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By Mark Anthony Hall

There were white sperm like squiggly things everywhere. As I lay on the locker room floor of the health club, I couldn’t breathe, I was gasping for air, sure that I was dying. Some people call those squiggly white things the “Hebe-gee-bees,” some call them dirty angels, but whatever the real name associated with them was I didn’t care. I had begun cold sweating; I was lost between two worlds, trying my best to keep the grim reaper away.
A crowd had gathered around me and I could hear the gym managers asking my friends if I were “OK.” “Mark, Mark,” they began asking me, “What’s wrong?” “I don’t know man,” was my answer, “but I think I’m going to die! Take me to see her!” I shouted. "To see who?" Keith asked me, “to see Rhonda,” I replied, “I got to tell her I love her before I go!” “You got to be crazy” Lance firmly chimed in, “now is not the time to go anywhere!”
By this time, I had begun to catch my breath and with the assistance of my buddies, I was able to sit in a chair. “Take me to see Rhonda” I insisted! Lance and Keith just looked at each other and together they put my arms around their necks, hoisting me up and out of the health club. In disbelief, they were laughing at me and telling me this idea of going to see Rhonda was foolish. But since they were my friends, they threw me into the back seat of Lance’s car and began to drive me to Rhonda’s house.
A week hadn’t gone by since Rhonda and I had broken up. She wasn’t talking to me and issued a “code of silence” icing every attempt I made to reach out to her. I was “In Love” with Rhonda, but as life would have it, I said the most stupid thing in the world to her. We were doing just fine. Rhonda and I enjoyed each other’s company and had become almost inseparable, we liked it that way.
Rhonda did so many things to let me know she was thinking of me. She cooked dinner, bought me gifts and seemed to keep a happy smile on her face whenever I was around. We went to movies and plays. We spent the holidays together and enjoyed being with each other’s family and friends, Rhonda was perfect for me and I knew it.
Before I met Rhonda, I was taking a break from the dating scene. I had met a string of women and the encounters were leading nowhere, so I broke them off. As life would have it, I had been in conversation with another one of my friends whose name was Reggie. Reggie and I were old high school buddies. Reggie had married another mutual friend of ours named Sarah. Through Reggie, it was nice to get acquainted with Sarah again.
Sarah heard that I wasn’t dating and wanted to know why. I just told her that dating for me was at an all time low and I needed a break from it. Sarah laughed! She said, "Mark I know the perfect person for you, her name is Rhonda." “Sarah,” I replied, “I just told you that I don’t want to meet or date anyone right now.” Sarah just ignored me. She told me all about Rhonda gave me her phone number and said in conclusion, "when you two meet, its lights out for you."
Sarah called me every week for six weeks asking why I hadn’t called her friend. I didn’t have any real excuse, so she got irritated saying, “Mark Anthony Hall if you don’t call Rhonda I’m through with you!” Reggie got on the phone, “Hey man” he said, “do me a favor and call Rhonda, Sarah is driving me crazy!”
I remember calling Rhonda like it was yesterday. Her voice was soft, smooth and relaxing. She instantly caught my attention with her open heartedness and sass. Rhonda and I became fast friends and I had to listen to Sarah’s proud “I told you so” from then on.
Eventually Rhonda and I did meet and when we looked each other into the eye, it truly was love at first sight. Rhonda was regal. Her hair was perfect. Her lips were like butter, and she immediately kissed me. She couldn’t hide or hold back her enthusiasm. She was just plain happy to see me and instantly established the kind of comfort zone anyone would want. Sarah was right. Rhonda and I were “perfect” for each other.
I don’t remember the exact day that it happened, but it was the day I said what I said and ruined everything. Rhonda and I had been together for about a year. When I say together, I mean together. We were in love. Everything was happening so fast and I needed some time to think, I needed time to contemplate my life as it lay in front of me.
I’m pretty good with words, but for the life of me, I really used the wrong words when I told Rhonda my intentions to create some “space” from her for a few days.
She instantly began saying, “What’s wrong, are you OK, is there someone else?” For whatever reason there might be, she just could not comprehend me wanting to be away from her. I tried to explain to her that I was fine and there definitely wasn’t “another woman.” Her eyes looked horrified. She tried to fight the tears back, but they came anyway. She just start saying, “I don’t understand.”
In retrospect, as I look back over the years, I realize that my words wounded Rhonda. She was hurt deeply. She withdrew from me. She shut me out of everything. No calls, no communication, no nothing! I called Sarah asking her to intervene on my behalf, but all she could say was, “Mark, I don’t know what you said to Rhonda, because she says she loves you but doesn’t want to see you anymore.” I was devastated.
I left messages everywhere for her, but Rhonda did not respond. So, as I laid in the locker room dying (I thought) the only thing I could think of was to tell Rhonda that I loved her. My friends thought that I was nuts. “I’m going to tell her everything!” I insisted. “She’s got to know that I love her!”
We finally arrived at Rhonda’s house and my buddies offered to help me up her stairs. “No, I have to go this alone.” I demanded. They just stepped back and looked at each other saying, “Mark you’re crazy.” I walked up seven steps to her porch and rang her bell in a gentle way that said, “It’s Mark, you got to answer the door.” Rhonda peaked through her window at me and in a tone of voice I had never heard before said, “What do you want?” I said, “Rhonda, please open the door and I’ll tell you.” She opened the door and as usual, her regal like beauty floored me. It was late and she happened to be wearing the blue silk bathrobe I bought her, with her initials monogrammed on it. Although the door was open, the cast iron screen door remained locked, barring any chance of the closer contact I was hoping for.
“Rhonda,” I began, in a soft, exhausted and tired voice. “I had an incident at the gym tonight. I over did everything, the treadmill and weights and I began to dehydrate. I couldn’t breathe and I thought I was dying. As I laid there on the floor, all I could think of was you. I thought it would be a shame for me to leave this world and not tell you that I love you. So I’m saying it now, I love you. Rhonda, my friends were kind enough to drive me here. They laughed at me all the way saying, ‘I was a crazy romantic fool.’ I didn’t care; all I wanted to do was to see you.”
If there was an Academy Award to be given out, Rhonda deserved it that night. She kept calm and cool saying, “OK, thank you very much, goodnight.” I stood there as she closed the door, hoping, wondering and not believing what I had just heard. It took me an additional five seconds to regain my composure, and then turned to face my friends.
“So what did she say?” they asked. “Did you tell her, did you tell her?” “Yeah I told her,” I replied. “So what did she say?” they insisted over and over again. I told them her exact words. My friends looked at me and said, “She doesn’t deserve you.” I was shocked at their response. I began a weak defense on Rhonda’s behalf, but they were having no parts of it. Kindly, my friends drove me home and not another word was spoken. There was no laughing and no mocking; all I could feel was their empathy.
The next morning, the phone rang interrupting my sleep, it was Sarah. “Mark” she said, “how could you tell Rhonda you needed space? Are you crazy? You hurt her deeply and I’m sure she took it wrong. I’ve been talking to her all night. She told me she loves you but doesn’t want to see you anymore.” “But if I were you,” Sarah continued, “I would keep trying to win her back; she’s worth your efforts!”
I kept trying to “win Rhonda back” for a year. She never returned my calls, but poured her heart out to Sarah, and of course I would hear about it. One night Sarah called saying, “Mark, Rhonda loves you. Please call her and tell her how you feel, let your heart be free. If she doesn’t respond to you, then I will understand if you let this whole thing go.”
I had gotten tired of reaching out to Rhonda. I loved her, but a year was long enough. I decided to pray (talk to God) about Sarah’s request. I looked to God, and God showed me what to do and what to say. There is a scripture that says, “For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. There is no creature that is not manifest in his (God’s) sight: but all things are naked and bare unto the eyes of him (God) with whom we have to do.”
This book of poetry and prose is the response to Sarah’s request. I have decided to appear “Naked and Bare,” hiding nothing. I have decided to expose my soul and freely let love run through my spirit. In my joy, in my pain, in my happiness and in my frustration, I will be fully exposed. If Rhonda accepts this ovation, great! If she doesn’t then the matter of us will be concluded on my side as well. With God as my witness, I will write what I write.
I will write quickly, I will write with power and I will write with a sharp tongue, loaded with humility, hoping not to embarrass myself. Naked & Bare, through the medium of poetry, I’m ringing Rhonda’s bell one last time. I know God knows my thoughts, for he sees past the flesh to the intents of my heart.
Mark Anthony Hall

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