malcolm slaughter

To Africa

Malcolm Slaughter

ISSUE NO. 2 • ARE WE THERE YET?

To Africa,

People still think you’re a country. I was entertaining some Facebook posts against my better judgement and not only did someone call you a country, they didn’t believe me when I corrected them. That same person also told me that Egypt was not a part of Africa. Apparently, Egyptians are “too pretty” to belong to you.

To Africa,

When I was younger but old enough to understand, I didn’t want to visit you. CNN made you look like a place that would inflict me with terminal diseases the second my lungs inhaled your air. Mainstream media didn’t focus on the rare, continent specific and generated maladies that you and Africans, “created”. Instead, they convinced me that I’d be privy to, and surrounded by, and even a target of, gunfire from impromptu coup d’etat’s that have been raging since King Leopold and The Crown left the continent. Why would I want to visit you, only to die?

To Africa,

When I was about 12, I began to tell people that I was mixed with Native American. In Social Studies class, we looked at a map of Indian reservations and there used to be a huge Native American population and settlement in New Jersey. I had long braids at the time, my mom was lightskin, and my hair was fairly “combable” so, it only made sense that I was Native American and Black, so that’s what I said when people asked, “what's your nationality”. Cherokee to be exact. The prize of being mixed with anything non-African and being “light skin” far outweighed the scrutiny of being an “African booty scratcher”. That title was reserved for the Nigerians, Ghanaians, Kenyans, Sudanese, and Ugandans, to name a few. But, if someone was from Egypt, Ethiopia, Morocco, or Camp Verde, people celebrated. Everyone would complement them on their complexion, their features and ask them about Islam, having long straight hair, pyramids, and King Tut; and I did too. As long as I didn’t get grouped with the dark Africans, and I befriended the light skin Africans, I knew I’d be more successful in my social life. And judging by the consistent portrayals of a distal, dark, barbaric, otherworldly and uncivilized Africa, it became necessary that I distance myself as far away as I can from you, the motherland, if I wanted to be successful in life.    

To Africa,

One day I was watching the world cup, at an Irish pub, in Germany, during my first, and only, contract with the US Army, and I was vehemently rooting for Cameroon. They were playing against a European country and although they didn’t have a chance to win, I was ten toes down. I even found myself locating similarities in the players and myself. I thought about how I would look if I were born in Africa. And how my kids would look if my wife was from Africa too. My phone vibrated and it was some picture mail from Nassim, she was from Camp Verde, and she is easily the prettiest girl I’ve ever dated. I smiled and tapped my friend at the bar with me and said, “those East African women are the best, I’m telling you”. I promised Nassim I’d come visit Africa any time with her, all she had to do was say the word.

To Africa,

By the time I accepted you completely, and rid myself of most stereotypes that curtailed our relationship, I then realized that I can barely afford a fuckin ticket. How could a continent alleged to be so destitute charge me 1700 round trip? I’m not saying it's your fault, but damn.

To Africa,

I’m not Native American, by the way, I’m African-American. If there wasn’t so much conspiracy around Ancestry.com and 123andMe then I might’ve packaged some of my DNA off to find out where exactly in Africa my ancestors were stolen from. (Apparently the government is using our DNA samples and conducting their own research aside from finding out our origins, so, I’ll pass).

To Africa,

I’m sorry for all of these excuses. I’ll be there soon enough.

Late Night When You Need My Love

Malcolm Slaughter

ISSUE NO. 1 • To Have a heart


I wrote this piece to let the world know about addition by subtraction. I wouldn't be who I am, and where I am today had I not learned how to let things go.

I remember you gave me these beads that were from your grandparents, allegedly. According to Brazilian tradition, these beads were known to “keep away the bad spirits” in ways we, human beings, were “unable” to. Some people would hang them over their headboards, some in their cars, or, wherever people considered to be their “safe space”. After a long time of leaving the beads in my drawer somewhere, I put them on the outside of the door handle of my room and ironically, I haven’t seen you since.   

I remember telling you I loved you before you went to Ayana’s house. Apparently, this was a “can’t miss” game night and guys were prohibited from coming. That was unfortunate because I had plans for you – or, at least that’s what I told you to make you stay. But, despite my efforts, there would be no me, you, Jameson and a couple climaxes. Instead, it was me and Family Feud reruns and arguments with 13-year-olds on Call of Duty who are probably Trump supporters now judging by the ease and volume in their usage of the word “nigger”. I offered one last proposal for you to stay, “let me eat you until you cry” - you decided to leave anyway. For some odd reason, I didn’t hear from you until 10:42 pm the next night, I know because I didn’t get an hour of sleep.

Sometimes we’d fuck so much that my penis would hurt my entire shift at work. Our energy was deadass crazy. I remember we made these makeshift “beds” on my floor that consisted of 4 layers of blankets because my headboard was too noisy and my twin size bed could not accommodate your “yoga poses” or “things you learned from being a cheerleader”. I told you I loved you at the end of our conquests every time. Sometimes you’d say it back. Sometimes I’d text you on my way home that I loved you after a really nasty session, you’d send me a smiley face back and some picture mail. Now that’s love.

I remember we had this journal that we exchanged every time we saw each other. We’d write in it, hang out, exchange it, then read it once we left each other’s company. Communication was difficult for you, so I suggested that writing how you felt could quell your anxiety. It kind of worked, surprisingly, and we stayed consistent in journaling our relationship, the good and bad. We did find difficulty, though, talking to each other face to face. I guess we were all out of shit to say, and maybe that’s why we fucked like wild animals. My mother and I never talked about anything of substance either so I figured this had to be love, this felt like home.

I remember sitting in Dunkin Donuts on Morris avenue listening to American Wedding by Frank Ocean on repeat for 3 hours. I know it was three hours because that’s how long you were ignoring my calls. I called Ayana, only because you said you were there, and she candidly admitted she hadn’t seen you in days, that’s when I knew.

My mom told me the first day that she met you that she didn’t like you at all. I came to your defense and charged my mother with not wanting to see me happy with anyone else. She said she didn’t care about you, and I told my mom that she barely cared about me. Offended, she went down the list of bills she’s paid since I’ve been born.

-that’s what parents are supposed to do mom

- no, we’re not, my mother didn’t do that.

-your mother wasn’t a good example of motherhood

-well, what is the role of parenting then

- get out of my face Malcolm.

I grabbed my hoody and my keys and I came to see you. For whatever reason, even though we hadn’tt had sex in a couple days, you didn’t want to come outside. You told me your “mom was on some bullshit” so I sat outside for another 5 minutes before I drove to the dark area in the nearest park so I could roll some weed up. This was before the notebook, but if it was my turn to submit an entry I would’ve written some overly dramatic, hopeless romantic shit like “yo, they don’t wanna see us happy”. I called you again before I went home, you answered, then hung up. I called you back and it went straight to voicemail. Apparently, your phone was acting up. A week later my mom bought you a new blackberry. Evidently, that one had the propensity to malfunction at certain times also.

It was thanksgiving 2011, a year and a half into our fling and it was day zero (for me) of us not being together anymore. I got a job offer in South Carolina and after a year of unemployment, I packed my shit and left without telling you. Once I got to my dad’s house, it really sunk in that it was over. I called you, against my better judgment, and you actually answered. I updated you on shit you didn’t ask about and then I told you that I missed you for the first time in a while. You laughed. I can tell that laugh caught you by surprise. I shed a tear before you could even notice you were conveying the wrong emotion.

-aww

-that’s all you have to say…

-Malcolm, you know I love you.

- idk why but I love you too and I miss you…

- same, can I call you back?

- in the middle of me saying how I feel?

- you’re the one who fuckin left me, high and dry, I don’t have to explain shit to you.

You called me a couple days later and asked if you could order some dominos and put it on my credit card. I laughed, then cried, then hung up. You didn’t hear me cry, though, and that was the last time we ever spoke.  

If I had you, I wouldn’t have my degree. I can go down the list of my shortcomings; and things I’ve done wrong, and names that I’ve called you, and hugs I didn’t give you, and kisses that didn’t land on your forehead, and attention that should’ve been yours; but if I had you, I wouldn’t have anything else. I’m not sure if I can call it a bad romance. I’ve been aligned with a higher purpose since we’ve disconnected - addition by subtraction.

Heartbreak is the necessary rite of passage for a boy. I awkwardly advise young men to be vulnerable and be destroyed when they ask me about love. It’s important to learn about themselves and their limits in love in new ways. I sometimes regret saying that though, only because after you broke the news to me, via text, after months of arguments, Twitter battles and speculation, I thought about killing myself for years. And I’m not quite sure if that’s exactly what I want people to feel. That feeling hasn’t left me since.