Posts by Nortina S.

Nortina Simmons has been writing since the age of three, inspired by her songwriting, guitar-playing father. Her stories and poems never quite fell into the category of ‘love.’ Love in the real world has restrictions, is wrapped in pain. Through her writing, she explores the characteristics of love the hopeless romantics remain ignorant to. Every ‘love story’ has a curse within. Nortina has stories and poems published in Agave Magazine, FishFood Magazine, Ceases, Cows, Meat for Tea: The Valley Review, fēlan, Twisted Vine Literary Arts Journal, and Minerva Rising.

I wish I were married so I wouldn’t feel so lonely at night.

Hearing myself say it aloud, I realize how ridiculous it sounds.

Not only because God didn’t create marriage to fix the obvious deep-seeded personal issues I have with myself but also because, well, there are a lot of married people in the world who, in fact, still feel lonely.

And I gotta say, that is much, much worse.

Imagine. Me, lying in bed. It’s half-past midnight. The ceiling fan spins relentlessly overhead, shooting clouds of years-old dust off its blades never cleaned. Yet I’m dripping with sweat, my clothes soaked through, because I lie in wait underneath the fifteen-pound quilt that was a wedding gift from Mom—a tradition passed down through the generations—originally stitched together by great, great grandmother’s own brown, calloused hands. I stare at the empty pillow to my right and the absence of my husband’s form, wondering if he’ll come home tonight, worrying that he’s gotten into an accident, or the pants of that slut from the gym. Because it’s always a slut from the gym, right? Or the store, or, heaven forbid, church…

Yes, there are worse things than singleness, and I wouldn’t wish that feeling on anyone. Not even the woman who was lucky enough to marry the ex love of my life. Though, we both know she wasn’t that lucky, and sometimes I sit up at night and wonder…

Is their marriage happy?

Does she often times feel just as lonely as I?

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If Emily Dickinson Were a 20-Something Single Black Female in 2018

I’m a homebody. I’m not ashamed to admit it. I like staying in, binge watching my favorite TV shows, putting on a good movie or kicking my feet up to read a good book (or write one). I like to cook, look up new recipes to try, tend to my balcony herb garden, take long walks on the trail behind my apartment complex (not too far from home but just enough “outside” to say that I’ve been outside).

Some may call me boring—I really don’t give a shit—a few years ago, that might have hurt my feelings. Others may wonder why someone who is still in her 20’s (albeit, the upper end of them) doesn’t do more. There’s so many exciting things happening outside those four walls. Get out, girl.

And I do, but not always…

And lately, not ever.

My tendency to be a recluse has gotten a bit extreme in the last few weeks. One Saturday, I spent the entire day in my bed. Seriously, from sunup to sundown, I lay, fell in and out of sleep a few times, but the majority of the day was spent staring at my rotating ceiling fan, at the parking lot outside my bedroom window, or at Facebook or Instagram when I got too bored. The only times I moved was to use the bathroom, and even that wasn’t often because I hadn’t eaten a thing all day and definitely didn’t drink anything, not until after dark, and even then only a yogurt cup and some fruit juice because I didn’t feel like cooking, also, I needed desperately to go to the grocery store.

I had never been that lazy before in my life, and it wasn’t like that work week was particularly busy or hard or overwhelming. I really had no excuse. And yet, Sunday was no different.

Sometimes I fear that my work schedule enables this debilitating behavior. Every other week, I work from home three straight days. When I first started, I thought the schedule was awesome! Those weeks would feel like extended weekends! I could truly relax from the comfort of my own home or even have longer vacations, though I’d still technically be working.

It’s nice not having to go into the office, not having to strip down your closet looking for something to wear. It’s nice being able to sleep in a little longer because all you have to do to clock in is turn on your computer. Shoot, you can even work from your bed! When assignments are slow, you can turn on the TV (of course, there’s a reason why daytime TV is called daytime TV, so you’ll probably turn on your favorite streaming service or put on a movie instead), or play your music out loud and sing and dance to it too because no one’s watching! Maybe you’ll finally write some poetry or fiction again and stop using writer’s block as the excuse for why everything you produce sucks. If you never have time to cook during the week, you can actually have a real breakfast. More than just coffee and toast (OK, let’s be serious, just coffee). You can scramble some eggs. Hell, go all out and make yourself a three-egg omelet with all the fillings. Throw in some pancakes or a side of potatoes or grits while you’re at it. And lunch can be more than just a sandwich or chips (or just chips…nah, let’s face it, how many of us actually take a lunch at work?) You can even start on dinner early, test out that new vegan recipe you found online.

But as convenient as working from home sounds, it can truly turn you into a hermit, if you’re not careful.

I was not careful. I became a hermit.

Last week, for three straight days, I went without washing, I barely ate, I let food go bad and my trash (which I hadn’t taken out in weeks) became infested with fruit flies, I saw zero rays of sunshine, didn’t even step outside to water my plants, and by Saturday night as I lay on the couch watching Love Don’t Cost A Thing (with Nick Cannon and Christina Milian), I realized I was starting to smell (well, I was funky before then, but it was really starting to get bad).

 Damn, girl, no wonder you’re fucking single!

So I got up, showered, put some clothes on, went to Ruby Tuesday’s (after having a semi panic attack on the highway when I took a wrong turn—recluse problems), sat at the empty bar, ordered some dinner and a drink, and after I was almost done with my food, the bartender asked me, “So what do you like to do for fun?”

My heart sank, and that crippling anxiety I used to get whenever I had to admit to someone just how truly boring I am started to rise up within me.

“Honestly,” I said to her, “I just need to get out of the house.”

Honestly.

New Job . . . Who Dis?

As we approach Mother’s Day this weekend, many college students are also graduating from school, getting ready to venture out into a whole new world of adulthood.

Watching them, I am reminded of my own journey . . .

Let’s rewind time to five years ago . . .

It’s Saturday, December 14, 2013. Commencement Day. I’ve just graduated from college with a BA in English and a concentration in Creative Writing and Diverse Literature. I’m surrounded by family and friends, all asking me how I plan to conquer the world.

And despite some saying that I need to marry a rich husband if I ever want to pursue my dreams of becoming a published author . . .

that I have a one in a million chance of ever getting published . . .

or that I should find a day job; writers these days don’t get paid—I can’t make a living being a writer . . .

I tell them what an accomplished writer once told me three and a half years earlier at my Freshman orientation:

You’re already broke. So major in your passion.

Since I was three years old, I’ve put pencil to paper. I’ve written stories, poems, song lyrics, skits, talk shows for my stuffed animals! And now, after following the advice of someone else who majored in his passion, diploma in hand, I maintained my dream that I wanted to become a published author.

Shortly after graduating, I started my own blog, Lovely Curses, sharing old poems and stories I’d written in college, along with some newer ones, and built up quite the following. I began to submit to literary magazines, and by 2015, I had 8 short stories and poems circulating either in print or online.

But I had a problem. Despite following my passion. I was still broke. Every time I announced a new publication, the question always followed: Are you getting paid?

In recognition? Yes. Monetarily? No.

Slowly the doubt started to rise. What’s the point in doing all of this if I’m not making any money? I had moved back in with the folks. I was working a menial job in fast food while fishing for my passion, and although some tugged on the line and nibbled at the bait, the final decision was always the same: You just don’t have enough experience.

I started to wonder if I had done enough in school. Should I have applied for an internship? I did have an on campus job in student media, but should I have pursued the divisions that would’ve guaranteed me a job—marketing, the newspaper—instead of the more artsy literary magazine?

But that was my passion.

Eventually I’d found a job in Corporate America, thanks to parental connections. It got me out of fast food, thankfully, but it wasn’t fulltime, and it wasn’t my dream.

It was only supposed to last until I found my dream . . . but I was there well over three years.

Stuck in a job I hated, with little to no mobility within the company, working with people who, most days, I couldn’t stand. A job that, day after day, mocked my intelligence with meaningless “busy work” tasks that any teenager could do had it not involved keeping certain things confidential.

I wanted out. I considered going back to minimum wage, going back to school. I looked for ways to make side money—monetizing my blog, creating products to sell—none came to fruition, because the truth is I’ve never been good at selling anything. I can’t even sell an $8 barbeque plate to church folk for a Labor Day cookout.

I remained tight-lipped whenever someone told me I wasn’t pounding the pavement hard enough, that I was just settling, that maybe I should apply for this job just to have a “job.”

When the end of 2017 arrived, I looked back on my life since graduation, and the depression overwhelmed me. I felt as if I was frozen in time. I had accomplished nothing since school (I’d slacked off in the job search after getting turned down so many times; I’d stopped submitting to literary magazines; I took frequent blogging hiatuses). I looked at kids my age, older, and younger, and feared that they were miles ahead of me, fearlessly conquering the world while I remained trapped inside a box.

Maybe I have settled, I thought. Maybe I have given up.

I needed to revisit my passion—writing, editing, publishing, creating for the masses.

Don’t settle for something that’s just going to make me money, I reminded myself. I’m already broke, so pursue my passion, do what I love.

I was more aggressive in my job search. I bulked up my resume with things I’d done (though self-doubt had made me forget because I had gotten paid very little or not at all) over the years—freelance writing, editing my church’s monthly magazine, becoming a beta reader, proofreading a full-length manuscript—and finally someone bit the bait. Finally someone tugged on the line. Finally I received an offer!

And just like that, my entire life changed.

The job was in a new city, which meant I’d have to move out of Mama’s house, and I had just under two weeks to do it.

I frantically searched for apartments in the area. How much were rent and bills? Did I make enough? I sought to buy the bare essentials for furniture like a bed, a couch, a dining table and some chairs. Did I have enough closet space that I didn’t need a dresser? I collected toiletries, kitchen supplies. I packed everything I could fit into my tiny little red Hyundai and drove an hour and a half up the highway to my new place, new job, and new life.

Although getting acquainted with a new environment was stressful, I was more excited about my job. What experiences would this new assignment bring me? It’s not in the literary arts, but it is in academics, and I’ll still be doing my passion—writing, editing. It would give me the experience I needed to eventually pursue something more to my liking. But would I enjoy it, or would it become just another means to make money while also driving me crazy?

Almost three months later, and although the journey here was bumpy at times, I couldn’t be happier!

I finally have a job doing what I majored in while in college. My passion.

And I actually like it! Of course I do; it’s my passion!

I’ve risen from the statistical mud pit of degree-holding millennials who can’t find work and have become a perpetual student, reading and learning new subjects while I edit the language for others to read, understand, and learn.

What English major could ask for a better job?!

It’s only uphill from here, I pray.

. . .

Now, Mama says, if only she had a man . . .

Single . . . Mingle Me Not