Breakfast of Lions
Once every nine weeks or so, I share Sunday breakfast with my friend, Tureeda. Poet, teacher, storyteller, medicine woman as she’d describe herself. I forgot how our ritual started two years ago, but my heart has relaxed into them for their consistency and the warmth generated at our cell-phone free table and our eye to heart talks. To hear, to speak, to be received, to eat in peace: surrounded by families, saucer eyed babies in arms and carriers. (Dogs, eh– She’s not feeling that. “What is it with them and these dogs?” Once we were at a table and a man brought his golden retriever inside with him, as if they both needed to consult the menu.) Beyond performing/writing, Tureeda and I have adoption in common– and all the weird emotional baggage associated with breaking from family at an early age. She endured foster care; I was under the spell of family being adopted as a baby and raised under the assumption until 19.
“There’s an adult adoptees circle for people of color my therapist encouraged me to join,” I told her. “For three months I tried to go, and can’t follow through. I sign up then chicken out every time. I tried finding the office during a storm once and got discouraged a couple blocks away and gave up. But this last time, I realized what was holding me back. At the last minute, I decided again not to go. Instead I stayed home and with my nervous energy decided to clean up. And while sweeping, mopping and all the while fussing, I guess… I thought to myself: I don’t want to join another family.”
“How’d you feel about that? When you thought that?”
“Awful. Terrible. Disappointed. I didn’t realize that that was how I felt until I said it.” I said. “Its a struggle to voluntarily want to join a circle of family or people, because all I ever seem to remember is how they end.”
She’s of an age (which I will not give) that prefers the old fashioned way of sitting with someone and… talking. Listening. We do not veer attention to our devices, but rather our hearts and our meal.
I know. Crazy talk, huh?
Usually, I expect a libation of tears over our meal. She will mention something, think something, recognize something, and then stop, look 1000 yards past everything around us, then her eyes would fill. Often I feel happy enough just to be there with her, give her space to feel whatever she wants. Our breakfast doesn’t feel right unless there are tears. I wish I was that sensitive. One day, perhaps.
What will I do without these meals? She eats mindfully slow. Seeming to weigh and compare the importance of each fork full on her tongue. I think often of my other friend who vacuums his plate as in some unannounced contest. With her, I am patient. I am encouraged to slow down.
We talk, sharing our recent weeks and events. There is no urgency. Silence is allowed. She finishes her plate and while working her way through a mug of tea, it occurs to me to tell her about my dream.
“You know,” I started. “Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve been having these really vivid dreams. My mother has made some cameos in a couple. This last one, the one I wanted to tell you about… She was in this huge bed in this mahogany bedroom. She was dressed head to toe in white. Like, um… Like…” I couldn’t pull the word.
“Like to be baptized?” She said.
“Yeah, yeah. But I was thinking…” I still couldn’t think.
“Yoruba?” She said.
“Yes! Exactly, like that. I mean, she wasn’t Haitian or anything, obviously, but that’s what I was thinking. Like an Orisha or something. Even her hair was tied up in this huge white cloth. Anyway, the room she was in was full of these female lions. Like there were four or five sitting in what looked like a closet on the other side of the room. Just chilling. And some were just wandering around. I sat on the bed with my mom. And at some point, another lion came up on the bed behind me and put her snout to my head,” I put my palm behind my head and rubbed the short hairs there, recalling the weight and sensation I’d felt of a huge, wild nose checking me out.
I went on: “She was smelling me which kinda made me nervous because I expected her to start…”
Tureeda stopped me. It seemed a wave of emotion rose over us both, engulfing our table and exploded in white water. Oh James, she said. She raised her arms above her head, as if she’d just seen the Holy Ghost. This surprised me. She’s not into the Church and is suspicious of Christian religion since she knows a lot of the history. For her to do that movement, to reach above her and seem to pull down a curtain from heaven, was startling. Tears filled her eyes briefly. Her arms like those of a teen on a descending rollercoaster. I had never seen her do that. So spontaneous and natural. And sudden.
“You are so protected,” she said finally. Firmly. My sharing was conversational, me filling a moment of silence at the table. But she made me self conscious. That brief image from my dream went deeper than I thought. She seemed to tremble and I reached across for her hand. She lightly squeezed my fingers.
“That dream is so… powerful. There is so much protection around you. Wow.” She said stunned, breathless. After a while she responded with tales of other dreams, psychic messages. The waitress returned and removed our plates. Silence fell, as did a gentle rain.
“Deep,” she said, finally.