His reputation preceded him, as is often the case with big personalities. I didn’t really get to know him until I was about seven. Memory isn’t my strong point, but I’m pretty sure we met on a Friday. Lots of poignant events in my life had a way of happening on Fridays, so we’ll stick with that for now. I liked him right off the bat. Everybody did. Sometimes, even with the very young, you know when they have “it.” That thing which makes people take notice. My mom thought my infatuation was so cute. My dad, so him as trouble, so he was not nearly as amused. He tried to steer me away, but I was smitten, so it was too late.
I just wanted to be around him and hear his voice, even then. I would drop everything to listen to him. He wanted to be my man, and had told me as much. I let him be just that. My young fantasies always involved him. My first slow dance was with him. He needed love. My love. Who was I to say no? There were other crushes, but he was my constant love.
After years of being tight, out of the clear blue, he called me a bitch. It stunned me. Have you ever had your mother unexpectedly smack the hell out of you, and all you can do is give that hard blink? Saying it was hurtful enough, but everybody heard him. In my embarrassment, and my inability to process it, I explained it away. My dad gave me the knowing, “I told you so,” lecture. My mother suggested that I leave him alone.
He made an effort to make up for it, so I gave him another chance. I was his sister; his queen. We would go on for hours about building, not only ourselves, but all black people. We could talk about Malcolm and Haile and the beauty of our black origins. He said I was his beginning and his end. His words made me move as he spoke to my needs. He knew me. We grew together. As we grew, his intentions became more explicit. I remember the day my father found the words he’d penned for me and angrily threw them in my face. He could never understand our thing.
Young love, however, eventually grows restless. Rather than fight a losing battle, I set him free to be the person he felt he needed to be. Of course we kept in contact, and I didn’t always agree with the things he said, or the manner in which he said them, but I understood why he was so damned angry. Though I set him free, others were more selfish. They stifled and took from him. Any efforts he made to grow were met with disdain, disinterest, and derision. I stayed in his corner, because that was all I knew to do as far as he was concerned. I felt partially responsible, because it all started with him trying to give me a voice when I lacked words. He was my champion. The guilt that came with abandoning him was unbearable.
Anger with what the world was throwing at him caused him to lash out at me again. He was much more vitriolic. I was never enough of anything. Not pretty enough, my hair wasn’t long enough, my lips weren’t thin enough. So he would parade his new girls that met his qualifications. There were certainly enough of them. It was as though he could not miss an opportunity to showcase his disrespect.
The girl he loved since pigtails was replaced by strippers and porn stars, and one at a time was never enough. He needed all of them, and so many were willing. They loved him for the same reason I loved him. For that shine he had within. We retained contact when I became a mother, but it was always so strained. How could I let my kids in his company? I couldn’t. Not often.
Despite the hurt, I still would light up when he called. You do that with old loves. You don’t forget who they were. Especially when who they were was so sweet and good. When consider someone mine, it’s hard for me to see things any other way, even when the writing is on the wall. Sadly, the dashing figure in the shiny suits and the dark shades morphed from the person I know, to the person I knew. True to form, even now he puts up bravado, but I know him too well to not recognize that he is lost, and unable to figure out where he’s going. The way he treats women, whom he once regarded as his sisters, is nothing short of disgusting. And since they know who he used to be, they think there’s still a chance.
And even after all this time, he reminds me that he used to be an excited youngster who could render me paralyzed with amazement. I’m talking about someone who was beautiful, who was bold, who was black.
“Cuz who I’m talkin bout y’all is hip-hop.” (c) Common
And I STILL love him.
But he hate me.