For Lulu

·         Nina Simone

·         Yellow

·         Charleston, SC

I am deserving of all the good things in life.

I repeated this mantra in my head over and over as I laid in a hammock steps away from the Atlantic Ocean, eyes closed, one hand resting on my abdomen, the other over my heart as I fought to regulate my breathing. I'd awakened an hour ago, abruptly jarred from my slumber as my recurring nightmare plagued my mind once again. I sat in the pitch-black room of my rented vacation house before venturing out to the backyard to take respite in the hammock.

The waves lapping onto the sandy beach always managed to tamp down my anxieties better than any of the exercises that my therapist had recommended. Kellee thought I was insane for spending much of my time in this hammock, but it had become a safe haven for me. The only place that I could quiet my thoughts and release the overwhelming urges to walk directly into the ocean never to return.

Six months ago, I had everything that I thought I ever wanted. A doting partner, a bun in my metaphorical oven, and the beginnings of what I believed would be the perfect life. Then, swiftly and suddenly all these things were taken from me in rapid succession. A late term miscarriage led to the eventual breakdown of my relationship which led to an eventual breakdown of my mental constitution. After spending three months on suicide watch, I was released from the hospital into the care of the only person who'd always been there for me.

Despite all the many ways that I let her down, Kellee remained in my corner through it all. Even at the sacrifice of her relationship with another of our close friends, Emerson. Well..I should say formerly close friend, that is. I suppose sleeping with her fiancé behind her back and getting pregnant by him wasn't quite the way to maintain a close friendship with someone. In my defense, Robert was the one who came to me and despite all my greatest attempts to rebuff his advances, he eventually wore me down.

What was supposed to be a one-time thing wore on into a torrid, illicit affair complicated by pregnancy. Robert's family was very traditional, so I knew that once I found out that I was carrying his child, his and Emerson's wouldn't be strong for much longer. I wish I could say that I was sorry for ruining that relationship, but honestly? In the aftermath, I did Emerson a favor. Last I heard she was dating a great guy who was her perfect match, unlike Robert. They were mismatched from jump, but she was so enamored with his...charms that there was nothing I could say about him that wouldn't seem like I was being a hater.

But, that was neither here nor there at this point. They were both in my past—Emerson rightfully angry, dismissed me a couple years ago and Robert? He was more recent Black history. He couldn't handle my implosion at the loss of our child and made the decision to consciously uncouple with me after the third attempt to take my life. The wounds left behind from that separation were still raw to the touch, which inspired Kellee to reach out to her Aunt Sandra who owned beachfront property in Charleston, South Carolina. She had a week gap between renters and graciously allowed us to stay here in the interim.

I was loath to come, thinking that a vacation was the last thing that I needed, but my therapist encouraged it. She said that the change of pace and scenery would be amenable to my healing. So, I bought the flight, traveled with Kell and tried my damn hardest to enjoy this time away. Unfortunately—for me and for Kellee—the only time I was at peace was when I laid in this damned hammock.

I opened my eyes to see that the sun was currently ascending, its emergence bathing the sky in an explosion of pinks, oranges and yellows. Silently I counted down from ten in my head and by the time I reached one, the familiar strains of Nina Simone's "Feeling Good" reached my ears.

Birds flying high, you know how I feel...Sun in the sky, you know how I feel...

Kellee's sonorous alto blended with Nina's in a symphony of aural delight. She'd taken to awakening my spirit with this song every day of our vacation. Kellee was a strong proponent of the healing and restorative power of music, so we had our "Feeling Good" sunrise selection and our "Let It Flow" evening selection. It was hokey and corny on day one, but by day six I'd come to crave it. Today I decided to join in, breaking out my rusty soprano to join Kellee...

It's a new dawn It's a new day It's a new life For me And I'm feeling good...

Nicole Falls