(Continued from this post)
I’m not crazy and it wasn’t a hopeful presumption on my part or a case of mistaken identity.
Puffy was running back up the block towards me; he grabbed me in a hug and twirled me in the air when we reached each other.
I squealed in delight.
I couldn’t believe it was him. I was ecstatic and so was he.
He placed me back on my feet and there we remained. He held me tightly to him for a few more seconds as I stood on my toes to accommodate his height. I didn’t want to let him go, as if my two arms wrapped around him made his presence real.
The gravity of what I had done sunk in, I looked up the block toward the direction of my mother’s car. I wondered if she had continued on home without me. I honestly didn’t care, though the walk across town would be brutal, it was worth it for the chance to see him.
And it wouldn’t be the first time my mother left me to my own devices far from home and with no money. Over his shoulder, I saw the green Pontiac turn back up the block, I didn’t have much time before my mother’s car would be up on us.
I questioned him in a whispering panic. We only had a few seconds…..
Where do you live?
Where is your mom and siblings?
How are they?
How are you?
I’m sorry for what happened. And now I don’t care……
He gave me the address of the house he was staying in just up the block from where we now stood.
I asked for a description of the house; if I knew what to look for I could find him. He used to give me descriptions of places to meet him in the park, it would be up to me to decipher what I was looking for and to comprehend his clues if I hoped to meet him.
No cell phones, or GPS back then. You had to coordinate if you wanted to date.
Reaching in my pocket, I pulled out a book of matches, lighting one, I used the ash edge to write down my phone number and new address on the matchbook cover.
Reaching in my back pocket to retrieve what he knew was there, he used my eyeliner to write his house number on the palm of my hand. We did this almost simultaneously.
My mother was calling me all type of choice names through the open passenger side window.
“Don’t worry, I’ll find you” was the last thing I heard him say over my shoulder as I walked to the car. I didn’t dare turn back around to give my mother a chance to focus on who I was speaking to, she actually thought I jumped out of a moving car behind some random guy.
If she knew he was important to me then she would try extra hard to interfere and I wasn’t having any of that. She knew Puffy was important so she couldn’t know it was him.
I learned there are some people who can be in your life and they instantly enlighten your living space. She resented our relationship, and seemed to hate my being happy with a Black boy.
Things happen and people move on, so there may come a time when you fall out of contact with certain people who were special to you at some point in time, things change and you have no control over some of it.
But when those people are re-introduced to your life and you pick right off where you left off the feelings of ‘perfectness’ are even more reinforced.
I did call his house, both of us pretending to be brand new people to the adults answering the phone. It had been almost two years since last we saw each other and we spent as much time together as we could getting re-acquainted.
A tap on the window, and I give him the “Shhh” sign and the wait finger signal through a closed window.
I quietly pull myself and my BMX through the garage door. I mount my bike and take off in a direction, he quickly follows. With him by my side, we ride in silence and head down to our old path of grass in the park.
We come home as the sun comes up, walking along side each other to extend the time until we have to separate so I can sneak back in the house. This would become our routine.
Both a little bit older now, we had traded in our dirt bikes for Hip Hop magazines and a shared appreciation of rap music. Our conversations turned to politics and culture, but we still stared up into the night sky for our answers.
There was nothing like being with him, and doing nothing but sitting next to him, lost in our thoughts was the only place I ever wanted to be. We fell back into old routines, together daily and the time passing with easy laughter and endless conversation.
Until one night, my normally fun and lighthearted Puffy seemed bothered by something.
His energy was off unlike anything I’d ever seen before; my intuition is strong, I’m not one for slow deaths so I questioned him. He denied anything was wrong, it was late, and too cold to sit on the porch with him. I couldn’t bear to leave him until I knew the cause of his melancholy.
So I put my life on the line and snuck him into the basement living room section of our house as my parents slept quietly upstairs.
I took my Dad’s Polaroid camera out of the case and studied it. I questioned him about his mood, his spirit was killing my own, something was wrong.
“Pose for me. I’m going to take your picture” he takes the camera from my hand, steadies it up to his eye and shoots.
“You’re so pretty”, he says with the camera still in front of his face. I’m confused by his sudden forward comment. The Puffy I knew spent more time joking then being so stoic. I waited for his signature smile, he could light a room up with his smile. His expression remained serious.
I look down at my attire and wonder what he could mean by ‘pretty’? I have on a nightgown, shorts and fuzzy bunny slippers.
“Let me take one of you” I take the camera from his hands, he takes my place in the chair as I get up.
I point and shoot, capturing him without a smile or smirk.
He’s gazing at me.
He looks troubled.
“We’re moving to California” he says. At first I ignore what he says, his voice is barely above a whisper. I don’t react because I’m not able to digest what he just said.
I take the picture from the Polaroid and study it while the chemicals process the photo.
I see shadows on the film.
I place the camera back in its case, above the mantle, walk over to him and sit on his lap.
I hang my head. He rubs the small of my back.
“When….” only my lips are moving.
Tears fall down my cheeks and splatter my thighs.
I can’t breathe. He’s staring down at his own lap, the glistening rivets against his mocha skin is the only indication that he is also crying.
“Soon. I don’t know when”…………
We said everything we had to say to each other that night about everything that transpired between us.
The clock starting ticking louder than I ever knew possible. Every minute, of every day, he and I were together was one less than what we would have in due time.
Every moment of every day we could spare, we were together as if our wall of commitment to each other could stop his mother from moving them across country.
His mother had given him an official move date, and though at first it seemed like pending doom, we began to make plans on how we would keep in touch once he left.
We were going to be together when I turned 18; we only had to plan and prepare and wait. We wouldn’t lose each other again. I looked forward to every day after school when I would return home to find him waiting for me on my porch.
He and that smile.
Until the day came when he wasn’t.
Any change in any routine bothers me, I easily catch panic attacks, and returning home to not find him where he normal was alarmed me. I went inside and busied myself with passing the time, ‘he must be late’, I thought for as long as I could.
I cried myself to sleep that night wondering where he was, I cried because I felt powerless with so many things happening around me. I stopped eating.
It took three days of me waiting on him to appear before I decided to go to the house where he and his family had been staying. I rang all of the bells because I didn’t know who was who in the three family house.
When they yelled, ‘Who?’ I yelled, “Puffy” and was met with an open door and a woman whom I’ve never seen before telling me that “Puffy’s gone. They moved.”
The door was shut in my face; I don’t know how long I stood there before moving away from the house.
“Puffy’s gone…” I don’t recall the walk home, the days after this or anything else but blackness.
I was inconsolable; hysterical is an understatement.
I was angry that we didn’t get a chance to finish our plans and now he was gone again, to where I didn’t know, and he wasn’t coming back this time.
I cried for nearly a week. I was too heartbroken to explain to anyone what was wrong.
I didn’t get a chance to say good-bye.
My high school classmates tried to help me, and some understood my pain, but we had all just met in Freshman year.
They didn’t know me or Puffy or what we had going on. They passed tissues and rubbed my back when I would put my head down on my desk to weep quietly. I was always dizzy, and couldn’t remember anything, it was better since Puffy had been back but it started yet again.
I did have a person to listen to me, if I could figure out how to not die before I could reach her.
Grandma Hill, who now lived in Newark, said I could talk to her about anything, and since boys had become my new hobby, I asked if the topic of love was also open for discussion. Unlike my mother, Grandma was my friend, I could tell her anything without her yelling or cursing me or making me read Bible verses into the middle of the night so that I may gain clarity on my misbehavior.
Knowing I couldn’t say much around my mother for fear of her verbally abusing me, Grandma and I had planned to discuss everything regarding boys and love the next time we saw each other in person.
I hadn’t seen her since the summer prior, and our phone conversations weren’t giving me all my Grandma requirements. She called less and less often, and when we spoke, it was always in passing, I was busy with being a Freshman and my time with him.
I thought my recent emotional upheaval would be reason enough to have my Grandma come for a visit or for my easily obtaining bus fare from my mother to get to her on public transportation.
I had just gotten to the point where I would zombie daze to and from the bathroom while home and to and from class while in school; I was still refusing to eat, talk and participate in life like a normal teenager though.
Grandma would know how to fix this; she would know how to find Puffy; I held on to that for sustenance.
“Grandma Hill died this morning. They’re taking her back to Alabama to bury her. We aren’t going to the funeral”
And that was it. My mother returned back to watching television as I stood there blinking in confusion. When the words sunk in, I stopped thinking to avoid cognition from hurting me again, I fell to my bed and didn’t move for days.
I never got a chance to ask Grandma what to do about my lost love or loss in general.
I never got a chance to say good bye……….several more times.
My father died approximately six months later in September; the first week of my attending high school in the pubic school system for the very first time.
My Mother’s mother died four months after that; she woke me up on New Year’s day with the news.
And then my father’s only surviving brother, my uncle Pee-Wee, died one evening during the Spring after having an asthma attack. He spent nearly every day at our house helping us with the foster kids since Dad had passed.
He was fun like my Dad.
“See you all tomorrow”
Then he was gone, too. Our tomorrow never came.
I know what its like to feel so numb that you don’t even feel the blade cross your wrist.
I know what its like to lift your head and feel exhausted by the sheer heaviness of the sorrow that you carry.
I know what its like to curse God, and loved ones and ones own self for existing in such a fucked up place that you would be left alone to stumble through a tar like progression called ‘living’ because God is an asshole that makes cruel jokes of people’s ironic misfortune.
I know what its like to have your soul die inside of you while your body neglects to stop moving.
I know what its like to fall on your stomach in despair, so weak with sorrow, that tears cease; and the hurt turns into a dull reverberated echo in your skull is all that you can hear.
I know what its like when you’ve been broken down to such a basic banal level that you are only capable of breathing and blinking-animal like and unaware of reality.
I know what its like when you curse yourself for waking up.
Again…….you and the sorrow that has now replaced what you no longer have.
How do you move on after a loss?
One day at a time.
One foot in front of the other.
Recovery is a choice.
Renewal is an option.
The steps for moving on can applied to any aspect of having to make those first few attempts at regaining your life.
Though nothing is set in stone, it is solely up to a person to want to get through their grief.
No one can make another person ‘get over it’ if they don’t have it in their minds to do so. No one can make a person want to live; they have to find their own reason for going on.
How can you help if you are on the outside looking in?
Offer what you can and what the person is capable of taking.
Talking may not help if the person isn’t ready to vocalize what’s going on with their pain. Ask what the person needs, and if they aren’t able to express needs or wants you can be sure a human needs food, sometimes a hug helps, alleviating additional stress helps. Phone calls help, even if they don’t answer. Texting helps.
Let them know they are loved and that you are there for them.
So, how do you move on after a loss?
One foot in front of the other……..step in my footprints I left if you need guidance.