January 18th, 2007 - James Bernard Short
I was that Yankee Bwoy in Brooklyn, commuting weekly to the Flatbush, Church Avenue, very West Indian part; eighteen months into realizing the voice-dream-vision that sparked a divergence in my professional goals. Very much into the writing thing – doing it poorly, but enthusiastically – and straddling two distinct worlds: Wall Street professional by day; and personal chauffeur to middle school-aged children on the weekends.
I had status with Delta. Terminal 4 at JFK was my second home. On the eve of the great recession, trouble percolated just beneath the surface of an unstable, capital market. Mortgage-backed securities, Lehman and Bear-Stearns would soon become household names. Death had already visited my household, but not with the cutting swath of indiscretion that would so catch me by surprise. My babies were only ten, eight and four. Having children in college was a conceptual paradigm. Swimming lessons, traveling basketball, sleepovers, and birthday parties…that was my reality. My family sheltered under a single roof. I thought I was happily married; had not yet recognized the red alert warning signs, all pointing to the surety of my marital demise.
Ten years on, I am currently not at the place I thought I’d be, for on January 18, 2007, I could not have imagined the upheaval that would come to define my existence. To say my world changed would be putting it lightly; more like somebody blew it up and I’m still searching for the fragments of my broken pieces. The one, bright spot: I’m upright, no longer scrambling on hands and knees. To be fair, it’s not as simplistic (or singularly tragic) as it sounds. Passion has overtaken vocation. I’m still writing; and doing a much better job of it. Emerging – more widely submitted than published – but immersed in the literary world in ways I previously didn’t have the proper context to fully understand. With the upheaval and uncertainty came awareness and growth. I live alone; don’t see my children every day. I’m nearing the end of a lengthy process of detachment and disengagement with official status among the ranks of the divorced my next frontier, but the writing continues to be therapeutic. It’s allowed me to be more expressive than at any other stage in my life and that has spilled off the page to influence personal engagements across the board. Intentional. Vicarious. Eager to speak my truths…or at least, that is the goal towards which I strive; the narrative I’m heavily invested in believing.
In the absence of love, I have loved harder. I own my quixotic tendencies; more appreciative than ever of tender moments and the blessing of being vulnerable with another person. I continue to make it up as I go, single father of three not a role I’d previously considered; and as I reimagine the world and the place I will occupy in it, I’m focused on finding better and more efficient ways to build an oasis inside the chaos. In 2007, I thought I was happy and settled. I’ve since learned better. I try to apologize when I fuck up. I no longer take things for granted and acknowledge that silence encourages complicity and can be every bit as damaging as overt aggression. Old habits die hard. Bad ones even harder. Conflict avoidance is the default position, but I’ve learned that sometimes, real peace is going to cost you something. When the urge to suppress my feelings arises, I know when I’m doing it and am no longer capable of ignoring it. I don’t harbor the same fears, but alas, I’m facing new and different ones.
Life’s journey is unceasing. My edification continues.
Writing under the pseudonym Bernard James, James Bernard Short is an emerging novelist, essayist, and poet. His singular ambition as a writer is to produce smart, expressive, and culturally authentic content that captures the wide spectrum of aspirations and challenges encountered by persons of color. Notions of what define the cultural and geographic boundaries of the Black diaspora are of particular interest, as well as pieces that explore the dynamics of love, loss, and personal transition. James’ work has appeared in sx salon, a Small Axe Literary Platform, the Killens Review of Arts & Letters, the Columbia Journal of Literature and Art and Smoke Long Quarterly. He is a 2016 Kimbilio Fellow, a member of the 2016 Writer’s Hotel Master Class in Poetry, a 2015 Givens Writing Fellow and a participant in the 2013 MN Northwoods Fiction Workshop. James holds degrees from Northwestern and The University of St. Thomas. He currently resides in the Twin Cities.
James Bernard Short urges you to learn more about the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. They fund scientific research, offer educational programs for professionals, educate the public about mood disorders and suicide prevention, and provide programs and resources for survivors of suicide loss and people at risk. Visit afsp.org.