The White Shoe Irregular:
It was fun while it lasted.

Good Mornin', Heartache

Bridgett C. Gayle

He told me he would be right back. And when I heard the front door close like a whisper, I began countin' the minutes, the hours…the days. He's not comin' back. I knew when I was half asleep — when he was strokin' my hair, touchin' me, but touchin' me from a distance as if he was afraid to break my skin, my heart — that he wasn't comin' back. They never come back for me, but they always seem to take somethin' valuable from me and leave behind somethin' that I can't use — somethin' that I don't want.

I remember clearly the way he walked up to me, movin' like he got music caught in his skin, bass and tom-toms in his soul, beatin' feverishly and passionately. And he walked — or should I say strolled — like Superfly, as if his feet were too precious to touch the ground. A man only on earth temporarily, just takin' up space — beautiful Black space. He strolled toward me takin' ten steps. I counted because I was waitin' and anticipatin' his arrival when he would be up in my face, in my personal space, in my world, and in me. He had five more steps to go and I was still anticipatin'. And then he smiled.

I noticed the gold over his right canine tooth and that made him special because other men would have put the gold on the front tooth, so the gold could be seen with every movement of their lips. But he had to smile long and wide for me to see the gold canine tooth and I liked him from then on. I liked his smile. Eight steps, nine steps, and "Hello." He was close enough for me to hear the rhythms trapped inside of him. The same rhythms that made him walk so — no, stroll so — and I liked what I heard. How did he know that I loved music, loved to dance and to sing? And he a stranger comin' to me, playin' music for me, how could I not have loved him? He played those rhythms for me over and over again, sharin' with me his musical soul, his vital organs.

Then he left so quietly and all the music was gone. And I heard, when I was half asleep, the whisper of the door sayin' goodbye. It was the same kind of whisper like when, after makin' love, he would speak so softly into my ear, so low and so light as if not to disturb the molecules in the air. He would say, "You all right, baby?" And I would say, "Yeah" and fall into sleep.

And the next day, I woke up tired and achin' and I wondered what he had taken from me. And then I wondered what useless thing he had left behind for me. I'm convinced he left me this headache. So I got up and took a pill then another and another. But I realized that it's a big headache and I felt the ache movin' downward and inward, so I took some more, some more pills until the bottle was empty. I lay down with my knees to my chest, naked, and prayed for sleep, a deep sleep, but my eyes wouldn't close. Then I got up to play my mother's favorite song. Instead of going back to my bed, I laid there on the floor next to the speakers so that I could feel as well as hear the lady sings the blues — Miss Billie Holiday.

I hated the blues when I was young; all that boo-hooin' and cryin' about how some man has done me wrong made me sick and pained me like a woman givin' birth. And I wondered as a child how can I so Black be blue. But now I'm a woman and I know that blue ain't a color and it ain't just a feelin' neither, but all feelings confused that's tyin' you up like a knot and you struggle to get free. I felt so light as if I could lie upon the dust that was floatin' in the air. My ache is gone and now I'm just numb. The pills are workin'.

I remember my momma now. They say my momma's crazy because she walks the streets barefooted and sometimes naked. They don't understand that she had seen the man that she loved hangin' from a tree with a rope around his neck, hangin' like a rag doll for the other Black men to see. She's not crazy, just sick and tired. Her mind is too heavy for her body, and that's why she's a little off-balanced.

I tried to tell the doctors that she's not ill, just tired. But then they took her away from me and put her into a white room where the walls were cushioned, so she could sleep lyin' down or standin' up. I thought she would at least be comfortable. It's funny how when your eyes can no longer see what's right in front of you the other senses try to take its place. I can hear now because my eyes no longer can see and Billie Holiday is singin' to me.

What's that, Miss Holiday? "God bless the child." But I don't feel blessed. Blessings are for the holy and all these men had taken somethin' from me so I'm no longer whole. What's that, Billie? "God bless the child that got its own." But I don't own nothin' because they all had stolen from me, my mother too because she had taken my time away from me, had me runnin' around town chasin' her so I could cover her up and cover my shame. I needed a man to keep me company because insanity goes hand in hand with loneliness. I feel now tired and alone, and I can feel the blues fillin' up the spaces where my possessions used to be-the valuable things that were stolen from me. I feel the sleep creepin' up on me, and I can hear Billie Holiday introducin' herself to my soul. They sing a song together.

I'm so tired. I feel so light like floatin' around like live musical notes on a page. I feel sleep comin' on and now it's here. And I smile. Finally.