant side of me doesn’t think I’d fail at anything I genuinely attempted.  In reality I can admit I’ve always wanted to write and FINISH a book. So why haven’t I done it? There’s so many things to consider.  There are so many doubts I have never admitted I had.  Who will read it?  What will I write about?  Depending on the subject matter, what qualifications do I need to prove that I am knowledgeable? How will I publish it? When will I have the time to write it? If I die, my readers will pick apart my words. They’ll construct invalid theories. They’ll think they have ascertained a base of who I am. They’ll be wrong.

Its hard to admit when you are afraid.

A week ago I lost a crucial segment of my circle of trust. My significant other lost his brother suddenly.  This man was kind,  friendly,  humble,  reliable,  God-fearing, well read,  and family oriented.  He was one of the warmest people I have ever met. He was also one of the most complex people I have ever known.  He would often ask me just one or two questions and then just sit back and listen to my tirade. I think that was his way of counseling.  Like a therapist he would bait you with a question and the next thing you know, you’re on the couch delivering a monologue. There you are exerting brilliance that you rarely tap into. There you are grateful for a captive audience. I feel as though we were both always so grateful to converse with someone who truly wanted to hear what we had to say. What a privilege it is to be listened to. To feel important.

Tonight I drove through a neighborhood and looked at the houses.  I looked at the white picket fences. I looked at the dog houses in the back yards. I looked at the family automobiles parked in the driveways. I looked at the lights flickering from the televisions that were probably arbitrarily entertaining a sleeping couple. I hope they fell asleep after telling one another about their day. I hope they fell asleep after making love.

People often say ” I want to spend my life with you.” Then we wait for some plan. Then we wait for a vision. I have missed out on a lot in my life because I was afraid. I didn’t commit to boxing because I was afraid of a severe injury or people saying I wasn’t good enough.  I was afraid to travel because I didn’t want to be away from my loved ones. What are you afraid of? Trusting?  Yes he could be cheating on you right now. He may also be thinking of you and conjuring up new ways to make you happy. What are you afraid of?  Quitting a job and starting over? Yes Its a recession.  Yes you may fail. You’re in good company!  There’s thousands of people exactly where you are. They’re scraping their knees and getting up again. They’re trying.  They’re fighting.  They’re doing their best because life is happening right now.

I’m in good health…*knock on wood*

God forbid … but if anything should ever happen to me know this:

I LOVE being a mother. It is the most exhausting but rewarding feeling in the entire world! I LOVE love. God put Adam on this planet and he knew he couldn’t enjoy Eden without companionship.  The man I want to spend my life with is unique and passionate. He is deeper than the core of the earth. I love writing.  It clears all the cobwebs. It pours out of me. It is my drug. I am proud of my accomplishments. I am dissatisfied with my life in its current state but I will continue clawing my way to the existence I see fit for myself.  I fear the dark.  I have very few secrets. I get anxious when I am preparing to give a gift.  I don’t want to be compared to another woman but it has probably already happened and it will happen again in the future. I want to feel indisputably beautiful…Every day.  I am proud of my sister. She is the adolescent I never had the courage to be. I knew she would be special since the day she was born. I HATE working for other people.  Yet, I have held every job imaginable (except for food services.) My father blessed me with an amazing childhood. My mother is the strongest woman I have ever met. My grandmother is the most selfless person I have ever met. I strive to be a conglomerate of the two. I cry a lot…and I don’t think its a sign of weakness.  Its emptying out the sh*t of the day. Its regulation.  That way you have room for tomorrow’s challenges. 

That’s all I’ve got for now. That’s enough.  That way…God forbid. ..you won’t have to come up with anything profound.  That’s me in a nutshell minus favorite color or song. That’s me. Typing this on my phone with my kid sleeping on my lap. Typing with my night light on. Holding on to hope. Admittedly afraid.

★Shaun Nickens

Turnt Down!

There is a new phrase in urban culture. When someone is about to get excited or high energy (or drunk) they say they’re about to get “turnt up!” I must admit I had my reservations but its catchy. Kids love it! Imagine hearing Elmo say,”Let’s get turnt up boys and girls!”

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Yet, I find myself most times just wanting to get ‘turnt’ down.  After bottle making, laundry,  cooking, cleaning, working, exercising,  praying, singing,  baby bathing,  snack packing, ABC’ing, reading, training, communicating, writing, e-mailing, barely any sleeping, loving, fighting, driving, grocery shopping, deadline meeting…
I crave a warm blanket and a good movie.

In my youth I was quick to run to a spa. It didn’t matter the type. Either I was going to get a 30 min upper body massage or I was spending the day there until I went broke. The last gym membership I had was paid for in blood every month directly debited from my left ventricle.  After paying with my arms and legs, I had nothing to sign a check with or swipe a card with so they took the payments out automatically. Boy was it worth it though! I’d work out any time of day or night and they had a pool, jacuzzi, and fully equipped salon and spa services. Felt like a new woman every time I left. Now, I’m older and I have more pressing responsibilities and I can’t indulge like I used to.

So yesterday while waiting for my 10 minute oil change,  I spotted some relief!  A leather lazy boy looking humble piece of furniture labelled “Spa on the Go.” For less than the price of a McDouble I could get a few minutes of tranquility.  A pre-programmed massage. It felt a little rough but it did the trick. Surrounded by the smell of oil, stale/free coffee, and a great view of the main busy boulevard, I created my own little sanctuary.  It was a sign that sometimes you don’t need to get “turnt up.” Sometimes you need to rediscover the miniscule things that give you temporary moments of peace. Sometimes it’s the sound of a melody that stimulates a mood of positive memory revisiting. Think about the first time you put a set of chrome pegs on the back of your bike. Trust me, its better than obsessing over the next car note payment.  Think about your first Nokia phone that you played the game Snake on. Sitting in the back of the bus eating a honey bun. Playing Spades. Calling home because there was no such thing as text messaging. Don’t think about the phone bill due. Get ‘turnt’ down or ShutYaMouthAndCallMeUgly.

-SMN