In the stories I’ve written this winter, I’ve been writing the kind of men I want to exist in real life, the kind that don’t exist in my memory.
My earliest memories take place in 1987, the year that “Make It Real” was recorded by The Jets, a family of brown sisters and brothers with rich low voices like honey. I was four years old then. The song makes me gauge what love has become for me, from the time I was a tiny girl until now. I grew up in a brick house, raised by the women in my family: my mother and my aunt and my grandmother. While they hung sheets out to dry on the clothesline, a radio played from the kitchen window. “Make it Real” was my favorite song to hear. That is how I grew up — on radio and fairy tales and Aqua Net, on wishing for a Prince Charming that would never make it on time for me.
“Make it Real” is about the dreamscape of yearning. It talks about love that’s not reciprocated, about separation and loss. It’s about playing pretend.
When I’m separated from someone I cared about, dead or living, they begin to fall away from my memory. I stop trying to remember what they look like and I forget the sound of their voice. This is how I know that I’m healing, that I’m putting myself back together from love. I can only remember them when I dream about them.
When I was a girl, I dared dream of reciprocal love, when my mind and my body had a greater capacity for forgiving. The men I love will always fall short of reciprocity. They will never be real to me. There is only the hushed part of them, the hoping for the return of the good parts of them. The parts that are transient like synthetic beats.
Only the women I love are real to me. Every time I hear “Make it Real”, I think of my grandmother tugging a rat-tail comb through my tangled hair and the glow of my aunt’s cherry rollerball lip gloss, and always, my mother’s perfume, powdery, sweet, alive and not ghostlike.
(Song recommendation by Monique Quintana)