Lay up with me under clouds of weed smoke. Your fingers part my lips while you kiss the other pair.
Drunken with dusty feet, I stumbled to the rooftop with my shoes in hand. The wind whispered, “Jump & you will fly!” To which I replied, “Jump & I’ll surely die.” The cool summer rain soothed my burning skin.
I raise my glass to the people with full resumes & adequate experience yet lack the sheet of paper that exempts them from inferior pay. To Those of us actively hunting for our purpose under the umbrella of others. It’s time to dance in the rain.
There’s something so inviting in the wind. The way it rustles the leaves, kisses my skin, and beckons me to follow its patterns in the sky. Chimes jingle in the distance, reminding me of the twilight sneaking into my window as we cracked our eyes after a night of passion.
If what they say is true, 'Home is where the heart is.' And every time you look around, he's with the same someone else, his heart is not with you.
Paralysis. I’m so hurt and angry that I just want to scream. Scream from the bottom of my stomach at the top of my lungs. I want to scream until my throat burns and my ears explode. While the rest of the world mourns the death of many, I am still mourning the death of one. Constant sickness. Inexplicable nausea and dizziness. Sometimes I can feel my heart rate sky rocket and my knees get weak. There’s no one to talk to. Who can I talk to about the burning and aching in my chest? How am I to explain to my children that sometimes I have a hard time moving?
I was driving along the highway with y hand draped out of the window. I was fine. I was lost in thought but I was okay. Then in the far right lane, there were two men. Each were riding their own motor cycle. My mind flashed to you. I remembered the last time I saw you with your bike, you were wearing some sort of armor. You were riding safely. These men, however, wore nothing but loose, short sleeve t-shirts, and small bucket helmets. There was no doubt in my mind they would make it to their destination safely nor was there any desire for otherwise.
It did cause me to question everything. The questions rolled into consciousness faster than I could attempt to answer. My head started to spin. I had to pull over. In the blink of an eye, I went from trying to discern the different ways to describe the air I’ve been breathing knowing that I can’t share it with you to trying to discern why some people make it to old age and others do not.
I thought about your funeral. I thought about the many lives you touched and why it was decided in such a short time, your job was done. What did we all learn? I sat on the side of the road and thought for what felt to be a very long time. What did I learn? What did you leave me with? My mind quickly navigated our memories together like fingers through a rolodex or an infinite scroll on someone’s social media website.
My mind streamed and my chest caved. In February, we talked about spending the entire week together because we would have the time. That was what triggered our last disagreement. Before that, I was short on my rent. Or short for my car note. I can’t recall but you came by and gave me what I needed. Before that, you helped me bring boxes upstairs to my friend’s house. I had just moved in. All of these occurrences were great but not life changing.
I started to panic. He wasn’t finished with me so why was he taken so early? So my mind kept sifting. I had an insatiable desire to know what your purpose in my life had been. My mind flashed to the beginning of us. I was thirteen going on fourteen and you were eighteen going on nineteen. I had a boyfriend and I have no idea what you were up to. You were funny and cute as hell. I had fallen in love. I left my boyfriend and we were officially together.
The difference you made in my life transpired long before my adulthood. You were my angel, my caretaker, my light. Around the age of fifteen, I was always getting put out of my mother’s house. And if I wasn’t being kicked out, my mother wasn’t home. Whenever I found myself with nowhere to go, I was welcomed into your home and whenever I found myself home alone without any food or water, you were there to supply it.
There are people that would argue that you were just taking care of the person you were involved with and this may be true but it was you heart that made the difference. It was your desire to see me grow. At fifteen, my life could have gone either way. I could have started taking drugs or become someone’s property. Under your watchful eye, I became neither. You were my home.
At a time in my life where I was the most malleable, you allowed me live and grow in a safe environment. While I know we spoke of our teenage years often, I don’t believe I’ve ever formally thanked you. This is how you touched my world. This is the difference you were here to make in me. For you to make such a significant difference in my life, what did you do for the other people you met?
My heart constricts when I think of the possibilities. The dizziness resumes. The silence is deafening. I’ve entered the state of denial. I’ve concluded that your difference is so great, that your time could not have been concluded so soon. I can recognize the denial but it feels so much better.
A love story that started when I was thirteen has officially ended. My mother assures me that it’s not over because the resurrection is near and I will see my love again but I haven’t found any comfort in that. We were two ships passing in the night; the moon chasing the sun and now the ship drifts alone and the moon ceases to glow. I feel weak. I feel like my world is shattered and for the past eighteen hours, I’ve only wanted to join him. I want to die but it’s not what I need and it’s not what he wants.
Shortly after I learned of his death, I fell to my knees and cried out. I kicked over desks and tossed my office. I laid on the floor and stared at the ceiling. I kicked and flailed my arms as I screamed to the heavens. This can’t be true. There must be some sort of mistake. He wouldn’t leave me behind. All selfish thinking, I suppose.
I am trying to discern what I am supposed to feel. What am I supposed to think? How do I process his death? I’ve prayed, I even spoke to him. I could hear him reply, “It’s okay, Stank. I’m okay.” His large brown eyes blinking and his nose nestling my cheek. I turned my music off so that I could hear him clearer. And I did. His raspy voice kept repeating his soothing words, “I know, Stank. I’m okay. It’s okay.” There was a coolness on my belly and right arm as I heard his words.
So I said, “Do you know I love you? I was mad at you but I’m sorry. Do you know? Will you remember?” The coolness increased and I could hear music playing. My music was cut back on and coming through my headphones.
“There’s somethin’ bout ya love that makes me weak and knocks me off my feet. There’s somethin’ bout ya love that makes me weak and knocks me off my feet. I don’t wanna bore you with it oh but I love you, I love you, I love you. I don’t wanna bore you with it oh but I love you, I love you, I love you.”
I cried but this time with peace and replied, “I love you too.”
I thought that I’d found my answer for what to do. He came to me and he told me that he knew how much I loved him despite the fact that my last words to him were a sarcastic “Really….?”
I laid down on the floor and tried to rest. My head was pounding and even after feeling like I had one last conversation with the first man I have ever loved, my heart was still broken. I had a restless sleep. I could feel his rough hands on my back and his lips on my skin. I dreamed of his visits to me after he got off work. Seeing him in his motorcycle armor and his blackened hands. In my dream, I playfully complained about his dirty clothes as he threw his arms around my shoulders to give me a hug. I tossed around in my sleep and the dream started to feel real.
We hopped in my car and went for a drive. He had to drive because I was too sleepy. We stopped at Wendy’s and I ordered a crispy chicken and a double stack and proceeded to pile one on top of the other. I smiled at him and said “Bigger sandwich for like $3.”
For the first time in this dream he said, “I will be getting that from now on,” and we laughed. The rest of this dream was flashes of us on my friend’s front porch, us at Eagle Rock Reservation, at my job, and then back on the porch. That’s where it ended. When I work up it was about four hours since I’ve heard the troubling news that my love is lost forever. I opened the message he sent to me on Friday and saw all of the messages from our argument about 4 months before. I could have done better. His visit during his postmortem rounds did not give me the peace that I had hoped for.
Why is this so hard? We spent our entire adult lives in an on and off relationship. There would be months of no speaking and then we’d be speaking everyday. I guess this is because I know he’s not coming back. This time it’s different. There has never been a death in my life that I was not prepared for. My uncle and even my grandmother were on their death beds for quite some time but this, this is different. I was ready for their passing because I know that you sometimes get sick and then, you’ll pass away as a result. This is life. But that’s not what happened to my love so when I think about how he’s gone, I feel like it’s not possible because dying from an accident is not a part of life. Especially not for my love. He was supposed to grow old, watch his kids grow up, watch my kids grow up, we were even going to have another baby. We had a plan that I wasn’t sure I could stick to because there were too many lives involved and now I wish that I did. This is the worst possible way to learn that life is too short for “What if.” I want to tell him that he was right but I can’t. I can only put it out in the universe with hopes that my message is delivered.
How could someone so wonderful in every aspect be taken away from the people that love him so soon? He was out, presumably having a good time and then there was some sort of accident. I was baffled because he told me that he would no longer be using his motorcycle because he was getting a truck. We agreed this was safest so why was he on a motorcycle again? I would know this if I spoke to him sooner. All of these thoughts are killing me slowly but then when I get into a quiet space and I see him. I feel him. A coolness on my arm, my hair moving like it’s being blown softly. That’s when I ask him, “Do you know I love you?” and the sensation on my arms gets colder.
Twenty hours, that’s how long it’s been since I learned of his untimely passing. I got in my car and drove home from work yesterday and I passed my house to go to Eagle Rock and I waited. I waited and I cried. I knew he was never going to show up and I’m going crazy because why would I be looking for a man that has passed away? I left. My hands were shaky on the steering wheel but I’m strong. I’m still alive and so I have to operate as such. But how could I? I drove to the liquor store and bought wine and whiskey.
I spoke to his mother in the parking lot and she said “I’m sorry for your loss.” That’s the kind of person he was raised by. The kind of person we were raised by. Here she was, grieving her son and saying sorry to his friends because they had lost someone too. That made me realize that I need to pull it together. His parents were being pillars of strength so that his friends didn’t need to be. That was my answer. I need to be strong and remember that even when a life is lost, I have other lives to be concerned with. My children need me. My mother, my job, I still have books to write and stories to tell. I can’t crumble.
So I went home. I thought I would drink myself to sleep but I was already tired and my kids were already in bed. So I tried to sleep too. I dreamed about him again. I saw flashes of our old photos from our late teens and early twenties. I recalled our never ending conversations. Smoking sessions with friends, drinking sessions, and cook outs. I don’t even remember the bad times. When I woke up this morning, it felt like any other day in the weeks that we aren’t speaking. Then it hit me that he wasn’t coming back. That’s what made this day different than the others. All morning I’ve been finding split seconds of peace until I realize that the moon will no longer chase the sun and that my ship would no longer pass another in the dead of night. Our story has ended.
Sixteen years we spent being lovers, best friends, distant lovers, and finally forbidden friends. He was my care taker, my inspiration, my guardian, my balance, my support team, and so forth. Before I was diagnosed with acute bipolar disorder and right after I was diagnosed with clinical depression, he was there and never left. He never left when everyone else did. He didn’t need to understand what was wrong in order for him to stay around; to stay near. I know I am not alone. I know that I now have people who support me and who cope with my ailments but he was the original and longstanding cheerleader in my life. I would not have survived without him. And now I have to survive without him.
I don’t know what that entails. I don’t know what surviving means. Do I live in sorrow, because I never want to forget him or do I forge ahead because he and I lived in enough sorrow already? Maybe I can pretend he’s still out there somewhere thriving. Maybe our ships do not have to stop passing as long as I believe it’s still possible to cross paths. That would be delusional. He’s gone but still in my heart. He watched over me while he was alive, so why would it be any different in death?
Two lovers that will never be together until their death. Only in death will we get a do over and I am eagerly awaiting that time. Why lie? How can I lie? I love you and you love me and even if it takes the afterlife to get it right, then that’s when we’ll get it right. As friends, I was able to share everything with you. You saw my growth and not a stone has been upturned. I must be grateful for that.
You read my first published book, saw my new car, saw my first apartment, and even met my beautiful little girls. I grew up right before your eyes. As you journey into the afterlife, I am realizing that we had closure. I’ve done everything you said I can do and by stopping now, I would be doing you a disservice. So the afterlife it is…whenever my time comes, I know you will be waiting for me like you always have.
Stephen Francis Riley Sr., I love you so much. I don’t expect anyone who didn’t know us to understand what this all means. Furthermore, I don’t expect everyone to be receptive of what they can’t understand. I will carry you in my heart forever. Rest in peace, light, and strength. Until we meet again.
Trigger Warning: This post contains depictions of violent scenarios and may be disturbing to some readers.
Disclaimer: If you or someone you know is a victim of domestic violence, please speak up. Visit safehorizon.org or call 800.621.HOPE (4673). Domestic violence comes in many forms. Safe Horizon defines it as “a pattern of behavior used to establish power and control over another person through fear and intimidation, often including the threat or use of violence.” To add to their definition, abuse can come from both sides of a relationship (toxicity) and in different types of relationships (ie friendships, parent/child, siblings, etc). If you are in a toxic relationship, please reach out as well.
Intro: This was the second time I decided to write something that made me extremely uncomfortable. Please pardon any errors in grammar or spelling as I simply could not bring myself to read this a millionth time. Editors are welcome to email me an updated version with corrections at email@example.com.
What happens when the person you fight so violently is also your lover, your best friend, your copilot, and co-parent? How does that work; where do you run and do you even have to run? Kennedy asked herself these questions as she scrubbed the splatters of blood from the entryway of her apartment. Her mind raced in different directions. Every stroke of the hand brush drove sharp pains through her body. This could have ended differently. True, another crisis was averted but it could have been his body, her body, or even worse, the body of one of their children laying in this vestibule instead of blood stains.
Kennedy continued to vigorously scrub in an attempt to block her flashbacks and get over the pain. It’s not real, you’re just being dramatic. There is no pain. The sound of her hand brush scraping against the wall mimicked the white noise she heard when she thought of the previous day’s events. She knew the fight was loud but she couldn’t recall the sounds and barely their dialogue. There was a shame involved in facing her neighbors, facing her boss, and her children after that amount of disruption. This shame was one she had to bear almost a year ago in a different apartment. Her brain coursed through the many past scenarios of the same occurrence.
She thought of what happened last year, and how he fought her. Kennedy could not recall the reason why; only that Shawn kept screaming the same thing that he screamed at her the day before, “Stop hitting me! Why are you always hitting me? I’m sick of you putting your hands on me!” Kennedy knew that she had been nagging him for days about random things and this day in particular, he had reached his boiling point but she had not put her hands on him. Nonetheless, she had it coming and all she could do was take a deep breath and let it happen. Usually, her instinct was to fight like a caged animal but today would be different. When this happened before, Shawn told her that if she calmed down, things wouldn’t be so bad. He would not have to be so rough. So this time, she stayed calm.
Shawn’s voice started to escalate as Kennedy backed into their bedroom. She raised her hands with her palms outward and begged for him to calm down. She felt so defeated but if this is what she needed to do to keep the peace, she would have to do it.
“I’m not hitting you,” she said calmly. Her tone spoke against her instincts. “I’m not hitting you,” she repeated.
Kennedy was backed into their closet when Shawn was close enough to grab her. She tried to dip around him but he was too quick. One of his large hands wrapped around her throat and the other gripped her arm. He swung her out of the closet and tossed her onto their bed. Kennedy started to panic but fought her urge to fight back. She recalled their first months together. That was the first time he grabbed her throat until she nearly fainted. Another argument about too much nagging. He told her that day that she was being dramatic and she needed to relax. This would be the day she would finally allow his anger to run its course without her participation. Today she would finally listen. The minute she would slip out of his grasp, he would catch her again so she laid still as he yelled two inches from her face. He never struck her, he would toss her around more than anything. So this is not abuse because she wasn’t really hurt, right? It took Shawn about twenty minutes of his yelling and her twisting to be released before the light in his eyes returned. He stroked the top of her head roughly and kissed her mouth hard. Kennedy laid still with her eyes squeezed tightly. Is he finished?
”I’m proud of you, baby. You stayed calm,” Shawn said in a gruff whisper.
Kennedy did not reply. Instead she was replaying his violent words, “Stop hitting me. I’m tired of you hitting me.” It then occurred to her what he was referring to. Last week. You must be careful, Kennedy, this is what he wants. He’s still angry about what you did last week.
There was another altercation the week before. This time, Kennedy was the aggressor. Shawn had taken her phone and wouldn’t give it back. True to form, Kennedy began to act like a wild animal and this time he would be allowed to reciprocate. Shawn grabbed Kennedy by her throat and dragged her to their bathroom. She continued to kick and scream when she could and pulled down the towel bar as she fell. When Kennedy landed in the tub, her head banged against the tile and she knew this could be the day she would die. The kids were at school and there was no one but her neighbors to bear witness to what they think may have happened. After all, he had to protect himself; he was covered in scratches. Kennedy had to die. Her thoughts raced in this manner as he squeezed the life from her throat. Black circles began to enclose everything in her line of sight.
The towel bar was at the reach for her finger tips. Kennedy had to finish what she started. She swung at him wildly, not noticing the screw protruding from the end of the towel bar. He hollered and choked her even harder. Kennedy was seeing black and white spots but she continued to swing until the fight left her body and her arm fell limp in the tub. She was sure that this would be their final altercation and judging by the blood coming from his head, she deserved to die. No one would say differently.
BANG, BANG, BANG, “It’s the police. Open the door.”
Their timing was impeccable. Kennedy imagined that she was just shy of taking her last breath but now they each had to face a different kind of music and surely Kennedy would be arrested for being the aggressor. As it happened, this wouldn’t be the first time she was arrested for fighting Shawn. The first time, she was protecting herself. He lashed out on her but once there was an audience, he stopped and played the victim. This was a role he learned to play well, while Kennedy had not. Not being a victim was something she prided herself on. Victims are weak and Kennedy was certainly not weak. Today would be no different; she would not cower and she’d take her licks even if that meant she would be arrested.
Any time Kennedy lashed out, she felt it was necessary because of his size. She reasoned that she had to do this because it would be kill or be killed at this point but no one knew that nor would they understand. The rationale made Kennedy just as guilty. You can’t blame someone for your abuse of their body and if you are being abused, you have to pull up your bootstraps and walk away. Kennedy knew it was that simple; it had to be. So neither of them were being abused because both of them chose to stay.
Comparatively, Shawn is much larger than Kennedy but they are both large for their sex. He was around six feet, four inches tall and weighed two hundred and eighty pounds; mostly muscle. She was around five feet, ten inches and was a solid two hundred pounds. Kennedy wasn’t muscular but there didn’t appear to be much fat either.
Kennedy walked to answer the door. Her face felt dirty and swollen. The police rushed past her and separated the two of them immediately. Instinctively, Shawn and Kennedy joined forces. Their stories matched about the whole thing being a misunderstanding and light shoving. Whenever Shawn would get belligerent, Kennedy would plead his case from the adjacent room. As always, there was a “good cop” and a “bad cop.” The hierarchy was in their favor this time around and the “good cop” had the authority to give them a pass if Shawn agreed to stay out of the house for at least a week. They both agreed.
Soon after the police left, Kennedy went to pick Shawn up a few blocks away from their home and off they went to the hardware store to purchase what they needed to repair the bathroom and all was well again. Until he decided that Kennedy needed to be knocked down a peg then they’d be at it again.
Kennedy continued to scrape the now bare wall. She was going numb. Her body rocked to an indistinct rhythm and her mind flashed to the day before. This could not happening again.
“You keep hitting me,” Shawn screamed. “Stop fucking hitting me,” he screamed as he squeezed Kennedy’s throat. Her back was pressed against the back of the toilet and she could feel it lift from the floor as she grabbed for his face and clawed at his arms. She was trying not to panic. If she avoided struggling, she would avoid feeling like she was going to pass out but that never worked and this time was no different. He squeezed even tighter whenever she tried to scream for help. All that could be heard were his demands and her gurgling for air.
Their son and daughter were sleeping in the other room when the argument started. Through blurry eyes, she could see their son now standing in the door; pulling on his daddy. The dizziness started to take hold but Kennedy kept clawing at Shawn. Hearing their son scream for his father to stop shattered her heart. She grabbed at Shawn’s balls and finally had them in her palm. She snatched them and twisted but he didn’t let go of her neck. His grasp on her throat matched the stronghold she had on his testicles.
“Look at what you’re doing to our kids,” he growled as he squeezed tighter before he released. His tone softened when he turned to their son and said, “Mommy’s okay. Go sit down.”
Behind their son was his younger sister. She too started grabbing at her father begging him to leave her mommy alone. While Shawn’s attention was on their children, Kennedy hollered for him to get out of their apartment. This was a moment of peace. Kennedy should have let it go rather than try to get him to leave but she didn’t. He turned his attention back to her and they argued about whether or not he’d be leaving their house.
Kennedy tried to rush past Shawn but was unable to. It wasn’t until their kids managed to slip in the bathroom did he allow her to squeeze past him. The family spilled into the living room and the shouting continued. It seemed that the four of them were growing frantic. Kennedy was barely clothed yet she still ran for the front door of the apartment to scream for help.
Shawn caught up to her and grabbed her by her throat and threw her to the floor. Kennedy’s limbs flailed wildly before she landed. Her head just missed the table and her body knocked their son to the floor along with her. She started swinging on Shawn to get his weight which was now on her chest. Both of the kids were swinging and screaming at their father. Kennedy knew this had gone too far. She needed to learn when to let go and allow Shawn to take control.
Kennedy gasped rolled on her side and gasped for hair. Shawn picked up their children and rushed them over to the sofa. He reassured them that Kennedy was alright but for Kennedy, the fog had yet to clear. She continued to demand he leave from their home. She did not want to keep up the façade anymore and it was time for this to end. Again, Shawn refused to leave.
Let it go, Kennedy. She struggled with the idea of allowing Shawn to win. Little did she know, there would be no winner. Kennedy never fashioned herself to be the sort of woman to kowtow to a man and if she sat down, that is precisely what she would be doing. With her phone in hand, she tried to rush around Shawn to call for help. He wrestled her for her phone but she would not let it go. She tried to get past him again but did not make it.
They began to wrestle on the couch where their children observed the spectacle. When Kennedy landed on the sofa, the children jumped up and retrieved their toys. Both of them started swinging their toys at the father. Kennedy knew she had to stop and so she did. Still fuming she said asked him to just leave but promised not to call the police. She couldn’t have called the police anyway. What would she have told them when Shawn is the one covered in bites and scratches? Shawn was still hesitant to allow Kennedy to leave the living room.
Despite being allowed to leave his presence, she still felt the need to run to the bathroom and lock the door. There was no way a call to the authorities would end well. Either Shawn would be brutalized by the police or Kennedy would have been so she nixed that idea. The time for Kennedy to arrive at work was drawing near and she was not ready to discuss what happened with her mother so she called her supervisor to advise that she needed the day off. She promised herself prior to placing her call that she wouldn’t tell her boss what transpired but the minute she opened her mouth, the tear ducts opened as well. Her brain fried attempting to think of something but there was nothing else to tell outside of the truth.
After hanging up with her supervisor and inevitably speaking with her mother, Kennedy exited the bathroom. She could hear the kids chattering with their father. She calmly sat down with them and asked that he leave once more. He replied that he was leaving. Thirty minutes later, he was still sitting beside her and their children. She knew that he had no intention of leaving. And now that the dust has finally begun to settle, she questioned if she overreacted about the whole thing.
Shawn clicked on the television and had the kids pick out a show to watch. This made Kennedy feel almost a hundred percent sure that she blew the situation out of proportion. That is until the following day when she had to struggle to clean her apartment. There has to be a better way of living, even if it means living in silence. She now has to determine the form her silence will come in.
Disclaimer: Let me start by saying that I am in no way suicidal or homicidal. So if I died in police custody, it was not a suicide. I have no desire to appear as a martyr for equality; I do not wish to die.
Currently, I feel like burning everything around me to the ground then hand in little hands walk on to the next chapter in our lives. Onward to a better living situation, better schools, and no questionable romantic situations. I’m tired. Tired of not trusting the only people I am supposed to trust. Tired of not being able to get my thoughts into the universe. Tired of living check to check. Tired of getting the kind of assistance that is tailored to prevent progress.
I have made so many bad choices and repeated mistakes in friends and lovers. Now, here I am. This is some strange stage between feeling sorry for myself and just plain tired of fighting upstream. I’ve started floating. Coasting downstream and away from progress. Drowning in television series after series.
The only thing they will remember is that she was a marvelous queen with terrible habits.