My mother and I were best friends…
Until the day she defined love for me.
Four months earlier, I came home from school to find a man sitting in our living room. He was tall, brown skin, hazel eyes and built like he may have played football. At first, I thought someone may have broken into our house but he looked far too comfortable on the couch. He introduced himself and I mumbled ‘Hi,’ and the silence was awkward. Then he asked me if I was in school.
‘Do you want to go to college?’
hmmmm, no one has ever asked me that before. College might be nice.
Before I knew it we were having a whole discussion on college, my dreams and goals and suddenly, I hoped this was my mom’s new boyfriend. He seemed nice. No one ever asked me about what I wanted to do before. What I wanted to be when I grew up (well except my grandmother but she had passed away the year before), and suddenly my mind was at work thinking of all the things I could be when I graduated high school.
Yes, I want to go to college!!!!!
Later my mother came home, and sure enough, I found out it was her new boyfriend, and I was totally fine with that.
The next day I went to school and I started looking up colleges. I was excited and had something new to focus on!
But through my excitement of this new future I started planning out in my head, things got really strange at home.
It started with me constantly having dreams that I’d wake up to ‘mom’s new boyfriend’ standing over me. I would wake up in a sweat and he was gone.
The dream was recurring over a few months.
I can’t be going crazy…
Then one night, it was dream. wake up. he’s not gone. he’s standing there. Beside my bed…and he’s naked.
‘Oh, shoot.’ He said, as if he somehow wandered in the wrong room on the way back from the bathroom.
And he left.
The next morning, my mother was cooking and I came out of my bedroom, wondering if I should talk about what happened the night before. Because now, I’m sure that those dreams of me thinking someone was standing over me each night were no longer dreams.
I was standing there wondering what I should say, when she stopped what she was doing, tilt her head to the side and said, ‘What happened to your night gown.’
I said, ‘What’s wrong with it’
She said it’s ripped.
I ran to a full-length mirror and looked in horror as I viewed what seemed to be a long tear down the back of my night gown. It looked as though it had been cut with a switchblade.
When did this happen? While I was sleep???
My heart dropped.
I thought about the night before.
Mom’s Boyfriend. Standing over me. Naked.
What if I didn’t wake up? What would he had done to me?
Do I tell her?
He came home and I didn’t tell her.
I spent the next few months fearing the worse: that one day he’d either rape me or kill me. So I started sleeping with a butcher knife under my pillow.
One night, after I grew tired of gathering a dumpster worth of contents in front of my door just before I went to sleep, I told my aunt.
And my aunt told another aunt.
And they told my mom, and a huge fight broke out. And before you know it, I had somehow caused a riff in the family.
A day later, I found myself sitting at a stoplight in the passenger seat of my mother’s car. All of the stuff I owned was piled in the backseat and trunk. She was kicking me out. She was taking me to go live with my grandmother.
My mother used to be my best friend, someone I could tell any and everything to. While a lot of my friends had strict parents who wouldn’t let them out of eye sight after school let out, my mom was different. I told her everything. She gave me freedom, and in return, I showed her enough respect to not stay out late and I always notified her of my whereabouts. She didn’t really have to be strict because I was the type of kid who would rather be at home reading a book after lacrosse and field hockey practice than I would roaming the streets.
But that woman, sitting beside me, at that moment, I didn’t know. She was a stranger to me.
And so I had to ask while sobbing, ‘I just don’t understand why you would kick me out of the house over some guy.’
And her response was:
‘You’ll never understand.’
‘Until you fall in love.’
Those seven words destroyed me.
At 16 years old, love was defined in the most distorted way possible.
Love will make you lose yourself.
Love will make you turn your back on your family and friends.
Love will make you turn your back on your only child.
And from there I decided, ‘I will never, ever fall in love.’
After that conversation, I spent a decade running from love like it was the plaque. A fast moving train, that once it crashed into me, I’d die on impact.
Boys. They’d show interest but realized all too soon, the wall was far too thick to climb.
Many would be up for the challenge at first, only to give up to pursue something a lot easier later on.
And I was fine with that.
My heart was numb and I couldn’t feel anything. Actually I refused to feel anything.
What made matters worse was that I did go to college (partially to escape the madness at home after I decided to move back in)…and in my last semester of school, I found out my mother only had two weeks to live.
I rushed home, and of course the guy…he was nowhere to be found.
I spent the next two weeks by my mom’s side, feeling hurt that a guy came into her life and snatched her away from me. He stole years from me. Years we could have spent creating mother/daughter memories. It was only recently that my mother and I had started talking on the phone again every day. And she was now gone. Because of him, I may not have been there for her when she needed me most. When she found out that she had cancer and needed someone. When he left…
At the funeral, I constantly looked around, wondering if he’d show up. Clearly, if you loved her, you’d show up to pay your respect. Right?
But he was nowhere in sight.
He didn’t show.
And that made me angry…
I tell this story because, up until a few years ago, I lived a very loveless life. A life that didn’t allow me to get close to anyone. I knew how to like…and I knew how to care deeply for people. But Love?
Love brought me the greatest type of fear. And I’ve spent my life running…
I’ve moved so many times and to so many states because it felt safer than staying in one city and nurturing personal relationships. Because I was scared of people either hurting me …or leaving me. It feels so much better when you are the first to go, versus being left.
But I soon realized that a life without love, is no life at all. I had to open up my heart and be brave. I had to stop running.
No matter how hard you work, how many accolades you pile up on the mantel, how many places you travel, how much money you make, if you refuse to experience love, there will always be an emptiness that can’t be filled. Love is like the fuel needed to keep your car running. You have to keep filling up the tank, or you will eventually run out of gas.
But you also have to make sure you are getting the right type of love. That love, my mom was talking about that day in the car, that was comparable to putting some old diluted, watered-down gas in a luxury vehicle that only runs on premium. If you keep filling your vehicle’s tank up with regular gas when premium is recommended, you may damage the car. The same can be said for love. You will become damaged if you keep filling your love tank up with the wrong type of love.
But how do you know when it’s right?
And when to fight for it?
To love, you have to be willing to collide with the weakest parts of yourself – Will Smith
Back in March, I was forced to face my truths during an interview with singer August Alsina. He unintentionally made me relive the memories I wanted to forget when he told a story that was all too familiar. When I asked about his relationship with his mother, he said:
My mama been with my step dad since I was one years old. My stepdad is addicted to drugs, still is, and always have been battling this problem. Me, as a son and a man, nobody wanna see their mom go through that at all. What I feel like is, he kind of took her life away from her because she’s so focused on what he’s doing. I think it’s unfair because everybody in the world got dreams. I know my mama got or had dreams. My mom is like 50 now, so I love her. I don’t have a choice but to love her because that’s my mama.
Later, in the interview, I asked if he had been in love and he said ‘Yes’.
Was that real love?
I believe it was. Nobody else has showed me what real real love would be so what I experienced, I believe was love.
And what did you experience?
Caring about someone more than I cared about myself.
‘If my mother hasn’t taught me anything else, she taught me how to love.’
‘How did she do that?
‘Just by loving someone more than she loved herself.’
I had to let that marinate…
(to be continued)