I’ve been putting this off for a couple of weeks. I knew that I had to write this. It’s my responsibility as a survivor. So, for MY part of the campaign for this month’s Domestic Violence Awareness platform…I speak. I speak for women across the country who are afraid to tell their stories…and for the women who weren’t as blessed as I am to come away safely. For the women, who lost their lives to the hand of a man who “loved” them.
I met him when I was 20. I was working at what is now Verizon (then NYNEX). I would come home home and hit Twin Donuts up for their cheeseburger deluxe…then go home. I’d become cool with the owners’ daughter, Debbie. She would give me free food and she’d been patronizing him for a while. As a matter of fact, he wrote some of her term papers for college. She introduced us one night. When we locked eyes…his a hazel/green/gray color…it was instant. Even though I thought it was…I won’t call it love. I’ll call it a connection. We took notice at how similar our names were and from there the conversations acclimated. He became the high note of my nightly stops in the small diner in my hometown. I couldn’t wait to talk to him. He was engaging and funny…very flirtatious. I had asked his age…he said 35. I had already begun feeling him…but, being that he was an entire 15yrs older than me…it was doomed from the beginning. I remember trying to break it off and him being adamant that he and I deserved a chance.
…Then, a few flurries got thrown. I say flurries, because they came all at once like in boxing. I found out that not only wasn’t he 35…he was FOURTY-TWO! *grrr* I then find out that my mother, father, my godmom…all know this cat. He’s infamous for having been a “pimp” of sorts when they all were younger. By now…it’s obvious, this dude is in my parents’ generation. I heard the stories of how he’d pimped one young woman out…literally. He’d put her on the block and had physically abused her. I heard the story of he and his ex-wife, someone they knew as well…whom he’d supposedly beat on. He claimed a lot was more legend than reality. All I knew at 20…was someone understood me. He was a genius. He was funny. He cared about me. He would ride the bus to come meet me at work and see me home in the dark. He gave me something no other man or “boyfriend” had ever given me…his full attention.
I continued to see him. I figured that I’d just get to know him. He promised my mother that his intentions were sincere and harmless. She warned him, “You hurt my daughter and I’ll hurt you.” I can’t say that’s HOW she said it, but you get it. He and I saw each other often. I remember that when I was losing my job at NYNEX, he was the one who took the time to make sure I got to Bellevue Hospital in NYC. I had to go and get diagnosed as a preemptive strike to keep my job. It didn’t work. Still, off we went to NYC. I wasn’t at all familiar with the train system. I didn’t drive. I was at the mercy of whomever was willing to take me. What “I” remember…is that when I asked, folks acted like they didn’t want to do it…and when he volunteered to go…they were relieved. That’s all I’m gonna say on that. He took me to the consultation…and again when I was appointed the sleep study. He dropped me off…and picked me up. He even gave me a genuine rough quartz crystal to keep my spirit safe while there. He was there when I received the diagnosis for Narcolepsy and he was there when I turned 21. He gifted me with a book called, “Kali: The Black Goddess of Dakshineswar”. I cherished that book…and through him, I learned to like a name that I got teased relentlessly on during childhood.
Eventually, our relationship caused rifts. It caused a rift between myself and my BFF of the time. We went almost 6yrs at one point with no communication except for my willingness to call her on her birthday every year. My family and I became estranged…seeing them sporadically. What initially got me “put out” of my mother’s home, was a night of misunderstandings and a lapse in my own judgment that kept me out over night while my BFF stayed at my house as a guest. I regretted it…it wasn’t right. It also wasn’t done on purpose. It followed me for years.
On February 18th, 1994, I left my mother’s home to live with him in his rented room. I had already lost my job behind my disorder a couple of months before and was now living off of my tax return and unemployment checks. He’d begun a job as a car salesman…and thus began the sway from love to abuse.
It seemed like the more he took care of me…the more he felt the right to control me. I went from wearing MAYBE some eyeliner and lipstick to wearing clear gloss. I went from relaxing my hair to going natural. I went from wearing form-fitting clothes…to wearing ill-fitting clothes that hid my figure. Did I mention that he is Muslim? Yea. I even remember him mentioning wanting more than one wife…with me being the primary wife. I told him under NO terms would I convert and that if he even THOUGHT of bringing some chick up in MY house…it was a wrap. I know he cheated throughout the relationship, but nothing ever hit my doorstep…no proof of it.
The first day he hit me I was shocked. I don’t remember what I said…all I remember is him slapping me. I spent the entire day while he worked…walking around like an emotional zombie. I never thought I’d be there. The next time he tried to punch me in my face. He had accused me of cheating and had swung on me after I had stomped off in frustration. I bobbed and weaved like Muhammad Ali. *lol* He missed me by mere inches. I told him don’t EVER hit me again. After that we’d have a struggle from time to time. One incident that took place specifically ended in him on the floor in shards of glass with his elbow cut deeply from a push I gave him. One instance almost ended in him bashed by a 40oz bottle…another with him moments away from me “lightening” his eyes with bleach. I refused to lay down and get beat down. What he couldn’t accomplish with me physically…he more than made up for verbally.
I had water thrown in my face. Sex forced on me. Dishes tossed for intimidation. Litanies of how useless I was, how fat and “grotesque” I was, comparisons to Miss Piggy, told that I was a lazy bitch (there goes that distortion of my disorder again). It was a nightmare at times…and others we genuinely had a companionship. We were together for almost 9 years and the last 4 were sexless. I couldn’t tell if he had gone impotent from using drugs (yes, he was addicted to drugs and alcohol which I did not know about until almost a year into the relationship) …or if his stamina was spent from screwing others. I was grateful in a way. I didn’t know WHO he was sleeping with.
We moved constantly due to his inability to get along with anyone. He made it hard to go out into public. He’d been arrested a couple of times. Once for harassing the landlord’s wife (which ironically he DIDN’T do…too long a story)…and once for possession of a weapon. I stuck it out with him during both situations…calling lawyers and making my way to get him. I loved him.
I learned SO much. My entire relationship with him was an oxymoron. When bitter, it was salty to the point of painful. He knew how to dig deep and make me heave in tears. I couldn’t wait for him to leave for work and didn’t care when he didn’t come home. The only time it sucked to be alone was on 9/11. There was the sweet. It was the moments when, crazy enough…we struggled financially and he couldn’t afford his habit. Or when we’d fast together during Ramadan. The love for me was there…but that drug/alcohol beast was too strong to live in sweetness long. I remember the night he refused to let me go to the bathroom alone. He followed me and threatened to throw me in the tub and break my neck. I told him to do it. I was tired. He didn’t. He stepped away and I cried. I saw hate in his eyes…but not for me. For himself. That’s sadder than anything he could’ve done to me.
The end of us wasn’t even a harsh or violent end. His job became unstable and we could no longer afford to live where we were. My mother was more than happy to come get me. It was supposed to be a temporary solution. As soon as he got a job and a place he’d come get me. The night before, we sat in darkness. Nothing but the moon’s light shining through our blinds. Electricity off, boxes packed, silence enveloping the room. He said after so long of us both just staring out of the window, “You look so beautiful…my Indian Goddess.”
The next night, mom came and I got in the car. He packed my stuff and I could tell he was in his feelings. He knew it was the end. He knew I wasn’t coming back to him. He wouldn’t even look back. I saw him walk and not turn around to wave. He later told me…he cried and couldn’t.
A year or more later…he came to visit me. Took me out for my birthday and gave me money and gave me my desktop computer out of storage. He mentioned he’d be moving into something new and asked if I would come home. I told him, confidently…without even blinking…”I AM home.”
This story, is too many women’s stories. This story shouldn’t be. I firmly believe it starts with instilling self-esteem and respect in our children from the moment they are able to comprehend. No one should be so starved for love to easily slip into this kind of life. Unfortunately, this isn’t just about women. This is also some MEN’S stories. Men are being abused as well. This is their story, too.
I firmly believe that through my own prayers, my inner faith, my family’s prayers and God’s grace…I made it. God made me whole again…and though from time to time, I remember certain things that ends with me in tears…I believe in love. I have faith in love’s ability to renew. God spared me. I could’ve died. I felt like I would. Yet…I’m here. This is my testimony. I am a domestic violence survivor.
AIDS…I remember when it was first televised nationally. I was 12 I believe. I remember the new epidemic known only by 4 single letters. There was no real information out about it…just ignorance rampantly being passed like the disease itself. Fear and pandemonium about getting “the sickness” and it being known as the “gay man’s disease”.
Well 23 years later…it is even more so widespread. A national day dedicated to it’s awareness and endless charities for disease management and a search for a cure has not slowed down the spread of a disease which has taken the wheel. I’ve known several people infected. The first I remember being the upstairs neighbor of my grandmother. He, his wife and their two children were like family. He was in my dad’s generation…the generation of drug use in the 60’s and 70’s. He fell victim, but I’m not sure how it is he got it. All I know is he died and I knew what had taken his life. The next 2-3 deaths were male members of a church I once belonged to. There was a young guy a couple of years older than me whom was CLEARLY flaming gay…and had been allowed to stay with my family. His “sponsor” was our pastor and had asked my mother for the favor. Jason was allowed to stay with us and worked directly across the street at…ironically enough…the neighborhood health center. He would go out and meet guys, party and drink. He’d tell me (I was then 17 or 18) about his escapades and how he “took it”. He died a few years later after having moved out. The next to die was our pastor. He died and it hurt a lot. He was so talented musically and had convinced me to be a soloist in the choir when I was too shy to open my mouth to sing a note.
I heard of a few people dying of the disease after that, but the worst to date was my sister’s father. Not to mention…he died in front of us. He breathed his last breath after my mother prayed for his transcendence. That was 5 years ago, and it still makes me sad. For him, the source was drugs…as was the source for my uncle. My Uncle Larry is my father’s baby brother. They both did drugs, but it was my uncle who contracted the virus that led to AIDS. I found out about 6yrs ago…and though he’s suffered from encephalitis and other sickness that eventually led to his inability to walk…he’s still fighting for his life today. He’s a shell of his former self, but he is here.
I get checked as often as possible. I don’t have a partner and I’m not rushing to get one. The man who comes into my life will be checked alongside of me. There still is no guarantee that it will be 100% preventive…but it is responsible. I just wanted to share that story.
As I was re-reading this blog, I spotted the time, which was the exact date that my cousin died last year. They say it was kidney failure, but I found out later from a family member that it was AIDS. I cannot believe that the DAY I found out about his being sick, was the same day he died. I didn’t even get to say goodbye…RIP, Tim. I love you!