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Time

15 Apr

I remember this day like it never ended. I got up that morning around 4am. I made sure I didn’t wake him up; I wanted him to be in comfort for as long as possible. I started making my morning tea, and the last meal I would ever get to cook for him, at least for the foreseeable future. Steak, home fries with extra onions, how he liked it. Hard-boiled eggs and cheese grits. I was making his half cocoa, half decaf mixed before I saw him walking into the kitchen. This man. My man. My best friend. My Lover. My enemy at times and my comforter all the rest. All of that was gone now. His eyes were so empty, red and swollen. I knew that sight only once, when we lost the best thing we ever created.

 

I got up to greet him. Our morning routine in the kitchen was to do the Kid N Play dance and whoever stepped out of sync first had to do dishes. The scene usually ended with laughter and kisses. However, this morning wasn’t typical. It wasn’t routine. Throwing my arms around his waist, I buried myself in his stomach. It was silent for what seemed like an eternity. I could hear his staggered breathing. Then the trembles.

 

He let out a sound I had never heard from him before. This was the strongest man I had ever met, physically and mentally, yet here we were, on the kitchen floor in tears. We had never spoken about this day, but we knew it was soon to come. The house full of moving boxes, furniture disappearing when friends came to select what they have spent years coveting. I thought back to when we first saw this house and knew it was our dream. The move in day that was ruined by a flash flood. We spent that first weekend in our home making love on every surface, barely noticing the power outage or lack of furniture. Now here we were, 3 years later saying our goodbyes, to not only the house, but also each other.

 

We dragged out breakfast for as long as we could. I spent the time not eating, just taking notes. Getting his affairs in order was number one on my honey-do list. Making sure everyone in his life would be taken care of. In all the madness going on in his world, he had time to create of detailed binder of what he needed to be done for other people. We made sure everything was as good as it could be and got ready for the longest drive we had ever taken.

 

His best friend Walt picked us up that morning. We sat in the backseat and took Grand River all the way from Novi to Downtown Detroit. We rolled our favorite strain into a pair of Garcia Vegas cigars and made our plans for 2023. I planned for everything to be perfect, down to Reasonable Doubt playing on the radio. It was important to me that he knew that I remembered everything. That I would do any and everything.

 

The last blunt was burned a few feet from the courthouse. I couldn’t tell if my eyes were red from crying or Kush, but I knew they needed to remain tear free for the next 30 minutes. We waited until I saw the man I had seen too much of in the past 14 months. His lawyer was a man of little words, and that day was no different. We silently walked past him to the stairs. The real walk of shame, reserved for criminals and those who love and defend them. A place where you are innocent until proven guilty, yet innocence is defined as having great counsel. It always smelled of wood, leather-bound books and fear. I squeezed his hand tighter for reassurance. His or mine, I wasn’t sure, but we both needed it.

 

I had to say my final goodbye in a small room with a guard right outside the door. That entire moment felt like a bad dream. We upheld our promise from years back. That night on TybeeIsland, we were enjoying the deck of our rental home, talking about going crabbing in the morning. All of a sudden, he turned to me and stated “If anything ever happens to me, don’t let my last image of you be sad, ok?” I don’t know if he was foreshadowing, or just drunk, but that question always stayed with me. Afterwards I would always make sure to tell him “I love you” before a phone call, before he left, or even after a fight. He made me think about the last memory that I leave people with. How fitting that I can’t forget that memory of him.

 

The Number Game

12 Sep

“You sure you want to do this?” He asked while puffing on a cigar. “You don’t have to do anything you don’t feel comfortable doing.” I was 616 miles away from my home, in New York City’s Le Parker Méridien hotel. I was inebriated off expensive red wine, uncomfortable in an outfit I got from Fredericks of Hollywood during the shopping spree earlier in the day and I was nervous. I was planning to give away my “special gift” to the man I had been in love with for 2 years to the date, almost. So why was I so afraid?

I met him on the campus of Howard University, October 29th, 2004. His peanut butter complexion, slate black eyes and killer smile was the first thing that attracted him to me. His tall, thick build wasn’t a turnoff, either. His broad shoulders were draped in a purple fraternity jacket, and gold boots adorned his feet. “Yo Slick, come meet my baby sis!” my sister hollered across the yard. I began to turn my head to search for this Slick character, thinking ANY man with a nickname like that can’t be any good. Much to my delight, the one they called Slick was the one in my sights.

We exchanged pleasantries. Rick was a business major, graduating in the winter with honors. He played sports, was heavily involved in his frat and was 21. I told him I danced and I was from Detroit. He looked at my Wayne State sweatshirt and asked my year. “Freshman.”, I replied. He didn’t need to know that my school was down the street from Wayne at Cass Technical High School. This was just my sister’s friend, why was my age important?

That entire weekend was an experience like no other. That night after the step show, Rick and his line brothers showed up at my sister’s apartment for a little soirée she was hosting. While she had her pledges clean her house, she took me in her bedroom and applied my makeup. “Makeup for a house party, Shai?” I asked her as she painted my face with her MAC brushes with ease. “I’m gonna melt!” My sister, used to my dramatics just laughed at me. “Did you see the way Slick was all into you on the yard?” she asked while curling my lashes and pinching my eyelids. “We gotta get you dolled up so you can get a boyfriend.” I was a little confused. Shai was the big sister that didn’t let me play with the neighborhood boys because “These kids are filthy and beneath you.” The older guys that would ride up our block in the summer with the Marauders blaring Blade Icewood from their speakers that tried to approach me and my friends were always ran off by Shai and her ever present pistol. So for her to say she was going to set me up with anyone, let alone a grown man, was scary. But this was my big sister, and I trusted her. I let her finish, pick out my outfit and drank my first cocktail of Armadale and cranberry juice.

He walked in a little past midnight. He had replaced his t-shirt and camouflage with a crisp blue button down shirt and dark jeans. His bald head was shining like a crown of jewels laid upon it. “Fuck, this nigga is FINE!” was the only thought my mind could form when I saw him. He walked through the small crowd, speaking to his friends, making promises to hook up later that week with a few people. Then, he finally caught me staring at him. He grinned, and held up a finger to indicate he’d be over in a second. I went into panic mode. “What if he thinks I have on too much makeup? What if he doesn’t like my outfit?” I asked my sister. “Courtney. Get off the stool and go talk to him” was the reply I got.

We found a spot on the couch by the balcony. We begin to just have casual conversation, talking about our families, how we grew up not far from each in Detroit and our plans for the future. He wanted to open his own auto repair business, and because he was a Detroit boy through and through, he was going to specialize in American vehicles from the 1980s. I told him about my plans to open an advertising firm that catered to the Big 3. We talked until the party was empty and decided to clean up together as a gift to my sister. After the last solo cup was tossed, I found myself pinned in the corner. “So, let me ask you a question, and can you please tell me the truth?” he asked. “Sure,” I said eagerly, “Ask me anything.” He stepped back a little, sighed and asked “So how old are you REALLY?”

“Fourteen,” I replied. “I’m fourteen.”

After revealing the secret I’d been holding from him for 8 hours, I felt relieved. I knew this guy was too smart to talk to a girl my age, and although he intrigued me so, I knew this is when he would run for safety. “SHIT!” he shouted. “Four-fucking-teen?? Court, do you know how old I am? How much trouble I can get into?” “Yes,” I added, “And I understand if you don’t want to talk to me anymore.” I watched him grab his keys and bottle of water.

“Be ready for breakfast at 11,” he told me when he reached the door. “I gotta work something out with you, Miss Courtney. You’re too good for me to let go.”

Sleepless Nights

9 Aug

I used to wake up to the sounds of my mother screaming nightly as a child. My older brother had grown accustomed to the soundtrack, and learned to sleep through anything.  I would pretend to be sleep, but silently prayed for my Daddy to come back. The man in the next room, choking my Mommy within inches of her life, looked just like my Daddy. Minus the growls, screams, obscenities he hurled at my Mommy, you’d think it was him. In the morning, that bad man was gone and my loving Daddy would wake me up to watch Steve Young clips on ESPN with him before work. I felt it was all just a bad dream for so long.

One night, my nightmare became reality. This night was different. The screams weren’t coming from their bedroom next door, but far away. I knew the bad man was behind this, and I couldn’t fathom why my father was nowhere to be found. He always told me he’d be there when I needed him. But now, when I needed him most, he was nowhere to be found.  The search for my Mother led me to the closed basement door. I was always taught the basement was off limits. But this situation was different. My Mommy needed me! As I descended the stairs, I couldn’t believe my eyes.

My beautiful Mommy. Sitting hogtied to a chair, naked, covered in blood and bruises. Her eyes were closed, her face twisted in pain. I was still, too scared to move or think. Behind her, holding her throat like a wad of cash, was my father. He was stoic, yet his normally hearty tone was replaced by a sinister voice movie villains would envy. “I told you to fucking listen to me, you dumb bitch. You always gotta question some shit! Now look at you.” I gasped. My Daddy didn’t curse. This further proved this man was a stranger! My father turned around and gazed into my eyes. He was so empty. Soulless. “Go to sleep, Court. We’ll be up in a few” is what he told me in a voice dripping with evil intentions. Even though I was only four years old at the time, I knew there was a chance my Mommy wouldn’t be coming up with him.

I ran up the stairs, grabbed our brand new cordless phone and called one of the only numbers I knew- my Grandmother, my father’s mother. Those 5 rings seemed like an eternity, and when her answering machine picked up, my heart fell to the floor. She was my only hope, and it seemed to be lost. Thankfully, her sleepy voice came over her greeting. “Daddy hurt Mommy. She’s sleeping in blood”. I’ll remember those words for the rest of my life. Those words saved my Mother’s life.

Cops arrived at my Rosedale Park home and broke down our front door before my Father had the chance to come up the stairs. He was immediately taken into custody, my Mommy rushed to Sinai Hospital. 3 days in the hospital, 4 broken bones, internal bleeding and plenty of scars, physically, mentally, and emotionally.

I didn’t see my father for 3 years after that. I don’t know where he was. I spent hours calling him and leaving the “823911” code on his pager for emergencies that he taught me, wondering why he didn’t respond. I felt abandoned. Unloved. Lost. But for the first time, in a long time, I wasn’t afraid to go to sleep.

 *If you, or anyone you know is suffering from Domestic Violence, please encourage them to call 911 or the U.S. National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233. Please talk to someone. You are not alone. Speak up. Please.