I met him when I was 9.
Like so many puppy-love crushes, it was instant infatuation. He kinda reminded me of so many I had loved before, those who had helped to shape me — but he was DIFFERENT. He had a more distinct personality. He had braggadocio and youthful confidence. He was the life of every party. He was artistic. He was hella funny. He could be *deep*. He could be *fake deep*. (He was *fake deep* A LOT.) Frankly, at that young age, I didn’t even care. I just knew I liked what I liked, and what I liked was HIM.
We flirted for a few years, but I didn’t get *serious* about him until high school, when I stopped bussing out to that predominantly *other* school and came back to the ‘hood. There, we had a hell of a lot more friends in common, and had the opportunity to hang out together more often.
Our early years together were a blur of bliss and fun. We kicked it regularly alone as well as with others. All my friends loved him, and eventually, so did I… or at least I *thought* I did.
Looking in hindsight, I realize that as is usually the case with young “love”, I connected with and got to know him on a superficial level. I understood his rhythm; I didn’t really grasp his cadence. I liked the way he sounded… but the true musicality of his voice remained a mystery to me. If you asked me to describe his essence — who he was at his very core — I don’t think I could have given you a clear answer. Even now, with the benefit of age, experience, education, wisdom, and hindsight, I still don’t think I can.
To put it succinctly, I didn’t take time and effort to get to know him on as profound a level as is necessary when you decide with lifetime intentions to commit to someone.
I married him the year I turned 18. The elders in my family weren’t thrilled about it. They were never very fond of him or his art — and very quietly predicted a premature demise for both — but they accepted that we crazy kids were going to gravitate toward each other and stick together despite their protests… at least for the time being.
That first year and a half or so were GREAT. Our marriage was the culmination of nearly 10 years of the ever-deepening intertwining of souls on a mission — a mission to express… a mission to flex… a mission to uplift. He provided my idealism with a soundtrack and sang my life with his words (*nod to Roberta, Luther, Al B. and Lauryn*). I couldn’t imagine that my world would ever be without him.
Until it wasn’t.
We started drifting apart during the tumultuous year I turned 19. By the time I turned 20, it was a wrap.
He had always been multifaceted in his youth – a bit carefree, a bit flirty/sexy, a bit gangsta, a bit conscious/woke, and ALWAYS drew people to him like a magnet – but he had been a mostly-balanced, around-the-way kind of guy. That year, he started to… *change*. Or maybe he didn’t — maybe I was finally seeing the full, unabridged him. Either way, I didn’t like it. The things I was once drawn to so deeply and found so intriguing about him really started to annoy me.
I can’t pretend that I invested the requisite amount of time and effort necessary to dig deep within his psyche, see him for who he truly was, and learn to appreciate that… but I also can’t lie to myself about the fact that we were rapidly growing apart independently of that. My quest for knowledge, maturity, and cultural and spiritual wisdom had started bumping heads with his pursuit of paper, glory and adulation. As I shed the dead weight of fake “friends” along my journey, he steadily picked them up and stuffed them in his pockets. Some of them became the albatrosses around his neck that further doomed our marriage.
Deep down, I knew that the boy I had fallen in love with was still in there somewhere, but what it took to find him again was more than I was willing to undertake. It just wasn’t worth it to me anymore. We both had other options to help us grow ourselves, and we would each be perfectly alright apart, no harm, no foul. I filed for an amicable divorce at the tender age of 20 and never *really* looked back.
A year or so later, I got a job that put me in regular contact with him again. Having had that break from dealing with him on a regular basis made it easier to tolerate him and his *attempts* to flirt 5+ days a week. But even as I started to remember the good times and all the enjoyment he brought to the table, it was not lost on me that he had never been *much* assistance during the bad times, and I had always had to rely on others for support and understanding. Fun distractions from REAL issues can only help so much, so I chose to keep it professional. Once I clocked out, his time was up.
That job lasted only 8 months. It ended up being for the best for a number of reasons — one of which was that I didn’t have to spend my days around him and his friends anymore, surrounded by a culture they were fully a part of, but that I didn’t truly understand. I though that I could go back to being free of him, but life had other plans.
Some close friends thought I could use a change of pace and invited me to go clubbing with them. I accepted their weekly invitation, not really knowing what to expect. Lo and behold, there he was, with his friends, dominating the party as usual.
At first, I was unnerved and annoyed. Like, damn, can I EVER escape this dude? It’s one thing to run into him randomly in a store, in traffic, or in the neighborhood, but to be where he is consistently? I had left him for a reason!
But then I remembered, “I’m not married to him anymore, therefore I have no obligation to him one way or another. I can enjoy his fun presence for a time and briefly overlook his aggravating qualities for a couple hours here and there, and it won’t kill me.” Besides which, he got along well with the vast majority of my friends, so it was not like I would have to run interference. I let go and indulged him a bit. *Just a bit.*
Over time, I think people started to mistake my *tolerance* for him in small, measured doses for a genuine rekindling of our one-time love affair. In addition, he was starting to show small semblances of maturity, and dropped *periodic* reminders of the insightful boy he was when we were a couple.
However, I had no intentions of traveling that road again, nor did I appreciate him being forced down my throat on a regular basis. Alas, well-meaning friends were determined that he and I were meant to be, and wouldn’t rest until we were together again.
I tried to explain to them that he and I had contentedly occupied different spaces for decades, and would probably never be in each other’s energetic periphery again. Perhaps it was their desire for me to plug into *their* connection to him in such a way that we would all be on the same frequency. Either way, their attempts were moot.
… Or maybe not. Maybe my friends’ efforts were less about our connection and more about my finding acceptance of a youthful soul on a journey to seek its place in the universe. But I think his greater purpose in my life was to be there if just for a season, to remind me of my own soul’s early sojourns, in order to appreciate how far I’ve come.
He left his imprint on my consciousness 33 years ago. He will always be a part of my life, for better or worse… so I guess those adolescent vows meant something after all.
Brandi Nicholson is a registered dietitian, lay counselor, comic geek by proxy, freelance polymath, finicky foodie, and recovering political junkie who cherishes organic raspberries and naps.