I was a hot head. I had a quick temper. Mean spirited. Evil. The devil just like my daddy. That’s some of the things I heard as a boy. But the people that said it weren’t trying to be mean; they were complementing me. Giving me a pat on the back because I didn’t take no junk—ever. It took very little for me to fight. A dude could look at me the wrong way and Boom! I’d hit him dead in his face. I used to get suspended all the time. Could never ride the bus. Win, lose or draw, I lived to fight. I craved it. Needed the drama. But I couldn’t understand why.
My father had a barbeque one day and invited all his homeboys and their old ladies. There was this big dude that lived across the street from us. Can’t even remember his name right now. But my father told me to go over there and slap him. I was cool with that because I never liked the way the dude looked at me. I went over there and smacked the guy and this guy just started crying. Balled up on the ground. You think I cared? Not at all. I commenced to stomping him. So somebody came out his house—his uncle, his dad, I didn’t know. The man kicked me off of his son. The next thing I knew, my dad was all over this dude and blood was everywhere. We were in the street fighting like animals. My father’s friends just laughed and enjoyed the show.
After it was over, all my father’s friends were congratulating me like I’d just won the title or something. My dad was smiling at me like he was proud. But I could’ve sworn I saw a tear in his eye. I didn’t know this at the time but that tear did not display his pride. Somberness could be a better way to describe his appearance. Amid the laughter of his friends, the clang of beer bottles, the refer clouds that polluted the air, there was sadness. My father was sad. I was sad. Why were we sad?
They called my dad Tick Tick because he was a time bomb. They called me Little Tick because I was just as unpredictable. Sometimes I would think about not being here. That’s what I called it—not being here. I would never say that I wanted to kill myself because that would be crazy. But I’d be up one minute and down the next. I couldn’t take the variation anymore. It was too much for my little mind to handle. I believe it was the day that I had found my dad’s pistol that my mother knew she had to do something.
She shrieked when she walked into their bedroom and saw me sitting on my father’s side of the bed. I had pulled his .38 from between the mattress and the box spring. It was loaded. It was always loaded. And I was sitting there. Looking down its barrel. And I wasn’t afraid at all until I heard my mother scream. She smacked the gun out of my hand and pulled my head against her breast. She held me like that for hours seemed like. I could barely breathe and I was thinking this is even better. It wouldn’t be suicide now if my mother suffocated me with her bosom. Finally, my mother took me to this doctor where they diagnosed me as bipolar. I think she already knew it. She knew it because my father was bipolar. She was sitting on the sidelines looking at me become the same monster my father was and finally, amid the fear and trepidation, she bravely took me somewhere to get some help.
“Nothing’s wrong with that boy,” my father would argue. “You pumping him with all this medication, wasting money. He’s just like his daddy. That don’t mean he’s sick!”
My father was in denial. My mother was tired of being there with him. She was so brave to do something about it, so courageous to go out and find me some help. I started loving more after that because after my meds, I didn’t feel so up and down anymore. I didn’t want to kill myself anymore and that was good. It’s a bummer, wanting to kill yourself.
My mother was a real fighter. She was small, weak, yet a thousand times more valiant than my father. He was a coward. Instead of owning up to his illness, he lashed out at my mother. He whipped her behind even more after she took me to the doctors. One night he beat her so bad that he put her in the hospital. A broken jaw. A few broken ribs. So much internal bleeding the doctors didn’t think she’d make it. And when Ahmad and I would visit her in the hospital, I’d look at her with awe. She took that punishment for me. All those scars so she could save my life. I loved her so much after that. I didn’t really hate my father yet.
My father was sentenced to ten years in prison. He did them all, too. My mother was never beaten again but funny thing happened when my father was in jail. My mother found out she had breast cancer. Can you believe that? She survived this monster just to find out she was dying from cancer. They let my father come to the funeral, in his handcuffs and shackles. And this dude had the nerve to cry. I couldn’t take it. I snapped. Charged for him. Ahmad had to pin me to the floor to stop me from choking him to death.
To me, this beautiful woman should’ve lived for hundreds of years. My father would be free in a couple of years. Alive. And not only did I feel like it should’ve been him in the casket. I wanted to be the man to put him in there.
I told Sade all of this and her entire demeanor changed. Her eyes softened. She didn’t look half as hateful as she did before and I was grateful for that. But I still hadn’t gotten to the part about her, about what any of that had to do with her. So I told her about Kelly. You see, Kelly was the absolute wrong person for a man like me to marry. She was ghetto and I’m not trying to be mean when I say that. She loved drama. Loved keeping stuff stirred up. Loved to argue and fight. But I was cool, right? I’m on my meds. I can take it.
One night we were arguing about something. I guess we were about two hours into the argument and I decided I’d had enough. “I’m leaving,” I said.
She told me, “No you’re not.”
“Let go of my arm, Kelly.” She was digging her nails deep into my flesh. I tore away and she slapped me in the back of my head. I couldn’t find my keys for nothing. I’m searching for my keys while this crazy woman is all over me, scratching me, kicking me, beating me with her closed fist. And she wants me to stay. You see how crazy that is? She was beating me because she didn’t want me to leave? Where is the logic in that? “What did you do with my keys?” I asked her.
“You’re not going anywhere!”
I pushed her off of me and she landed on the floor. Why in the world did I do that?
She ran off to the kitchen and I was still trying to find my car keys. Finally, I said “Screw it!” I decided I’d just walk and Kelly came at me with a butcher knife and sliced my forearm.
“Girl! Are you crazy?”
“I told you that you aren’t leaving me!”
That’s when I punched her in the jaw. Knocked her to the floor. Got on top of her and started beating her in the face. I lost it. Forgot who I was. Forgot where I was. Forgot who was in the house.
“Daddy! Stop! You’re gonna kill Mommy!”
My daughter came out of her bedroom in her nightgown. Tears in her eyes. She’s screaming at me but too scared to come near us. Blood on the floor. My forearm split open. Kelly’s lip busted. Her hair wild.
“Come here, baby,” I said to Elise. I went over to her. Wrapped her in my arms. Got blood all over her.
I decided it was over for Kelly and me after that. Because in spite of our daughter seeing us fight, in spite of Kelly trying to kill me with a butcher knife and me beating her in the face, Kelly still wanted to be with me. “This was nothing,” she said to me. “My mother and father went through worse.” I was sitting there, dumbfounded. Like, woman! Don’t you get it? This ain’t normal.
“What are you going to do?” Kelly asked, “find another woman that won’t fight you? We all fight. Couples argue and fight! It’s normal. It’s not normal to go through a relationship without arguing.”
I was packing my things that day and I’ll never forget it. Kelly said to me, “Fighting is a part of being in love.” That’s when I knew it was over between us. Because she was blind to my needs. I needed normal. What my mother and father went through, what her mother and father went through, weren’t normal.
But after that fight with Kelly, I realized something that shook me to the core. I attacked her while I was taking my medication. If that was true, my meds wouldn’t keep me out of trouble. And believe me; I had no illusions. I knew that disagreements were a part of relationships. But I wondered if I could handle even peaceful disagreements. So after Kelly, I resolved to play the field. You can’t have an argument with a woman if all you’re doing is having sex and occasionally going to dinner and a movie.
“So you cheated on me,” Sade said, “because you thought that we’d eventually get into an altercation.”
“Doesn’t every couple?”
Sade bowed and shook her head. She sighed a few times and then told me, “You’re broken.”
“I guess so.”
“All you had to do was tell me that you weren’t ready for a serious relationship. All you had to do was tell me that you were broken. But instead, you broke my heart.”
Hindsight was standing in the corner. I could see him right over Sade’s shoulder. He was saying to me, “I tried to tell you.” The thing is, Hindsight, you didn’t try to tell me until after I did it. Why didn’t you tell me before I slept with Carissa?
“Because showing you your error before you make it is Foresight’s job. But unfortunately, Foresight is blind as a bat.”
Sade took my hand in hers. Her palms were warm and I felt her love for me seeping through her skin. Her eyes weren’t playing around. They were fixed on me and there was hope in them. Hope for us, maybe? I didn’t know. I wasn’t sure. All I knew is I was glad that we were speaking again.
“Trap, not every couple is like your parents, or Kelly’s parents, or like you and Kelly were. I believe that abusive relationships are the exception and not the rule. The rule is we may not always agree, but we can always be agreeable.”
“You said we, Sade. Does that mean that there’s hope for us?”
She looked away. Released my hands.
“Words can’t express how sorry I am for what I did,” I said. “I do love you. That hasn’t changed.”
“I love you, too,” she said. “But I guess I’m a little broken as well.”
“So what does that mean for us?”
“It means that maybe two broken people shouldn’t be together until they’re fixed.”
I could respect that. I needed to focus on me. But I told Sade that as I focused on me, my end goal, my light at the end of the tunnel, was to be a good man for Sade Styles. And for that she gave me her smile. For now, her smile was enough.
“I don’t want you to leave CoEd,” I said.
“I know,” she replied. “You wouldn’t know what to do without me.”
I walked Sade to her car and told her goodnight. But before she drove away I asked her for a hug. She obliged. Our bodies fit. The energy was real and she knew it. The essence of Trap and Sade was strong, strong enough to establish a business, strong enough to build and nourish a community.
I asked her where she was staying the night and she said…
“I’m staying with Ken.” She looked up into my eyes and I hoped that she couldn’t see the hurt. “I hope you understand.”
I didn’t understand. But I guess I had to respect it.