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, Part 2, and Part 3.
I am in many ways a force of nature. That isn’t said lightly, but it is rather the determination made from so many reactions to me over the years. I have been described as everything from the easiest and most comfortable person to talk to and confide in to the most intimidating person someone has ever encountered. More times than I can recall. And I’ve heard everything in between.
The truth, I think is always in that very mark – the in between. The median grade of who I am is all of those things, because each part is a facet of who I am.
I know this, though, and this is from my own experience.
I have rarely ever met forces of nature.
They are not common, but on occasion I do.
And I get swept up in them as a small skiff does a rogue wave with no more balance, no more understanding, and little perspective.
When you meet someone – especially a woman for this man – and she literally changes the way you think and feel with her mere presence and authentic personality, well, I’m a skiff in a raging tide. Crashing water, treacherous skies, and unforgiving to and fro rocking to the very center of your being.
With such a woman, I am sunk.
And Monique was the very first encounter I ever had with such a woman, and each time I am left unsure of myself. Taken aback. And trying to find my footing.
Searching for stability lest I be lost within the deep waters she ferries me toward each time we interact.
I have always craved stability. Assurance. Sturdiness.
And I am often that for many people – a rock weighted and certain. Broad shoulders and a wide base to support and hold and carry.
She destroyed all of that with a smile.
A flicker of her eyes at me.
Even a single word.
I would be an iceberg for most adrift in the frigid North Atlantic.
For her, I was a simple block of ice, shaved into flakes on a sweltering, humid New Orleans Summer day.
Melting with each passing moment without doing a single thing. Simply existing within her presence. A single raindrop in her very torrential downpour. I was the student, and in many ways she was my mentor.
It is just that neither she nor I would ever realize just how much so at the time.
She was vibrant, young, and full of energy and drive.
No matter where or with whom.
I was the exact opposite in my nature when in a crowd with people I either knew or did not. I was soft-spoken and polite. Very quiet, actually. Reserved.
Let’s just say, I’m not even close to that way now.
I am proud of who I am, and I don’t care how I come across to anyone as long as I making people smile.
And that I am quite adept at.
That’s something I very much took from her.
I have always wanted to be better. Challenge myself.
My preconceptions of life and the notions I had that it had to be this way.
It doesn’t have a set path.
Nothing really does.
She and I connected in our mutual passions. Hers was for life and experiencing every little thing that she could and mine was an insatiable quench for knowledge, understanding, and not being trapped and inhibited by my past and my pain and insecurities.
In that way, we molded one another wonderfully. She needed grounding, a constant in her life that did not waver, and I needed to let go of my white-knuckled grip on narrow-mindedness.
We made absolutely incredible love, but I was always careful. Always wore protection. She was on a birth control regulated by her rehab of all things.
The thing about her though, was that she loved with same ferocity as she did anything else. There was a purity to her love even though she had no real handle on her emotions.
We shared that indelible sense of loyalty and love.
However, her past haunted her and took control far more than mine did to me, though we both wore our scars in everything we did.
I was rigid. Unquestionably incapable of showing how I felt to people. I held it locked up. No one that knows me now even can comprehend me being that person, but I was.
I would want you to do something, hope you would do it, and be unable to voice and express it. Fear of being hurt, really. Disappointed. When you show yourself, you make yourself vulnerable and that’s weak, and if you’re vulnerable and weak and they hurt you, you feel mocked. Humiliated. Made a fool of.
I could not stand being made a fool of.
Except, I loved fiercely and with a purity of salt that there was no question what you meant to me. When I am committed, I am fully and completely engaged and yours. No one else exists in that way to me.
I just had a hard time expressing my emotions.
I’ve spent my entire life training myself to be the opposite of that.
Now? I express myself well, most times, but I still occasionally get tripped up in it.
It’s hard to fight yourself and win every single time.
Still, Monique then did not understand stability. Chaos was all she knew.
And furious passion – both for the good in lovemaking and for the worse when it came to sustaining that very thing in everyday life.
She found no sense of joy in the ordinary.
The problem is that if everything has to be turmoil or bliss, there is no way to find yourself safe and understand what life was. Especially when you’re doing drugs.
They destroy the senses. Lead to poor decisions. And undo all you work for.
Thus the cycle runs.
When she met me, I was just always there.
And eventually, she found herself sober, thinking clearly, and in pursuit of the very opposite of what she ever thought. What she ever wanted.
I wasn’t merely a challenge for her in that I was straight edge – no drinking, no drugs, no ink, no piercings, and no casual sex.
I was not casual anything back then.
I was her rock.
And she was my connection to understanding life is more than one single method to happiness and learning that you never judge someone by who they were but rather who they are and I found that I had some knack for helping others find that path for themselves.
It’s been one of many consistent themes in my life – I want everything better. I want you better. I want me better. I want to love you and love the world and see it shine on from each to the next.
There were rocky moments in our relationship. No doubt.
I was a lit fuse in that not talking about what hurts you or upsets you – you bottle it up underneath a cap that is faulty and ready to pop. I was a pressure cooker of emotional turmoil. I did not know how to say, “This hurt. Can we talk about this and try not to do it again? Can I do anything about myself to not ever hurt you in any way as well? Let’s make this work by being better. We can. I can always be better. Let’s try.”
I just.. kept it inside.
She would flip on a pin, though, and it didn’t take much.
One of the many crazy moments in my life was I showed up at her house early in the afternoon. I got out of class at the University of New Orleans and Bryan of all people dropped me off at her place. She walked home from her class at the VoTech not long after, and I was waiting and smiling broadly as I saw her.
She walked over to me wearing overalls, a tight-fitting shirt, and a beret of all things with her strands of multi-colored hair framing her face peeking out from beneath the edges of it.
I walked to meet her, and we held hands and talked as we returned to her house.
And a short while later, we were in her kitchen, and we were talking and listening to Cowboy Mouth’s CD, and we danced together. And I did not dance. Ever.
We made love several times.
Until a short while later, something within her changed. We had settled in and were playing with each other’s hands. When a gloom set in the room. I do not know what it was to this day.
Wanting to be free from the demons she could not.
I know not.
And she got combative.
And then aggressive.
There was an ominous tone to her voice, and somehow the mood had shifted from complete contentment into anxiousness into a vindictiveness.
It led to an argument.
She yelled at me.
I just stood there and took it.
And I asked her what was it? What was wrong?
Talk to me. I can help if you let me.
Then it became bad.
Wrong thing to say. She did not want help. She shoved me. We had wrestled around playfully before, but I had never had a girl do that. It would not be the last time.
I told her to stop, and let’s figure this out.
Screaming. Curse words.
She was challenging me.
I told her if she kept it up, I’d leave.
She dared me. Where would I go?
I’d find a pay phone and call someone for a ride. Whatever. I’m not going to do this with her if she didn’t change.
She ended up taking everything she had, throwing it at me. She took her family’s pictures and threw them, the glass shattering as I ducked, the plants were thrown about, things in the kitchen.. I got out of there.
I was on her front lawn, and ready to walk away from her house when she told me to never come back. Never call her.
She didn’t love me. I was a fool to have believed it.
I turned around, and I walked away. I heard her slam the door.
I stood there for a moment, and I felt completely empty inside. Just empty. Then my stomach knotted. I could barely breathe.
But no one will see me cry. I started to walk away, tears misting in my eyes despite my concerted efforts to be not weak.
I was completely oblivious to everything, when I felt a crack upside my head, and I was throbbing in pain.
She’d come back out from her house and hit me over the back of the head with a heavy skillet.
She hit me with a frying pan of all things.
I turned around, and a vortex of emotions were festering inside of me at that point from the apex of emotional loss and trauma to the conflict of now allowing it but surrendering anyway to not understanding what the hell Monique just did.
She was scratching at me, clawing at me, the pan on the ground, and I saw fury.
I saw red.
And I grabbed her by her arms. And I exerted my strength, and despite how strong she was – and she was a dancer and fighter and she fought dudes plenty and held her own I held her firm.
She could not do anything, I just held her, and I looked into her eyes, and I saw this storm of confusion, of pain, and of desperation.
And she saw the same in mine, and I held her as she kicked me, and tried to hurt me.
Monique shrieked at me, “Fight back, you fucking pussy!”
It wasn’t loud. It wasn’t angry.
I could not and would not and will not ever hit a woman.
“Hit me back! Fuck you! Fight!”
“No. Nique. No.”
Each time the pain and the anger and the intensity rose within herself and her strikes.
“Keep it up. Kick me. Hit me. Hurt me.”
She eventually grew weakened, and tired, and she started to tear up.
“Why won’t you hit me?” she said as she started to cry.
“I love you, Monique.”
And I pulled her in close, and she sobbed against my chest.
I could feel her whole body heaving with tremendous gulps of air taken in each time. Just raw. Stricken with every emotional sense one could experience in such a moment.
We went inside. She told me I was the only guy who never hit her back. Who just took it. How much she loved me.
I cleaned up everything. The broken glass. The soil from the plants. It was still a warzone, and her parents got home, which I was dreading.
They didn’t really seem surprised nor did they bat an eye really. They just thanked me for cleaning it up.
That was jarring to me.
There was so much she had to face, endure, and go through.
I just.. could not imagine it all.
Monique introduced me to a lot of things. Tori Amos. Our song was “Lady In Red” by Chris DeBurgh. A myriad of sexual things. She introduced me to the art of seduction. Looks. Simple ways to say things. How to make someone want you before you even physically touch. Architecture. The belief that everyone can be saved.
How to hug a person when you see them and hug them again when they leave.
She learned from me you don’t ever derive your self-worth or self-esteem from what others think, say, or believe. You get it from yourself. Your core. Your code.
Your honor will be your life, and you are always crafting that. It is never done.
Life is not a destination but a journey. We are on a magical ride, and we have off-ramps of opportunities, and our destination is always wherever we are at any moment, and our goal should always be to let someone get over, use your turn signals, and be courteous and giving while forgiving.
And the road we are all traversing will be far more enjoyable for all of us – even if we break down now and again. Someone will stop and help us out. And do that yourself.
The world is abundant with such causes.
I have within me a compass.
It is about right and wrong and making the best of everything I have and experience.
Sometimes, the directions are muddled and I misread my own compass.
Sometimes I am wrong.
But I will always find my center, re-discover True North, and gauge my life accordingly.
You can change your world in this moment.
She changed mine in so many we shared.
And sometimes it is the most devastating pain that shapes you.
Rarely do we learn best from life’s triumphs.
We should always learn from the falls.
This is not how this story ends.
May you always find your smile.