by Jodi Dews
Have you ever loved with a passion that was too deep for words? Have you ever been inundated by a force that so completely infused your being with someone else’s that it was impossible to let go? Has that love ever been ripped away from you so suddenly that it was like taking your beating heart right out of your chest? Well I’ll tell you, I experienced that pain as a fourteen-year old girl, and whoever says that it’s impossible to love that hard so young is sadly mistaken.
I remember my gaze being steady as I studied the crevices on the ground. “Weeping may endure for the night, but joy comes in the morning’s light.” This I repeated over and over again as I silently waited for that joy to present itself, but, of course, it didn’t. The emptiness I felt was like a diseased organ that infected my entire body. What was so painful, I remember, was that I couldn’t place its source. Was it because of my grandmother’s death and the sudden change it brought upon my life? Was it my longing to have someone hold me and love me completely, the way a mother loves her newborn baby, with no selfish intentions, reservations, or ulterior motives? Why I felt the necessity for this kind of love at such a young age, I don’t know. But what I do know is that nothing could shake it. Nothing.
Rocks & Pebbles
Although I studied those rocks and pebbles and pieces of broken glass and dirt on the ground, I really couldn’t see them. I do not know what I saw. My thoughts were that intense. The first real object that my eyes gave sight to, however, were a pair of gleaming white Nike Airs. I looked up and there was Kendall, I knew him briefly. He was the guy who hung around with Scott, the cute guy, that flirted with me occasionally, whom I was kind of interested in, I think. I would never really give myself that much credit, though. I couldn’t bring myself to believe that someone really was interested in me in that way.
“So you like rocks, huh?” he asked, and even though I wasn’t really looking in his face, I knew it held a snide expression. “Umm, not really,” I said, wanting to be embarrassed, but not really caring what he thought. He was just another stupid guy who probably had nothing better to do than strike up idle conversation with me to add haste to his boredom. “So why are you staring at them so hard then?” he asked, and I wondered why he was wasting his time like this. “I’m just sitting her mi–” I stopped short and caught myself. I knew that I was going to get smart with him. “Minding your business?” he chuckled when he completed my sentence. “Look, I know that you’re really not that nasty,” he said in an effort to peer through my fake rough exterior. ” Lyric, I know that you’re really a nice, sweet, quiet girl, so you don’t have act all hard like that with me,” he said.
I smiled because he was right and also because he remembered my name. It’s true I was a very nice person, and I didn’t like to hurt people’s feelings, mostly because I couldn’t stand to get mine hurt and I was sensitive – too sensitive, I’d cry at the drop of a hat. I also knew that he didn’t really know all that much about me. He was just taking a chance, going on impulse, hoping that he was right. Jackpot. “Are you waiting for Scott?” he asked out of the blue with what he tried to make seem like innocent curiosity. “No.” I said adamantly, but at that moment, I thought to myself, “Maybe you are Lyric.” “What makes you think I’m waiting for Scott?” I asked in no particular way. “I don’t know, but I was just going to say that if you were, you’d be waiting a long time.” He said this with a confidence that made me think or rather know that he actually knew more than I thought he did.
He started talking again – “I’m not trying to ruin anything, but you do know Scott has a girlfriend, right?” “I kind of figured that,” I lied and then said, “Actually, I never gave it much thought.” I said that in an attempt to appear nonchalant and I hoped it was working. “Listen, Scott’s like my best friend, and I know that he’s been trying to talk to you, and I just think, no wait a minute, I know, that you’re too nice a girl to be played with like that,” he said. “Thanks, but it’s not that serious,” I said. I had heard an older girl use that statement on a guy once and I knew that it made me sound grown, so I just went for it. Plus, I liked the way his eyes widened when I said it. “O.K. then, back to these rocks, are you into geology or something?” he replied.
More Than Puppy Love
And from that conversation on, Kendall and I had built a rapport with one another that defied the mere notion of “puppy love.” Granted, he was older, either 17 or 18, but all I know is that in three to four months, I had fell willingly and completely in love with him. The emptiness I felt had been replaced with admiration, protection and passion from Kendall. He drew qualities out of me that I was unaware I possessed. Kendall introduced me to a responsible type of love that furnished us with confidence in ourselves and each other. We assumed the obligation of making each other happy, this was first and foremost in our lives. We loved each other uncompromisingly, which provided a distinctive type of strength that helped us to contend with the outside world in situations where we were unable to be each other’s backbone. Before Kendall, I was unaware that these characteristics existed within me, and I held an unabridged appreciation for him as a person and for teaching me so much about myself.
My days no longer passed by like checks on the calendar. Each day became preparation for the next which held more promise and deeper love. Kendall loved me and refused to share me with anyone or anything. Our relationship took off without the confusion and complication of sex, and we went on like this for almost a year. Being with Kendall was like having your best friend alone in the world with you. He put nothing before me, and I reciprocated.
On his birthday, I gave Kendall a present that I will never be able to give another man for as long as I live, my virginity. I can’t say that I remember feeling any sexual gratification, but the emotions that supported the experience, like the tickle in my belly that lasted for weeks after, is something I’d pay good money to feel today. I walked around lightheaded for weeks after, feeling like everyone could see the difference in me. The best way to describe it was pure, unadulterated giddiness.
A couple of months after that episode, Kendall and I became comfortable enough with each other to verbalize all the little qualms that we felt the need to suppress in the beginning due to the “newness” of the relationship. I believe before that, we were too afraid to express anything negative that we may have felt. This marked the beginning of tribulation in our relationship, and for a while, I even felt it made our relationship stronger, sort of in the same way that constructive criticism can actually help a person’s self-esteem.
One day while Kendall and I hung out in the lobby of my mother’s building, he and his friend Greg discussed music. I remember feeling jealous because he wasn’t paying any attention to me, so I pressed the elevator to go upstairs. He was so absorbed in the conversation that I didn’t even think he noticed. “Where are you going?” he demanded. “Upstairs,” I said using his same exact tone. “Why?” he asked with less bass. “Because I’m bored and plus you’re talking to Greg, so you don’t need me now, right?” I retorted. Greg laughed abruptly, and that stupid reaction enraged him. “Don’t play with me.” He said it like he just got injected a heavy shot of testosterone.
“Who’s playing?” I asked, even though it was more a statement than a question, I think I must have gotten the same shot. “You don’t want me to smack you, do you?” he said this like someone’s parent whose child is showing off in front of company. “You try it and you’ll never use your hand again,” I said with the calmness yet conviction that I used on my brothers when we fought each other. I wasn’t scared of them, so I knew I wasn’t scared of somebody’s Kendall. Then, out of nowhere, I saw his hand through the corner of my eye, and I felt the SLAP! It didn’t really hurt but for some reason I was dazed, I couldn’t believe he had hit me, and on impulse I hit him back, but missed the cheek I intended to hit and landed my open palm in his mouth. I stepped back and Greg jumped in the middle of us. Then Kendall looked at his lip, it was bleeding, I saw that and bolted up the steps.
Once I got in my room, I replayed the scene over and over again in my head and all I remember is that my heart couldn’t stop pounding. It was like I was having a heart attack. I knew I had to calm down before my mother came in being her usual nosey self. Out of nowhere, I heard a voice, but ignored it, I heard it again, and then I realized that it was coming from outside. I went to the window, pulled it up, and there was Kendall, his eyes filled with tears, I’d never seen him cry before. He tugged at his bottom lip, “Look what you did,” he said like a little kid. Then, out of nowhere, we both started to laugh at almost the same time and that’s when the pounding in my chest finally stopped. “If my mom asks me who did this, you know I have to tell you did” he said jokingly, which made me sort of blush, because I saw that I really did bust his lip, but I wasn’t sorry so I didn’t apologize. That was the first of our many sagas.
The summer of 1991 was the worst period of my life. My mother was home a lot during this time. It was unusual, but I didn’t want to ask her anything because I knew she had a thing with me getting in her business. Plus, she swore I always had something up my sleeve when I asked her why she was home or when she was going back to work. One afternoon, I saw her folding clothes and putting them in boxes, so I got suspicious and finally asked her what was going on. “Where are you going ma?” I asked. “WE’RE going to Florida,” she said. “When? the summer’s almost over,” I asked this and she ignored me, so I left it alone.
My mother was a very strange, private woman and at that time I definitely had better things to do than to try to figure her out. About three or four days later I came in the house at my usual time, 11:30, and again she was sitting on the floor taping boxes and labeling them. “You really should start packing your stuff Lyric, we are moving to Florida.” She said this in the exact same tone she used when she told me to wash the dishes or take out the garbage. No emotion. “When?!” I exclaimed, my bottom lip started to tremble like it always did when I got scared. “Next Saturday, 6:45 a.m.,” she said and abruptly turned her head.
I couldn’t believe it, how could she do this to me? She was ruining my life, ruin my education, she knew I loved going to my school downtown in the city and she knew I loved Kendall. All without any warning. Was she going insane? Was she having a mid-life crisis? My thoughts were so jumbled, I felt nauseous. I walked out the door without even asking her permission, because at that point I didn’t give a damn. Right before I locked the door I said “I’m not going,” as calmly and patiently as I could. “Yes you are,” she replied in a tone and with a smile that deranged killers use on their victims before they kill them.
I remember breaking that night with Kendall, crying and plotting, and plotting and crying. I can still smell the steel from the monkey bars that we sat on and remember how the sun looked when it came up and shined against his dark skin. The expression on his face when I told him I’d better go inside was that of depletion. My words seemed to suck everything out of him like a vacuum, he was lifeless. Kendall held me so tight that morning and cried enough tears to fill an ocean. Although, at times, he was difficult to get along with, I remember thanking God that he allowed someone to love me that much. Of course, he finally let me go and we walked hand in hand towards my building. I remember how sweet the grass smelled that morning, every step we took towards that building seemed like a confirmation of how beautiful our life was together, how real our love was and how much we needed to remain as one.
When I opened the door, I expected a shoe or a can of peas or something to hit me, but, fortunately, nothing came flying. My mother turned the corner from the back of the house, when I entered, I’m sure she was looking out the window all night. Down the corridor she walked with the gait of a pimp, and asked she passed me I jumped, expecting a smack, but instead she turned sharply into the kitchen, turned on the tea pot and spoke to me while she watched her water boil. “You better get it all out of your system now Lyric, because come Saturday you won’t ever see him again.” My already swollen eyes automatically pushed out more water, like someone had pressed a button in my head. I always knew she didn’t like Kendall but I didn’t realize the depth of her hatred for him. Even if I wanted to respond, I wouldn’t have been able to, so I just walked down the hall to my bedroom.
Every Moment Bound
Over the next couple of days Kendall and I spent every breathing moment together. We went to his mother and told her the situation and she said that I was more than welcome to stay with them. I pitched the idea to my mom and she laughed viciously. I would have rather had her throw salt in my eyes than laugh that wicked laugh. “You are fourteen years old Lyric, you are my child and tell that bitch to mind her business before I get the authorities involved.” Her words ran through me like venom, then in desperation, I dropped to her knees crying and begged her to let me stay with someone, some aunt, some uncle, cousin, anyone, but of course, my efforts were in vain. There was absolutely nothing I could do to change her mind.
At 6:45 on Saturday, August 21, 1991, a burgundy caravan pulled into the parking lot under my window. Disconnected pieces of conversation in nauseating southern drawls woke me from my sleep. I pulled the pillow tightly over my head hoping that it was just another one of those “Florida” nightmares that I’d been having for the past couple of weeks. The voices continued, so eventually I looked out my window and saw the corrupt faces of my distant relatives that had persuaded my mother into ruining her child’s life. I dressed and went outside, I didn’t even think about helping with the bags or anything. I went straight for the flagpole, sat there quietly and cried. I could hear my relatives asking questions about me in attempted whispers. I wanted to physically hurt all of them. And if you didn’t know this – Southern people can’t whisper, they don’t possess the God-given ability.
Kendall appeared, as I knew he would, to see me off. We were both crying, inwardly and outwardly. I can honestly say I had never felt so much pain my life. We were both so distraught that it was impossible for either of us to speak. We couldn’t muster up that much strength, so we just held hands and continued to cry. Eventually it was time for me to get in the van, and as I climbed into the back seat and the ignition started, I swear I felt a piece of my soul drop out of my body and through a stream of tears I saw the only person in the world that ever really loved me slip away slowly.
Florida was horrible, I did not adjust, I would not adjust, and six days after being in that wretched environment, I made a decision to leave. From personal savings I gathered what I felt would be enough money for a one-way bus ticket. I went to school on this day with my aunt who worked there and after the second period bell rang, I went into the girl’s bathroom, opened a window and jumped out. That day I took the longest walk of my life. I walked, with a ten-pound knapsack on my back for an a hour and a half in the hot Florida sun. That sun was vicious. It seemed to be burning through my skin with such intensity that I thought I would melt. What gave me the momentum to go on, even though the thoughts of my mother’s tears tore at my conscience irreverently, was the vision of Kendall’s tears that day I left for Florida.
Needless to say, I arrived in New York around 12 hours later, and called my mother. I knew the call had put her at ease even though our conversation was nothing more than a screaming match.
Kendall appeared in the doorway with his fingers in the creases of his eyes and looked at me as if he had seen an apparition. If I even attempted to describe the magic that surfaced between the two of us at that moment, I would be wasting my time. What I felt when he looked at me is too profound for words – even the most prolific writer could not capture it, and if, for the rest of my life, I never experience that feeling again, I can say that I am satisfied. Wholly satisfied.
Describing to you what happened after that joyous reunion would be like writing an essay on the excruciating pain of childbirth. It is something that you try to block out of your mind when you think of the joy that the child has brought you. But life wouldn’t be life without the compromise of hurt and pain, happiness and sadness, good and bad.
My mother returned to New York about four months after the fiasco, and Kendall and I lasted for about a year after that. He even stuck around through the punishment my mother gave me which had an expiration date of “When Jesus comes back.” I’m sure, however, that my mother’s strict governance of my life angered him and made him feel helpless. But hey, I did the crime and I had to pay. What now became commonplace in our relationship was abuse – physical and emotional. I even reached the point where I came to believe that fighting was a real outlet of our frustrations. I guess it was just our only outlet. Although his blows didn’t do much damage externally, they collected in my soul and made me a bitter and angry young woman.
In September of 1993, I broke up with Kendall just as I started my senior year in high school. My decision to leave him was not the direct effect of one our fights or arguments or infidelity. It came as unexpected as a thief in the night. He objected and objected and objected. He threatened suicide, but eventually, he accepted, so I thought. ‘Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.’ I was told once. Women are unbelievable creatures. They will endure pain for extensive amounts of time, silently weeping and wishing and willing a person to change, but they will not walk until they are good and ready. However, when that voice in their head tells them that time is up, they will leave – forever.
Surprisingly, leaving Kendall was like a breath of fresh air. It was like having your braces taken off. It was the feeling you get when, after two weeks of waiting, you get a positive test result. But Kendall and I weren’t really over yet.
One dismal afternoon in December I stood in that lobby of my mother’s building which held so many of our memories. Kendall came out of the elevator, much to my surprise. We exchanged some hostile words, which were initiated by him, I think, and then he walked out the front door.
But instead of continuing on his way, he stood quietly outside the door and as I observed his person I noticed that he held something shiny and black in his right hand. My intuition had to have kicked in, because for some reason, I knew I needed to get out of there quick and as I attempted to walk inconspicuously away, Kendall fired one shot at my back, and I took off running up those same stairs in the same way that I did that day when we had our first fight. But suddenly, in the midst of this horror, while the adrenalin took over my body, I realized the mistake I had made. I used Kendall to teach me how to love myself, I feel in love with love, and not with him, and now the only thing I could say to myself was “Lyric, why didn’t just ignore him when he asked you that stupid question ‘So you like rocks, huh?’