Posted in Short Story

Last Day by Cortney Joseph

I’ve been confined to small spaces and four walls for as long as I can remember. Trapped, struggling to free myself as I navigate my way through what are supposed to be some of the best moments of my life.

No one, and I do mean no one, has cried as much as I’ve cried in these long, drawn out, twenty-six years of life. No one, and I do mean no one, has felt or understood or come to know pain the way I have. It thrives when I’m at my highest, sitting back, waiting to drag me down to the pits of sorrow and depression; waiting to laugh and taunt, show me that I have been and will always be a nothing and a nobody in this world.

It’s a wonder I’ve never tried to end it all before now.


Sitting in my little cell; a normally bright bedroom darkened with the aid of all lights shut off, and all shades closed. Stuffy, hot; smothering me as I try to find one good reason to stick around for another year… another month, week, day, hour, minute or second.

Wondering when things will change for the better, and when life will finally start offering me the things that I’ve worked so hard for; a few of the things I want and need most, what I truly deserve.

I used to believe that it couldn’t be all dark days. I couldn’t spend more than ten minutes shedding tears, screaming from the very bottom of my soul, asking to be relieved of pain I shouldn’t feel.

But, here I am … day number one hundred and ten, hour number twenty-two. Lying on the floor, screaming at the top of my lungs as tears fall. Head pounding, eyes burning, and someone beating on the door trying to figure out if I’ve simply injured myself or if I’ve finally lost my mind fully.


Of course, I pull myself together when the time permits, and I gather my things and make an exit as if all is fine. But in truth; I’m tired, exhausted… and this time, a short nap that I’m sure will be suggested won’t be enough to cure what I’m feeling.

The final straw has been broken, the last nerve has been tapped; and I feel as though, if I don’t pull myself away now, I’ll be in pain for the rest of my life.

Who’d want a life of pain and torture?

Not I.



After showering, I grabbed one of the many notebooks I kept on hand, a pen, and my backpack before slipping into a pair of shoes. I grabbed a black jacket and walked out of my bedroom without a second thought.

Though I heard those living in my home talking, laughing and joking; I didn’t bother turning around to say goodbye. Didn’t even make it known that I was gone.

I closed the door, locked it, and made my journey down the street.


Before long, I was two blocks away, sitting at the bus stop waiting. People watching. I could see one of the many mothers of the hood; yelling and screaming as their kids, stair steppers, ran away yelling and screaming about what they were and weren’t going to do. The words ‘bitch’, ‘ass’, and ‘motherfucker’ flying around as it was typical to scream those things to two, three, and four-year-olds… and not a single person sitting on their doorstep or driveway bothering to step in and teach the young mother a better way to handle her children.

Though I wanted to say something; it simply wasn’t my business. Besides, I’d be sort of a hypocrite. Running away to escape being told how to live my life, running away to escape being told that I mean nothing, and care for no one but myself… just to tell someone else how to live theirs, or how to run their own child’s life.

It wasn’t my business, and I went about minding my own by opening my notebook, pushing the button on my pen down. I began writing the first thing that came to mind.

My final poem. Instead of forcing something, I simply let my words flow. Whatever came out, that would just be it. If it was liked; fine, and if not, that was fine too. Wouldn’t matter; I wouldn’t be around to find out what people thought.

About twenty minutes passed before a bus finally showed up. Paying my fair and speaking as the driver spoke to me, I made my way all the way to the back and sat by myself. Writing again, this time, three letters. One, to the man I loved most, and one each for the two women I loved most.

I tried to keep it upbeat and positive, but feeling the way I felt; the truth slipped out through every word.


Making it to my best friend’s house, eventually, I pushed my notebook into my backpack, and took a deep breath before knocking. A few seconds passed and she opened the door, smiling wide before she pulled me into a big hug.

It’s been so long since we’ve seen one another, and for half a second I felt guilty for what I was coming to see her for.

“I wish you would have called me. I would have taken off work and we could have hung out tonight.”

I shook my head, clearing my throat as I took a seat on her couch. Not wanting to take up much of her time, I decided to get straight to the point. “Sorry, but you know I hate going out anyway.”

“Well, it could have been just you and I. We would have found something to do. Could have had some drinks; mercilessly tease and lead on some drunk men trying to be our sugar daddies.”

I smirked, shaking my head as I looked down at my hands. “Nah, I just came to ask a favor. I hope it’s one that you won’t mind doing for me.”

She looked at me, I guess confused by the sad and despondent look on my face. Usually, when we were around one another, I could throw on a smile; fake the funk, and make it through a decent day or night before retreating to the center of my bed to cry the remainder of my time.

But not now, not today.


I wiped away the few tears that slid down my face, asking the one thing I never believed I’d be able to ask her for. “Even though you still joke around from time to time, you’re the saved one. You know how God, grace, and his favor works.”

She nodded, clearing her throat as she sat beside me. “I do.”

“And because I know he’ll listen to you; I was hoping that you’d say a prayer for me. I uh, I kind of need some type of sign or guidance before the end of the day, and I know that He never hears me when I ask for myself.”

“He does hear you. And he answers, when he feels you’re ready to handle whatever you’re asking for.”

I gave a tiny smirk. “I wish that were true. But please, will you pray for me, pray on my behalf.”

She nodded. “Of course I will.”

She took my hands in hers and I bowed my head, closing my eyes.



Leaving my best friend’s house an hour later, I opted to take a walk. By now, my phone had been ringing back to back. Sometimes I’d send the callers straight to voicemail, other times I’d just let it ring. Even cut my phone off for about an hour before I finally cut it on just to check the time. They were still calling.

I didn’t want to talk. Because I knew what each conversation would be.

Where are you? I’m coming to get you.

Why would you do that?! You’re such a selfish bitch. You don’t care about nobody but yourself.

You are loved! You are wanted! You are needed!

I’m glad you’re gone, stay gone. You needed to get your bum ass out anyway. You don’t do shit.

Again, nothing that I wanted to hear over and over until I got to the point of crying again. I was doing enough of that; bursting into random tears each time I passed some child that was lucky enough to still have their mother in their life. Bursting into random tears each time I saw some mother loving on and caring for their child the way I always wished I’d been taken care of.


Walking past a community center, I took a moment to stop and walk inside. I noticed that there was a large bulletin board, one that seemed as if it were free for anyone to post things. There were job notifications, missing posters, and so much more. Grabbing one of the tacks sitting in the tray up under the board, I pulled the poem I’d written out of my notebook, after quickly pulling it from my bag, and posted it to the board.

I read over it for half a second before signing the bottom and walking out.

After that, I went wherever my legs took me, before finally catching a bus back to my own city. Stopping at my mother’s grave, to have one last conversation with her, I found a small bench in one of the BREC parks and took a seat, folded my arms across my chest as I watched the sun set.

It was beautiful. An array of colors blending as the temperature dropped a little more. The wind blew around me, kissing my cheeks every so often before taking it’s time to blow my hair in various directions. People passed by in quick succession, some speaking and others nodding as they went on their way, hurrying to whatever great things they must have had going on in their lives.

I sat on that bench for hours, well past nine p.m. before I finally answered my phone and let one person, and one person only, know that I would be home soon.



Walking through the door, I was immediately met with stares, harsh words, questions, and everything else I wanted to avoid.

“Excuse me, where are you going?”

“To the bathroom.”

“No! Bring your ass back here. You’ve been gone since early this morning; ignoring calls, avoiding people, and you think you’re just about to waltz in here like everything is fine? You’ve got some explaining to do!”

I sighed, turning to face the aunt that was speaking to me. “Fine, what do you want to know?”

“Where the hell were you?!”

I shrugged my shoulders, looking at all of my family members. Individuals whom I couldn’t even remember the last time they asked about me, asked what I was doing with myself, or supported any part of the dream I was chasing blindly for so long with no results. They were all waiting for an answer, probably expecting me to give something stupid or half-assed. I decided to tell the truth. “Where was I?”


“I was waiting to die.” I excused myself, heading straight for the bathroom. I set my bag down on the side of the tub, digging in and pulling out those three letters I’d written. Then, I removed my jacket and stripped down to nothing but my bra and panties. Placing the notes in different places, I took a deep breath before turning on the faucet in the sink, clearing my throat as I took one last look at myself in the mirror.

I was hideous; looked exhausted and haggard. I bent down, scooping up a bit of water into my hands before I splashed it on my face. For some reason, I thought that might snap me out of whatever this bad feeling was. As soon as I turned the faucet off, I could hear some of my family members arguing from the living room.

Of course, they were trying to place blame. Who would make me feel this way? Why would I fake something like this? What type of help could they get me? I just need to eat and go to bed and I’ll be just fine.

As usual, never anyone checking on me. Actually seeing about ME.

It was decided, I was doing the right thing.


Grabbing the knife that we kept in the bathroom to open boxes or cartons, I bit down on my bottom lip before taking a seat on the floor. My back was to the wall, feet pressed against the side of the tub. Though the bathroom was as plain as day; to me, it was another jail cell.

Small walls, confined, trapping me. I could walk out, and face more questions and opinions that no one asked for. I could walk out, and be sent back to therapy or be put on harsher medications.

I could walk out, and be judged, tortured, and made to feel like a mistake for the rest of my life.

I didn’t want that.

I quickly leaned forward and grabbed my bag, pulling out my notebook and pen. I wrote out a full list of my accomplishments, underlining at the very bottom, after writing in bold print that NONE of those things had ever been enough. Then, I wrote one last note, printed largely to make sure the point wasn’t missed. Sliding it under the door, just a little, I cleared my throat and tossed my bag into the tub before leaning back against the wall.

And then, one wrist at a time, I brought an end to twenty-six years of pain, grief, struggle, and abuse.

Sliding down, until my back was against the floor and I could only feel the large mass of my hair separating me from the cold tiles, I closed my eyes and thought about my last day.

I ran away one last time, traveled around a city I’d lived in all of my life but had never seen in full, spoken to the one girl who’s believed in me for over ten years, spoke to the one woman I wished I hadn’t lost over twenty years before I could even get to know her. I’d told my father I loved him, and wrote what I felt is surely the best poem I’ve ever written in my life. Sad that it only came at the very end. I hadn’t eaten, had only drank one glass of orange juice, and gave one of my most prized possessions to a little girl who’d stopped by the bench and told me that she dreamed of being a writer one day. She told me a story, and I told her that she’d be wonderful, far greater than me.

Then, my last thought came to mind. What I’d written in that note that I slid under the door.


Now I won’t be a burden, and you won’t have to pretend that I matter or play such an important role in your lives.

Now I won’t have to throw on fake smiles anytime you come around; and now, I will no longer be severely depressed or have to struggle searching for happiness that will never come.

To those who loved me at some point, thanks. To those who couldn’t wait to see me go; you’re welcome.



Soon to be forgotten, X.

Posted in Short Story

The 25th (Part 6 of 6) by Cortney Joseph

S I X | Ice Cream Cake & Final Thoughts.


1:14 a.m., the time that flashed on my alarm clock, I jumped at the sound of a loud shatter, followed by what sounded like an automated voice. Looking over at the side of my bed where my laptop was sitting, I realized it was just music playing. Ta-dooow, how ya like me now? I’m in the mix. It was just Ice Cube’s What Can I Do sounding off and instead of turning it off, I let it play through as I mumbled the lyrics to myself, while I tried to talk myself out of this next foolish project I was about to start.

I was tired, after being kept over at work for no reason, and should have taken my ass to sleep but, I figured why not stay up to wish myself a happy birthday. I really just wanted to zone out with music, make myself feel better. I was still feeling down about the fact that I hadn’t won, or placed at all for that matter, in the little Showtime In Louisiana competition on Saturday, and I guess I finally crashed as soon as my head hit the pillow. Stressing and feeling like a bit of a failure all of Saturday and tonight at work had taken a small toll on me, I suppose.

Looked at the time again; 1:15 a.m., Monday, August 31st, 2015 and it’s official. I’m twenty-five years old, I’m still in the place I want to leave desperately, and I still haven’t been discovered by someone willing to help me create my own show or movie.

I took a deep breath, preparing myself to cry. The way I do every year, but something different happened. I laid there all the way until it got to the part of the song where Ice Cube began running off crimes that white people commit but blame black folks for, and nothing happened. No tears, no sense of heaviness, no sense of failure.

I actually burst out laughing, sitting up, I smiled when one of my favorite songs began. Ironically, it was on one of the few songs that change my mood instantly when I’m down. Simple Things by Minnie Riperton. One of those songs that puts everything into perspective. I ran my fingers through my hair, smiling as I nodded my head, singing along to the words that had meant so much to me, though they were simple, for so many years now.


Twenty-five, and I’ve got my health. Twenty-five, and I’m blessed to be very intelligent, with a gift that doesn’t come easily for others. (Though I’m still going to have to tell myself that, OFTEN, I’m sure.) Twenty-five and blessed to be able to walk around and go anywhere that I want to go, do anything that I want to do. (Something others may not be able to do.) Twenty-five and able to live and express myself in any way that I see fit. Twenty-five and ALIVE.

I sighed, thinking, wondering what it was that I was really stressing over. So many people I’d grown up with, so many people I’d come in contact with, had barely made it to twenty, let alone twenty-five and I was still here. Giving another day, and another chance by God himself.

I’ve got time, right? If it’s meant to be, it’s meant to be, right? Alright, so I’ll have to keep telling myself that too… but the point; I’ve made it this far and there are things that I’ve already accomplished, some of which I did way before I was even twenty-one. What am I doubting? What am I discrediting myself for? Why am I making it so complicated?

Because I’m focused on the wrong things, and always forgetting that I can make all the plans in the world, but everything works in God’s timing. I guess it’s easy to lose your way or focus when you want something so badly and it’s just not happening for you. There’ll be a lot of bad days, A LOT, but there will also be better and amazing ones that follow. I just have to keep reminding myself of that.


Each day, so many things to see. And I’m so glad that I am ME.” I leaned over to the other side of my bed and picked one of my notebooks up from off of the floor, still singing along. “The simple things, the lovely simple things.

Instead of writing a title, like I would anytime I wrote a poem, I wrote Dear Mommy.


Caught up in my own feelings, I nearly forgot that I write to her almost every year on my birthday, and on hers too since we’re three days apart.

Thinking of you; I love you and I miss you. But guess what, Mommy? I made it to 25, for both of us. And no matter what happens today, I’m determined to make this a great day for us both. And it’ll be a great day for us both on the 3rd of September too. No tears, no sad feelings; just joy and gratefulness. Thank you for watching out for me; because I know you are.

Love you.


I closed my notebook and tossed it to the sighed, sighing. “You’re not a failure Ocean, you’ve only just begun on your journey.” My phone went off and I picked it up, smiling when Justin’s name popped across the screen. Answering, I cleared my throat before speaking, knowing I would sound like somebody’s mean ass baby daddy if I didn’t. “Hello.”

“Happy Birthday, Chocolate Thunder!!”

I laughed, shaking my head. “Thank you Jujubee, my Powder Sugar looking Pimp.”

“I’m not that pale or pasty tonight, I went and got a tan. But anyway, how are you feeling? Wanna talk out your feelings? Don’t bother telling me no, because we’re gonna talk and get through this anyway. I got me some graham crackers and I’m ready to play White Iyanla with your ass.”

I smirked. “Stupid, Bruh. Just stupid. And yes, we can talk, but I don’t have any bad or negative feelings now.”

“Say what?”

“I woke up, and I’m okay.”

“Just okay?”

I groaned a little before laughing. “Yes, just okay. I’m blessed to see my twenty-fifth birthday, happy to have made it this far in my life, so far, and that’s all that I can ask for. Right?”

“That’s right! So let’s talk about how we gon’ get you out in a club, and we gon’ get you druuuuuuuunk…”

“No Sir.”

“Yes! How you go through the majority of your adult life and don’t drink?”

I laughed, clearing my throat. “I have drank before. You don’t know my life before I met you, Justin, you don’t.”

“Mmm, that mean you got a lil’ trifling past. Just wait until I see you later today.”


I shook my head, for my own benefit. “You gon’ buy me a cake?”

“What kind of cake, Ocean?”

“An ice cream cake, duh. The Oreo cookie kind. And I want my name written across it. And I want two of the big reese’s peanut butter cups, and some orange juice.”

“Anything else, Ma’am?”

“I would say we could go to a strip club, but I believe you’re still banned from the majority of them, so…”

Justin began cursing me out and I fell out, lying back down. “Twenty-five ain’t too grown to get your ass whooped, Ocean. Imma tell your grandma that you’re up here treating me bad.”

“She gon’ tell you oh well and go on about her business, so… tell her.”

“Go back to bed Trick, and happy birthday, again. I love you!”

“Love you too, with your Elmer’s Glue lookin’ ass.”


I hung up and set my phone down, waiting for his long text of curse words for hanging up in his face.

My phone went off again, this time just a text, and then began the few happy birthday messages on facebook, mostly inbox messages.

25, you gettin’ up there guh!


Twenty-five… and blessed. I gotta remember that.






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Posted in Short Story

The 25th (Part 5 of 6) by Cortney Joseph

F I V E | Put Up (Try) Or Give Up (Whine)


Though I was exhausted, having worked a few extra hours the day before… I made it a point to get up early this saturday morning. The 29th, and while I have this stupid competition I let Justin and my sister talk me into doing, that the creators decided at the last minute to change the time for, I also need to see my daddy this morning. To see him, and to give him his copies of my last two poetry collections.


8 a.m. came quickly and I found myself on the road to Gonzales. Since he had to work for the day, I decided to stop at his store and talk for a few minutes.

Naturally, it was great to see him and after saying hello and hugging, the first thing he asked me about was my hair. “Did you cut it all off?”

“Just about. Almost a month ago.” Which was the truth. I’d gotten fed up with dealing with long and damaged hair, and finally convinced someone to chop it all off without having to hear ‘but you have good hair’.


“Just got tired of it, that’s all. But how are you?”

He shrugged and we began walking, heading outside towards his truck so that I could give him his books. “I’m good Baby Girl, and glad to see you. And you got a birthday coming up, Monday, right?”

“Yes Sir. I’m getting up there in age with you.”

He laughed and we stopped. Once he opened his passenger door, I opened my bag and reached him his books, asking which ones I hadn’t given him yet. “Ain’t no autograph? I want mine before you really start selling and making it big.”

“Tryna sell my work online, Daddy?”

“I just know they’re gonna be real valuable. And I want mine before you get so big that you stop giving autographs.” I smiled, taking the pen he was reaching me. “And listen, remember what I told you. If you want me to sell a few here just let me know. Order like a bulk of ‘em and let me know when you get ‘em in, I’ll come and pick ‘em up and get ‘em sold for you. My co-workers want a few copies, you know your aunts and uncles might want copies, their kids too.” Maybe, and I’ve got plenty of them. And plenty more cousins too. Shit, my cousins on his side of the family could fill one cruise ship by themselves, their parents and their own kids not included. “You know, Daddy’s always looking to help you out a little bit.”

I nodded, handing him the books after I signed both of them. “I know, and thank you Daddy. It’s gon’ be a minute before I can sit down and get more copies ordered, but I’ll definitely let you know.”


“Good, good. And listen, I want you to know that I’m very proud of you. Have always been proud of you. People have taken a glance at your work, from me leaving it around and they tell me how good you are. I’m always proud to say ‘MY baby wrote that’.” That made me smile wide and I nodded, thanking him. “Keep working at it, and you’re gonna get exactly where you want to be. If anybody believes in you, it’s me. Always have, always will. Okay?”

“Yes Sir. Thank you.”

He nodded and gave me a quick hug. We then walked inside and while he got me two bottles of some good ol’ Kleinpeter orange juice, he introduced me to one of his coworkers. It tickled me, but made me happy, to hear that he was always talking about me. Said she heard so much but had yet to meet me, especially since she’d met both my sister, Sahara, and our brother Evan.

“No problem. I’m gonna call you Monday, for your birthday, and then I’ll come and bring you your gift on Friday after I get off work.”

“Okay.” Walking me back to my car, we hugged and said a quick goodbye and ‘I love you’ before he wished me luck and sent me on my way.


Once I finally left, I headed a few miles back up the highway and parked as far away from the Center as possible. Close to the exit just incase something ‘unexpected’ happened.

Oh, who am I kidding? I was hoping for some type of accident, anything to cancel this event altogether at the last moment. That was wishful thinking though, and once it got close to my time to go in, I reached in the backseat and grabbed my notebook.

Walking slowly, I could feel my throat closing up. Sweating, but that was mainly from this hot ass air and sun beating my ass. I could feel everything and everyone around me moving quickly until I finally opened the door and walked inside. A huge gush of air hit me and that seemed to calm me down, but only for a second. There were so many people, so many with tags signifying that they too would be performing. “I’m wasting my time.”


Still walking through, I looked around and watched and listened as others went over what they were going to do. Some were singing, some dancing. There was even a dude that was going to paint while a woman did some type of interpretive dance.

After reading a few signs, I quickly went to sign in, got my tag and found the first empty corner I could find to go over my material. Of course, in true Ocean fashion, the instant I began to look over my writing, I began to hate it. Suddenly I could pinpoint so many mistakes and errors, simple things. Things I should have caught, things that made me feel this was something that I am truly NOT meant to do.

I could feel my entire body tensing up as I reached into my pocket for the pen I’d grabbed just before I got out of the car. Sitting on the floor, leaning with my back against the wall, I propped my notebook up against my knees and went to work, trying to find a way to make this crap better.

You can guess what happened next.


YEP, I panicked. Setting my notebook aside, I quickly tried to grab a hold of my emotions, saying a long and silent prayer until I felt a bit of ease and comfort wash over me. Opening my eyes more than ten minutes later, I could see someone walking to the middle of the floor to announce that they were about to get things underway.

Looking down at my watch, it was 10 a.m. on the dot. I grabbed my notebook, and stood, making more changes and edits to my poem as I walked and followed the rest of the crowd.

Thankfully, I was number fifty, for poets, but I knew that it would be my turn sooner than I could even think about it. Time ticked, passing slowly, then speeding up in small spurts, before slowing down again. While I was waiting, I went back and forth between twitter and  texting with Justin; feeling slightly annoyed that he had a response for every time I text that I was about to walk out. Remember this and Remember that, and if you walk out, you’ll never prove to yourself that you can do this. You’ve got talent this and just believe in yourself that. It was enough to make me throw my phone and break that heaux into a thousand pieces. Just to avoid reading Justin’s constant positivity.


Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate it, and in the end it usually pulls me through. But what he, and others, fail to understand is that when you’re doing something, small or major, and they’re not there besides you… or you can’t HEAR the words, there’s not much of an impact to push you through the doubt.

On top of that, while waiting, I’m listening to the poems of those before me and these people are AMAZING. Far better than I am. Got me up here like I’m still writing poetry for my seventh and eighth grade English teaches. Damn them both for making me think I had any type of skill to keep this up.

Shaking my head, I text Justin that I would just talk to him later and turned my phone off before pushing it in my pocket. Again, I was number fifty and by now they were already on forty-eight.

“Still got time to walk away, Ocean. You could just leave, go to work, and pretend that you didn’t show up on time to register and get your number.” I sighed, shaking my head at myself. I went back and forth, mentally scolding myself until it was too late. My number was called.


I walked slowly, my throat closing up again as I walked across the makeshift stage and looked out at the audience. Small, but big at the same damn time. Remembering the instructions I’d been given when I received my number, I introduced myself.

“I’m Ocean Anderson, and this piece is titled Not Ready.”

I closed my eyes and silently counted to five before taking a deep breath and starting. I made sure I spoke clearly, and slowly to avoid my bad habit of stuttering whenever I get nervous. Though I could already feel my heart beginning to beat through my chest, I made sure I kept myself as calm as possible.

One day you wake up, and your world is in total order. Things are going the way you hoped, it’s yours to hold and control. Life is great, peace is at arm’s reach, and hope is abundant. Then there’s a slight shift, things change and you’re … lost. Walking around, alone, searching for what had once come to you with ease. Confused, unsure of yourself and wondering how in the world did you get to this point.

I sighed, looking down at my notebook for a moment before I continued. “Crying lonely tears that go unheard, ignored by those you thought would help pull you through the sudden darkness. Lost; stuck trying to find your way through a time when all you want to do is stop, give up, and give in. Cry a little more and say that this world is one in which you weren’t meant to be.

There was total silence, and that did very little to put me at ease. I took another deep breath. “You pray; ask God when will things finally take that turn for the better. When will a fresh perspective come along, show you all that you need to do to push forward. Only to receive no answer, not on your time. Days pass, sometimes weeks, and even months. You begin to sink lower, feeling as if you’ve been counted out and there’s nothing left to do. Nowhere to turn, no one to reach out to. And then, when it’s least expected, you wake up one morning with a clear mind.” I smiled a little, mostly for my own benefit. “Stress and the weight of pain and struggle lifted from your shoulder. With just a little bit of clarity and understanding, enough to push you through the day ahead. HE says; just a little more time, just a little more patience. You’ll have all you need and more when I’m certain that you’re ready. You’re just not ready, and that’s okay. You finally understand that all God has for you will come when HE’s certain that you can handle it. You’re just not ready.

I finally cleared my throat, thanking the audience for listening before I quickly made my way off the stage. Thank you God that I didn’t pass out and that I didn’t embarrass myself beyond just walking up there in the first place. Now if I could just leave here without feeling disappointed.







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Posted in Short Story

The 25th (Part 4 of 6) by Cortney Joseph

F O U R | Attitude Adjustment ‘Training’ (Step Two)

You ever take time off from doing something, and you take off so long that you forget you had something ‘important’ going on? That’s me, and work. I hadn’t even attempted to find a job for over a year after quitting the one I absolutely hated. I guess it was just my luck that I got this new one just a few weeks after applying.
Two weeks passed me by and the only thing I’d found time to do was work, work, work. Just like before I quit the other; it was a job that had nothing to do with the career that I wanted. But that whole ‘Broke, struggling artist’ thing can only fly for so long. You might love your art and of course there’s pride involved, but at some point you’ve gotta find a way to support your art, or… support yourself to get the things needed for the art.
With bills, responsibilities, costs of whatever you use for your art breaking or running out; in my case, my laptop crashing and a second one acting up right after I bought it… things get real expensive, real quick. All of the shit that makes you hate being an adult, to be very honest about it. I don’t know about others, but my pride kicks in when having to ‘accept’ or ‘ask’ for money.
Haven’t had time for what’s supposed to help me improve on my attitude; this stupid list of things Justin suggested I do. On top of that, I was ‘forced’ to sign up for that damn competition down at the Lamar Dixon, and I haven’t written anything that I feel will be suitable. Certainly haven’t written anything that will allow people listening to take me serious as an artist. The perfectionist in me is running around like a chicken with it’s head cut off and a butcher’s knife stuck in it’s ass.

Thankfully today, I got off early, and tomorrow, the 22nd, I have the day off. I knew that if I was finally going to get serious about doing this competition, and working towards feeling better about myself in general, I had to buckle down. That starts today, and if I have to keep my ass in the house and work all evening and night, then so be it.
Well rested, got a quick workout in, and ate something good enough to fill me up and give me a good amount of energy. With my notebooks, pens, music playing in the background, and Justin sitting on my couch as if he has no life of his own acting as my ‘coach’ and support system, I had a small amount of confidence that I could at least make it through half of the morning without wanting to give up.
Okay, without giving up more than three times. Five, max.

“Why do you have four notebooks again? You can’t possibly mess up that much.”
I looked at him, scoffing. “Please, you don’t see my trashcan before I dump it. I could write one line, and if I hate it, I trash the whole page.” Justin just shook his head. “But no, I separate what I write. One is just for ideas. One’s for the depressing stuff, one’s for the ‘happy’. You already know, that’s damn near empty. And the other is for when I write about certain topics.”
“Team Too Extra. But which are you writing for the comp?”
I shrugged, clearing my throat as I opened each notebook. I opened my fresh pack of pens and pulled three of them out, setting them beside the edge of my laptop. “As much as I want to just write what comes to mind, or go with what flows from my heart, there’s a very high chance that it will be depressing. While that’s cool for me to just read over by myself, to see what space I’m in mentally, that might not be cool for this. If I go out there, I don’t want these people to see me the way that I see myself.”
“Well, had you been doing the little things I told you day by day, you might already be in a more positive space by now. I’m not saying it all makes things change drastically in one day or overnight, but I know you understand the meaning of the saying, ‘I think, therefore I am’.”
I nodded, biting down on my bottom lip. “Man, these two weeks creeped up on me. I had started setting small goals for myself, right?” I heard him mumble ‘mmhm’ and I continued. “And I was doing good for like three days. It was simple stuff. Try to go to bed early, at a set time. Do short workouts here and there. Cut out certain things from my diet, one by one. Drink more water, and some other things. I’m still doing well with drinking water, but the rest. Like…not having time makes it hard for me to remember the small things I set for myself. I said I was going to write an hour a day, right.”
“And what happened?”
“I don’t have an hour to spare! If I’m not at work, I’m sleeping. If I’m not sleeping, I’m at work. This afternoon is the first time I’ve had the chance to stop and breathe. I’m so damn tempted to just lay in my bed and do nothing.”

Justin cleared his throat and I looked over to see that he was shaking his head. “But you’re not. No ma’am. Do what you need to do, and you’ve got all day to chill tomorrow.”
“Yeah, I know. Why couldn’t these people give more than a month to prepare for this damn thing though.”
“Be honest. Do YOU really need a whole month to write? I remember when I first met you in ‘08, you were showing me five or six poems a week, if not more and that’s while you were working and going through your senior year of high school.”
I looked at my best friend as if he’d lost his mind. “That was 2008. I was eighteen, full of hope, joy, and pride in my work. It is now 2015 and I’ve come to realize that since I started writing in 2001 … I’ve made no significant type of movement as far as my ‘career’ goes. Fourteen years of nothing Justin, FOURTEEN.”
“You chose not to go to school though. It’s plenty of opportunities you could have come across that way.”
I shook my head. I knew somebody would mention the fact that I opted out of going to college sooner or later. While it might be true, I don’t regret not going. I don’t regret it this month anyway. “College isn’t for everyone, Justin. I barely made it through high school, fucking around with a teacher that decided to fail all of her black students in the last semester just because she thought she wasn’t gonna get that ass whooped by parents. Why would I want to torture myself after having to give up my whole summer just to graduate? I was already a whole year behind ‘cause of my first school losing my records. I was over it. On top of that, I would have been pushed into fields I didn’t want to go into. Journalism, teaching English, or anything regarding the media.”
“Don’t you wanna be famous?”
“Yes, but I don’t want to be in front of anybody’s camera. I stutter, badly when I get nervous; what I look like going on somebody’s news station trying to deliver bad news with a damn speech impediment? Boy, bye.”

He laughed and cleared his throat. “So you’re telling me that you need to work on performing in front of people too? Or did you forget that there’s going to be an audience next Saturday?”
I sighed. “I didn’t forget. I was just hoping and praying heavy that it got canceled at the very last minute.”
“Tragic. Look, before you start writing anything, rip out a clean sheet of paper and do this little exercise. I promise, it’s going to ease a few of those negative thoughts.”
“What am I doing?”
“Ocean, Love, I want you to write down everything that you love about yourself. In fact, I’m going to do it with you. I’m going to write down everything that I love about you, and we’ll see what the lists have in common.”
He rolled his eyes, moving and sitting next to me after he locked his phone and put it in his pocket. “Whatever doesn’t match, I’m going to tell you why I love that thing about you and we’re going to build you up. Okay.”
I nodded, though I had some serious doubt that this would even work. We shall see though.

Just as I began to make myself comfortable in my spot, We Be Clubbin’ started playing from my google play library and I instantly got hype. “Yeah-Yeaah-ee!” Justin shook his head and I laughed, nudging him. “Come on, rap it with me.”
“Girl, I’m a pasty ass white boy. I don’t know nothin’ ‘bout that.”
“Like you’ve never seen The Players Club.”
“I haven’t, and don’t use that as an excuse to not do this exercise or begin your poem for next week.”
I shook my head, dancing in my spot as I rapped along. I just know I’m getting on his nerves. “We gon’ watch it when we finish though.”
“Ain’t that with women stripping? How’s that supposed to turn me on?”
I shrugged. “You might like the way Jamie Foxx looks, I don’t know, but we’re watching it. We be clubbin’! Everybody likes when the girls shake something!
“Gawwwwd.” He couldn’t even stop himself from laughing. “This right here, this is what I love about you Ocean. You have your days, everyday, but once you find that one thing that gets you hype, your whole mood changes. Who knew it was stripper and club music.”
I shrugged. “I hate clubs and shit, but I’ve got an inner hoe and she’s been dying to get out for a year now.”
He sighed, writing on the piece of paper I gave him. “I love Ocean’s inner hoe.” I fell out, hugging my best friend. “Now get to writing. And be serious, what do you love about yourself?”

I sighed, finally calming down. “Ugh, I guess I like that I’m naturally goofy.”
“You are.”
“I love that I’m intelligent and wise. Uh-” I paused for a few minutes, really trying to think. “I suppose, since people say it, that I have talent.”
“You suppose?” I looked at Justin, seeing that he was mugging me hard as hell. “Bitch, you suppose?”
I sighed. “Alright, I have talent. I have great talent, and I’ve always loved that about myself. Secretly. Even though it gets on my nerves, I love that I get so many different ideas for stories and shows, movies and plays. I love that, even though I willing research on my own, I don’t always have to because my imagination and creativity is limitless.”
“That’s great!! And I love those things too, now write them down.” I nodded, doing as he said. “What else?”
“I love that I can make myself laugh. I love that I’m a great friend, at least I think I’m a great friend.”
“An excellent friend, one of the best I’ve ever had. Next?”
“I love that I know what I want for myself, even though I don’t always take the steps to execute and get what I want.”
“And that’s alright Ocean, it takes a little more time for some. What else?”

I shrugged, not sure how far he really wanted me to dig with this self-compliment stuff. “I don’t know what else yet.”
“Alright, well, you’ve got a start. Read all of the things you’ve written down over and over as you work on your poem. Every time you begin to doubt yourself, or your work, read what you’ve written about yourself. It’s nothing but positive things, it’s things that you’ve said about yourself so every time you see the words, you’re going to feel or think, ‘yes, that’s right’. And add to it as things that you love about yourself come to you.” I nodded. “It’s so simple, and so small, but I promise that the more you do this, the more it works. Like I said, it’s not a one day or overnight type of improvement, but it’s a start.”
“Yeah. Okay.”
“Hey, Ocean.”
“If I can pull myself up out of my darkest moments and all of the bad stuff I was thinking and feeling when I was hiding who I really am from my family, you can pull yourself up from all of the negative things that you feel about yourself. And it’s okay if you don’t accomplish all that you hope to by your birthday, or by a certain age at all. It is okay. Just take your baby steps, and you’ll get there.”
I took a deep breath, taking in all that he said as I picked up one of my notebooks and turned to a clean sheet of paper. I’ve got this, I hope.


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The 25th (Part 3 of 6) by Cortney Joseph

T H R E E | Attitude Adjustment ‘Training’ (Step One)


A week after being told that he was tired of my whining and complaining, I found myself meeting Justin at the gym where he worked out. He’d called and I finally stopped ignoring, accepted his invite.

“Why am I here? You know fat people and working out don’t mix.”

“No, that’s just you, Ocean. But anyway, something came to me last night as I was getting all of my stuff together for today, a thought.” I sighed, ready to go home. “People have to work on themselves from the inside out. But in your case, you might have to start from the outside and work your way in.”

“And being in a gym is necessary, why?”

“Working out is a great way to begin feeling good about yourself. Another secret; I was once grossly overweight, and a lot of my feelings about myself and anything I tried to do stemmed from the fact that I was displeased with my appearance. I’m overweight so I can’t do this, and I’m overweight so I can’t do that, and I lack this and that because I’m overweight. Have you ever considered that your lack of working out like you used to, along with many other habits and things, contribute to the way that you feel about yourself overall… including how you feel about your writing?”

“Nope, because it has nothing to do with it.”


“Girl, bye. You just called yourself fat and I have no doubt that at some point, before you and I part ways, you’ll contribute feeling fat and unattractive to why you think you have no talent. You always do that.”

“I do not.”

He folded his arms across his chest and began mocking me. “Ugh, I wouldn’t dare get on stage. They’ll take one look at my fat ass and know that I’m a terrible writer. But you don’t do that, huh? Not that you’re even fat or overweight, but that’s what you call yourself, so-”

I rolled my eyes. “If you know me so well, and you’re sick of it, why do you keep calling me?”

“Because, I love your stubborn ass and I’m trying to help you anyway that I can. I don’t go through all of these damn motions and moods with you for my own health. I care about your crazy ass. Now let’s do some light work. If you’re not feeling a little more relaxed or you haven’t worked the stress out, we’ll try something else. I’ll check on you in twenty.”

I groaned to myself, walking over to one of the treadmills that wasn’t being used. After stretching and getting myself situated, with my music blasting through my headphones, I paced myself and started off slow.

With Faith Evan’s latest album blasting in my ear, I mouthed the words to Ride The Beat as I walked and watched a few people moving back and forth in front of me. Some smiling, some laughing. Stopping to talk with someone else, waving to others; enjoying themselves.

That’s what I want for myself; to just walk around and smile and enjoy whatever is going on, wherever I am.


By the time Justin finally pried himself away from one of his other best friends, I’d walked for about forty-five minutes. While I initially thought that sticking around would be pointless, I had to admit that I was no longer as tense and upset as when I’d begun. It took me back to my late teens when I was one of those people that worked out after a long day of school or work just to destress. To get rid of whatever bad feelings I’d been carrying around all day, or all week in some cases.

Though I hate to admit it, Justin might have been right in asking me to join him today.


By four p.m., I was back home, showered and in my bed, stuffing my face with animal crackers and drinking orange juice while watching the Investigation Discovery channel, trying to get a little inspiration for a story I’ve had in mind for months.

As I was getting lost in this insane episode of Obsessions, my phone rang. Absentmindedly, I grabbed it and swiped to answer with my thumb before holding my phone to my ear.


“Feeling better today?”

A tiny smile etched itself across my face and I cleared my throat, sitting up. “Hi Daddy, and yeah, I guess I am.”

“Good. I’m not calling to get on your nerves or anything, just wanted to tell you about this competition I heard about. There’s one that’s like a paint and speak, I think that’s what it’s called. And then there’s one for just poets.”

I stayed silent for a moment before speaking. “Where at?”

“The Lamar Dixon. Someone left a flyer on the counter when they were checking out the other night and I read it. Thought it might be something that would interest you. There’s cash prizes, judges, and all of that stuff.”

“Did it say when?”

“Yep, the 29th.” I nodded, for my own benefit before I thanked him and told him that I’d think about doing it. “Make sure you let me know ahead of time if you’re participating, Baby Girl. I want to be there for you; Bethany and I both want to be there.”

“Yes Sir, and thanks again. Love you, Daddy.”

“Love you too. Bye.”

I ended the call and tossed my phone to the side, thinking to myself. This isn’t the first time he’s said that he and my step-mother have wanted to be there for something involving my writing. I’ve just never really done anything for them to come and support, aside from talent shows in Jr. High.


I just happened to glance at my TV when the logo for the Lamar Dixon Expo Center popped up. Grabbing the remote quickly and turning the volume up, I sat up straight and crossed my legs as I listened to what they were talking about.

It was the exact thing my father had just mentioned.


Saturday August 29th, 2015, The Lamar Dixon Expo Center will hosting their first annual competition for young artists in Gonzales and the surrounding cities. Showtime In Louisiana; a chance for the poets, singers, rappers, and other talented individuals of our great state to have a light shined on their talent.

All works performed must be original and unpublished, to be performed in four minutes or less before a panel of six judges; all from different areas of the entertainment business. Including music, film, and television producers.


I sat quietly, listening as they went over ticket prices, the free registration for performers and the limited amount of slots they had. It begins at 3 p.m., consists of four competitions total that will end in one grand prize winners and a second and third place winner. If you move on through the competitions, you have to have more than one piece ready to perform.

I shook my head, and laid back down, muting my TV altogether once they began giving out the phone number and address. To do it, or not to do it. My mind was telling me to do it, get it over with; try, give it my best. But my heart was telling me that I can not handle any more rejection if I put myself out there and get nothing from it.






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The 25th (Part 2 of 6) by Cortney Joseph

T W O | Day One

I’d spent the majority of the night lost in my thoughts. And since he feared I’d done something crazy, Justin dragged my sister along to make sure I was fine. Seeing that I’d only been lying in bed watching my Facts Of Life DVDs, he insisted that we do some shopping while he was still in town. “I’m old.”
I could feel eyes on me, and when I turned my head from the mirror I was standing in front of, I could see Justin and my sister both staring at me. Sahara, my sister, looked at me and lowered her eyes before finally speaking. “You’re what?”
“Bitch, where?”
I sighed, shaking my head. The annoying sound of a Taylor Swift song and the fact that I couldn’t find anything in my size in this department store we were currently shopping in had me feeling the need to strangle someone. “My face, my body. My titties sag when I don’t wear a bra, they even sag when I do wear a bra. I’m just old.”

Sahara and Justin looked at one another. She was expecting him to slide in with some quick words to cheer me up, but he just turned away and went back to observing himself in the tan harem pants he’d picked out, smoothing his hands along his hips and thighs as he puckered his lips and blew kisses at himself in the mirror.
“Alright then, I guess the baby sister has to play the big sister role. Ocean, Sweetie, please listen to me.”
“You can spare the metaphors of life and encouraging words. I’m simply saying that I feel old. I am at that point in my life where I look back on things… situations, relationships, friendships, events and I can’t believe they’ve happened.”
“We grow, we grow older. That’s life.”
“It’s depressing. Do you know that I’ve had acquaintances… friends… people that have been in my life for twenty years? There’s one girl that’s been in my life since I was two or three years old. Who the hell knows someone that long, that’s in our age range? You don’t meet friends like that until you hit twenty-five… or thirty. Oh God-”
I covered my mouth, sighing deeply as I looked in the mirror again. Immediately, I began to see wrinkles and lines. I saw myself aging rapidly. “I’m so close to thirty. I’m old, and I-”
“Haven’t done anything with your life, yeah, we know.”
We both looked at Justin as he dragged out the words, and he shrugged his shoulders before focusing back on the selfie he was trying to take. “Justin, please let her have her moment.”
“She can have it, Sahara. But she needs to realize that today is August 1st, and in thirty days, she will be twenty-five years old. There’s no turning back time, there’s nothing she can do to prevent it. Get over it, get used to it, thank God you’ve made it, and move on. It’s not even that deep.”
“But I am OLD.”

Justin sighed before turning and looking me dead in my eyes. “Let me tell you a little secret, Boo. You believe I’m the same age as you? I’m not; I’m thirty-three, and I look good as hell. Wanna know why? Because I don’t go through my life stressing over things that don’t even matter. We age, it’s life. Better be glad you’re black and that you don’t age like rotting banana. We expect things for ourselves, but things happen and we’re set back, it’s life. We’re not where we thought we’d be by the time we reach a certain age, it’s life. I thought I’d be a top movie star, A-List, by the time I turned thirty. But, I bombed auditions constantly. Then I found other passions and now I do whatever I want, whenever I want. You can either learn from your mistakes and setbacks, and keep pushing forward. Or, you can do like you’ve done for as long as I’ve known you, and bitch about how unfair it is that no one knows you because you choose to quit everyday. Choice is yours, and this is my last time speaking on it.”
He turned back to the mirror, quickly smiling before he snapped another selfie.
I just rolled my eyes, taking a seat in one of the empty chairs as I waited for him and Sahara to finish their stupid shopping. “Knew I should have kept my ass at home.”

The ride to pick up a quick meal from Sahara and I’s hometown, simple hamburger plates with homestyle fries, was silent and tension filled. I sat in the backseat, playing games on my phone as they talked on and on about all of their plans, special events, and everything else that kept them busy and paid.
Every so often they’d try to include me, but I had nothing of importance or value to bring to the conversation so I sat back ignoring them, pretending that I’d zoned out completely.

Once I was finally back in the comfort of my home, some six or seven hours after I was dragged out, I locked my doors and ran straight for my room.
My notebooks were right where I’d left them, four, all opened to clean pages with a pen sitting in the middle of one. After I stripped down to nothing but my bra and panties, I climbed to the center of my bed and spread each notebook around me. Grabbing my phone, I turned my music on and tried to get into a good mood and vibe, something to get that inspiration flowing.
Of course, nothing came to me, and of course, nothing but the realization of how much of a failure I am hit me. “I can’t even make myself write some simple shit. All these notebooks, for nothing. Pathetic.” I closed and tossed each one across my room, sighing before I fell back on my pillows and covered my face with my hands. “Why am I not good enough, why can’t I do anything?”
I was always taught not to question God, but when you’ve lived the way that I have… the questions kind of slip out on their own. There’s a mixture of sadness and anger each time I ask. “Why am I still here? What purpose do I have? That’s right, no purpose. Just a nothing, and a nobody that no one cares for.”
Taking a deep breath, I wiped away the few tears that began to slide down my face and pulled myself together; letting the music playing take me to a happier place. Travel The World (Love Uses Time) by KeKe Wyatt began and I mumbled along, finding myself wishing that singing had been the gift I was getting. The way I viewed my ‘gift’ and ability to write, I viewed it as a curse. A terrible curse. “Everybody else has the good side of it, and then there’s me. The flop, the failure, the screw up.”
My phone rang, cutting into the middle of the song just as KeKe was about to go in. I thought to ignore it, but since the tone was the one that I’d given my father, I quickly picked it up and slid to answer. “Hi Daddy.”
“What’s going on with you, Baby Girl?”
I cleared my throat, trying to even out then tone in my voice. “I’m not sure what you mean, Sir.”
“Haven’t talked to you since June, not that I haven’t been calling. I go on your social media and I see the statuses about you giving up. Sahara said she saw you today and that it’d been impossible to get you back in good spirits. What’s going on?”
I sighed deeply, wishing that people would just let me feel the way that I want to feel in peace. “Does it really matter what’s going on?”
“Yes it does. I don’t like when you get into these little moods, especially when you become unreachable. It makes me think you’ve gone and done something drastic.”
“Nice to know that you and everybody else feel that I’m going to kill myself. That’s just great!”
I sighed again, checking my tone after I realized that I’d yelled the last half of that sentence. “Sorry.”

He cleared his throat and I knew immediately where he was about to go. My father, like everyone else, believed that hearing nice words, most of which probably aren’t even their real feelings and thoughts, would make things all better. “Why can’t you see what others see in you?”
“Why can’t others just be honest and admit that they know the same thing that I know? That I’m not shit and will never be shit. Your other daughter ain’t shit, sorry you got a disappointment for a daughter.”
“I can’t. It’s the truth, and it’s been the truth and the sooner you and everybody else accepts that, the better things will be.” I looked at the clock on my nightstand, growing more annoyed. I wanted to fake like I had to get off the phone, but I don’t have anything going, and I’ve got nowhere else to be.
“I just don’t know what to tell you, Baby Girl. You’ve got to do better with those thoughts. You’ve got so much going for you. So much talent, an amazing God given talent…”
“Yeah, sure.”
My father cleared his throat, and instantly a picture of him shaking his head popped into my head. I could see the disappointment washing across his face, and I only wished that he finally got it through his head that he raised a pathetic loser. “I love you.”
And with that he hung up, leaving me to my thoughts and tears again.

I got up and picked up one of my notebooks, the one I used mainly for when I wrote depressing poems. It was nearly full, letting me know that it was time to buy another soon.
Falling back on my bed, I picked up the pen that’d almost gotten lost in my comforter and took a deep breath as I pressed the pen to the paper, watching as the ink bled through the clean pages a little before I finally wrote a title down.

A Mess :

Day one;

And the tears are falling uncontrollably.

I’ve lost my ability to keep myself composed in times like these.

I left that one as it was, incomplete and turned to another sheet, trying to force myself to dig deeper. You have a great gift. You’re a wonderful writer. You’re amazing! STOP DOUBTING YOURSELF.
I pressed the pen down the paper again, watching a little of the ink bleed through before I wrote another title and began writing the first thing that came to mind.

I Am (Part 1) :

I am

Alone, afraid, and always unsure of myself.

Wondering when that moment will come that I can

Look in the mirror and love myself.

Struggling to understand why it’s so hard to just

Believe in myself, support myself.

I sighed and ripped out both pages, balling them up before I tossed them across the room into the trashcan next to my small work desk.


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The 25th (Part 1 of 6) by Cortney Joseph

O N E | Realization

So, here I stand, looking in my full length mirror as a complete mess stares back at me; barefaced with my cocoa brown skin looking dry, my jet black hair all over my head, wearing raggedy pajamas I’ve had for far too long, and a scar that has been present on my left cheek since I was about ten years old. Assessing my appearance, and my life as it stands now.
Where I am, where I thought I would be, and where I want to be.
Certainly not in this small house I’d been left by an estranged relative that claimed I was their favorite niece, and certainly not in the state that had presented so much of the pain, strife, and struggle in my life.

Twenty-four years, eleven months, thirteen hours, ten minutes. Sad how I can easily dissect the time like that, but… the closer it gets to my birthday, the more I stress. “I know you used to have hopes and dreams, goals and ambitions, but what have you got now? Nothing.” I just happened to look up at the wall moments later; 2:26 p.m.
More time wasted, another minute older. I shook my head, moving around a little as Missing You by Chance The Rapper played over the speakers I had hooked up to my phone; thinking on how I’ve done absolutely nothing with my life.
My sister, the basketball star. Started in high school, then college, now she’s in the WNBA. She’s younger than me, the baby.
My brother, the musician. Self taught; drummer, guitarist, pianist. Touring the world with his favorite artists. Artists I don’t listen to, personally, but he’s still out in the world traveling. He’s younger than me, the middle child.
And then there’s me … the artist. Broke, struggling, with no support from those who used to claim they couldn’t wait to see me shine. I’m the oldest, and a nothing.

The phone rang, jarring me from my thoughts as my song was cut short. I took one deep breath before walking over and sitting down on my bed, picking my phone up from it’s resting place on my nightstand.
Swiping to answer, without even thinking about it, I began to regret it as soon as I heard the voice of my best friend.
I know, I know; bad thing to say about my best friend, but the truth of the matter is that he has a way of making me feel worse about everything. Even though that is never his intention. When you’re an overly pessimistic person who believes you’re heading nowhere in life, constant optimism from someone else with their life in total order can piss you off to the max.
At least, that’s how it is for me. Maybe that’s just the jealousy I often feel.
I cleared my throat, trying to speak with a more upbeat tone in my already low and deep voice. “Hey Jujubee.”
“Ocean! I miss you, and it’s been entirely too long since we’ve spoken to one another.”
Justin, or Jujubee as I’ve called him affectionately since he first introduced himself to me with a box of the candy in his hand, oozed total happiness and confidence as he spoke each word clearly. He, like me, loved to make sure words were pronounced in full to avoid any type of misunderstanding. “I miss you too, but you know that I hate talking on the phone.”
“And texting. And replying to twitter mentions, facebook posts, and emails. I know Ocean, I know. You also hate leaving your house to actually visit people, even those that only live ten to fifteen minutes away, like myself, but I won’t hold that against you ‘cause I know that you do love and care for the people you ignore.”
I smirked, although he couldn’t see me, and pulled my knees to my chest after moving to the center of my bed. “In all fairness, you’re never home for me to visit so why bother leaving the house?”
“Because My Love, there is a whole world out there for you to explore. Have you even gotten back out there to promote your work?! I have yet to hear about you or see you posting picture from spoken word readings or things of that nature. Hell, I watch Verses and Flow season after season, waiting to see you on that purple stage showing the world what you’ve got!”
“Psh, ain’t nobody trying to hear me speak about nothing. Most people don’t even see me, so how will they HEAR me?”
He cleared his throat, and I could tell that he was taking a moment to think and choose his words carefully.

That was Justin. Always had to tell me about myself, but he never wanted to say anything that would seriously hurt or upset me. He’d often told me that my friendship was the only one that mattered to him, and while he would always tell me the truth, he would choose the way he said things just to protect what we have.
I’m sensitive, and can’t take too much without being easily offended. Or so I’ve been told.
“You’re so basic, Ocean.”
“Excuse me?”
He cleared his throat again. “Everyone knows that you are my best friend, you’re my heart, and you mean the absolute world to me. So you listen carefully to what I am about to say, okay?”
I sighed, closing my eyes as I pinched the bridge of my nose with my free hand. “Okay.”
“Ocean, you are by far one of the most talented individuals I have met in my life. When I say that you are basic, I am not talking about your looks or the way that you carry yourself. That shit isn’t what matters at the moment. What does matter is that you have a gift, a strong gift, that you have been blessed with and you’re just sitting back, letting it waste away as if there’s nothing good that can come from using it.”
“Well, nothing. Well, my ass. Ocean, everybody knows that I couldn’t give two fucks or a rat’s ass about poetry. Just give me my music, and a few good movies, and I am content. However, by coming across you and your poetry… your art, you have shown me a piece of something I was missing out on. I personally don’t enjoy everyone that screams they are an ‘artist’, but I enjoy you. I adore you, and I am sick and tired of sitting back and listening while you whine and bellyache that you’re not getting anywhere. It’s your own fault you’re not getting anywhere, and all because you don’t think you’re good enough when honestly… you’re fan-fucking-tastic.”
“You complain all day about missing opportunities, but you never stop to think or realize that it’s your own fault you miss these opportunities. I send you all types of links; everything possible from people looking for script writers, to open mics and everything in between. Hell, I hooked you up with this dude that was looking for a writer for his album. You passed on that ‘cause you were scared and now he’s making his come up with big time singers. You take one glance at any opportunity passed your way, if you even bother to open the links at all, and say ‘eh, well they wouldn’t like my style anyway’.” That was true. “The truth is, Ocean, you don’t know what the hell these people would like. You don’t give yourself the chance to showcase what you’re all about. AND, even if some of them don’t like what you have to offer, someone else will. It might not come as fast as you want it to, but Ocean, your time will come. You have to work for it. You can’t do the bare minimum and then sit back and complain because you get knocked down on the first try. Better yet, you can’t complain when you quit before you even try the first damn time.”
“All I ever hear is ‘no one came to listen to it, no one bought my book, no one downloaded or purchased my poetry album, so I guess it sucks. I suck. I quit’.”
“Day, after day, after day. And I’m sorry to snap like this-” He was getting angrier by the second, his voice going up and down as he stopped every few seconds to pop his mouth or catch his breath. “However, you do this constantly. I used to always feel sad, always felt bad for you and I would try my hardest to keep you happy, or help you look at the bright side of things.”
I finally opened my eyes, sensing where this was going. I was losing him. “But?”
“I’m out of the arrows and directions that I used to point you to the bright side of things. I don’t think it’s for me to help you see how great you are, and how you need to keep pushing-” I lost him. “I, like so many others can keep telling you but you still won’t believe it. You’ve gotta do that for yourself now. Whether you get knocked down, or knock your ownself down with the negative thoughts, you’ve got to figure out how to pick yourself back up and keep pushing forward.”

I sighed, refusing to speak on the matter while hoping he’d just changed the subject. “Anyway, how are the plans for your birthday coming along? The big twenty-five, aren’t you excited?!” The way his voice went up to a higher register made me nauseous and all I wanted to do in that moment was jump through the my phone and slap him.
I’m turning twenty-five; no, I’m not excited. No, I’m not happy. I’m petrified; my life is ending before I’ve even had the chance to live it. “Please don’t mention that, or the horrible age I’m turning. Ugh.”
I could just see Justin shaking his head, balling up his free fist; both fists if his phone was resting between his cheek and his shoulder. “There you go again; Negative Nancy. You are blessed! Twenty-five years-”
“Of screwing up and getting nowhere. What is there to celebrate or be happy about, Justin? Really?”
“Ugh, I am not doing this with you today, Ocean, nope. I need to go and get ready for work, but let me leave you with something.”
“August 31st, 2015, at 1:15 a.m., I hope you truly thank God for bringing you this far. People who complain about getting older, people like yourself, always seem to forget that there are people who haven’t even made it as far as you have. I love you, Ocean, and I’ll see you soon.”

And with that, after I murmured a sad goodbye out, Justin hung up, leaving me to feel like the fool that I am.
But, I can’t help the way I am. It’s not my fault that I can’t see this supposed talent in myself. It’s not my fault that I have difficulty believing that I’ll ever get anywhere. I mean, what else am I supposed to believe after nearly fifteen years of working my ass off? Still where I was when I started, with not a drop of recognition for my work in sight. What else am I supposed to think?
` I looked around my bedroom, noting how the bare white walls that I thought were perfect suddenly looked plain and dull. Everything in my bedroom was white; from the walls, to my dressers, comforters and sheets, jewelry boxes, small furniture, and the carpet. Dull; much like my life. Not a single spot, nothing showing that something exciting or unexpected had happened. No pictures, no splash of color, no pretty accents, nothing but white. Blank, empty.
With that realization came to understanding that my best friend was right. I’m going to be twenty-five in thirty-one days, and I’m stuck where I don’t want to be.
Something has to change, and fast.


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