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The Path: Updates, Journey & History

The Writer's Corner - The Breach, Chapters 1 - 12

Image: Patrick Fore


(Note: You can skip to the Book Content & Chapter Links if you've read the post).


The Writer's Corner is an exciting new writing space I created to share chapters of my books in progress. I decided to post these on my website because of my need to continue my journey with these projects and edit, work, and re-work them for publication.


Including them in my scheduled work reality assures that they will start getting the much-needed attention they deserve and will satisfy my need to move forward with them.


So, why post them here if the reason and goal are personal?


Well, the thing about my writing and what I choose to write about is that it will always be about Love––which is the purpose of my work and how I connect with the world. I write to learn, first and foremost, and to teach. In doing so, I uncover more profound discoveries into what I know to upgrade my growth. Also, I want to explore and share the new things that only come to light once I write about them.


For example, in the book I'm starting with, entitled 'The Breach,' I write about my need to take a close look at––in an attempt to understand––the history of my romantic and love relationships. My experience of that aspect of my life has always been tumultuous, confusing, and deeply unsatisfying. I could barely grasp the meaning or purpose intimate relationships should play in my life.


Yes, I know what they appeared to be and do for other people, but that outcome never happened to me. Nothing sustainable, nothing lasting, just a series of dramatic occurrences that left my heart bruised, battered, and confused. And trust me, in all cases, I gave as little (or bad) as I got.


This book is not me looking at myself through the powerless lens of victimhood; on the contrary, my sole intention for undertaking this walk down the memory lane of my love life is to search and take responsibility for how I showed up and what I did in reaction to my injury to steer, even guide, the relationship to its inevitable demise.


On The Path, in recent months, we have done extensive and intensive work on the relationship reality and how to grow new roots and build healthy, balanced relationships in Love. This written clean-up expedition ensured that I cleared away all the leftover and hidden debris from my past to free myself from anything that would hold me back or keep me tethered to my old relationship injury.


Needless to say, as it is with any creative endeavor that requires self-exploration, I learned a great deal more than I knew about myself, my partners, and the nature of the internal wiring and familial and generational injury that guaranteed and delivered my failure to succeed in my relationships, as if on cue. It was a battle I would never win and a war waged by circumstances over which I had little to no control.


I hope that sharing my experience will lighten up some of the dark corners of your own. I find it always helpful when we can see that we are not alone. There is always someone who can commiserate with empathetic assurance, "Damn, I've been there.I know what you mean!"


What you'll be reading is my first edit of the book. However, I am the only one who has to work here; nothing is expected of you except to read, reflect, and comment if you choose.


Thank you for inspiring me to dive in and get on with my book-writing journey!


With Love,


Melana ~





 



Book Content & Chapter Links









The Breach


When Love, Relationship & Childhood Sexual Abuse Collide



Melana Plains












© 2023 Melana Plains 

All Rights Reserved



_________



Part One


First: Know Thyself


      “What The Hell Happened To Me?”


_________





PROLOGUE




'There's something wrong with her.”


I overheard my Boyfriend’s attempt to whisper to his Brother.


Grant it, my Boyfriend, had just received the news that I had slept with said Brother a few nights before. The day after that happened, my Boyfriend surprisingly declared his love for me (of course, without knowing about his Brother and me). His love was all I had hoped for. He even asked if I would marry him––he would do anything I wanted if I promised to let him come back. He had broken up with me recently and was now pleading to return to my heart and my life.


You must understand. I was head over heels in love with this man. He was my prince. When he said we should see other people, I was heartbroken. I would have done anything to hear him say, "I love you!" Now, when he finally said it, I had already slept with his Brother.


Though shocked to have overheard his thoughts about me, I could not argue with his assessment of my behavior.


I mean, I loved this man––but I slept with his Brother!


Who does that?



__________



CHAPTER ONE


Who Are You? Do You Know?



For me, that is not a trick question––but a real one.


I know that it's real because it's one that I've asked myself and grappled with repeatedly in my life. First, in my early years of confusion about my place in my family and, thus, the world, I was too young to understand that's what I needed to know. Then, later, when I attempted to be the acceptable and normal me in the world, I kept tripping over that unanswered question as I grew into adulthood.


It was when I got older that I realized that although I knew I was a human being, I knew little else about who I was as a person. Before I could even find the most basic and foundational answer to that question, another more pressing, distressful, and urgent matter drove the narrative of my life:


How did I get like this?


What made me into who I am? Why am I not okay? It was then that I realized that deep down inside, I knew something wasn't quite right with me. Something felt broken inside. I didn't know what that meant or anything about it; I only knew I could feel it.


On a functional level, I was okay; nothing much out of the ordinary. Making my way in life as best I could, out of high school into jobs and attending college part-time. You see, my real story––who I was and what happened to me––had nothing to do with what I was doing. It was about who I was, the person who showed up in all the moments of my life.


If I had known how to stop and take the time to assess my inner situation––because that's where this dark disturbance I felt lived and grew––I may have discovered why I was so wrong inside. A darkness that raged with flames of hurt and pain no one else could feel or see. I smiled a lot in those days. Warm, courteous, and caring of others, how could anyone even have suspected that beneath all the coping charm I exuded, inside, I was screaming, burning up to death, and slowly dying?


Here's the thing. My life continued like that throughout my twenties and into my thirties without relief, cessation, or solutions. It still confounds me how I could live and carry on a life in that state. We human beings are amazing creatures. Even with our insides torn up, our wiring all mismatched, and our hearts consumed by unbearable pain and grief from the loss of a self we never got to know, we still carry on.


Even though I didn't know myself, I still didn't like who I was. But I wanted to; I just didn't know how or why I didn't. I was a good girl, I was. What had I done so wrongly to justify my inability to forgive myself? What was there to forgive? I knew I had done something wrong but didn't know what. It was an untenable and impossible situation to navigate. Inevitably, one day, I decided to stop trying and put an end to the madness and my life.


Many years later, I am still alive and strong, so obviously––and gratefully, things didn't end there. I could say that with age came wisdom, but that's not necessarily true. The truth is that were I built differently, less sensitive, and, thus, less aware or concerned with what was happening in my inner world, I may have remained unaware of what was brewing inside.


We don't automatically know more about everything because we spend more years on this journey. Whether driven almost to madness by the need for answers or blithely living with a benign unawareness of unanswered questions, we all need to know who we are inside. Who is in the driver's seat of our life, and why are we even here? Why do we behave the way we do, and what impact do we have on ourselves, our lives, and other human beings? Are we friendly navigators in this life, staying in our lane and driving safely? What did I discover about myself that kept me from dying and made me want to live?


Well, first, I found out that I wasn't alone and the only one who felt that way that I did. In fact, on one level or another, we all experience things in the early years of our lives that we don't understand and cannot account for. Things happen when we are young that we cannot control, but they can significantly impact us. Because we are so malleable and formative at that time, these events, situations, or encounters blend in with all the other elements of our upbringing and shape our personalities, behaviors, and sense of who we are.


If these things are positive and life-affirming, they will positively influence our perception of ourselves and life. However, if they are harmful and destructive, they will steer us into a darker experience of ourselves and our lives. No one ever gets just one or the other. We will all encounter both, no matter how much dark or light dominates our experiences. There is light and dark in every moment. The balance of the two makes it possible to survive and thrive as a human being.


Physical and emotional abuse dominated the reality of my childhood. There were certain behaviors and responses to my life issues that I could track back to what I endured at the hands of my father when I was growing up. Those encounters with his bullied whippings and emotional lashings always left me feeling unnerved, rattled, and ashamed.


I didn't blame myself for his anger and rage, but I suffered because of it. Without knowing or understanding––as I did in later years––why he behaved that way, I decided he was a mean and miserable person. I never understood then why my mom would always take him back after their numerous separations. He never changed, not even a little bit.


He was a big problem for me growing up, and our relationship misshaped and distorted my future interactions with the boys and men in my life. Though my father's violent abuse contributed to the broken damage festering inside of me, it was only part of the reason why I was so desperately uncomfortable in my skin.


Dealing with these issues in my healing process still didn't erase the icky-sticky feeling of disease and unwellness that stuck inside of me like glue. It was that lingering malaise that would constantly upend all my attempts at finding a solid place within myself to be okay with me.


Years and years of spiritual work could not erase or heal what I later termed 'The Breach' that existed in my being. It felt like something foreign had wormed inside me, but I didn't know how it got there or what it was. That is, until, one day, I remembered.


Oddly enough, I had known all along what happened to me. I didn't think that it was the devastating, deep-rooted cause of all my misery and despair. What I remembered is that I never knew that childhood sexual abuse had almost destroyed both me and my life.


The impact of sexual abuse and sexualization on a child can––if left to its long-term effects––be irreparable and life-destroying when that child becomes an adult. This uninvited invasion of a child's trust and innocence becomes the silent annihilator that destroys the spirit, dismantles the power, and obliterates the sense of self-value and worth of this precious human being. Some families openly acknowledge it as a terrible act and seek legal remedies to punish the offender. That was the response in my situation.


My step-grandfather was removed from his home and sent to prison for a time. And no adult in my immediate or extended family said or did anything more about it. For them, the incident was over. For us children who endured my step-grandfather's egregious acts, our nightmare was only beginning.


Perhaps because no one ever asked me how I felt in its aftermath, I innocently and readily assumed that there weren't any feelings to explore. At the age of 4 years, what else could you think when you were too young even to register what had occurred? When I was a little older, although I had tell-tale signs of something being amiss, my parents never made the connection that the current behavior was a result of the sexual abuse.


Instead of asking me how I felt (which would never happen), my father launched an over-zealous campaign of sexual gatekeeping and hyper-vigilant watchfulness over every aspect of my life. Somehow, in his mind, I was no longer the victim but had now become the perpetrator of engaging in future sexual misdeeds. Now, in his eyes, every boy or man became my step-grandfather, and instead of being the prey, I was now a co-conspirator.


From the age of 5 years until my 18th birthday, my father never took his eyes off of me. For me, it was like being reminded every day of my life of my abuse. My father raged at me for it happening, at every boy who came anywhere near me, and at himself for failing to protect me.


But, because neither he nor my mother could anticipate or foresee the future impact all of this would have on me, I, along with them, ignored then buried any inkling or understanding of what was in store for me and my sexuality. And, if I knew, what was I supposed to do with it after that?



__________



CHAPTER TWO


So, Who Would Sleep With Their Boyfriend's Brother?


Well, only someone like me, broken and wrong inside, and with no sense of, or power to uphold, appropriate sexual boundaries to prevent such a thoughtless and hurtful act from happening. Someone like me who never wanted sex alone but wanted to be loved and believed that sex was the ultimate doorway to love.


I believed that if compatible and passionate sex was the pursued outcome of a man that I had spent long hours pining over, it was a clear and specific indication that we were (or at least I was) in love. Love (or the promise of it) and sex were a package deal for me; I could not, in heart or mind, separate the two.


In my Boyfriend's case, mutually smitten would describe the first time we looked at each other. Him, sexually, and me in a heart-spinning swoon. The very sight of him took my breath away. I was invited to a party at his house by my friend, the wife of Brother 2 (a different one from the brother I slept with, Brother 1). Real talk: he had a handful of brothers.


Now, let me set the scene for you.


We arrived at the party early, and my Boyfriend and I were immediately introduced. We spent the next few hours in a flirtatious whirlwind, dancing with and around each other in a blissful trance––until the doorbell rang. He waltzed over to answer it and moments later returned with another woman on his arm. It was his girlfriend. His girlfriend?!? What?!? That moment of panic when you feel your throat drop into your stomach and all your organs are on the move, forgetting their proper places in your anatomy, was happening inside when he calmly introduced her to me, my friend, and Brother 2.


My Boyfriend handily switched gears without a blink, and now he was hers, and we were, basically––not. Imagine thinking for a few miraculous hours that you had finally met 'the one.' Tall (my father was tall, so I didn't do tall men, but he was the exception), handsome, with a full-lipped mouth and a generous smile featuring a slight gap in his two front teeth. A European air and a low-hip swagger made watching him walk across the room in a pair of jeans such a mood. Watching him walk away from me, his arm tucked around her waist was also a mood––a sad and shocked one. Shortly after the girlfriend experience, my friend, Brother 2, and I left the party.


With the help of a glass of wine or two prior, I sobbed uncontrollably the whole way home. I honestly didn't understand the depth of what I was feeling. Mainly because, although I could fall pretty hard for men in the romantic phase of an encounter, somewhere deep inside me, there was an 'off' switch I could use when I was ready for the madness to stop.


No, not in the beginning. In those early throes of love, I was all-in and as neurotic and turned around as the next person on the ride. And, although I couldn't feel it at the time, there were memory cells that I held that knew I would ride the ride, but I would never take that flying leap of faith that most lasting relationships require.


Thanks to my father and step-grandfather, though I needed a man (I believed at that time) for love, they were not my friends––and they could never trust me to be theirs. It wasn't as cold and calculated as it sounds now. When all of it was beginning, I truly believed I was all in. I was unaware (until many years later) of the machinery churning away within that would implement the 'off' switch at just the right time. That time was when I subconsciously suspected I was about to get what I desired.


When I slept with Brother 1, though I was consciously unaware of it, that time for my Boyfriend and me was near at hand; like a drowning man, he was in a fight for his singular, uncommitted life. He would not go quietly, obedient, and well-behaved into a life with me––indeed, not without a fight.


After all, he was a White boy from Minnesota with White boy dreams. Believe me when I say those did not include falling in love with a Black woman. Yes, I was his passion, but not his dream. We were living in Berkeley, California, then, and anything seemed possible. Many who were drawn there came to experience an alternative, more open life reality––him included. And Brother 2's wife, my friend, was a Black Native American woman, so crossing that line was already in the family.


After the girlfriend had unexpectedly gone home early, prompted by my Boyfriend being distracted by the earlier events of the evening, and once the party had ended, I returned to his house. That happened because I got his number from Brother 2 on the way home. He would have done anything to stop my endless flow of tears and to make up for what he considered his brother's insensitive behavior.


When they dropped me off, I ran into my house, woke up my roommate and best friend, and poured out all the sorry (but somehow tingling and delightful, too) details of the evening. I could not sleep; I could barely breathe. I hadn't felt such do-or-die angst since I was a teenager; I was out of my mind with grief and desire.


So, I called him up. I needed to know if I had misread the room and if none of what I thought was happening between us had happened. I could not sleep without pleading my case, and if letting go had to happen, I wanted to rip the band-aid off that night. I could not fathom sleeping and waking up in this plummeting state of despair with no idea of where I was going to land.


Gratefully, he invited me over to talk about it. Unsurprisingly, given the intensity of our attraction, I spent the night with him. We succumbed to the passions that sealed our fate and set us on the uncharted course of a new relationship. I was stone-cold in love with him. No doubt. He had betrayed his girlfriend and knew this was the beginning of the end of their bond. My Boyfriend genuinely liked her; she was more his ideal and aesthetic. And he was sad to let her go. But, he also knew that he was as obsessed as I was with us, and it was pointless to try and deny it––although he kept trying.


We wooed each other in the coming months, me writing poetry highlighting my 'witchy woman ways' and how they would trump all of his efforts to deny his love for me. He would invite me to Japanese brunch and attempt to intimidate and unnerve me with his worldly charm, knowledge, and presence. He was truly arrogant but with good reason. He could sell it, and I didn't hate him for it. It was primarily why I found him so enchanting. Trust me, it wasn't a healthy response.


And, here we go again: my father was tall, charming, and arrogant. In hindsight, seeing how all the red flags kept adding up is such a revelation. At the time when it would have served me well to be aware of what I was doing, I couldn't see any of it.



__________



CHAPTER THREE


The Bed You Lie In Is The Bed You Make––Or Is It?


My nightmare relationship with my abusive father and the sexual abuse at the hands of my step-grandfather had become an integral part of not only the man I chose but the dream relationship package that I so readily embraced as my own. My father fought my mother for his freedom. When she sent him away, he always came back. In the same way, my Boyfriend fought me for his freedom, and when I acquiesced and let him go, he returned (not changed) but declared himself more in love than before. And so, the die was cast. Even as he ran from me, he was becoming mine.


Oddly enough, I did not know this at the time. I took my Boyfriend at his word that we were over. After he had announced to his close inner circle that we were on permanent pause, my friend and Brother 2 invited me to another outing. This one was to dinner at Brother 1's house (the one I slept with––this was before I slept with him). They thought it best that I accept the end of my relationship with my Boyfriend, who everyone (including his brothers) thought was being a jerk.


They all concluded I was a find and deserved someone to love me. And, if my Boyfriend couldn't see or do it, I should just let him go. But, I was in love and genuinely bereft of my loss of him. I never once stopped thinking I could watch him walk across a room, low-hip in jeans, for the rest of my life. I could not imagine losing him, and yet, it seemed as if it was so. Reluctantly, I accepted their invitation to dinner at Brother 1's house.


He was a Virgo, just like my Boyfriend. I wished I had known the 'thing' I had for Virgos. With my moon and north node firmly placed in this sign, I was a Virgo magnet. So, right off the bat, he and I were drawn to each other in a low-key, magical way. He was the epitome of low-key. Quiet, unassuming, but with a wise and discerning presence. Broad shoulders, handsome, with eyes that twinkled when he smiled, he brought peace to my troubled heart, and his easy laughter and warmth made me feel safe.


We sat next to each other at dinner at a picnic table with benches. Brother 1's nearness held me in an unspoken embrace, and I felt myself inwardly leaning on him for comfort and support. He was amiable and easygoing, which was such a change and relief from the constant tug-of-war I had been having with my Boyfriend over the state and status of our relationship.


With the help of yet another glass of wine (I was late in learning that wine was not my friend in certain situations), I allowed my Boyfriend's Brother to kiss me in a moment of uninhibited laughter and a sharing of ideas. Wait!?! What was happening!?! The next moment after he did it, I excused myself and hurried to the bathroom to hide and freak out. My friend, who witnessed the event, followed behind me. There I was, crying again (gosh, I cried a lot in those days!).


"He kissed me! I let him kiss me!" I blurted this out in shock and dismay. "Why did I do that?" That's my Boyfriend's Brother, for Christ's sake!"


My friend did not seem bothered at all by what had happened. She thought it was a good thing. In her assessment, Brother 1 was much nicer than my Boyfriend, and we seemed good together. She and her husband (Brother 2) had invited me to dinner, hoping we would like each other. And, although Brother 1 knew something of my involvement with his Brother, my Boyfriend, he wasn't prepared to let it stop him from pursuing me.


Later, when things got heated between them over me, I discovered the competitive, on-edge, sometimes angry nature of the two brothers' relationship. Brother 1 didn't hesitate to take my Boyfriend's word that it was over between us and behaved accordingly.


Out of all the informed parties of my situation with my Boyfriend, I was the most knowledgeable and, therefore, the most irresponsible present. My Boyfriend always carried himself with an air of distant, inaccessible intelligence that always seemed to hover above the heads of those he knew and hung out with. It was tolerated by some and envied by others because he was also self-possessed and sharp-witted. It was, again, a good fit for him, and he wore it well.


He also generally approached the women he encountered in that same distant way. However, if he was interested in you, he made sure you knew it––but not necessarily everyone else. He was a cool player and did not wear his heart on his sleeve. He kept his internal matters to himself, leaving everyone (and sometimes, you) guessing how he felt. So, despite those close in assuring me that my interest in Brother 1 was acceptable and above board, my heart was screaming at me that it wasn't so––not in the least bit.


Once again, my father enters the picture on this score. Sensing that despite how my father mistreated me, his feelings for me were deep and complex in ways I could never comprehend or understand, I intuitively knew that my Boyfriend and I had not finished with each other––or he had not finished with me. Sure, he wanted to be, and if it killed him, he would make a gallant effort to keep his word to himself that he was. On the surface, it looked as if he was winning.


I had recently attended an affair to which my Boyfriend and I were both invited, and he showed up with another Black woman on his arm. Rightfully so, I was not happy about this. But I also knew he knew I would be there and made this coupled entrance exclusively for me. We quietly taunted each other on and off the dance floor all evening. I boldly bumped into my Boyfriend and his temporary lady on purpose and sweetly smiled my apologies for having two left feet. My fake smile was as sincere as his uninspired attempt at making me jealous.


My Boyfriend was not the least interested in being with a Black woman; to him, it was a choice that did not align with his vision of his life story. It was also a complication he didn't feel he had the mettle to deal with. He wasn't a racist; he was a pragmatist. The minute I saw the color of her skin, I knew she was there for my benefit.


They were both tall, leggy creatures, and with her model looks, they looked stunning together. She seemed really into him, and for a moment, I felt terrible for her and angry with him for putting her in the middle of this messy game we were playing. Several times during the evening, I caught her eyeing me with curious suspicion. She knew something was amiss, and she wasn't pleased or amused. Although I was loathe to admit it because I didn't know how to face it or what to do with it, my Boyfriend could be cruel. That evening, staring back at her, I was uneasily reminded yet unwilling to accept this painful truth.


As I stood in Brother 1's bathroom, crying my eyes out and already filled with regret for what I knew I was about to do, I allowed my heart and actions to be swayed by the group's opinion. My Boyfriend and I had broken up, and I needed to move on with my life and love. Even if that meant sleeping with his Brother, which I did that night after the rest of the dinner guests had left. Knowing what I knew about my Boyfriend's hidden heart and the feelings he held at bay, was I acting out of my hidden cruel streak?


Even while weeping in sadness, did I also savor the cold, hard slap in the face and blow this brutal act would deliver to his ego? His showing up at the party with someone he was not serious about was child's play compared to the hand I was about to reveal. And, he would never see it coming––how could he?


The one thing I knew he was sure of and grappling with how to deal with was the power of the love I held for him. He was drawn to it, mesmerized like a moth to a flame. I watched him struggle so hard to have it and fight it simultaneously. And, yet, I would not help him break free of me; I couldn't. I was deeply in love. So, how could I choose to sleep with his brother in the face of that kind of love?


'There's something wrong with her," my Boyfriend later whispered to Brother 1 after I told him I had slept with him. He was devastated, heartbroken, and absolutely correct. My Boyfriend saw the bright red flag of my sexual abuse and sought to name it. He knew he wasn't mistaken about my love for him; he had experienced it profoundly and intimately. He was also sure that although he believed himself to be a master of disguise, I knew that he felt the same, no matter what he said or how he behaved to the contrary.


In the end, he never planned to end us or give me up. He was testing us––himself, me, and the relationship––to see if what he wanted in his heart would work. This breakup was only a time-out between the end of one phase and the beginning of another. My Boyfriend was secretly planning to make our relationship a more permanent one.


One of the many things I later discovered about my childhood sexual abuse was that it created a disconnect in the authentic connection between my heart and my sexuality––and replaced it with a false and distorted one. That disconnection and violation of both human and spiritual law is what I began to call 'the breach.' It was the time when my step-grandfather's egregious behavior broke the law and me with it.


Stimulated solely by my emotions, this wounded place within me of sexual actions and reactions had no relationship to or guidance from my heart. I believe that the reality of a woman as a 'whore' is a state of being and a behavior whose roots grew out of being sexually abused and sexualized as a child. Such a violent act disempowers a child's ability to learn, when growing up, how to make sound, self-loving sexual choices.


A child's first response to its sexuality––because of the abuse––is stimulated from outside of the self instead of from within. The inner wiring and timer for when one's sexuality is ready to unfold have been interfered with and essentially broken. It thus becomes a wild card living inside of you, waiting for someone or something outside of you to trigger its' inception.


You have no idea or control, not only over what, when, or how it will happen but also over whether or not or how to respond. The mechanism that governs choice is damaged, and you lack the intuitive ability to sense when you should say "No." So, "Yes." becomes the silent, unspoken response to a question you never learned how to answer or feel the truth of its meaning in your heart.


The other misguided component to this 'breach' redesign of my sexuality was my mistaken belief that sex was always an act of love. From a child's point of view, if the person delivering the sexual abuse is someone of authority who hides their actions behind a veil of kindness and caring without outwardly frightening the child, they have no immediate way of comprehending the danger or wrongness of the act.


I remember feeling 'off,' in some way, but I was too young to connect what had happened to what I felt. As I got older, I became more aware of my prickly discomfort with anything of a sexual nature. It felt like a forbidden, dark hole I longed to escape. But then puberty's arrival pushed my sexual feelings to the forefront of my body, mind, and life.

 

With my stalwart conviction to remain a virgin until I married, I have the Catholic church and an all-girl Catholic high school I attended to thank for that. Coupled with my father's relentless stalking of my comings and goings, they protected me from the after-effects of 'the breach'––and my broken nature.


That is, until my 17th year when, out of the church's and my father's reach and peering eyes, I dropped acid and lost my virginity to a 19-year-old wandering troubadour-revolutionary poet of mixed heritage, whose cold blue eyes and creamy brown skin took my breath away––and stole both my heart and my virginity without ever asking. He rightly assumed that he could.


Without my father or the church's diligent presence to speak on my behalf, all alone, I didn't know how to say no. It wasn't like the fresh boys in my neighborhood who tried to run their hands up your dress on the playground. That was just bad form, and in my indignant response to their unwanted familiarity with me, I had no problem dismissing them. But you see when it was a grown-up boy who had won my heart, giving the rest of myself seemed like the only right thing to do because he wanted to, and that was all it took. Suffering the after-effects of a bad acid trip, I don't remember wanting to, but like when I was a child, the choice did not seem like it was mine to make.


And, so, he took my virginity and left me pregnant in return. That was the first time I paid dearly for having been sexually abused and lacking the ability to protect myself with my right and voice to have a say in what happened to my sexuality and my life. The second payment came in the form of an illegal abortion that went very wrong and nearly took my life. Those events were only the primary fallout.


The secondary upheavals came in the form of my father's absolute hatred and disgust for what I had done. The coldness he showered on me after learning of my profound betrayal of him and his trust was unbearable. He treated me like I was no longer someone he wanted anything to do with. Everything I suffered to try and fix my mistake only served to make him colder while reminding me I deserved everything I got for what I had done.


When it became apparent, by my high fever and near loss of consciousness, that the illegal abortion he set up for me had gone afoul of its intended design, my father stared blankly and immovable at the world series on the television screen while ignoring my mother's desperate pleas for him to drive me to the hospital.


With his newest Cadillac sitting out in front of our apartment building, he was well-equipped to handle this situation. But his palpable rage was so out of control that instead of helping me, he struck my mother until she fell to the floor. He then proceeded to sit back down and stare at the television screen.



__________



CHAPTER FOUR


Are Broken Princesses Doomed To Break The Hearts Of The Princes They Love?


Spending the night with my Boyfriend's Brother was emotional and life-altering for us both. He was ending a months-long celibacy journey following the breakup of a marriage. I was treading on dangerous ground with him amid the breakup of my relationship with his Brother, which threatened to upend my entire life. There were shared tears of the release of pent-up emotion and mutual gratitude for being safely held and comforted in another's arms.


Were it not for my unsettled mind and anxious heart, I would have completely surrendered myself to this different feeling of acceptance in love. He wasn't fighting himself to be with me; he wanted to be there. I remember staring at the blissful look and the remnants of a smile on his face as he fell asleep, noticing that even closed and resting, his eyes still twinkled.


Before I left his house the following day, Brother 1 invited me to a potluck he and his housemates had planned for later that afternoon. From the caring way he approached me, I could sense that he felt ours was a budding relationship he wanted to feed, nurture, and explore. As I walked through the motions with him, trying to respond in kind and showing up as best I could, I felt that all of this was happening to someone else––someone connected to me but not the real, original me. It was like an offshoot, a splitting off of the person I was supposed to be who decided to take an entirely different approach to dealing with the breakup with my Boyfriend.


Before sleeping with Brother 1, the last thing on my mind or in my intentions was to start a new relationship with another man––and most certainly not the Brother of the man I loved. The whole idea, unconnected to the event that had just occurred, sounded ludicrous and unrealistic, something you would see in a wacky rom-com movie. What person, without the intention of causing severe distress and even harm to another, would choose to sleep with that person's sibling? How could such an act ever be considered even remotely innocent?


Yet, something else about my interactions with people (aside from this recent infraction) could also have been considered 'wrong.' I say 'could have been' because I'm unsure where this other behavior originated. It was a genuine and unfettered innocence I applied to any situation almost as a matter of routine. It was as if something within me would rise above the darkness, the madness, and the chaos of people and life, allowing me to traverse any circumstance, regardless of its uncertainty or perceived danger, as if it were, perhaps, meant to occur because I could handle it by adjusting my perception of reality to accommodate and navigate any unfolding situation.


 I do not know if this was an innate ability I was born with or a learned way of numbing myself to the impact of hurt and pain that emerged from the debris of my childhood and sexual abuse. When I would calmly show up for my friends in whatever tense or difficult life situations they were in––soothing them and lighting the way for the possibility of their recovery––it felt like the magical version of me.


When, after facing my doubts and regrets, I calmly chose to sleep with my Boyfriend's Brother, it felt like disassociation and an inability to set boundaries for myself in my behavior towards others. Or maybe it was just when I applied my 'magical' ability to calm any self-induced storm on my horizon––by enduring and riding the wave of the ensuing chaos it would bring––it felt more like being able to overcome any obstacle life put in my way––even if I put it there.


In either case, still operating from a fractured and unreliable 'No.' filter or response, I agreed to come to my Boyfriend's Brother's potluck and bring my two-year-old son. And, yes, since having my son involved me being with a man, there is a story about my relationship with his father. I realize now I have so many strange and unusual encounters and life stories about men. I didn't understand until later in life that because of the inner branding of a sexual violation and fatherly abuse, there would never be a happy-ever-after scenario for me. My stories would have no princess and knight in shining armor outcome.


The immediate and first assessment from that statement is that I was tarnished goods, and because of that, I had forfeited my chance to be chosen and loved. That was undoubtedly an operating factor in my life design: having the unholy misfortune of being sexually abused as a child. My Boyfriend told his Brother, "There's something wrong with her." And there it was: the damage report. She's a bad apple; do not choose her.


But check this out. Some of the princes did show up. My Boyfriend was one of them. He was a White male, one of the golden boys of our world. With strong family roots and a sure-footed sense of himself and his place in life, he could do and become anything he desired. The world was his oyster, and he knew it. Which, again, was why setting his sights on a Black woman to share his life with was so problematic. He did not believe himself to be built or prepared for the complications it would bring to his life. But, as I stated earlier, he was fast losing this battle. And, with one last stronghold of resistance, he was preparing himself to surrender to the inevitable longing of his heart. That was until he discovered what I had done and the truth of who and what I was.


Here's another thing. When the princes showed up offering me the potential of the dream-come-true relationship-life, I inevitably found a way to sabotage and destroy––not only the union––but, for good measure, the heart of the man who dared to believe he could love me and that I was worth loving. One could say that it was obviously because of the earlier tainting of my future womanhood which left me believing––with no room for doubt––that I was undeserving of the happiness and fulfillment that the truly good girls could have.


They were the unblemished ones who may have experienced other types of childhood distress and mayhem growing up, but they did not bear the scarlet letter of the breach. Or, if they suffered sexual abuse, they grew up in a supportive, loving family that sought to shelter and protect them from its adverse effects by raising them with a constantly reinforced belief that they were as worthy as any other girl of dreaming big and having them come true.


Growing up in a household such as mine compounded the damage already done to my broken spirit. There was no attention to my recovery or the impact my experience would have on my sense of self as I grew up into womanhood. My parents left my heart and my sexuality for dead––and my father almost succeeded in allowing my body to die, too. When someone who is supposed to love you throws you, body and soul. to the wolves the way my father did to me, you neither forget nor forgive.


We once went as a family to therapy to address my mother's deteriorating mental health. This crisis was brought on by her undergoing a total hysterectomy and neglecting to take the necessary hormonal therapy to offset its aftereffects. It was that, but my father also rejected her after the surgery, accusing her of being less of a woman because her womanly organs were removed. My father was the gift of darkness that relentlessly kept giving even after his death.


In front of the therapist, my mother, sister, and brother, I blurted out a burning question directly to my father, one I had been holding in until I couldn't anymore, "Why were you going to let me die, instead of taking me to the hospital?" Why did you do that?" My father sat and glared at me, stunned. No one in their right mind in my family would ever confront my father openly to his face and within striking distance.


Everyone was silent, watching, including the therapist. I stared back at my father, shaking, tears running down my cheeks. Suddenly, my father stood up and bolted for the door. The tearful words I shouted after him landed precisely on his fast-disappearing back as he hurriedly strode out of the room, "Why did you do that? Why were you going to let me die?"


Many years had passed before I saw or heard from my father again. Perhaps, if he had even bothered to attempt to answer my distraught plea with even a semblance of remorse, my heart may have fluttered open enough to accept whatever he offered. And maybe, then, I could have believed that I didn't have to hate him so much after all. And maybe, then, even with all the other abuses he heaped on me over the years, I may have held the tiniest belief that one day I could and would learn how not to hold every man I met accountable for what he did.


You see, this is what my Boyfriend was up against. The legacy of my father and my abuser turned me into an accuser––and punisher––of every man who came into my sphere. Mind you, I did not, at the time, know any of this I am sharing now. I was clueless about the haze of shame, grief, and retribution that darkly stirred within the depths of my womanly being.


On the surface, when hanging with my girlfriends, I would quickly announce that I would never marry a man. I never spoke kindly about them or felt any desire to get to know them as people. But, I never thought of my disdain for them being punitive but more realistic. I would remind my friends that getting married would hold me back and keep me from doing what I wanted with my life. Besides, I never met one smart enough to keep up with me.


Ironically, though, I could still fall deeply in love with them, and once I did and they fell for me, the relationship had to end. I had nothing more to give or get from them other than that. I could never envision or imagine living a life with a man beyond the first throes of romance. I loved the chase. But I never wanted to keep the catch or to be caught myself. Prince charming or not, the same rule applied.


So, I can honestly say that my inability to secure and sustain any relationship was never about lack of opportunity. I had many chances to do it. With marriage proposals, princes sincerely tried to end my declared state of singularity. And each one, in the end, sustained as much or more heartbreak and hurt as the one before. And I never belonged to anyone, not even myself.



__________



CHAPTER FIVE


Is It Betrayal If Someone Left––But Not Really?


The potluck at my Boyfriend's Brother's house was a backyard gathering with several tables covered with various dishes people brought to share. The day was sunny and warm, and a quiet, murmuring peace filled the air. People stood or sat around in pairs or groups, catching up, laughing, and enjoying the opportunity to be around each other. This outing was the second gathering in as many days that I got to experience in the company of my Boyfriend's Brother. I was struck by the constancy of ease and the quiet, pleasant ambiance that permeated both events.

 

While my son ran around his spacious yard playing with the other kids who came, my Boyfriend's Brother hung close to me, gently steering me toward certain people he wanted to introduce me to. His way with me was very couple-like. Though I allowed it, I was not on board with his assessment of what transpired between us. Remember, I had only spent time and slept with him the night before! In his defense, I must admit that I am dangerously easy to get close to. Though battered, bruised, and somewhat deranged, my heart was open.


I loved to feel closely connected to people, especially those with whom I felt an intimate bond. There were no apparent walls or barriers one had to transverse to get next to me. I made myself readily available for contact with others mainly because I didn't know how not to; it was a natural and easy way to be for me. And, if I sexually engaged with a man who was already feeling a deep, emotional embrace with me, he usually fell hard and fast. This passionate engagement was how all of my relationships of substance usually began.


That was yet another aspect of my behavior that, at the time, I had not fully assessed or made a claim to. I was just me, doing what I do, and things would happen. I was not self-aware and had little to no understanding of my impact on others. My Boyfriend's Brother was obviously taken with me, and though I liked him a great deal, my mind and heart were wondering what in the world my Boyfriend would think about all of this.


As if on cue in answer to my pondering thoughts, my Boyfriend strolled into the backyard. He wasn't invited or expected, but the Brothers were popular, and word of the potluck reached my Boyfriend's ears; he didn't need an invitation. After all, it was at his Brothers' house. My eyes were immediately drawn to his presence like a magnet. He could walk into any place in the world, and I would be the first to see him. He was that person for me. The one who, no matter what has transpired or how many years have gone by, would forever captivate and enchant me.


Brother 1 was unaware of his Brother's arrival and continued conversing with the people we were standing with. As I watched my Boyfriend coolly scan the various groups scattered about the yard, I felt myself contract inwardly and took the intuitive hint that I should take a few steps away from Brother 1 so we would appear less engaged and coupled. It was only a few moments later that my Boyfriend saw me.


As he walked across to speak, there was a look of surprise on his face, followed by a half-smile and a questioning gaze. What was I doing at his Brother's potluck? If he didn't bring me, who did I come with? Although I had briefly met Brother 1 on several occasions, once in his company, he knew we didn't really know each other or hang out in the same circles. Mind you, since my Boyfriend and I had officially broken up, I assumed he would have to figure out how to extract this information while not appearing to be interested in knowing it. I was wrong.


"Hi. So, what are you doing at my Brother's potluck?"

Fortunately, I didn't have to answer. Brother 1 fielded the question.

"Hey. I invited her," he said casually without further explanation, giving off an oddly protective vibe.


"Oh, I see," my Boyfriend responded, nodding, still without understanding why I was there. He appeared guarded and notably tense. He did not expect to see me there and didn't seem to recover from the surprise quickly.


I flashed a quick, neutral smile, tight with a tinge of sadness, and said nothing as I shifted my gaze from my Boyfriend to perform a visual check-in on my son. He was 'technically' now my ex-boyfriend, so I wasn't obligated to explain anything to him, and so I didn't. I quietly withdrew from the Brothers and played with my little boy.


Inside, my heart was racing. I felt lightheaded, confused, and guilty. The last 24 hours were just one day into this ensuing madness, and the mess already felt like too much. How in the hell did I let this happen? Why didn't I say no to Brother 1's advances at dinner and go home as I intended to? I realized today that I didn't know much about him, only what I had heard and gleaned the night before.


I later learned that he was the Brother with the sterling reputation––responsible, caring, solid character, with two feet on the ground. He had a rather mountain air about him, always dressed in plaid shirts, jeans, and construction boots or Birkenstocks. He was kind and sweet, with a gentle demeanor. What was there not to like about him right off the bat? I found it supremely easy, and I did. In contrast, my Boyfriend lived unapologetically and exuded a brooding mixture of dark and light, wit and mystery, an inaccessible yet captivating puzzle to solve, with an air of if you dare.


Now that he had arrived, I knew it was time for me to gather my things with my son in tow and head home. The potential for even the smallest gesture or look to get weird or go wrong seemed imminent. A cool breeze blew over the yard, dispelling the afternoon warmth that had settled in; I took that change in the temperature as a sure sign that, if I stayed, that coolness would turn into a chilling wind, setting in motion a more revealing look at what was happening between my Boyfriend, his Brother, and me.


I said my goodbyes to both Brothers without incident, lying to my Boyfriend awkwardly, saying that it was good to see him and separately assuring Brother 1 that I would see him at the party later. Yes, another gathering was coming up that evening.


After dinner, bath, and bedtime reading with my son, I dressed and headed to the party with Brother 2 and my girlfriend (his wife). This affair thrown by a major player in our sphere was one of those events that all the other major players––the people with resources, position, community standing, and power––would be attending. My Boyfriend and his Brothers would all be invited, of course. Once again, Brother 2 and his wife had asked me to join them. Also, now that I had connected with Brother 1, he had made sure I knew about it and was planning to come.


My Boyfriend would be there for sure. And, it would be the first very public appearance we would make as an ex-couple––and everyone would now know the tea. One of the reasons I was encouraged to attend was to show all interested parties––with my head held high and a smile on my face––that I had survived the break-up with my very sought-after, now free, ex-boyfriend.


On the surface, it seems like so much small-town drama when I write about it now. But, honestly, at the time, it was the most crucial thing occurring in my life and my world––however narrow my perception of the implications of what it all meant. As I type the details of how emotional and reactive I was, I sometimes revisit the question, "Why are you writing about all of this now, after the many years that have passed since it all happened?" Then, I am reminded that a missing piece of the puzzle of me revealed itself at that time. My behavior had exposed the truth that I was broken, with verifiable proof to support it—laying open a wound I needed to tend to and could no longer ignore.


Thus, I am riveted and fascinated by everything that transpired to deliver me a part of myself that would ultimately allow me to heal. While I'm here, deep in the retelling of what I can remember clearly, I'm moved by the almost innocent and genuine nature of these relationships. How we never intended to hurt each other, but we did. I realize how our lack of awareness of the crooked webs we weave from our broken, fractured hearts blinds our true sense of ourselves and each other and fosters our inability to respect our and each others' hearts, values, and worth.


The party was crowded and dense with warm, mingling bodies in a big house filled to the brim with music, laughter, and conversation circulating through its' many rooms. The mood was high and gay, and I was grateful for the cover it provided me and my circumstances.


As I passed through the archway of the high-ceilinged kitchen on my way to the back patio, I spotted my Boyfriend holding court and chatting amiably with a small group of his male friends gathered around the island in the kitchen's center. I caught his eye briefly as he registered my presence, quickly blinked my image away, and continued to discourse with the others. I ignored him and his discourse and headed to the outside area to grab a drink and meet up with Brother 1, who was waiting there for me.


I was operating on auto-pilot. Putting one foot in front of the other, hoping that solid ground would meet each foot as it landed. I did not know what I was doing and where this was all going next. I was annoyed with my Boyfriend and his openly dismissive treatment of me, despite knowing I had ample warning from my girlfriend and Brother 2 to prepare myself for how he would show up. Although he deigned to speak to me at the potluck––primarily out of curiosity as to why I was there––as they anticipated, his break-up mode would be in full effect at the party––which meant strategically ignoring me.


His peers, who held high marks in his world and mattered the most to him, would be present. They, very much like him, were highly self-impressed with their standing and circumstances and agreed with and co-sponsored his belief that hooking up with a Black woman would not end well for him. Nothing personal to me, mind you. I was simply the wrong color. No harm, no foul. Accept the loss and move on. All that sounded rational, in theory, but it did not account for the fact that we were both in love. To them, our love was considered the collateral damage of a situation that had to be made null and void for practical reasons.


So, I anticipated the coldness and the lack of acknowledgment I received, but it didn't prepare me for how it would make me feel. As I wandered out to the patio to drink and dance with Brother 1, I felt sad and heartbroken and grateful that Brother 1's caring and attentive nature would help ease my pain and grief. If what I just experienced was a taste of how it would be from now on, I believed it would take a long time before I would be okay again. Other women, having heard of our break-up, were already lining up to become my Boyfriend's next amour. I knew it was only a matter of time before ignoring me would be compounded by facing the presence of a new girlfriend in his life.


Brother 1 and I hung outside on the deck for the first hour, away from everyone milling about inside. Although others also sought fresh air and space to move and breathe, the deck was spacious, with enough room for everyone to sit, talk, or dance as we chose. I felt this niggling urge to speak more about my relationship with my Boyfriend to his Brother. The little that I had already shared, he met with a fundamental unwillingness to accept that––in knowing his Brother––what we had could be no more than a casual affair that had ended.


Brother 1 said that he liked me and didn't have any issues with who my previous boyfriend was––even if it was his Brother. He made it all sound so simple, but the erratic beating of my heart was beginning to drown out and override his calm assurance that everything would be fine.


To him, the most significant thing facing me now was to allow myself to move on. However, I had a powerful, almost pleading, gut feeling that once my Boyfriend knew I was involved with his Brother, things would not be as simple as Brother 1 surmised.



_____________



CHAPTER SIX


When You Know, You Know––Don't You Know?


There were eyes everywhere at the party that evening. Ours was a small community centered around young artisans, business owners, singletons, and new parents from the next generation of young adults ready to make their mark on the world. People were always interested in what everyone else was up to and who was doing who––or not. If someone didn't know you were actively together, they would find out when you got married or broke up. Somewhere along the way, someone would eventually inform them; it's called gossip.


The girlfriend of a close friend of my Boyfriend saw Brother 1 and me dancing on the patio. With the help of a few drinks to take away the edge, we were laughing and having a decent time. I embraced the stolen space to decompress and relax a little. When the song ended, she came over, said hello to him, and introduced herself to me. She and I knew of each other in passing but had never spoken.


Her following words, directed at Brother 1, may have appeared sincere and innocent––they were not.


"Lucky man. You have such great taste in women; she's beautiful!" Brother 1 beamed warmly at her, looked at me, and nodded in agreement.


I said thank you; that was sweet of you to say. My not-so-innocent admirer gave me a conspiratorial rub on the arm and took off back into the house. What I knew that Brother 1 did not know––or would have cared less about if he did––was that in a few minutes, my Boyfriend would hear about Brother 1 and me. I wasn't sure what exactly she would say, but whatever he heard would be enough to pique his interest.


Minutes later, my Boyfriend strode out on the deck looking for Brother 1. He gave me an overly long, intense, and questioning look while asking his Brother if he would give him a ride to his house to pick something up. My Boyfriend gave some excuse as to why he didn't want to ride his motorcycle to run this errand; something about the size or weight of what he was bringing back, perhaps a case of wine or alcohol.


Right away, the unspoken tension between the two Brothers became palpable. I learned later that growing up, of all the siblings, these two were the most competitive with each other. It was not so much about outdoing the other but more about which one was the better man or person. It was about their character and standing in the community. It was weird because they were both two very different people with different but equal gifts and abilities to offer. There was more than enough room for both to shine, so whatever the charge was between them began when they were growing up.


Brother 1 requested, in an assumptive way, that I come along. In his mind, I was with him, and he wanted me to join them on this excursion. I hesitated but knew I could not refuse to go and miss being a spectator to this collision course that my bad choices put into motion. You know how when you are irrevocably sure and clear about something and, no matter what, you stand your ground? If I had not been so hounded and silenced as a child, sexually abused, and thus disempowered on an intuitive level about my female sense of things––especially about men––none of this that was about to happen ever would have.


Robbed of my voice to speak truth to these two men and bereft of any 'girl game' or ability to openly read the room of a man's heart and help him get in touch with what he was feeling, I let my Boyfriend playact this break-up, without dealing with what was really going on between us and how conflicted he was. On top of that, I allowed me-of-no-sexual/emotional boundaries to engage with his Brother helplessly, feeling yet not seeing and unable to get a grasp of the power I held to say 'No!" to both my Boyfriend and his Brother.


No! I will not throw this relationship away because you're afraid of loving me. Take some time and figure out what you want, and I will try my best to love you through it if I can. No! I will not get involved with you; I'm still your Brother's girlfriend, which would make it inappropriate. Besides, in what universe would it ever be a good idea to date your Boyfriend's Brother? And, what injured place are you coming from to expect me to do so?


Instead of heading for this imminent pile-up, I would be sitting at home, chilling and catching up with my best friend and roommate, sharing the scoop about my Boyfriend's latest attempt at running away from this scary Black woman. And we would have shaken our heads and laughed out loud.


My Boyfriend's Brother readily agreed to drive him wherever he needed to go; competitive or not, they were still close, from a tight-knit family who would do anything for each other without question. As we headed to the pick-up truck, I thought about two things. How it would feel to sit so close to my Boyfriend in the truck and what it would feel like sitting in between the two of them, as I assumed I would be. I was wondering what would or wouldn't be said. I had no way of knowing; therefore, I could not plan any responses.


Would my Boyfriend come out and ask if Brother 1 and I were seeing each other––or somehow imply that he already knew? If so, was he also aware that we had slept together? No, I decided if he knew anything, he did not realize that things had gone that far. Otherwise, we would not all be running errands together as if nothing had happened.


However, Boyfriend 1 knew. Would he take this opportunity with the three of us to tell him immediately or subtly allude to our recent intimacy? I didn't know what he would say or do; I didn't know him well enough to say.

Brother 1 got into the driver's side as we got in the truck, and my Boyfriend sat in the passenger's seat without sliding over to make room for me. As I attempted to get in and maneuver over him, he pulled me down and into his lap, and with his hands guiding my waist, he leaned me back, facing forward, and nestled my legs in between his.


My Boyfriend said with a possessive and definitive tone, "You can sit here." It was both a directive and a statement. It inferred, "You're still mine no matter what's going on between you and me." To his Brother, "In case you were unaware, let me clarify, she's mine." He let us both know what could and couldn't be—done and dusted. Wow!


Brother 1 and I were left speechless while my Boyfriend continued his command of the situation by casually informing his Brother that he also wanted to pick up some coke and bring it back to the party. I couldn't tell what Brother 1 was thinking. When I glanced at him, I could see his expression was dispassionate and fixed; he wasn't giving anything away. Brother 1 applied himself to the task of driving and asked several questions about the drugs and their whereabouts. Whatever he was feeling about my sitting next to him on his Brother's lap, he was not giving.


They both carried on like this was a typical situation in which any two brothers could find themselves. For me, on the one hand, having been left to my deductions, this was frigging insane, and I could not for the life of me figure out how to land on any one feeling. I loved sitting on my Boyfriend's lap, the closeness, the feeling of being in my rightful place as his, relishing his statement about my importance to him.


On the other hand, I was annoyed and pissed off at his audacity in pulling such a stunt. He rebelliously and, without ceremony, broke up with me. He had exposed the underbelly of his arrogance by assuming that, since I was so in love with him and he was, supposedly, not as in love with me, I would be shattered and overcome with grief at losing him (in truth, I was) but not to the degree he imagined.


However, neither of us counted on Brother 1 arriving, like a knight on a white stead, to save said damsel in distress from imploding in a heap of tears and devastation. Talk about karmic blowback; in this case, it was immediate. Since I knew that My Boyfriend's Brother also had feelings for me, it created a dangerous cushion of illusion inside of me, protecting my heart but giving me a false sense of safety and distancing me from my true feelings and assessment of the situation.


Without Brother 1's affections shoring me up, I might have taken such an opportunity as this to wake up and realize this man was so in love with me that he was in no way ready to give me up. By doing this, I would have relieved my heart of any doubts about my position in the situation and allowed myself to calmly and with certainty relax and give my Boyfriend the space and time to work through his issues––if he could––and accept his true feelings about me and our relationship. But, of course, that's not what happened.


After making the necessary stops, we returned to the party without incident. However, for the drive back, I made it clear that I would prefer to sit next to My Boyfriend and not on his lap for my safety and comfort. He readily agreed; he had made his point. The lap sitting and our verbal interactions around the subject easily exposed the familiar closeness and intimacy we were used to sharing. It was like we hadn't broken up. We had just entered a new phase of our relationship. The faux walls he had hastily thrown up between us lacked the conviction and resolve to keep us separate.


Parking the truck and walking back towards the house, it felt so odd that we wouldn't enter together, just like we had many places in the past. Instead, I hung back in pace with his Brother and let my Boyfriend take the lead so he could return to the single and separate place he occupied when he left. It was an awkward moment for the three of us. At the door, my Boyfriend stopped, and half turned towards me as if he were about to say something. But, in the next moment, he seemed to have thought better of it, turned back, and headed forward to his new life without me.


I had enough excitement for one night and was no longer felt in a partying mood; I asked Brother 1 if he would mind taking me home, and he was happy to do so. We were mostly silent on the way there, deep in our thoughts. The evening events had a sobering effect on us both. I learned that Brother 1 was a quiet, reflective sort, a man of few words when expressing his feelings. The night before, he had been quite talkative with me at his dinner party and the potluck earlier that day. My girlfriend pointed out that his ability to reveal himself so effortlessly with me indicated that our connection was special. It was not how he usually behaved when meeting someone new. I had a way of opening him up and making him laugh, which his mother told me the first time we met.


We sat outside momentarily when we arrived at my house, gathering our thoughts and words. He told me he wanted to see me again, but he could see that his Brother and I still had feelings for each other. He could no longer dismiss our relationship as over; he admitted that it appeared to be more complicated than that. I silently nodded in agreement on all counts.


Although I felt torn about our involvement, I also realized I wanted to see him again. He had a calming effect on me, and I enjoyed his company. For now, I wasn't planning on sleeping with him again. Given what had transpired earlier with my Boyfriend, it seemed clear that the solidity of our break-up was in question, and it would be inappropriate to cross that line again. Besides, after spending that little bit of time with my Boyfriend, my sexual desire immediately tuned into him again. He was who I wanted to sleep with, not his Brother.


Exhausted from the day's festivities and emotional upheaval, I immediately went to bed, longing for deep sleep and a heavy dose of forgetfulness to temper the storm of uncertainty raging through my heart and mind. There would be no peace for me until––when? Where was everything headed, and how would it all turn out for me, for all of us? All the things set in motion––the break-up, the infidelity, the discovery, and the resolution––would all converge in some future design that would have to be lived through by me, my Boyfriend, and his Brother. Who would we be at the end of it all––or be with?



_____________



CHAPTER 7


You Can't Always Get What You Want––But Can You?


Just as I was drifting off, there was a knock on the front door. My roommate and our two sons were all fast asleep. Since I did not want them to be disturbed, I got up quickly and, being as quiet as possible, whispered my inquiry about who was there, especially at this hour of the night.


My Boyfriend answered, "It's me. Can I come in?"


Wow, really? This whole scenario was starting to feel like it was rolling on an endless loop without a pause in sight. I was surprised by his unexpected visit and had no idea why he would want to see me. This random appearance was not entirely out of character for him; he would show up at odd times, mostly to my surprise and delight. I was always excited and happy to see him whenever I did. Just as Brother 1 calmed me down, he lit me up, making my heart quiver. However, I was primarily curious and apprehensive about this particular visit tonight.


I opened the door and let him in. Once in my room, I sat stiffly on the edge of my bed while he stood rigidly in the doorway.


"Why are you here, I asked? Is everything okay?"


He remained quiet, staring at me with a look I had never seen before. His pale blue eyes seemed to fill with sadness and pleading. His body's stiff and awkward stance was without its usual confidence and self-assured ease. Missing was his usual look of wherever he was; he had a perfect right to be there. That night, his body language was tentative, uncertain, almost apologetic. He cast his eyes down for a few moments before looking up at me again––this time, there were tears in his eyes.


"I don't want us to break up. I'm sorry for having done that to you."


Upon hearing this, I stared at him. I did not know how I felt or what to say.


"I love you, and I want to be with you," was his answer to my silence. I know now, but I could not feel it at that moment that this man was risking everything to open his heart to me and expose the vulnerability of his love, trusting that after all my declarations of the same, I would respond with happiness, forgiveness, and compassion in return. After all, wasn't this the moment I had dreamt of and worked so hard to arrive with him? Here he was, offering all of himself to me; nothing hidden, nothing held back. Why did I remain silent as if I no longer had a voice to speak?


When I look back on it now, I can see that he, in the deep recesses of my mind, had already begun to morph into my father, the unfaithful husband and abuser of his children. The man my mother would always let back into her heart after his convincing pleas of sorrow and repentance. What I felt my Boyfriend was doing was the same performance I watched my father do repeatedly as a child. And, I could feel the same dispassion and coldness settle and steal my heart against the lies masquerading as truth trying to worm their way in. That was the ticking time bomb buried in my silence. This blank and indifferent response was the prelude to my chance to show myself and my mother that I could make a better decision for the both of us––to make up for what she could never do.


As if the situation was not complex enough, there was yet another underlying reason other than my reliving the fractured reality of my parents' relationship. In a way, I was relieved when my Boyfriend broke up with me, though I was loathe to admit it even to myself. When you've spent most of your life since childhood, first trying to endure the chaos and uncertainty at the start and then struggling to survive the legacy of that beginning as an adult, it leaves you very little time for extras, like imagining that you can get your life actually to stabilize for more than two days in a row. Or, planning for the future as if you could even begin to predict where you'd be, let alone creating goals you could never be sure to show up for. The real-life walk was beating back the demons of the past daily and appearing as if you were on top of it all, including being in a relationship with another person.


When a Prince Charming shows up in the life of a Cinderella like me, it doesn't feel or play out as it does in the fairy tale. Whereas the real Cinderella, once all dressed up in her finery, thought she could attend the royal ball and stand up to the challenge of not only meeting the Prince but enchanting and marrying him, I could only manage half of what she did. I embraced Cinder's bold belief that no one on the romantic playing field, regardless of their heritage, race, or elite standing, was off-limits.


The same thing applied when it came to employment opportunities. My only criteria for accepting job offers was whether or not I found the employer innovative and the job interesting, even exciting. It never dawned on me to question whether or not I would fit in or belong. I showed up for jobs the same way I showed up for relationships: interested, engaged, and willing to explore all that they offered––to a point.


Cinderella knew that she wanted to marry the Prince. What I knew was that I never wanted to get married. The chase was the only part of the game I was interested in and knew how to play. Beyond that point, for me, everything was blank. And the very thought of taking on a Prince as a husband only made the prospect that much more untenable and undoable for me. I did not have the mettle to meet all the expectations I surmised would be asked of me. I didn't even know what they were by name or experience, and that was telling enough.


Fortunately, the subject hadn't come up with my Boyfriend, which was fine with me. Looking back, I don't know where I thought the relationship would go beyond where we were when it ended. It seems hard to believe, even for me, that I imagined us 'just seeing each other' for an indeterminate time. But that was the truth. I was too busy surviving my life and raising my precious son to think about much of anything else––indeed, not my future with another person. So fortunately, my Boyfriend ended things before that type of concern surfaced. All I had to grapple with at that moment was whether or not to continue our relationship––or start a brand new one with his Brother.


So, while facing nothing but silence from me, perhaps my Boyfriend thought I was thinking back over all the unpleasant ways he came up with to show me that he no longer wanted us to be together––which he did, it turns out, more to convince himself than me. Maybe he thought I had every right to be angry and unbelieving of his new turn of heart. Whatever it was he was thinking led to his shocking exhortation.


"I love you. Please don't leave me. I'll do whatever you ask, whatever you want. If you want to get married, then let's do that. Tell me what you want, and I'll do it."


Now, I was stunned. The outpouring of my Boyfriend's heart wasn't only about our not breaking up. He was looking into our future and securing the outcome he envisioned. Two things happened simultaneously for me. First, I realized this wasn't a father-mother-daughter flashback from my childhood; he was not my father. My father was always sorry and self-recriminating, but never promised to change.


By what my Boyfriend offered, he was willing to change everything if I would take him back––the operative word being 'change.' I had to say yes to his pleas for forgiveness on the merits of sincerity alone. He had finally reached through my cold snap, and I was present, open, and nodding, yes, but still with some reservation. I knew I would take him back. One thing remained clear to my heart through all of my barriers and defensive walls: I loved him.


Secondly, though, on a deeper note, I felt a sharp tinge of panic starting to brew. My Boyfriend seemed all-in and playing for keeps. The weight of my Prince's whole and open heart, with all his desire for and expectations of me, laid heavily on mine. I let him hug me sincerely and gratefully before he left. He would call me later that day and come over. I readily agreed to his plan.


After he left and I lay shell-shocked and wide awake, it dawned on me that, as of that moment, despite my Boyfriend's pre-proposal offer of marriage, I would still keep my date with his Brother. Unfortunately, my Boyfriend would soon learn that although his heart was all in, mine, it seems, was not.


There were so many layers of unwellness and injury operating inside of me all at one time. As soon as I speak to one in this telling, another one pops up to the surface, exposing yet another way that I was not being transparent, authentic, and, in the present moment. I didn't speak my truth regarding how I responded to this delicate and life-altering situation. There is no better way to describe the numbed-out, disconnected, frozen way I was walking through this than to say I was fast asleep. Awake, technically, yes, yet sleepwalking through so many moments and experiences in my life.


I didn't know I was asleep then, and that's probably for the best because in later years, when I first realized that I was, my journey to finding how to wake up was long and arduous––and, in the end, it took me nearly ending my life to figure out how to do it. And, even then, I needed help to get over the finish line. What I intend the most from writing this is to heal this experience in the past by walking through it in the present––while sitting in a different seat in my life's arena. Seeing and responding to it from various perspectives exposes my injury and highlights the truth beneath it.


In the week following my Boyfriend's visit, we hung out several times. Given that there weren't many opportunities for any fundamental changes to be implemented and acted upon in how we were with each other, we almost immediately began falling back into our old patterns of behavior, particularly the most recent ones that led to our break up. He wanted to be with me, but, at the same time, he hadn't worked through the feelings and beliefs that caused him to leave me. I wanted to be with him now, but not with the man who behaved like a jerk and someone I did not want to know in the latter days of our relationship. The edgy retorts and passive-aggressive bickering wormed their way back into our interactions. We still resented each other's presence for our old reasons but were afraid to admit it.


While writing this part, I remembered something significant that I forgot and left out of the events leading up to our breakup. It was, in truth, the most impacting experience of our relationship and the underlying reason why we broke up. How did I forget something like that––I don't know. When discovering that I had, I sat for some time, stunned, at seeing yet another thing I had buried away about me and this man I loved––

the abortion.



_____________



CHAPTER 8


But Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?


The night I became pregnant was a memorable one. My Boyfriend and I, my girlfriend and her husband (Brother 2), went out together one night to see The Pointer Sisters in concert. My girlfriend and I decided to go fancy and dress to the nines for the occasion. She and I went shopping earlier in the day and bought outfits representing our take on our inner essence and how many perceived us.


She wore a sexy, short, black dress that displayed her shapely legs and potent, sexual nature in a classy yet daring way. On the other hand, I wore an angelic, innocent-looking, two-piece, off-white full skirt and a cropped halter top with come-fetch-me-I'm-not-as-innocent-as-I-look vibes. The Brothers dressed similarly, indicative of their usual styles; my Boyfriend wore his signature low-hip blue jeans and a white shirt, and Brother 2 was decked out in shades of grey, a light grey shirt, and dark grey pants that matched well with my girlfriend's black.


We were all in great moods and excited about seeing the show. The sisters gave a soul-shaking performance that left us high, breathless, and never wanting the evening to end. We agreed to return to my Boyfriend's house and party some more. We had drinks, played music, and danced the night away.


The sex he and I had that night startled us both; it was the best sex we had ever had. While our bodies surrendered to an overwhelming passion, my heart was consumed by a closeness I had never felt with him before. It was the first time he allowed himself to merge seamlessly with me and embrace and savor everything between us. The vibrant energy of the whole day and evening was magical. What a time to conceive a baby!


Neither of us knew or planned for me to become pregnant. My son had just turned two, and I didn't feel inclined to become a single parent of more than him. Like I never wanted to get married, I didn't want to have children either––that is, until I planned to have him. It was never clear to me until he grew up why I had such an urgent need to bring him into the world. I only sensed that he was supposed to come, and I was the one he chose to be his mom. It was more like him choosing me than my sudden change of heart about having children. Once he arrived, my love for him was boundless. After he came, I never considered having any more, and those who knew me never called me out to do so.


I had experienced only one other surprise pregnancy before this one. That was the one at 17, terminated by the illegal abortion. After that, I had been on the pill and had only stopped taking it when I decided to get pregnant with my son. After his birth, I relied on other methods of birth control because I was breastfeeding him. I also felt it was an excellent time to move on from the pill and some of the unwanted effects it had on my body. I don't remember what I was using then, but I was aware that the night of the concert, my Boyfriend and I weren't using anything. I could call it careless, but I don't believe that's what it was.

 

That night, we both instinctively seemed to feel the need and desire to become closer than we had been thus far. We blended our desires for each other and merged into this inseparable sense of oneness, with a blissful trust that our feelings of love had grown enough to hold the two of us seamlessly together.


I have found ovulation sex to be hungry and thirsty sex, with a deep craving and desire for consummation and fulfillment. It's also when women are the most likely to get pregnant. The two states together make perfect sense to me. Ovulation sex is a celebration of the power of conception. Ovulation sex is divine sex and, to me, sex at its' best. It's not a wildcard of sexual flavors and favors. It has a purpose, meaning, intention, and the power to achieve its goal. Perhaps we should respect that and look to it as a template to create and give our other sexual experiences we share more purpose and meaning, other than just pleasure.


Several weeks later, when I discovered I was having a baby, I fell into a deep well of unexpected and conflicting emotions. I couldn't wrap my head around the idea of having another child and the real possibility of raising both children on my own. As I said earlier, my Boyfriend was hard-pressed to accept our relationship as it was, let alone embrace the idea of having a child together. I was stewing in my bitter brew of wanting to be my Boyfriend's girlfriend but not his wife or the mother of his child.


I first shared the news with my housemate (who was indifferent, which was her life attitude) and then my girlfriend, who had been raising her teenage daughter as a single mom when she met and married Brother 2. She was happy for me if I was, yet sympathetic to the possibility that I wasn't, and sad about the fact that, in either case, it was my Boyfriend's child.


My girlfriend never tried to hide her dislike of my Boyfriend and her husband's Brother. She thought him cold, arrogant, and incapable of thinking of anyone but himself. There was always an edge between them when they were around each other; random bites and barbs constantly flew between them. He made it no secret that he wasn't particularly fond of his Brother's choice for a wife. He thought she was bossy and controlling and felt that he could have done better for himself.


A few days after finding out about the pregnancy, I sat down and shared the news with my Boyfriend. He was genuinely surprised when I told him; his mood turned somber and reflective. I didn't tell him how I felt about it; I wanted to know his feelings first without coloring them with my own. I neither believed he would nor expected him to want to keep the baby. Yet, there was this tinge of irrational hope that he would say that he did. Or, at least, ask me if I want to. It was because somewhere inside, I knew that, whatever his response, I would use it to gauge his true feelings for me and the depth of our relationship.


If he was even open to the idea of keeping the baby, that meant he, underneath all his misgivings about our future together, could envision a reality where we stayed together and even raised a child. That possibility ignited an unrealistic hope within me that if he gave the slightest hint that he was, in his way, pleased by this sudden turn of events, it would override my deep-seated belief that I was not going to bring another child into the world. That fate and my Boyfriend would intercede and alter the course of my as-yet unplanned life. A life I navigated based on what I didn't want––or would not do––instead of any hopes or dreams for my future.


I was still in my mid-twenties, and life planning had not kicked in for me. Besides, I had always been more of a seeker than a planner. Since I was a young girl, the thing I most wanted to find in my life was love: to love and be loved. I somehow believed that once I reached that pinnacle, my life would reveal its purpose and decide my future. All at once, I would know what to do next and how I would live my life.


"I'm not ready to have a baby," my Boyfriend blurted out almost defensively. "It's not how I see my life going and not something I want to do right now."


So that was my answer.


Although all hopes that my story would venture in a new direction disappeared, I could now see where it wasn't headed. My Boyfriend's choice of words, insensitivity, victim demeanor, and put-upon attitude signaled that this was the beginning of the end of our relationship. My Boyfriend had finally taken a wrecking ball to demolish a union he had no intention of ever building into a partnership. He went on to say that getting an abortion was the best thing to do, and he would, of course, cover the cost.


I sat there numbly, staring at my hands. My heart had somehow imploded, and I was swallowed up and buried beneath its debris. I could not find words to speak or a working voice to use. All at once, I was no longer sitting across from my Boyfriend. I had suddenly catapulted back in time to when I was 17, pregnant, and frightened, speechless as I sat across from my father, facing his unleashed wrath aimed at me.

Like my Boyfriend, he wanted nothing to do with this ill-gotten pregnancy. That, unlike my mother, he would not even consider sending me away to have the baby in a home and then give it up for adoption. There would be no babies, period. Not then, not now.


My father knew a man who would fix me and make this problem disappear. I learned that he had sent my mother to someone like him before. And, then, an image crept up of my mother bleeding down the long hall of our apartment, screaming, until the men in white coats with a stretcher came through our front door, gently lifted her onto a stretcher, and took her away. I remember following down the stairs behind them as a child, watching as they loaded her into the back of the ambulance. And the siren that started blaring as they drove my mother away. My father never said what happened to her, where she was going, or if she would ever return.


This man was who my father was planning to send me to. Sitting next to my father, my mother stared at the floor before me and would not make eye contact. I was frightened by everything happening and was looking to her for help. After what she went through––more than once––at the hands of this man, I thought she would protest or say something to protect me, but she didn't. I later learned––when it was my turn to go to the man––why she chose to remain silent. She was too busy protecting herself from my father to offer me aid or comfort.


My Boyfriend reached over and gently touched my hand after several failed attempts at getting me to respond to him calling my name. I heard him, but I didn't.


"What?" I answered in a distracted and solemn voice.


"I need your thoughts about our situation and how you want to handle it."


"Yes, of course. I'll have the abortion. That's fine," is all I could say. Any more, and I would start screaming uncontrollably and never stop.


I asked my Boyfriend to leave after that, saying I was tired and wanted to lie down. He seemed grateful for the opportunity to exit the situation without much fanfare. For a moment, though, as he walked out the door, he turned and looked at me quizzically as if my words were not as straightforward as I intended––or, perhaps, surprised that I didn't have more to say. Or, what I later learned that flummoxed me beyond comprehension and revealed how little I understood men and the male psyche.


Why didn't I fight to keep the baby––even after he clearly said he didn't want to? Why didn't I go ahead with my pregnancy and give him time to come around and get used to the idea of being a father? Knowing his family roots, I must have known he would never abandon his child or its' mother. In his mind, although he clearly said quite the contrary, were thoughts of this baby, perhaps, being fate's way of showing him that despite all his misgivings, he and I were meant to stay together. He just needed me and the baby to help him get across the finish line. After all, he did love me.


Yeah, right. Stand up to my Boyfriend like I did my father just eight short years ago when I was 17 and barely hanging onto my sanity and my life while he told me how things were going to be. I was doing what my Boyfriend wanted me to do with my body and the baby in it, just like my father.


In my mind, the possibility of a different solution didn't exist. My father risked my mother's life more than once so that he would not have to accept any more children into his own. My Boyfriend gave me my cue, and I read my lines, which I had learned from my parents.


I had neither access nor knowledge of a man's heart other than what he put forth on the surface. As a parent, my father never allowed us to discover or learn anything about what was happening inside of him. Never. He was closed off and wore an invisible sign with invisible ink that said: Don't Ask Because I Won't Tell. We weren't allowed to question anything growing up––let alone something personal about him. He was angry, sometimes enraged whenever we displeased him––which was most of the time. At other times, when he felt generous and not haunted by his demons, he would use his talent for humorous discourse to make his point––and he always had one to make.

 

Then there were these odd times when my father would remove his parental cap, take me aside, and show me something of himself in a completely different way. My father liked to draw geometrical pencil sketches of buildings, which he would whisk out and show me when only the two of us were around. He would describe them in detail and told me how he dreamt of being an architect. Because I was always afraid of my father, I would listen to him but never say anything. His drawings interested me, and when I smiled and nodded approvingly at his work, that was the most genuine I could ever be and the safest I ever felt with him.


I never told anyone else in the family about these private, impromptu meetings with my father. I'm sure he never did, either. Otherwise, I would have been questioned about it, especially by my mother. When these interactions with him were over, it was as if they never happened, except when they did again. Seeing and experiencing this more human side of his nature never scored me any favors or exempted me from any punishments or whippings he decided I deserved.


The two things that I learned about myself from those sessions with my father were that I loved listening to people share their dreams, and it was easy for me to encourage and support them to do it, which is why, after the first time, he kept doing it. So, I was adept at listening to my Boyfriend's dreams, only to discover that I was not a part of the future he was dreaming about. Beyond that, my father never divulged anymore about his inner workings or taught me what I needed to know about men––except that they were jerks who I couldn't trust and only wanted one thing from me.


Still with the unsettled look in his eyes, my Boyfriend left, and I lay down on my bed and cried. I felt so sad and alone, empty and hollow inside. I was terrified of having an abortion, legal or not. My memory of the man 'who fixed it' and what he did to me was a lingering nightmare for years after 'it' happened. The steel rod he used to open up my cervix. The excruciating, gut-wrenching pain as my body tried to expel what had now become a part of me. The fetus tissue that my womb partially aborted before it said no more and refused to expel the rest—the infection and the fever that ensued as my body battled with itself to right the situation. My father's adamant refusal to do anything to help me get to the hospital for treatment was, in my mind, further punishment for my betrayal. I would get no help from him.


The doctors refused to be complicit and complete the abortion and chose to flood my system with drugs, relying on my body to finish the job. There was a blur of kind nurses who looked after me while my mom and my aunt sat at the bedside, nervous and watchful, waiting to see if I would live. I was hazy from the drugs and wondered at 17 what would become of me now. How do I go back to my old life sans my virginity––my badge of honor and respectability––which I only then started to realize was now gone?

This virgin version of myself existed before I decided never to marry. My virginity was something I was so fiercely proud to have protected. Like many young women of my time, saving it for my wedding night was a magical dream and an honor.


I only now realize it wasn't until after I lost my virginity and everything that followed that something twisted and turned dark and foreboding inside of me. From the young man who took it to the father who decided hell was my fate, to the man who tore my insides, to the doctors who couldn't promise to save my life––men had become my enemies. I could never trust them again—all except for one.


One evening, after I returned from the hospital, my first boyfriend when I was 13, who lived in my neighborhood, came to see me. We were no longer together, but we still had a close bond, and he was protective of me. He had heard about the abortion and was visibly shaken and seething about everything that had happened––especially what my father had done. He grew up in a strict Catholic household, where abortions were a mortal sin. If a girl got pregnant, she had her baby; she didn't get rid of it. Just like hitting a girl or a woman, that was unthinkable to him.


At the end of our visit, he asked me point blank if I wanted him to kill my father. He hated him and would not hesitate to do it if I wanted him to. I knew he meant it and told him, please, no. That would not be necessary. I would be 18 soon and planned to leave home and never see him again. Although I did see my father after that, he remained until his death dead to me.



_____________



CHAPTER 9


Does One + One + One Equal Two?


Everywhere I stepped in my life, there seemed to be a minefield of ticking time bombs, wired to my past, waiting to blow me and any hopes I had for a happy future to bits and pieces. Not understanding the relationship between my life's past, present, and future reality and what the one had to do with the other two, I viewed each misstep and 'bad' decision or outcome as how life worked.


When I looked around at the people I knew, they weren't fairing much better. Meaning everyone had stuff coming up or going on that wasn't working in their favor or wasn't the outcome they were intending, dreaming of, or planning. Someone may be happy in one area of their life that you wished was yours, but in another place, they were dealing with disappointment or discouragement.


Like me being pregnant with my Boyfriend's baby, there were probably women who would have been ecstatic to have this opportunity––and that's precisely how they would see it. Having a man's baby whose family was as respected and well-placed as his could have numerous benefits. And, he would be connected to you, if not with you, through your shared offspring.


He had four doting brothers who would all be supportive as uncles. And, maybe, if you played your cards right, the two of you would wind up together, raising your family. Mind you, I didn't see it that way myself. Since I could never see myself with someone that long term (raising a child together or apart) where this person would remain in my life indefinitely, I could not see that as a positive outcome for me.


My own family experience left that whole design unappealing to me as well. I had enough family life when I was growing up and did not want to repeat the experience with yet another group of people who would have no clue how to deal with what my family described as the strange and peculiar person I was.


After my Boyfriend left that day with the news, we didn't speak again until I called him with the date and time of the procedure. He dropped by later that day with a check; he would not be going with me. My girlfriend (Brother 2's wife) was livid and thought that was another typical, shitty move on his part. She asked me if I was sure I wanted to go through with it; I was.


It's funny how different people respond to life experiences. My best friend and roommate was pregnant at that time. She was divorced, raising her young son alone, and on her way to becoming a single mother of two. It was not a problem for her. She loved being pregnant, having her babies, and raising them as a single parent. After her first marriage ended, she was hard-pressed to find a good reason to do it again.


Her unborn child's father was a past lover and good friend. Although borderline in the responsibility department, she knew he would be there for her and their child as much as possible. That was enough for her. I am grateful that she accepted our different makeup and didn't judge or put pressure on me to follow in her footsteps.


While she readily agreed to watch my son while I had the abortion, my girlfriend went with me and held my hand through it all. The doctor who performed the procedure was a kind man who could immediately see that I was shaken and frightened. He calmly talked me through each step, preparing me for what to expect. Although there was some mild pain during and light cramping after, it did in no way resemble the illegal abortion I had suffered through before. Still, I cried some during and a lot when it was over.


The sadness and loss kept pouring out of me from a deep well of grief I didn't know was there. The one thing that was the same was my feeling of not knowing what would become of me after this. I suspected that things were about to take a dramatic turn. I knew before my Boyfriend told me that our relationship was over. Where could we go from where we were? His decision not to go with me was the final nail in a coffin set for burial. I felt sad about it but knew I was done with him. Well, I kind of knew, anyway. He avoided coming over and seeing me, which was probably for the best.


A few weeks later, he did stop by, and we had our official breakup talk. It was weird, in a way. I was pretty much over the abortion, and all the sad feelings I had waded through. Relieved to feel more like myself again, I accepted his desire to move on in a whatever, off-hand kind of way. We had this way of verbally jousting, something we did when we were annoyed with each other but not angry. We conducted our breakup that way, making it seem more like a provocation than an end––seeing who would best the other in getting over this new hurdle in this love that almost could.


The day he declared himself my ex-boyfriend, he hung around my house like he had just stopped by for a quick visit and decided to stay awhile. It was bizarre. Somehow, with the whole issue of him not being my Boyfriend dealt with, we became more relaxed and even playful. This easy way we had with each other was a thing that had a life of its own. We loved discussing various subjects and felt challenged by what we both offered up in our conversation. We appreciated and respected each other's minds, and though our relationship ended, that didn't.


He playfully teased and flirted with me before he left, and I responded in kind. It's just how it was between us, and neither of us made any effort to adjust to the new reality of our breakup. Still, I knew deep down the end was official, and the next day, when I got up, I would feel the realness of it. There would be no more dates, impromptu get-togethers, or late-night sleepovers. Without him in my life, there would be many spaces that he used to fill that would be left empty.


Since I had yet to return to work, I had quite a lot of time on my hands when I wasn't mothering and helping with the upkeep of our shared home. During this period, a few weeks after, was when I bumped into him at the party with the model-esque Black woman on his arm. He supposedly broke up with me because he saw no future with