This is the third part of how love has stained me, made me, and shaped me. This is about Monique. This is about true love.
Part 1 and Part 2
Heartbreak and heart ache are the two most powerful aspects of life.
Because they are rooted so very deeply within the confines of love.
And love is the most challenging, tantalizing, and inspiring thing that one can embrace.
And I embraced her.
She was the first girl to inspire me to break my rules.
I had this absurd notion of wanting to never share myself physically until marriage.
White picket fences and storybook endings were all I would think of, hope for, and work toward having.
Monique once told me that was her dream – a small nice house with a flowerbed encircling it with a yard framing it and a pretty white picket fence surrounding the property.
I wanted to give her that more than I had ever wanted anything in my life.
You see, I had already fallen for her when we took that walk through the park.
I had been her’s for over a year at that point.
She just wasn’t aware of it.
Later, she would tell me the moment she fell for me.
So I am here now telling you.
And the importance of that moment is so decidedly fascinating because it involved my now best friend Steve, Monique, and me.
I always had to, well, prepare a girl for Steve.
“You’re not going to like him. He’s going to pick on you. He’s going to call you every name you hate. He’s a bit of a jerk, but his heart is golden. He’s a good man, just give him a chance.”
It’s an oddity, because I’ve always said that if “you need to really get to know someone to like them” they usually are not worth the effort.
He’s my best friend, and he breaks that rule.
I suppose I like rule-breakers in life, since I’m not one.
Never have been.
Never will be, most likely.
Steve was the first man to see me cry.
I didn’t drive, and he lived only a short distance from my house in Uptown New Orleans, so we’d often get together and go places.
He introduced me to rap, hip hop, and so many other things over these years.
We were all hanging out one Friday night at a place where my friend John worked overnight. We’d all get together, swing by, and have fun since he was the only one there.
Eventually, I ended up getting that job, but it wouldn’t be for a couple years afterward.
Anyway, one night I’m there at John’s work with Steve, Monique, Bobby, Allen, Ben, and several others. I think Tim was there, too.
I miss Tim.
He lived life hard and fast. Monique and he would often reminisce over drug stories and raves they went to together.
She had gone to rehab and she’d quit drugs while we were together.
That was one rule I was not going to break.
I won’t be with an addict.
You cannot believe them.
The poison they live on is so toxic that you change.
Sober Monique was amazing.
Drug addict Monique was pathetic.
And I don’t ever use those two words without sincerity.
They are, to me, that powerful a notion.
The weight of change in someone when they’re on something is soul-crushing and all-consuming.
For the addict and for the friend.
I get a call, and it’s my mom. This is well before cell phones were prevalent.
Steve had a beeper.
Sam didn’t know about that until like a week ago we were talking about it!
I enjoy when that happens.
There is something to be said for lifelong friends who know you and have history with you.
There just is something so beautiful and pure about being so deeply connected to another person that your worlds interlace like holding hands with the sands of the perfect beach.
Just pretty blue water and clear skies when someone knows you, loves you, and accepts you.
(Don’t I always?)
My mom called John’s work.
“Your mom is on the phone, Brian.”
My heart sank. That’s usually not a good thing. Especially back then. Our relationship has always been, well, furious.
It was a good call, though. Leave it to my mom to always show me I cannot predict the world like I thought I could so often.
She called to let me know my first ex, Jill, had called.
Our breakup was baffling, and it made no sense to me, but later I would learn it wasn’t something she wanted, but was rather coaxed into pursuing.
Jill wanted to see me.
She lived out in Kenner, which oddly enough is where I now reside.
Steve and I grew up 5 minutes away from each other Uptown.
We now live 5 minutes from each other in Kenner, a suburb of New Orleans. The airport is actually located in Kenner, and you can be down in the Quarter in 15 minutes if it isn’t rush hour traffic.
Life can be so strange.
Rush hour, though, on the interstate from Kenner to downtown? That brief jaunt turns into a 45 minute odyssey.
In any event, I went to Steve and I told him Jill had called. She wanted to see me.
They always come back to you. Bryan once said to me years later.
He’s never had an ex ever return and want to renew things, and yet he watched as friends and girlfriends I would cut out of my life would always return.
They always come back to you.
And every single one has.
More on that another time, perhaps.
Steve said he’d happily drive me into the middle of nowhere, but neither of us knew where she lived.
This is before Google maps and GPS.
Jill walked several blocks to an empty Church parking lot so her grandmother wouldn’t know she was going to see me.
It would later be explained to me that was why she broke up with me in the first place – her grandmother didn’t like me.
Which is odd, because almost everyone who meets me likes me, but I wasn’t at that time deemed “worthy” by most girl’s parents.
Except for Monique’s folks, which was a strange thing.
Monique grew up out here in Kenner, and I pass the turn where her family’s house is located almost every day. I’ve never taken that turn, though.
I walk away.
Brian always walks away.
We had directions, but it was late, and we’d literally never been anywhere near this place Jill wanted us to meet her at, so I went to Monique and asked if she knew this place.
“Do you know this Church? It’s off Vintage Drive in Kenner, but Jill said it’s a tricky route because there’s a weird fork in the road people often get confused with when they come to it.”
I could see her chest heaving, and I upon reflection would learn her heart was beating at a crazy fast clip.
“Yeah, I know the place.”
“Okay, well, Steve’s going to drive me to see her, would you mind coming with us and directing us should we get lost? You know I’m terrible with directions.”
I was so nervous.
My palms were slick, and my mind was flying at an incredibly high rate of what could this mean and where will this lead and how will we be?
I could not wait to see Jill.
I thought I was in love with her.
I was not.
Later, life would teach me that much fairly explicitly.
There’s a difference so distinct between loving someone and being in love with them.
Monique tried to talk me out of going to meet Jill.
I didn’t understand then why she was doing so.
I was elated.
She was clearly unhappy.
I just thought she wanted to protect me.
“Yeah, I’ll go with you. I just need to grab my jacket.”
It was frigid that night.
Kenner, unlike New Orleans has very little trees and it’s seated right below the lake. So the temperatures out here – especially when the wind is involved are usually lower. There’s nothing but lake sans trees so when the wind flies forward off the water it isn’t met with resistance. It’s not Oklahoma windy, but it’s close sometimes.
That night I could see my breath hanging in the air in front of me.
I could feel my heart pounding outside of my ribs and thudding so hard I felt I might lose myself.
I might lose it all.
And yet this was the night where an old love returns, and my desperate love is fully born, and I would be on the precipice of holding both so close to me.
In the fucking brutal cold of Winter.
I was not prepared to be outside that night.
I was not dressed for the temperature and especially the wind. I never went out to Kenner.
Steve and Monique did not get along.
He did not like her.
He’s a very good judge of character, and he reasons everything out in a way I have long admired.
I still do.
Yet there she was sitting in the front seat, he’s driving, and I’m in the back seat flipping out inside, but you would never know it.
I didn’t let anyone see me.
I was adept at hiding my heart, though it bleeds easy.
We arrived at the Church’s lot, and there was a hooded and huddled figure in the distance.
Steve’s music was blaring profanity, as always, and I got out.
There was Jill.
She shuffled over to me, and we talked quietly, both of us freezing with every ferocious gust of wind that intermittently washed over us.
We stood by Steve’s silver compact car, and I reached my arms out to her.
And she fell into them.
I whispered softly into her ear,
I could feel Jill smiling as I did.
I have always been skillful with smiles.
Steve adjusted the volume on his radio, and lowered it to as hushed as it ever gets with him which is to say it was still loud.
However, I did not know then why he did so.
He never told me.
Monique later would.
The loud hiss of the wind became audible, and as I pulled Jill in close to me in a hug, I leaned back against the rear door of his car.
I felt the weight of her against me.
I felt warmth.
Monique was in the front passenger seat, and she said the entire time I was talking to Jill she was looking in Steve’s side mirror and watching intently.
And she said as I embraced her, she gasped unintentionally.
That was when Steve lowered the radio.
Monique said that she couldn’t help herself at that moment.
“She’s going to break his heart,” she said to Steve.
“She already did.”
Steve’s reply is so him, and I related this very story a couple weeks ago when we were cleaning up their house for the professional photographer to take photos to put it on the market for sale.
Monique wiped a few tears from her eyes as I got back into the car.
I left that night behind thinking I had held love resurfaced.
Instead, Monique said that was when she knew she was in love with me.
It was one hell of a moment.
That would lead to her flirting with me with the taunts of showing me her body.
And, as I said, I always looked away.
That night, sitting there with Steve, she found out that it was her, actually, that could not look away – from the mirror, from me, and from falling in love.
She did not look away.
I never could.
This is not how this story ends.
Last updated December 10, 2015