On Love

“He left me. We’re over.”

The vibration of your phone against the wooden surface of the table calls your attention away from the book in your hand. It’s a beautiful day—a warm, slightly windy, infinitely sunny L.A.-kind-of-day—but those three words appear to mark the end of what you had hoped would be a relaxing and uneventful afternoon.

You weren’t expecting the text, but you can’t say that you’re surprised. It’s been months since you’ve heard from your friend. Months. The last time you saw her was at a mutual friend’s birthday party at some popular restaurant in Westwood. You were supposed to go out for drinks before and head to that new club on LaBrea after, but, at the last minute, your friend’s boyfriend decided he wanted to tag along. Your girls’ night was canceled. Instead, you arrived at the restaurant to find your friend’s boyfriend in the seat that was reserved for you, your own place card moved to the other end of the table.

The last time you and your friend spoke was about two and a half months after the birthday party. She called and asked if you were interested in taking a day trip to Santa Barbara. Desperate for the loving embrace of your sistagirl crew, you readily agreed.  While scrolling through your newsfeed on Facebook that same night, you noticed that your friend’s boyfriend tagged her in a status. He had just checked in at JFK in New York: “Missing my baby 😔. Sad this business trip has pulled us apart for the week.”  Of course, the excursion to Santa Barbara that you had just agreed to was planned during his absence.

The next morning, you sent your friend your regrets: Sorry, girl. Completely forgot that I made plans with my aunt. Can’t make it on Friday. 

You spent the entirety of Friday shopping for curtains at T.J. Maxx.

He left me. We’re over.

And now, here you are, staring at those six words on your locked home screen and wondering how you should respond. Part of what makes it so difficult is that these are six words you’ve seen at least six times before. When he cheated on her with the light skinned girl with the fat ass and long curly hair. When he lied about not having unrequited feelings for his ex. When your friend found out what really happened in Vegas that one New Year’s Eve. When your friend’s car broke down on the 10 at 3am (after she’d just left his place), and he refused to pick her up because he had “an early morning meeting.” Each and every single time, you were there. Rushing out of your house with your hair wrapped and tied down in a satin scarf, you would run to comfort her. You would bring her favorite foods. You would stay up the whole night and reassure her that the fault was with him, not her. You would remind her that her strength, her light, and her grace were independent of him. Time and time again…you were there.

Those first few weeks after the break-up were the best because your friendship began to mirror the relationship the two of you had before him. If you needed someone to listen as you shared your frustrations concerning your family? Your friend was there. If you needed someone to help you pack up your apartment and move? Your friend was there. The two of you would talk about your vulnerabilities, your insecurities, your hopes, and your dreams at length.

Most of all, you remember the late Friday nights that blended into early Saturday mornings. Wrapped in blankets and surrounded by wine bottles, you and your friend would discuss everything from the complicated ways in which Beyoncé’s work serves to reinforce skin color hierarchy to whether or not one could shop at J. Crew and truly insist they weren’t bougie. Those first few weeks after the break-up were the best. However, the moment that he reappeared, everything would dramatically shift. He’d send her a short message: Baby, I’m sorry. Those three words were all it took for a near decade’s worth of friendship to become undone. Each and every single time.

The last time your friend and her boyfriend broke up, you vented to your cousin, Nikki. “I’ve never treated her the way she treats me. No matter what crazy ass dude I’m dealing with, I’ve never written her out of my life like this.”

Nikki laughed, “Straight women are dumb, girl. They get dickmatized and lose their minds. Then they start believing that they just can’t be alone, that they can’t be unattached. Do you know how many times I’ve seen women with ain’t shit men and wondered,‘Wouldn’t you just be happier by yourself?’ Patriarchy is a bitch. Got all these women out here thinking there’s something wrong with just loving themselves and being by themselves.”

Your sister once told you that there is nothing a partner could add to her life. “I have all the love and support I need from my friends and my family; I really do. Yeah, okay, so they can’t give me sex, but that’s something different. If we’re talking about love, if we’re talking about fulfillment, then my friends have made my life far more robust than anyone else ever has.”

You thought to yourself, “How strange it is that we’re taught to value romantic and platonic relationships so differently. How strange it is that we’re taught to seek all of our emotional wealth in one other person. How strange it is that that person somehow begins to take precedence over all others in our lives. How strange it is that we so easily disregard the intimacy, love, and care of the people who have held us down through it all. How strange indeed.”

Pulling yourself back to the present, you pick up your phone and finally respond. By now, this has become a scripted event. Typically, you call your friend and spend three hours listening to her tell you what happened. During those three hours, you get dressed, pack a bag, and then head off to meet her. This time, you’ve decided that the sunny afternoon is calling you, that you’d rather hit up one of your homegirls and ask if she wants to go to happy hour for margaritas and tacos.

You resolve to send your friend a short but sincere text: I’m so sorry, girl. 

Three small gray bubbles appear and then disappear at the bottom of your message window. Your friend must be surprised at your response. Quite honestly, you are surprised at your response.

Her message eventually comes through: You won’t believe what he did. He ain’t shit.

YOU ain’t shit is how you’d like to reply, but you pause because the three gray bubbles return: He doesn’t know how to love.  

She’s right. He doesn’t know how to love. But you turn your phone off instead of sending the words you’ve wanted to tell her for so long: And neither do you. 

`

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7 thoughts on “On Love

  1. Joy Dartey saw me walking through the door this evening and the first thing she said, “Audrey, you can now view the post on Sarah’s blog. You should read it, it is so you!” I smiled because it’s you and it felt like such a compliment.
    I enjoyed reading this because no one likes to talk about the frustrations of friendship, the intricacies and as someone who thinks of friendships (as opposed to romantic relationships) as perhaps the most defining relationship in one’s life, this piece resonated with me.
    Also reminded me that I still have one of those “we’re over” texts from last week that I haven’t dealt with.
    Thank you for always turning ordinary life exchanges into provoking and interesting pieces.

    I don’t know if you have but you should read this article i once stumbled upon.
    http://nymag.com/thecut/2016/02/single-ladies-friendship-romantic-fraught.html

    Liked by 1 person

  2. You’ve always been so supportive of my work, Audrey! I deeply, deeply appreciative! I’m happy that this resonated with you. I’ve gotten so much critical feedback. If I decide to extend this piece (and I doubt that I will, but it could happen), I have a feeling I know which direction it would go in…Some people have told me they see themselves in the narrator; others, the friend; others still, a composite of both. I strive to find the extraordinary in the ordinary, and I’m so happy that you’ve found yourself in communion with that goal 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This is a BRILLIANT piece. I think I saw myself in the narrator but was conscious that there was a time I was definitely in the friend… I think I loved the strength to anger, if that makes sense. I think it takes a lot to be angry about a situation that people tell you that you should not be angry. That you have no right to be angry at. And watching that or rather reading that was beautiful because it was so well articulated. It also continues to be part of a discussion of relationship hierarchies, why they have been formed and the influence of white patriarchy (and what that means for black women being at the bottom of that, no matter the relationship). Which may be why it made people uncomfortable… Anyway, loved it as usual. Keep writing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Fadzai, I’m so happy that you **got it,** that you understood the layers of what I was trying to show in this piece. Black women–in my experience at least–have long relied upon the love and support of their girls, their crew, to hold them down through the most trying and difficult of times. And I say this irrespective of sexuality and sexual orientation. But white patriarchy, as you mentioned, really and truly distorts how we value different types of relationships and how we value the people in those relationships. It’s something I think of quite often, especially when I think about the type of “partner” I want to be, be it platonic, romantic, or otherwise…Thank you for reading. Always 💛

      Liked by 1 person

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