Dysfunctional Love

by Jhori Barksdale

"Tina, I'm tired of this shit." Derrick stands on the other side of the room, nostrils flaring and anger evident in his eyes.

"Every time I feel like I'm finally making progress, you find some kind of way to push me away." He lifts his chiseled arm to rub his gleaming chocolate bald head and then turns to look out the window. "Dammit, if this is not what you want, then you need to tell me cause I'm just about fresh out of patience with this shit."

Sitting on the sofa with tears ready to spill over at any minute while at the same time twirling the 4 karat platinum marquis on my finger, words won't seem to form on my lips. I hear so much swirling around in my head but when I open my mouth to release my thoughts, nothing comes out.

"You asked me to be patient with you and I have, but I can only take so much baby. What do I have to do to make you realize how much I love and want to marry you?" He looks across the room at me with hurt and disappointment. "What is it that you want from me that I have not already given you?"

He spreads his arms wide indicating our surroundings. "You live in a phat ass crib with Italian furnishings and thousand dollar paintings on the wall." He points to my favorite from a local artist named Joy Smith.

"You wear clothes and shoes by designers whose name you can't even pronounce--walk around draped in enough jewelry that I've had to take out an insurance policy on that shit alone--go to the mall like lil' kids go to the damn candy lady--and ride around all day in a freakin $65,000 damn car with a phone glued to your ear."

Wanting to look up but not able to bare the pain that I know is showing on his face, I focus on peeling the last remnants of polish off my nail. We've had this same disagreement for going on 6 months now and usually after a few hours he calms down and we make love and it's all good again. But for some reason I feel like today is not going to be like the others and it's causing a fear to rise up in me like I've never known. Forcing myself, I get up from the comforts of the couch and walk over to where he's flopped down in a chair and is resting his head in his large hands. It still amazes me how a pro football player could have such beautiful and soft-gentle hands.

"Why Tina?" he reaches out and wraps his arms around my waist. "Why won't you let me inside?"

Finding my voice, "Baby, you are inside?" I pull his face up so that I can look into his eyes with hopes of him seeing the love that's buried deeply within mine. "You're so deep inside my soul that I don't know where I end and you begin."

Bending down, I study his features for a moment. I know how much men hate to be called pretty, but every time I look at Derrick I can't help saying it in my mind. Well maybe beautiful would be a better description because it doesn't just stop at his facial features, his whole aurora is beautiful. So many times when we first began dating, I'd find myself somewhere pissed off from all the attention he would receive-not only from women, but from men as well who just wanted to me next to him-who wanted so badly to be like him. We spent plenty of nights in heated arguments and have weathered quite a few break up because if it, but here I am 3 years later with his ring on my left 3rd finger and his love in my heart.

How can I begin to explain to this man how much I love him but am so afraid of getting married?

"Sweetie come here?" I stand up and reach my hand out to him. He looks up at me and pauses before he takes it. Leading the way, we ascend the stairs to the master suite. Once in the room I push him back on the bed and crawl on top of him and sit on his stomach. Slowly I unbutton his shirt, kissing every spot that is revealed until I reach his navel which I swirl with the tip of my tongue.

Although he's trying very hard not to let on to how much it's affecting him, even his silence can not hide the obvious. Reaching his pants, I unbuckle the Ralph Lauren belt, unzip his slacks and reach inside to pull out my pot of gold. We've been together long enough that I know exactly what and how to please my man, and it never takes long for me to have him growling my name and corrupting his want to stay angry with me. Looking up from where I've allowed myself to slide further down his hard thighs, I see desire and pain etched across his face. Sitting upright for a moment, I reach up and release the pins that are holding my jet black hair in a knot atop my head. Derrick loves how my hair falls across his stomach and chest when we make love. Smiling down at him, I stand up and reach over to pull his pants completely since his shirt was discarded a long time ago. I just know that once I begin to show him how much I love him-once he buries himself inside my soul-things will be better again.

After I've gotten his pants off, I stand up to remove my shirt and shorts.

"No." He startles me and then sits up on the bed. "Baby, I'm sorry, but making love right now isn't going to solve our problems." He half smiles and then reaches around me to pick up his pants from the floor. While I'm standing there in silence he completely redresses without taking his eyes off of me.

"What are you doing?" Is all that I can think of to say. "Tina, we've gone over this a thousand times. I asked you over a year ago to marry me and you said yes. You tell me that you love me and that I'm the one you want to spend the rest of your life with, but baby girl I can't tell."

The last thing I remember is him bending down and planting the slowest and most sweetest kiss upon my lips and then walking out of the bedroom. Off in the distance I hear the front door downstairs close and his truck cranking up and then the gates opening and then closing again. All I can do is just sit there. I can't cry. I can't sigh. I can't moan. I can't move. I can't do anything. Finally I just lay back on the bed and curl up into a ball.

My whole world just walked out that door and I didn't even try to stop him.

Three days later and having not heard from Derrick, I find myself sitting in Justin's waiting on Evai. By the time she walks in the door 20 minutes late, I'm on my 2nd Grand Mariner and Coke. Had it been anyone else but her I'd be pissed but we've been friends for so long and she's been like that every since, so I've just learned to expect it---and sadly, she never lets me down.

Walking past a table of guys who are obviously out celebrating judging by all the bottles of Cristal on their table, she really begins to sling her ass-showing off that size 8 bowlegged frame that has made men wreck cars on Peachtree. One of them jumps up just as she's passing by their table. What ever he's saying must sound really good cause she flashes what we call her Whitney Houston smile. Next comes the theatrics. She throws her head back and laughs, making the huge ringlets of beautiful naturally curly auburn hair fall down past her shoulders and then back around her face once she brings her head back up. She has every guy at the table's full attention and she knows it. Finally the guy that first stopped her produces his card and she takes it. Using me, she points to where I'm sitting and makes her escape.

"What's up girl?" She walks up and gives me a hug and kiss?

As she plops down in the chair across from me, I can't help but laugh at her grandeur Diva attitude.

"You are too fuckin much?" I shake my head. "If I had not been knowing you for so long, I'd call you a gold diggin ass hoe." I laugh. "I don't see why that shit isn't visible across your forehead like a neon marquee on Broadway."

"And to that I'd respond, You god damn right." She leans across the table and winks at me. "Pussy don't come free. You gotta pay to play baby doll. Call it selling pussy or whatever you like, cause if you fuck just to be fucking-ain't no guarantee you're gonna always get a nut so you may as well get something out of the deal." She sits back in her chair. "Shit, a fat ass rock sparkling on my hand or wrist will make my ass cum quicker than most men can anyway."

"Bitch, you are just plain trifling." I shake my head again.

"No Bitch. Your ass is trifling." She nods toward me as she takes a sip of her drink. "Got that fine as man begging you to marry him and you acting like your pussy is 24kt-diamond encrusted."

"Shit, give his ass to me and I'd be on the next thing smokin to Las Vegas. You'd see my ass up in there dressed like fuckin Priscilla Pressley and he'd have them fake ass side burns glued on like Elvis." She starts to laugh and I can't help giggling myself at just the though of it.

"Girl, we would be in one of those wedding chapels and I'd have on some white patent leather go-go boots with a baby blue plaid mini dress that barely covered the black of my ass, as granny use to say."

One thing I can always count on when it comes to Evai stupid ass is making me laugh even at the worst moments in my life. She even had me laughin at my granny's funeral. Just as a few tears began to roll down my cheek as they closed the casket---her stupid ass leaned over and said she wondered if granny was mad at us for not putting her on her nude color knee hi's that she always wore. We use to laugh at how they'd always end up around her ankles, even when she went to church. My mother must have thought I was hysterical cause I was laughing and crying at the same time. If it wasn't for Evai, I really don't know how I would have made it through a lot of shit.

"Evai, it's not that easy. You know what my family life was like growing up." I look off out the window towards the street. "Daddy use to whip mama's ass on the regular and yet she lived up to her wedding vows of, to death do us part."

"But you gotta realize that Derrick is not your daddy. He barely even raises his voice at you and I know he would never put his hands on you Tina. He'd hurt himself before he would touch you."

"In my heart I already know this Evai, but every time I try to even begin to plan the wedding, I have an anxiety attack. I just feel like someone has their hands around my neck and is choking the shit out of me." Tears begin to form on the tips of my lashes but I do my best to will them away. Taking a deep breath and a sip of my drink, I look back at her. "I've been to counseling and every thing, I just don't know what else to do."


"Pray?" I raise my eyebrows. "Girl, I've been on my knees about this situation every night since he first asked. God must be busy and hasn't gotten around to my problem yet."

"Just keep on praying girl. You know the good Lord doesn't work on your time-he has his own separate clock." She signals the waiter for another drink.

"I know one thing, a man like that ain't gonna keep letting you make him look stupid which is exactly what you've been doing." She points a well manicured nail in my direction. "And girlfriend you've been making him look really bad. Can you imagine how much shit he's been hearing from the guys on the team? Especially since most of their ass's already think white is right and black is whack." She rolls her eyes upward.

"Evai, I love Derrick with all that I am; I just have this sickening fear of us getting married and ending up fussin and fightin all the time. Moreover, he wants kids and it scares me to death when I think of the impact our actions will have on their lives. What if we get a divorce?"

"See, that's where you're fuckin up. Why in the world would you even fix your mouth to say some shit like that?" She chastises me like I'm 10 years old. "That is the very reason why my ass ain't married now---cause if you go in thinkin about ending the shit, what's the purpose?" Then she leans close as if she's going to reveal this major secret.

"Your ass had better not tell one fuckin soul," She looks around as if worried about someone overhearing her, "but contrary to popular belief-----I do believe in forever and ever. I just know that when I do do it, it's gone be one time and one time only." Then she starts to snicker.

"Cause if he is man enough to stand before God and the whole world and promise me forever and ever, well he'd sho better plan to back that shit up or expect to be found somewhere stankin."

Evai is my girl, and one of the most beautiful smoke black women you'd ever see, but one thing that they say which is very true----you can take the woman out of the ghetto but you can't take the ghetto out of the woman. And Evai is no doubt, that woman.

"Have you talked these feelings over with your mother?"

"No, any mention of my dad brings such a sad shadow to her face. No matter what they went through, I know that she really loved and misses him." I shake my head at the idea.

"I see what you're saying, but maybe that is what you need to do to move on with your life. You told me a long time ago that you were upset with your mom for a long time for letting your dad treat her that way and that it caused problems between the two of you."

"It did, and to a certain extent, we still have that wall between us. I never feel like I can talk to her about male/female relationships cause she did such an awful job of managing hers."

"You can't be so hard on her Tina. You gotta realize, she was raised in an era where the women were conditioned to stand by their man---that no matter what happen, you were suppose to always stay there and take it. It's up to you to break that cycle."

After talking a little longer on the subject, she convinces me that to start my healing process and hopefully prevent losing the best thing that ever happen to me, I need to sit down with my mom and have a long talk. Asking for our check so that we can leave, we're advised that the men at the table that Evai stopped to talk to have already taken care of it.

Sometimes I get mad at her because of her use what you got to get what you want attitude, but often times I find myself in total awe of her and wishing that I could be more like her. To just be able to say, two tears in a bucket-fuck it.

Two days later I find myself nervously sitting in the kitchen of mothers home. "So baby girl," mama sits down at the kitchen table where I've just wiped out two bowls of spaghetti, "you said that you wanted to talk to me about something very important. What's up?"

Oh how she kills me trying to sound hip knowing that she's almost 63 years old.

"Well mama." I take a deep breath trying to figure out how to broach the subject. "You know that Derrick and I are suppose to be getting married."

"Of course baby." She smiles and pushes her glasses back up on her nose. "He's such a good man. And he treats you so well---it seems as though every time I see you he's bought you a new piece of jewelry, some shoes or something. I don't even know why you continue to work for that record company cause they really don't seem to treat you right." She starts to rattle on like she usually does.

"Yes mama, he does treat me very well. But uh, lately we've been having problems." I look down at my empty plate.

Did I just eat two plates full of fattening spaghetti? Damn I'm a pig!

"See, Derrick wants to get married immediately and I do too...."

"But?" Mama takes her hand and lifts my chin so that I'm looking directly into her eyes. All the anguish-all the tears and pent up frustrations comes rushing to the surface and tumbles out in gut wrenching sobs.

"Mommy I'm afraid." I collapse into her arms.

"I'm afraid of going through what you went through with daddy." I find myself on the brink of hysteria. "I don't want to end up like you and daddy. I'm afraid that we'll start arguing and he'll end up beating me." For a second I can feel my mother go stiff from my words, then suddenly she starts holding me like a mother coddling her young child.

"Baby, baby, baby." She rubs my head and coos into my hair that is now damp from her tears. "I didn't realize how much of a job your father and I did on you kids until just now."

For at least a full 15 minutes we sit there in almost silence while I let all of my sorrows, disappointments and fears out in my mother's arms. Once I've calmed down to light sobs and whimpers, she gets up and goes over to the stove to pour us each a cup of tea. Coming back to sit down at the table, I can feel her studying me as I add sugar and cream to my cup. Afraid yet compelled to look up into her eyes, I see the hurt and pain that's buried there and God knows that I wish I could take it all back. However, deep in my heart I know that this is something that I must do in order to save my relationship with Derrick.

He came by the house the other day while I was at work and picked up a few clothes and left a note with the number where he's staying. He also said that he still loved me deeply but wanted to give me time to decide if I wanted him even half as much as he wanted me. Clearing her throat and then closing eyes, mama reaches over and covers my hand with both of hers. "Santina, you can't allow the things that happen in the past to control your future. You have to look upon those things as learning experiences."

"Lord knows that I loved your daddy like no other. And sometimes I get so damn angry with him for drinking himself to death. But baby, you should take that and use it as an example of what not to take off a man. Break the cycle, sweetie pie." She says making de ja vu from those words ring in my ears.

"All my life I had such a low self esteem. Your granddaddy always told us girls that we weren't shit and wouldn't never be shit. Most of us dropped out after 8th grade but I was determined to at least graduate from high school. Of course he didn't like that and would take it out on mama whenever she would stand up for me. Sometimes we'd wake up in the middle of the night hearing him beating on her---and any time that the cries would stop suddenly, we'd lie awake all night long praying that she was only unconscious and this time he hadn't killed her."

"Mama, I'm sorry." I cover her hands with my free one.

"You never told me."

"Baby girl, you were experiencing enough confusion with your daddy and I, there was no need to reveal anything else to you. I just feel so awful that you had to go through what you did. You just don't know how many times I wanted to pack up and us leave; but baby I didn't have anywhere to go. Plus I was too afraid to try and step out on my own. Your daddy told me so many times that I'd never make it without him until finally I really believed it."

"But mommy you're so smart." I frown thinking about all the times that she use to stay up helping me with my homework even while I was in college. She's a real math whiz. I can throw anything at her and she can calculate it in her head in a matter of seconds. We would go shopping at the Macys One Day Sale and she could tell me the exact amount of the discount down to the penny before I could even whip out my calculator. And when it came to negotiating anything from a car to a house, you could best believe that Gloria Green was not going to leave one stone unturned. So to sit here now and hear her speak of having a low self esteem is like a major blow to me.

"Baby you can be the smartest person in the world. You can be so beautiful that people stop and stare at you in total awe. But if from a very young age you've always been told the exact opposite and had it drummed into your head that you couldn't do something or that you would never amount to anything-after a while you begin to believe it."

I can't hold back the new set of tears that begins to form again. All this time I've been so resentful of my mother and held her responsible for not standing up to my father when really she was dealing with her drama the best way she could.

"Mama, I'm so sorry." I pull her close to me. "I didn't know and I've been so mad at you all these years cause you let daddy treat you so awful. God knows that I loved him, but there were so many days when I just wanted you to take us and leave."

"And that's exactly why I stayed." A sad smile plays across her face. "I didn't want you and your sister to hate me for taking you away from your father."

"Mommy, you just don't know how many nights we stayed up listening to you two fuss and fight and we would pray that you would get a divorce. We always knew that daddy loved and would take care of us even if you two weren't together. We just wanted to live a normal life where we were not ashamed to hold our heads up because the whole neighborhood and school knew what was going on in our house."

"Lord knows that I am so sorry. I guess I really didn't realize how much what was going on between your daddy and me was affecting you and Sidney."

"I know it's not your fault, but as much as I love Derrick, I'm so afraid to marry him. After our argument the other night, I'm not even sure if he wants me anymore."

"Is all of this the reason why you've been skirting the issue of when we were going to start planning your wedding?"

I look away and nod while at the same time trying not to cry anymore than I already have. The last thing I want to do is make my mother feel any worse than I already have by letting her see how upset and worried I am.

"Tina, let me explain something to you baby. What you and Derrick share is totally different from your daddy's and I relationship. Believe me when I say that I loved your daddy with all my heart, good and bad. Sweetie, our problems were more so due to his drinking than anything. He had a disease that he could not control and regardless of what he did, I knew that he needed me. Baby girl, I'm so sorry for what I put you and your sister through-I really can't say that enough---I just pray that you two will be the stronger for it. Take it and use it as your strength-to know what you will and will not accept. Let your past be your guidance along with the strength of the Lord. Fall down on your knees and pray for HIS strength to be your strength. HE loves you more than anyone else and knows what is best. Just ask Him and before you know it, all of this will be just a small blur in your mind."

Dear Lord,

I know that it had been a long time since you'd heard from me or that I've even spoken your name unless I was using it in the wrong way----and now every time you turn around I'm in your face. I'm almost too ashamed to even come before you and ask of something knowing that I have not been doing what I should by you. Please forgive me for straying. I guess a lot of people seem not to come to you until they really need you and have done everything but the right thing and now need you to bail them out. God, I don't think I've been that bad of a person---I try to treat all people as I want to be treated and I honestly try to catch myself when I cuss. I've been taking better care of my body and I only drink wine every now and then. I know it's not the same as the last supper and all, but I really don't consume it a lot---only every now and then and mostly just when I'm celebrating something--like my engagement. I guess there's really no since in my trying to warm up to the subject cause you already know why I'm here. A lot of people will say, "Well he already knows what I want so he should just give it to me." I know that it doesn't work like that God. I know that I have to ask and so I'm asking. God, please help me. I'm so afraid. I really love Derrick and believe that you brought him into my life-and God, I'm not questioning your judgement by any means, but I am so scared. Please help me God. Please lift this burden from my heart. I love Derrick and want to be his wife for the rest of my life. Please help us Lord. I know that you've already blessed me so I'll just say thank you and amen.

Getting up from my knees and crawling into bed, I find myself doing something that I have not been able to do since I last spoke to Derrick almost a week ago-easily drifting off to sleep.


Dysfunctional Love by Jhori Barksdale

© Copyright 1999. All rights reserved. No portion of this work may be duplicated or copied without the expressed written consent of the author.

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