Alone Not Lonely…A Table for One.

There’s something deliciously empty, in a way that is both painful and yet satisfyingly poignant (the way pain can strangely become companionable after a certain amount of time), in the fact that I’m alone at this point in my life.

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There’s an irony that me, the girl who wore a purity ring from age 13 through 25 and wanted nothing more than to be a stay at home, ‘best selling author mom’, is the last of my friends to “find” romantic love. Or should I say, ‘to stumble into love’ as none of my girls, with the exception of one, were actively looking for love when it so swiftly found them. They do say that true love comes calling when you least expect it. This has definitely proven to be true for most of my girls. Right now, today, in this moment, if you were to ask me…then no, I wouldn’t say that I’m looking for love. Not anymore. I’m not actively looking. But that wasn’t always the case.

Right now, I’m trying not to over-analyze things.

In this present moment, I’m trying not to second guess, not to doubt, not to regret or revisit past events that have now become harsh memories.

I’m trying not to think ‘what if’ or ‘what should I have done?’

I’m trying to just trust. I’m trying to “Let go and Let God.” I’m trying to remember that He, God, has a master plan that I’m inconveniently ignorant of.

I’m trying to recognize God’s sovereignty and thus my inadequacy and obvious lack of control over my life and life in general.

I’m trying to remember all the adages : Good things come to those who wait. Trust in the Lord. Have faith. Everything Happens for a Reason. God knows my heart and He will grant me the desires of my heart. God knows best. God is good and He wants good things for me. God has a plan and He is always on time.

I’d like to say that my trying does work… about 75% of the time. Most days, I wake up every morning, so damn OK and grateful for my life, it’s almost sickening. There are things that I want. Oh, are there things! OF COURSE, there are things…There’re goals I’m trying to accomplish, heights I’m still striving to reach. I’m focused on my career right now. I know you’ve heard that before but I have never meant a cliché saying more in my life! However, despite all of the “I’m an independent woman who don’t need no man!” fervor, there are still those odd days, those seemingly ‘one off’ days, when I wake up with a gaping hole of despair in my stomach. When I feel like crying out and breaking down but I know deep down that it won’t do any good. Except to release an offering of my tears, my cries, outward in the hopes that things will change if not around me, then inwardly, within me. You know what they say (and they’re right too)-God doesn’t often change our circumstances. At least, not right away and not in the ways that we expect or desire. Oftentimes, He changes us instead. He molds us to fit the challenge; to rise to the occasion and to overcome the situational pain.

As the years have passed and I’ve grown older, more recently leaving my 20s behind and plodding swiftly into my 30s, I’ve often wondered if God would take the desire for marriage- for a partnership, for Eros love- and a home full of many children away from me. He never has. Not yet. Not today.

It has become my daily prayer, my mantra : “Lord, strip away from me the desires that are not of you, that are not for me and that I shouldn’t want for my life. Instead, fuel the fires of purpose. Deliver me into my purpose or call me home.”

This is an extremely powerful and risky prayer. I’ve only prayed it once before. It ended up destroying my entire life-well, the life I had at the time.  It was about 7 years ago now, in 2011, when my life changed forever and for good. Overnight, I lost friends, my boyfriend, my jobs, my apartment and even my family for a time. For a while, I thought I was losing my sanity! My life exploded and a new life was birthed from the ashes. It was in that time I learned what it truly means to survive, to stand strong and to surrender everything to and for Christ. That prayer is risky indeed because instead of going quietly into the night, what is stripped away and removed from one’s life often leaves in an emotionally violent manner, leaving gaping holes and bringing out intense feelings of devastation and loss. It’s a time to grow closer to one’s creator. With the loss of what was, there’s nothing but time for self examination and even self recrimination. Because suddenly, you are so very alone. And in order to accept the grace that a life with Jesus embodies, first you must accept the guilt, the fear, the regret and the sorrow. These feelings must be purged and there’s a process of repentance that must be walked out.

It goes like this : You meet up with God for the first time in your life. It’s frightening at first but once He becomes all you have, you grow more comfortable in His presence. You start to walk through life together, day by day-you and your creator. He’s changing you from the inside out. You can see it and eventually, others can too. It frightens you and delights you but you’re not opposed to the changes, although some are pretty drastic. You meet up with God. You talk about the changes. You grow closer to Him. You grow closer to yourself. You discover your purpose.

As the years go, you discover one indelible truth: Time is one of God’s most powerful tools. His timing is always impeccable.

Ever since I was a young girl of 7, I’ve wanted to be a mother. I want to find the love of my life too but I’m not so much worried about that part. I don’t so much care when he comes. I was made to love, whether it be a dog or a man or a friend. I know that romantic love, great romantic love, will come into my life when the time is right. I was created for it. It’s something I’ve felt in the marrow of my bones and the foundations of my soul, since I can remember. I don’t so much doubt true love or agonize over the timing of it. The truth is, I’ve never enjoyed dating. I can count the serious boyfriends I’ve had on one hand, less than 3 fingers. And that’s because when I know it’s not meant to be, I move on. Quickly. I don’t’ want to waste time with someone who’s not my forever partner. It’s harsh, yet makes things so clear and simple. So I don’t much care about the single part of things. I actually enjoy being single. I find fulfillment in being alone. I’m a solitary and at times, extremely introverted being. I enjoy doing things by myself. I genuinely enjoy being alone. I don’t feel any emptiness or any lack within myself. I like that I’m independent and self sufficient.

However, with this whole mom thing, It’s getting harder and harder to hold on to hope and to trust. There’s something about the reality of what my body won’t be able to easily do in a few years that’s holding me hostage to doubt. I’m pushing through because I have to. Also because recently, I’ve gained an appreciation for my childless state. For these years of getting to know me and nurturing my inner child instead of nurturing a child. There’s a great amount of privilege contained in the selfishness of being able to put oneself first for 31 years. Mothering comes with a reality that’s engineered in self sacrifice and layered with unconditional love for another being-an initially innocent and helpless being-whether borne from one’s body or not. I have come to fully appreciate the years I’ve had to develop my own mind and heart, making mistakes and missteps easily without the burden of them affecting an innocent soul that I’m responsible for rearing. I have come to appreciate the fact that once I do join the ranks of motherhood, I will do so eagerly, with arms wide open to the great responsibility and without a shadow of a doubt of my readiness and my desire to finally join this very important club.

It’s within revelations like this that I can finally unpack and demolish my doubt and fully admit-God knows what He’s doing. God knows who I am and what’s to be done with me and for me. What I thought was meant to curse me, to bring me low and cause me pain, God has actually decreed as a blessing for me and a building of me.

God’s timing. Is. Impeccable.

I can’t help but think that my satisfaction in my singleness, in my childless state, is a subversive act. A society that values me directly in correlation to my desirability to men and my ability have children, is also a society that tells women we are useless if we don’t have a man. Or rather, if a man hasn’t chosen us. 

I can’t help but think that every time I scroll through my various social media feeds and see engagement announcements, pictures of wedding ceremonies and pregnancy/birth announcements, my ability to genuinely be happy for people’s joy, other people’s successes-mentally celebrating with them while verbally congratulating them via commenting on their posts- is a subversive act. It’s practically a middle finger to all of the negative and jealous thoughts and feelings that try to burst through and make these landmark moments in others’ lives about me and my supposed lack of desirability. It also doesn’t help that I seem to be stuck in a place of perpetual teenage-hood simply because I live at home with my parents and honestly, outside of societal perceptions and expectations, I have no problem with being a 31 year old, able bodied and gainfully employed woman who lives at home with her folks and her 2 year old Maltipoo. I know there’s a purpose to my being there. I know that soon, this season of my life will change and I’ll be on my own again. I know that I’ve been on my own, for many, many years and this season of my life is all about saving money for greater. I know that I pay all my own bills and pay my own way. I know that despite what the world sees and thinks from the outside looking in, this is a season to savor, a sweet season. My parents are growing old. I wish it wasn’t so but it’s the truth and me having this much time with them outside of childhood will most likely never come again in their lifetime. However, I can’t always staunch the whispers of ‘loser’ I sometimes hear when I think about how much I’m supposedly failing at life by “Successful American Standards.” While these past 5 years certainly haven’t gone according to plan, despite my failures to build a home for myself independent of my mother and father, I have also failed to acquire the thing that society deems me most valuable for : a husband. And it’s not just american society. Oh no.

My Nigerian parents very much look at me at times and sigh. As each year passes and with each birthday celebrated, though now halfheartedly by me, my mother declares that she’s still praying that this mythical husband will materialize ‘this year’ and ‘this’ will be my year. She does this with a slightly desperate and agonizing tone as she looks at me as if to wonder “Where did I go wrong?” She often brings up her friends, many of them still back home in Nigeria, who are all grandparents now and how they often wonder about my unmarried state, making comments that while seem helpful, only remind my mother of what a failure she is for having an unmarried daughter of my advanced age. I can’t help but feel somewhat responsible for her disappointment although I myself know deep down that my lack of a man by my side does not make me any less valuable or worthy as a person and as a woman. My unmarried status might carry a stigma due to my advancing age, but while I tenaciously hold on to the truth that my value lies outside of my ability to get a man to tie his life to mine in holy matrimony, society, both American and my native African one, is doing it’s best to shame me in to some sort of compliance.

Don’t get me wrong. I do want to get married. But more than that, I want to find love. I’ve never had a serious monogamous relationship and it’s been something I’ve always desired : to have a partner and support system through life and to be that for someone else. To build a family. And my greatest dream outside of writing novels and creating art is to be a mother. Since I was that little girl of seven, motherhood has been my dream. And it still is. My number one dream of dreams. And I’ve always wanted to have a large family. Although, as the years go by and I get older, I’m now having to contemplate the fact that having a large family biologically may be difficult and adoption may be something my future partner and I seriously consider by the time we’re ready to have children. The thing I do have going for me is that the women in my family are insanely fertile, some having children easily well into their forties and early fifties. I cling to this. Because now, being in my 30s, my child bearing years and the countdown on them is constantly on my mind. And yes, I know that I can have children on my own but I want the whole dream : loving partner and then children. So old fashioned of me I know, but it’s what I’ve genuinely wanted since I can remember.

I say all that to say, I refuse to allow my worth to be determined by something outside of my control. I fully believe that finding a partner : a lover who will be faithful, kind and supportive, is something not all people have the blessing of having in this life. It’s all purpose and fate really. I can’t control it and so, I’ve had to learn to relinquish control. So many things have happened these past 5 years that have thrown my life completely off track. As I suffered through transition after transition, setback after setback, trial and tribulation, I had to ask myself : “What track? And I’m off of this track according to whom?” How much of how I view myself and my self worth is through my own beliefs and feelings and how much of it is due to social conditioning and societal norms, pressures and expectations? How much am I willing to allow an event I cannot control at all to dictate and define my existence and my value? It sounds so silly when it’s spelled out like this. I am more than my supposed marriage value and the viability of my eggs and ovaries. I am more than all of the pressures society places on me as a woman, especially as a black woman. I live in a society that constantly tries to brainwash me to believe that I am the least desirable of all women not only because I am black but also because of my dark complexion. I live in a society that would have me believe that my desirability or lack thereof is a major component to the label of success as it applies to my existence. I live in a society that values me by my supposed desirability to men. I say no. I say I reject that. I say I rebuke that. I will not allow that pattern of thinking, that ideology, into my reality. I will not allow any of it to be the bedrock of my identity. I will continue to exist as the free, wild and fully whole woman that I am, even if it means that I walk my life path alone with only Jesus God to walk beside me. I will continue to be the living and breathing embodiment of an ever violent rebellion and subversion against a culture that would seek to demean and devalue me for their own nefarious purposes that stem from white supremacist beliefs and the capitalist greed that unfortunately is the bedrock of our current civilization. I rise up in faith, love, hope and peace and I declare that I am worthy, I am enough, I am mighty, I am black and proud. I am magic. I will not break, I will simply bend and continue to stand strong and get back up again. I will not give in. I will continue to hope and pray for that life partner because every human being who desires romantic love deserves to experience it but that does not mean I lack or am starved for love. I am actually very blessed to be surrounded by amazing family and friends who see and celebrate my value and worth, even as I arrive to events alone. I acknowledge my blessings and I am happy for them.

I’m proudly sitting at my table for one, waiting for the one who would join me but not pining or holding my breath. I’m enjoying my own company and that’s the way it should be.

 

ANNIVERSARY #MeToo

I arrived on his doorstep beautiful, buffed, waxed and shining.

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It was our 6 month anniversary and he was my very first grown up boyfriend, his 24 to my 18 as much of an aphrodisiac as our natural, combustible, chemistry. I knew from the moment he opened the door to usher me inside that tonight was going to be different. I was dressed for the occasion, in something black, tight, and short, -nearly scandalous but escaping the distinction because it was February, winter, and therefore, I was wearing tights and a sweater under my coat. But coats come off, and sweaters can be removed, and with the right words from a committed boyfriend, so can tights.

He led me gently inside, coaxing me to relax all the while. I thought I’d hidden my apprehension and nervousness well. David knew me better than I’d thought. This only led to frighten me even more. I was only 18 and still virginal at that. I was hoping to remain that way until my wedding night. The only remaining question in my mind became, “Is David going to be the groom?” It was something I thought about constantly. It was a problem that we couldn’t seem to surmount and we were a couple, having made it official and committed for 6 months; we were of one mind, as we shared the same religious beliefs and convictions as well as morals and ideals; and we were as of one body, spending most of our time together. But we were not of one soul. David assured me that the intertwining of souls only came with intercourse, sex, making love. I knew he wanted to make love to me. I could hardly bring myself to utter the words. We were at an impasse. Yet, ultimately, I felt safe with him. Had we not first met at church? Did we not have the same convictions when it came to no sex before marriage? David was just being a boy. That was understandable. After all, I had hormones too and sometimes they were extremely difficult to placate or ignore.

Stepping into his house, the tableau laid out before me in David’s living room was the very essence of romance. The lights were off and numerous lit candles decorated every sustainable surface. The fireplace was ablaze with warmth and red, yellow, fiery light. There was a picnic set out on the living room floor complete with bite size goodies, blankets and pillows, champagne and the accompanying glasses. I felt like a princess. I felt like a wife. I felt treasured and appreciated. I felt loved. David was good at that whole making a girl feel appreciated thing. I remember thinking, “Good thing there are no roses!” Roses meant sex. I knew that, boys knew that, every girl knew that. It was a secret code but easily deciphered and not nearly as conscripted as men would like to believe. Are we women not always two if not two dozen steps ahead of our men? At least, that’s where we should be if not for the men who draw us back and delay us with sweet honeyed words, lying caresses, and empty promises.

David was supposed to be different.

He looked at me as I stood looking out at the goodies laid before me, apprehension in those big brown eyes of his, as if to say, “Do you like it?” “Of course I like it you doofus. I love it.” I was completely and totally charmed. And so the night was off to a great start. Soon I was lying on that cozy blanket with him, his back propped up on pillows, leaning against the bottom base of the couch, and with me in his arms, divested of shoes, coat, sweater, and yes, stockings. What was left? Not enough. He held me and I felt safe. He fed me and I hid my countenance in the shadows from time to time, trying to keep the mystery alive, adding some much needed spice to a 6 month commitment that had started to feel like a plateau instead of a steadily chugging train or an uphill mountain climb. I was worried that he was getting impatient. His hands roved through and fro and I let them travel without checkpoints. I was relaxed and drunk off the atmosphere, his actions in thinking up and putting together such a romantic treat, and of course, the wine and champagne.

He was steady and I was out at sea, adrift, bobbing, and without an anchor. His arms and warmth promised a safe harbor and a resting place when I was ready to drift back into the bay. I pictured that harbor often with its diamond engagement ring and wedding band (of appropriately ostentatious size of course), its deliriously enjoyable honeymoon where two souls would finally converge, its lovely five year plan consisting of us moving out to New York, he supporting me while I attended NYU, and us eventually adding to our little family. The harbor looked so attractive and the anchor even more so. David was on his way to bank manager at 24.

But I could wait. Penetration could wait. Soul melding could ultimately wait. I wanted my white dress to mean something to me. We would be married in a church in the eyes of God and man. My thoughts drifted along this vein as my blood rushed along through my veins, spiced with alcohol and living high. I began to get hotter.

“Babe it’s so hot!” Was I mumbling? When had my speech begun to slur? Was I really that drunk? I couldn’t be. I’d only had three glasses.

“I know babe. Do you wanna take off your dress? Here, lemme help you- No, come on babe, its okay. You’ve got underwear on right? No big deal, ain’t nothing I haven’t seen before hon.” He was strangely persistent tonight. I was still lying back in his lap. His hands seemed so large and despite the fire and candles, they felt cold upon my flesh. I felt feverish and dazed. I tried to sit up.

“No, I don’t want that. Help me up-“ I struggled to move.

He pulled me back down into his arms. His strength had always been used for me before. This felt different. Was he keeping me from getting up?

“Stop it Dave. Lemme get up!”

My speech was slurring more and more. I could hardly form and string words together. My tongue felt laden and my head even more so. My vision began to get hazy and I began to feel a strange dread boil up in my gut. Just what the hell was happening?

“What the hell is going on? Why do I feel so strange? David. Help me up. I think you should take me home. I don’t feel so good.”

Was I just thinking these words or was I actually saying them? Why couldn’t I tell? Where were my arms, my feet, and my legs? Why did my head feel as though it’d disappeared from my body? Where was David? My harbor had vanished like a mirage in the desert.

“Come on babe. Just relax. You had a little too much wine. Here. Just lie back on the blankets, come on, right next to me here, and I’ll help you take your dress off. You’re probably overheated. You’re probably feeling faint from all the heat.”

His strength in that moment was insurmountable. David was holding me down.

David had always been such a perfect gentlemen. He opened doors-cars, buildings, houses, etc; he observed all the courtesies and his manners were exquisite. Sometimes I was afraid of committing an irreparable gaffe in front of him. I’d worried about it often enough that I’d purchased Manners for Dummies from the local Borders Bookstore with my 20 percent off members only discount, sacrificing my usual weekly romance novel buy.

I smiled faintly, recalling this, letting David lay me out on the blanket. Distantly, I heard a faint scratching sound. What the heck was that?

“David, do you have mice or bugs or something? Get me off this floor!”

My raised voice mirrored my rising anxiety. Only, he didn’t hear me. Did he? He didn’t respond. Slowly I realized the sound I heard was a zipper. I looked up; there were three Davids above me now, all kneeling above me, their faces hovering imminently.

Death is imminent. Heart break is imminent. Betrayal was imminent.

The first David, he looked apologetic then determined. The second David, he looked fierce. He quite frightened me so I looked away. My head was no longer on my body, and it was nice to see with my neck, or maybe I was seeing with my arms and legs? Maybe my spinal chord or my heart? So I looked back to see what the third David was thinking. He looked afraid. What in the world did he have to be afraid of? Out of the foggy gray edge that bordered my vision, I saw a hand reach out of the darkness to comfort the scared David. The hand caressed his face lovingly. I smiled. He looked so relieved to see that hand. With a jolt, I realized, upon espying a familiar looking friendship ring on the third finger, that it was my hand!

My hand was like a stranger to me, my body like a rental. What the hell was going on? I opened my mouth to ask but I soon found myself chewing on a ripe and juicy strawberry. It was so delicious and refreshing. I closed my eyes to better savor the taste, all the textures, and the sweetness of the blood red, berry juice. Also, my eye lids had grown increasingly heavy and I could not seem to keep them open. I closed my eyes and savored that fresh, ripe, bursting strawberry. I swallowed down its sweetness, its small delicacy. I opened my mouth like a blind and vulnerable baby bird, looking for sustenance from the sky, from the gods, from my mother. David, ever mindful of my needs, ever the perfect southern gentleman, dropped another strawberry in my mouth, and as I savored this new tiny friend, I began to drift along my ocean once again, only this time, when I looked out to find the harbor, all I saw was a heavy gray fog.

Where was safety?

The hole in my stomach seemed to drop down as a feeling of acute dread and nausea assaulted me. My scrambled circuits began to sluggishly but determinedly assemble themselves as the red flashing neon signs of warning were finally tripped and I began to fight for sight. My eyelids would not open and my body would not move. What was wrong with me? I tried to cry out but my tongue felt numb and bogged down with my unspoken words and unanswered questions. Where was I? Where was David? How could he allow such a thing to happen to me? Why wasn’t he coming to rescue me, my committed and every so loyal boyfriend? I began to gag and felt myself being turned over.

“Oh god, oh god, oh babe!”

These words were distant but distinctly panicked. I had to fight to open my eyes and move my limbs. I’m a good fighter and I’m determined never to lose. I looked up and saw one David. The other two seemed to have fled. In terror maybe? Horror? I could not concern myself with them at present. I had to fight to move my limbs and find my head. Slowly, my head seemed to come back into itself and reattach itself to my body. I was just strong enough to prop my head up from where it was resting on the blankets, and look down at my body. My black, scandalous dress was gone, where, I could not begin to imagine. I had not even felt the breeze on my body from being unclothed or the ensuing warmth from the fire on the parts of my skin that had been previously covered. A tidal wave of shame and embarrassment threatened to carry me away. The sea that I’d been previously adrift on seemed to gather inside of my chest cavity and burst out of my eyes, my nose, and my mouth. I felt as though I was drowning as I began to cry huge, ensuing sobs and a pain began to make itself clear and present within my heart. I felt as if I’d been beaten down with a hundred clubs. I felt naked as I lay there in my Victoria’s Secret semi annual sale underwear-black lace with pink trim and bows. In it, I’d felt the daring sex appeal of a woman yet still with the girlish and fanciful whims of a girl.

Now I just felt ill, I felt violated, and I felt cold.

A chill seeped into my very heart, traveling and penetrating through my bones, and waking up my sluggishly churning brain. With a lurch, I sat up and began to gag, now audibly, trying to get my idiot limbs to work as I struggled to get to my knees and then to my feet. David, forgotten in my self consumed hatred, suddenly reappeared in my periphery in the guise of a helping hand and a soothing voice. I looked into his face, only one David, the anxiety, fear, and fierceness still there, all on one face, despite his damn gentlemanly concern and knight in shining armor act. It was then that I knew he had reduced me to this shameful thing: this nauseous, naked, broken bird that’d been force fed poison in the guise of love.

I was afraid of him in that moment. I was ashamed and hateful of myself.

His hand on my lower back, his palm touching my disgusted flesh, helped me up and to the nearest bathroom, in the hallway not far from the living room. I accepted his help, like one reluctantly accepts life from a devil. But life is life and despite the giver, it’s something to be fought for and treasured. I felt near death though. I felt like a dirty whore. As I knelt there in the bathroom, fluorescent lights beating down upon my head, face inside the porcelain bowl, that god of shit and piss, I began to feel an overwhelming rage, the kind that makes itself friend to guns, knives, and murderous intentions. I was out of my mind with anguish and love. He held back my hair from my face, rubbed my back, and kissed the nape of my neck.

How could I still feel pleasure in his acts of kindness and tenderness? Had he not revealed himself to be a monster of the worst kind?

He murmured soothing phrases all the while, never apologizing and yet so obviously weighed down by remorse and stone cold terror. I felt it in that overly lit bathroom and somehow, I heard it too, over the sounds of my retching and sobbing, somehow those more silent sounds managed to drown out my sounds of pain.

And it was there, even as I plotted his dismemberment, that I knew I had already forgiven him. I staggered to my feet, washed my face, and drank a glass of water, all with David supporting me. He was silent and watchful and seemed permanently mute. This was for the best. In a sudden move of gallantry and foolishness, David scooped me up in his arms and carried me down the hallway into his bedroom. He laid me tenderly and gently onto his bed, and then tucked me in. As he backed away from the bed, I tested the movement of my arms and legs, of my lungs and my heartbeat. I was still helpless and limp as a rag doll. I was still unable to fight physically and emotionally.

I began to feel myself emotionally bleed out.

I didn’t know what could serve as a bandage to staunch the bleeding, at least until I got back home to my real safe harbor. To my parents. I began to cry silently, tears rolling down my face. I felt a movement on the bed and slowly moved my head to see David, sans clothing, and clad just in his boxers and socks, getting onto the bed. He got under the covers next to me and pulled me into his arms.

Hating myself and feeling as though I were dead, I snuggled into his chest and breathed in his scent. I thought about knives stabbing chests and guns blowing out brains. He kissed me softly on my dried, cracked lips and like a dangerous and long lit explosive, I went off in a flurry of movements, my body surging up in a blast of energy that seemed miraculous as it did inevitable.

My vision began to get hazy as I saw and heard what seemed like a train. It was coming straight for me, barreling closer and closer and getting louder and louder. My vision began to turn a deep crimson red, like the strawberry and with the same tart sweetness, the same red blooded-ness, as I saw my arms, my hands, my heart and my gut, beat down onto the bed, over and over and over. Suddenly, the train hit me, full force, at full speed, but I felt no pain. I sank down onto the bed, exhausted and spent, and I glanced down at David, to see him bloodied and bruised, curled up into a fetal position on the bed. Our breaths were as loud as the freight train, in, and out, in and out, loud in the too still and pin drop quiet room. I lay in a heap beside David’s bloodied mess of a body. He lifted his head up, and turned his face towards me after some moments. His nose was bloodied and tilted to one side, he had what looked to be the beginnings of two black eyes, his upper and lower lips were cut and several dark bruises were blooming up across his face, chest, arms, and thighs.

He looked ripe. He looked like I felt, beaten by a thousand clubs, defeated by the empty promises and well hidden lies of a smooth gentleman’s tongue and honest looking eyes. I felt triumphant and hallow. I felt victorious but I still felt dead. This devil’s offer of life seemed to ring false, just like our six month relationship seemed but a quickly disappearing and disintegrating mirage out in the hot desert sun. I smiled into his overly ripe and bloodied face. I couldn’t help but feel some measure of satisfaction. My body had risen to the occasion when I’d truly needed it.

Slowly, David rose up onto his knees, his terrorized eyes boring into mine. He brought his bruised and naked arms up, his palms pressed together in a gesture of supplication and deep regret, he bowed his head and face into the mattress, before my folded legs, in worship, and he began to sob. His cries were loud, undignified, ungentlemanly, and without the perfection of his former façade of good manners and even better lies. I felt my heart melt even as I felt my brain turn away from such an unmanly display with disgust and deep pain.

Slowly, I felt my body move close towards his, embracing his brokenness with mine, knowing that this was the end of some sort of punishment for the both of us, and a beginning of my newly freed mind and body and my never intertwined soul.

I held him to my lace clad breasts, feeling maternal in a way that vaguely sickened me. And yet I could not bring myself to leave him. Six months seemed like such a long time in my 18 year old world perspective. What a waste to leave him after so long a time. I would just hold him a little longer. I would just wait until he fell asleep.

LE FIN

Originally written 2009.

“Let the truth speak. Let the truth heal-again and again and again.”

 

Failing Forward Pt. 1 An Ode to Adam

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“My brand of TRUE FICTION. I dare you to believe this lie. I dare you to read this truth. I dare you to love this story.”

 

 

I dated a drug dealer for 3 years.

I tell everyone it was only for a year but really, it was for 3. The first 2 years weren’t exclusive and we were on and off. Honestly, we kept our relationship pretty private. No one knew about us for a very long time. I was hesitant to tell my friends because I went to NYU’s Tisch School of Arts and I didn’t want people to judge me, even though a lot of people I knew did drugs recreationally. There was just this expectation there, ya know?Even at a school for the arts, of higher “standards” and a certain level of polish and class level that we should be dating and making friends from. Even among the arts, elitism and snobbery exists. Don’t let the theater and acting worlds fool you, no matter how liberal and free love it seems-we can be just as precious as the rest of the elites. I realize now, looking back, that I dated…lets call him…Adam, (which in no way would be his name because Adam is Italian as fuck with the “only speaks Italian even though she’s lived in Brooklyn for 25 years” grandmother to match) because we both fulfilled a need in each other’s lives. Adam needed me to make him feel like he was still worthy of a “good girl” even though he was doing something criminal in order to make a living. Adam at his core was a staunch Catholic boy and he found it very hard to justify his actions due to his beliefs. He fought an inner battle almost daily due to what he felt he was forced to become: A Criminal. He came from harsh beginnings and hadn’t been afforded many opportunities. He started dealing out of necessity, as he saw it. America, the land of opportunity, hadn’t been so fortuitous to him and his loved ones. Shocking right? Note the sarcasm if you missed it. Well, for me, Adam made me feel desirable and sexual in a way that had been missing from my adolescent years. He lit a flame in me that I’d never experienced prior to him and suddenly, all the racy songs on the radio made sense. The intense attraction I experienced with him, finally made me feel normal. After years of having to fake my way through relationships: allowing boys to touch and kiss me while I felt nothing- well, except mild disgust; Enduring their attentions and physical demonstrations of affection for as long as I could before I inevitably broke it off..

I finally, finally!, understood what all the fuss was about.

It was a relief to realize I was actually normal.

I wasn’t broken.

I’d experienced lust and arousal only when I read the sexy and explicit novels my mother had banned me from reading (even though she read them herself—hypocrisy much?..) but I’d never felt physical desire and yearning before with a real human being. Not until Adam. He was my reassurance that I was just as capable of those emotions as everyone else.

After growing up under the intense peer pressure to have a boyfriend and to have relationships because “that’s what made you normal” and “all my girlfriends had to talk to each other about these things,” it was a relief to finally feel whole. With the exception of a boy I’d dated briefly in my high school years, who’d evoked such alarming emotions in me that I now realize he’d been an unhealthy obsession of the Single White Female variety, Adam was my salvation from being labeled abnormal.

But I digress, as I often will, so get used to it.

I am striving to write in mimicry of an oral storytelling experience. I grew up an oral storyteller, telling fantastical tales to my little brothers each night before bed. Picture the scene: late nights with three nappy heads crowded beneath a crude blanket fort while several nightlights illuminated the world beyond the cozy cocoon we’d created. I’d start of hushed and reverent and pitch my tone to match the fevered imaginings I was trying to verbally project from my overactive brain. The tales would always end with a To Be Continued, the story to be picked up the following evening, as each new eve brought with it the continued fight against the boundaries of a strict bedtime. Those were some of the most beautiful and meaningful nights of my youth. I felt like I was creating magic; alchemy in the power of my tongue. I knew then that words were powerful. Words could create worlds.

I like to imagine that many of my ancestors were famous griots. That would explain the origin of my unique gift.

I like to believe that many of my written tales flow as if they’d been spoken. This is my homage to them-my imagined griot ancestors.

Back to the tale at hand.

Looking back, Adam and I were pretty hot and heavy from the start. I was still at the part of my journey where I was barely holding onto my non-denominational upbringing and lifestyle of Christianity, with all of its rules and decrees. I’d barely held on throughout college, living life as I pleased and unwilling to reconcile my strict Christian beliefs with my actions. You see, I still wholeheartedly believed in Jesus. I prayed and thought about God everyday but nothing beat that underlining quiet guilt that lurked in the background of everyday life and my everyday actions. I kept suppressing it, for the most part but once in awhile, it did pop up and try ruin my fun. Everything I was doing, everything I was experiencing was screaming to me that I was IN SIN. Yes, capital letters and all. I felt like I was doing something wrong just by living, exploring and feeling curious and alive. I acted on my curiosity and completely stretched my boundaries and according to the church and the messages from the preacher I’d grown up listening to, that was a big “no no.” I was slowly forming beliefs outside of what I’d been told to believe and feel my entire life. It was a very confusing time but I got through it by pretending everything was alright until it was alright. Even through it all, I had the sneaking and then overwhelming suspicion that God still loved me, Jesus was still with me and everything was going to be OK. Even if some Christian people looked at me and thought-“Traitor!” I knew, at the end of the day, that God would always have my back and would help me to make sense of it all, some way, somehow.

So, yes, Adam was a straight up gateway drug. Even to this day when I talk about him, I only talk about the one year-our last year together. I don’t acknowledge the fact that we’d known each other for years beforehand as friends and that I’d lusted after him so intensely, I was bold enough to proposition him and he accepted.

When I look back on those years, my early twenties, I was bold as fuck. I was a queen.

Growing up, having to behave so properly at all times and always having to be that “Good Christian Black Girl” example, in addition to all the cultural pressures, as well being a first generation immigrant, and all the pressures behind being the oldest child and the only girl one at that, I was READY to let loose when I hit those New York streets for my freshman year of college in August of 2005. And even then, it took me over a year to fully acclimate and accept my new life. Freshman year was an agonizing one of change, the freshman 20 (ugh), growth, extreme homesickness and discomfort and the distinct feeling that I’d Made a Big Mistake by deciding on NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts for college. It was a culture shock for me, having been so sheltered growing up. I swear, my parents wrapped me up in bubble wrap, twice!, and kept me so naive and so isolated (or at least they tried to), that I was a vulnerable and easy target.

Praise God, I made it through–with a little help from my friends…and lots of alcohol.

Sophomore year was when I really emerged from my shell. I came back to school after a long summer back at home, realizing how much I’d changed and how much I missed New York City and all of my friends. I finally began to view the city as my home. I grabbed life by the balls and decided to be the kind of girl I’d always wanted to be: loud, bold, sexual, brave, foul mouthed, creative as fuck and feisty as fuck. All the witty and cutting remarks I’d always muttered under my breath, kept in my brain, or written in my stories while growing up were now flying out of my mouth. I had no filter. I was so honest it was cutting. My friends knew me as the crazy, loud, funny, bubbly one. Someone I’d tried to be while I was growing up-and trust me, I definitely did some crazy shit and rebelled like a pro behind my parents’ backs- but I still always felt stifled and held back by familial expectations and societal pressures, being a “young black girl growing up in the south.” Those damn gender roles too. Try being Nigerian and a girl, trying to buck societal and cultural norms. My parents were NOT having it. At all. I had to do everything I wanted to do behind their backs. From them, there was always that looming threat of: “Be on your best behavior at all times, or else.” “Keep your legs closed and your eyes away from boys, or else.”  “Obey us and don’t you dare start to believe that you’re an individual who can have your own thoughts and ideas, or else.” And yes, the one that all Nigerian parents are famous for:

“You ah here to study ohh! Ah ha focus on your books and your reading. I did not bring you to AMERICA for you to be a dundee!”

I was the normal girl with the normal amount of raging hormones or maybe my hormones raged even more due to their suppression. I was forced to appease my appetites with romance novels, day dreams and the wild illicit act here and there, knowing I could never openly do what I really wanted. I’m so glad I found acting in high school. All the aggression and fantasy I got to live out playing different characters saved my sanity. I wasn’t allowed to date and my parents had a purity ring on my finger from the time I was 13, so even just talking about the possibility of dating in my household was taboo. My father threatened me that I would be promptly disowned or sent back home to Nigeria in disgrace if I had sex outside of marriage or “came up pregnant.” I had a healthy fear or perhaps, a more than healthy fear of my father and I grew up believing that his love for me was conditional due to his Jekyll and Hyde personality, so I took his threats seriously and put up the appearance of towing the line.  No wonder I’m such a good actress. I’ve been acting all my life. When I did date and have relationships, I did so in secret and my parents never knew. To this day, they have no idea that I dated boys while living under their roof. I was trained to live in secret, to keep things hidden and to lie. Because the things and the people I truly desired had to stay hidden.

I became a pro at hiding what and who really mattered to me.

I even-for a short period of time-considered dating a girl. I’ve never admitted that to anyone before. As it is for many heterosexual women, it was just a phase, in the sense that, it never became my reality and it never will. I hate writing that because I don’t want to offend anyone that grew up wrestling with their sexuality. For most of us, despite what we’ve been conditioned to believe, sexuality can be very fluid. It depends on the individual. I come from the school of thought that not every emotion and feeling must be acted upon. I’m a firm believer of self control, under the tenets of one’s morals, values and beliefs of course. But that’s me now-speaking from a very comfortable and cozy position in my Jesus Bubble.

13 to 14 year old me was just plain confused.

I had a best girlfriend growing up who I loved so intensely, so passionately and was so incredibly close to and intimate with emotionally, It began to resemble a romantic connection in my head and heart. I was growing and changing and my connection to this girl was stronger and felt more important than any romantic relationship I’d had up to that point. I was only 14 and most of my affairs with boys my age ended in a matter of weeks. I had a short attention span and an even shorter fuse. They lit me up-boys did. I became interested, fascinated and attracted. Yet just as quickly, that fire would be snuffed out by my eventual apathy. However, my connection to this girl was so powerful and overwhelming, that my mind and heart felt in uproar and I became at odds with my soul. My soul knew one thing, felt it to my core, and yet my feelings were perhaps whispering something different. After talking about it with another close and older friend, one in my church youth group ironically, I eventually realized that what I felt for her was ultimately platonic but she was a soulmate. She was someone God had brought along my life path to enrich and develop me. Someone I couldn’t live without at the time. Someone I felt a deep and forever type of connection to, even though we weren’t going to be friends forever. She changed my life, in the deepest and most influential of ways. But we weren’t meant to be romantic partners. It was Agape love, not Eros. To this day, I love this girl, although I am unfamiliar with the woman she’s become. We haven’t spoken in nearly 16 years but I will never forget her.

I haven’t felt that particular type of connection to a female friend since. I most likely, never will. We have many soulmates throughout our lifetime-each connection unique and irreplaceable, each individual sent to teach us something different.

So here you have me, sexually pent up and frustrated, waltzing into my Sophomore year at NYU with some wild and beautiful friends by my side. Oh honey, I was a sexual bomb waiting to explode and when I met Adam, explode I did. Adam was my first experience with extreme lust. I saw him and I knew I had to have him. I was still wearing my purity ring at this time and for the most part, was sexually inexperienced. I was unsure but something about my physical desire for this boy made me bolder than I’d ever been. When I propositioned him, I wasn’t expecting much to be honest. Maybe a makeout session here, maybe a graduation to 2nd (and a half) base there. Nothing more than that. I’d kind of developed a reputation as a tease during my teenage years with certain boys and during Freshman year of college (again, with certain boys) but I felt no remorse and guilt behind it. I relished in the title. I was holding onto my virginity for me. I had no desire to be in a serious relationship at that time in my life-I wanted to focus on school and my acting career.

Also, boys, love and romance paralyzed me.

As much as I dreamt and read about it, yearning for my own Beast to be a Beauty to, I was scared shitless to fall. I wanted it one day-you know, the fairytale- but at the same time, having such limited experience with it all, (well, positive experience), I was a commitment-phobe. “One day” always seemed far, far off into the future. I was only 20 after all. Also, watching my parents’ relationship had put a strong fear of marriage into me, that would take years for me to fully realize. The feeling of dread in the pit of my stomach whenever I seriously considered committing to someone was 100% real. So no, I had no intention of having sex with Adam because I was committed to holding onto my virginity, despite being unable to commit to an actual relationship. As much as I used the church, my beliefs and my purity ring as an excuse (for years I did this!), at that time, I just wasn’t ready. I was scared at the thought of going all the way sexually with someone and had no intention of being that vulnerable and open to any man.

Vulnerability and openness were my kryptonite. After so many years spent hiding my emotions, living in a house of horrors orchestrated by my father, where I never knew the emotional climate from one day to the next, I was a pro at sliding by in an emotionless fog, guarded to the teeth from feeling or revealing anything. 

The idea of a man coming inside of me, in every way, was terrifying.

So Adam and I started off as friends, then friends with benefits, then back to just friends, then we added the benefits back again. It was a roller coaster of a timeline. We finally managed to hook up, repeatedly, for 2 years straight. When we were on and off, we’d stop when he’d get a girlfriend-because I refused to be exclusive or committed to him- or when I decided we needed to stop because “This really isn’t me!” and “I feel guilty because of my religion”, blah blah blah. It amazes me now that our connection was strong enough to withstand such a prolonged period of time..of so much bullshit. It was our friendship that made all the difference. I’d never been friends with a boy who I also wanted to kiss all the time before. We did a lot together sexually because I trusted him implicitly. I even explored some light BDSM-focus on the bondage/domination and not so much on the sadism/masochism- with him, but we never had any type of penile penetration. Is that a thing?… It is now!

There was lots of oral sex-on both sides, hand jobs, making out without our clothes on, grinding, you name it but no penetration either vaginally or anally with his dick. I remained, technically, a virgin. I held on to that purity ring strictly by textbook definition. The irony was, I was not “pure” and I’d never really wanted to be but I pretended to be. The decision had been made for me long before I had the emotional intelligence to decide for myself. And so, the image of the “virginal” and “holy” girl that I portrayed myself to be in certain circles, became more important than the actual truth.

Do you see how messed up that is? I didn’t. Not many, many years.

I was doing what hundreds of other “good christian girls” were doing, albeit my actions may have been years later than most. Adam was good for me though. He taught me to be more outgoing, more frank in my opinions, stronger in my actual beliefs, not what I’d been indoctrinated to believe. Adam challenged me. He challenged my beliefs of right and wrong because he was a drug dealer. He sold and contributed to addiction and maybe even, destruction and death. But he was the best person I’d ever known: strong, tender, funny, smart, a business man really. He took care of his entire family with his earnings and never bought anything extra for himself. He always put people first and was so supportive and caring it was unreal. He supported me financially for years and I never had to ask him for a penny. He treated money like it was nothing and yet he had more of it than most people, but he was always giving it away. Adam never pressured me for sex. Never. He believed in my holding onto my virginity and felt that if I didn’t want to “give it to him,” it was my body, my decision and that there must’ve been a greater reason and purpose for the way I felt in my soul. He encouraged me to follow my heart and trust my gut and not always my head, something I still struggle with to this day. He was intuitive. He loved dogs. He loved his grandmother more than anybody. He was Catholic so he got the whole Christian Guilt thing. He was Adam.

But he sold drugs. Something that I couldn’t seem to get over and in the end, it ended us.

I dated a drug dealer for 3 years and he was the best boyfriend I’ve ever had. No lie. Every man I’ve dated after him has failed to compare. How do I reconcile that?

I honestly don’t know.