Today, Yvonne Williams is a 22-year-old thinker.
Everyone thinks, but she is literally stuck in her head.
Always in deep thought, always dreaming. She’s not hopeless, she’s hopeful, contemplating her tomorrows and thinking about how things will get better. She dreams about her kids, her career, her wedding, her future sexy black BMW 3 Series Coupe.
Yvonne is a dreamer. Her favorite poem is entitled Dreams by Langston Hughes. She has it taped to the door of her bedroom and ingrained in her memory:
Hold fast to dreams
For when dreams die
Life is a broken winged bird that cannot fly
Hold fast to dreams
For when dreams go
Life is like a barren field frozen with snow.
Yvonne sits in her bedroom in New Jersey, typing on her ancient Dell Inspiron laptop. She and her boyfriend got in an argument the night before. He said he didn’t “trust” her.
Her closest friends are words, so instead of phoning a friend she relies on her fingers to type how she is feeling, she lets it all out via Microsoft Word and suddenly feels better. She contemplates emailing it to Isaiah, but decides that is a bad idea. In the past she’s written him countless letters and emails but received no reply, it’s time she stops.
Isaiah and Yvonne have been dating for two years. They met at Hampton University. It wasn’t love at first sight, matter-of-fact he didn’t ask her out until four months after they began talking. He wanted to make sure it was worth it; and he would tell her that it was hard for him “to let anyone in.” They began dating the following February. Valentine’s Day to be exact. She thought that little fact made them so boring and predictable, cliché and dumb.
Growing up Yvonne was the middle child of a pastor and Assistant Principal. Her mom worked in the South Bronx and her father’s church was in St. Albans, Queens. Her older sister Renee is three years older than her, and her brother Nathan is two years younger.
She was stuck in the middle but never felt like it. She was always responsible and rarely got in trouble. Her sister on the other hand was the main trouble-maker. From a tongue-piercing at the age of 14 to stealing her parent’s car and getting in an accident at 17, Renee gave her parents a run for their money. Yvonne and Renee shared a room together until Yvonne went away to college, and up until that day they did not get along. “Distance makes the heart fonder,” some say, and that was the truth for these sisters.
Growing up Yvonne would complain, calling her sister evil and telling her parents that Renee was a bitch whose goal was to ruin her life. But as they got older Renee seemed less evil, just different. Yvonne was easy-going and passive, Renee was adventurous and challenging.
Nathan was the usual younger brother. A pest at times, a snitch at times, but always her greatest confidant. He was the smartest out of the three Williams children. He was always getting excellent grades and on the Principal’s List. He wanted to be a lawyer, so for practice his sisters fought him over silly things on a daily basis. To block out the noise, their mom would rush to her room and slam her door when the fighting began. Ten minutes later Nathan was so angry that his dark brown skin would turn radish-red and he’d rush out of the room before he was overly tempted to hit one of his sisters. Renee and Yvonne would laugh and make fun of him. This was their way of making him tougher.
Yvonne was bossy, stuck in her ways, stubborn like a bull but as sensitive as a baby. At a drop of a dime she could cry, one word of discouragement from someone she loved and bring on the waterworks.
“Crybaby!” her younger brother would yell as he would tease her. It was the truth, so his words didn’t faze her at all. She’d just slam her bedroom door in his face, rush over to her drawer and pull out her diary or book of poetry.
Writing = her therapy. There was no need to pay a shrink.
In the fall of 2003 Yvonne went through one of her most dramatic experiences… moving. The Williams family moved from Jamaica, Queens to Pearl River, NY. She had never heard of the town. Matter-of-fact, all that she knew about upstate New York was the state’s capital – the city of Albany, and Westchester County, “where the rich people and ball players lived.”
Yvonne didn’t take the move too well. It was fifty minutes outside of the city, in a county called Rockland, and she knew no one there. The only plus side was that her new school, Pearl River High School, had a football team and marching band. It made her feel as though she entered some kind of teen movie.
It wasn’t hard for her to make friends, the school was diverse, and she found a lot of people who were also from the city and they instantly bonded. But when she got home after school it was a different story.
Their house sat on an acre of land; they had more grass than their entire block on 174th street in Queens. Deer pranced in the yard, and wild turkey would pass through, pooping and making noise. Her father thought it was “scenic and relaxing,” but Nathan and Yvonne called it “a beautiful prison.”
For the first year in Rockland, she’d get home from school and go straight to her room. She’d lock her door and cry or complain to herself, hoping that her sister wouldn’t enter the room. She missed her friends from back “home,” Imani, Abby, Ashley and Henry.
After crying for a while she’d pull out her book of poetry. Her Aunt Marie bought it for her, and the book meant so much to Yvonne. It was brown and gold, and on the cover was a black woman in chic African garb, written next to her was “She who dies with the most shoes, wins!” Her aunt had written her a message inside the front cover:
To Yvonne, a very special young lady in my life with “much” talent and a very unique gift from God… Writing! I love you more each day! Love your Auntie (aka Godmother) Write on beautiful!!!
Every time she was feeling lonely she’d pull out her journal and write whatever would come to mind.
On this day in August, she wrote the umpteenth piece of her longest poem ever, Homesick.
Homesick pt. 34
Nobody even cares.
I’m stuck in this small room
Surrounded by four inimical walls
Forced to be with people I never knew
Laying here solely with tears streaming down my face
Holding in fond memories that I can’t erase
Memories of my old life in the city
I sit here and wonder: “Why do I have to be here?”
M mother calls me selfish
My friend calls me grumpy
‘Cause I don’t laugh when they laugh
And I ruin a “family moment.”
They send me to my room alone
While the day turns to dusk
And the night soon draws near
I look out the window towards the sky
And remember counting how many animals I see
With my good old friend Abby.
I can’t stop crying
I can’t continue on this way
This house I’m in is not my home
I’m holding my old key
Trying to calm down
Yet I can’t understand why no one understands now
It’s about 11 months since that terrible day
When all my things were packed away
They took my life and flushed it down the drain
And packed up my emotions and went on their merry way.
I don’t care if this house is bigger
Thanks for thinking of what’s good for me
Thanks for making a better living
But this here is not my home
This is not where I belong.
Mom and dad, remember where I took my first step?
Remember where I said my first word?
Mom, do you remember where you lived for so long?
The home is where the heart is, they say
Well my heart is in Queens to stay
This house is a façade to me
There is no love and no memories.
How do you take a city girl and move her to the suburbs?
How do you not let her visit her friends?
Is it so hard for you to see that I’m hurting?
Just let me go back
Let me say my final goodbyes
Let me go to the place I love the most
To the place my life seems to have died.
August 19, 2004
Sitting on her bed in New Jersey, Yvonne grabs her book of poetry from her desk. She decides to go through it and edit some of her earlier work.
‘Dramatic much?’ she says to herself and laughs.
The poem doesn’t rhyme, nor follow any particular beat. She can tell from the smudges on the page and watermarks that she was crying when she wrote this poem. Typical Yvonne… “The Crybaby.”
She reads the last line of one of her poems aloud, “To the place my life seems to have died.”
Now 22 and fresh out of college she realizes that her life didn’t “die” when her family moved from Queens, it was just the ending of one chapter of her life.
Return on December 9, 2011 for Chapter 3 of my novel Stuck Inside.
Thanks for reading!
© 2011 Ivanna M. Elliott, Edgewater, New Jersey
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means without written permission from the author.