Loving Day

Loving Day

I wrote this post a year ago and shared it on my personal Facebook. As I reread this emotional time capsule, I realized that I still feel exactly the same. The issues I wrote about a year ago are still just as prevalent now, if not more so. Because unfortunately, it doesn’t seem like much has changed in a year’s time. So I decided to reshare my old thoughts with some present day updates.

Loving v. Virginia. In 1958, two residents of Virginia, Mildred Jeter, a Black and Native American woman, and Richard Loving, a white man, were married in the District of Columbia. Richard and Mildred could not be married in their home state of Virginia because the state wouldn’t recognize their marriage. The couple traveled up North, to DC where their marriage could be legalized. The newlyweds returned to Virginia shortly afterward, but were charged with violating the state’s anti-miscegenation statute, the Racial Integrity Act of 1924, which prohibited marriage between people classified as “white” and people classified as “colored”. The Loving’s were found guilty and sentenced to a year in jail. Or they could leave their home in Virginia so long as they would not return together for twenty-five years. If they agreed to these terms, the judge would suspend their sentencing.

Mildred and Richard Loving decided that leaving their family in Virginia was a better alternative to serving jail time. I don’t blame them. But leaving the only home she ever knew and not being allowed to visit her family was not an alternative that sat well with Mildred. She reached out to a lawyer in hopes of being able to appeal their sentencing. And after nine years of waiting, the Loving’s case reached the Supreme Court.

June 12, 1967. The Supreme Court came to a unanimous agreement that outlawing interracial marriage was unconstitutional. The court stated:

“Marriage is one of the “basic civil rights of man,” fundamental to our very existence and survival…. To deny this fundamental freedom on so unsupportable a basis as the racial classifications embodied in these statutes, classifications so directly subversive of the principle of equality at the heart of the Fourteenth Amendment, is surely to deprive all the State’s citizens of liberty without due process of law. The Fourteenth Amendment requires that the freedom of choice to marry not be restricted by invidious racial discrimination. Under our Constitution, the freedom to marry, or not marry, a person of another race resides with the individual and cannot be infringed by the State.”

In 1967, there were 16 southern states with effective laws outlawing interracial marriage. Even after the Supreme Court ruling, several states made no changes to their constitution’s laws. South Carolina did not correct their state constitution until 1998, 30 years after the ruling. Finally, in 2000, Alabama was the last state to alter their constitution in regards to interracial marriage.

June 12, 2018. Today is the 51stanniversary of the declaration made by the Supreme Court pronouncing all state laws prohibiting interracial marriage unconstitutional. Fifty-one years. No, scratch that. Eighteen years. Meaning, that in the duration of my life, only eighteen of those years it has been legal in every state for me to marry Kendrae. While laws have changed, some of society’s viewpoints have not. Eighteen years later, and interracial couples are still plagued with shame, opposition and hatred.

In my four years together with Kendrae, we have certainly faced all three of these obstacles. Obstacles based solely on our outward appearances. We have been out in public and been treated notably different; we have heard from both ends of the spectrum some of the nastiest words and phrases that one can utter; we have faced rejection from family members and from total strangers; and received the full range of looks and insensitive comments. Fifty-one years later, in the year 2018, an interracial couple is still faced with the same recurring stigmas. We’re plastered with labels declaring our love to be less than and impure because we have two different skin tones. Our characters are attacked and we’re painted in unflattering light based on a difference in skin color. It is absurd and a concept I will never fully grasp, but it will not alter my view of myself, my partner, or our love.

All of these experiences have helped our relationship more than they’ve hurt. Sure, the words sting, being made to feel as inferior is certainly not pleasant, but we have made the choice to be even more intentional with our interactions with those around us. By Kendrae and I being kind to one another and maintaining a positive relationship in public and behind closed doors it helps to combat these contorted mentalities. In the past year alone we have seen racism flare its foul head with even more frequency and intensity.

Each day, now more than ever, we consciously choose to fight for true equality. We share the same dream. I am not so proud to think I could more eloquently convey a message that has rung true since the moment Martin Luther King Jr uttered it into existence on August 28, 1963; that we will one day live in a nation where we will not be judged by the color of our skin, but by the content of our character. Today and every day we fight to break the stigmas swirling around us by doing what comes so naturally: loving each other.

No. 15 – Houses

No. 15 – Houses

Another day’s worth of traveling and my brother, sister and I had arrived in Fairview Park, Ohio at my grandparents’ house. A house that had been a safe haven and the most consistent place in my ever-changing life. Our family had never truly set roots because we moved fairly frequently. In fact, I never attended the same school for longer than four years. My routine became my lack of a long-term routine. I never truly settled in anywhere because that made it easier for me to disconnect and uproot when the time inevitably came. So I learned to enjoy my many houses, but I never made them my home. I saw no sense in getting attached to a place that wouldn’t last.

The first two houses on my list, were not ones that evoked fond memories. Simply because I was so young that I don’t remember much of anything about my time there. House No. 1: Huntington Beach, California. The place where I was born, and lived for about three years. Besides photos of little Sarah there, I have no recollections of living in California. Which brings us to House No. 2: Streetsboro, Ohio. Shortly after my sister was born, our family of four moved from California to Ohio, where my mother had grown up. Streetsboro was a place I don’t much remember and was not much talked about. We lived here for about two years, before moving again.

House No. 3: North Olmstead, Ohio. We moved here to be closer to my mother’s side of the family. Her parents, grandparents, and many of her aunts, uncles and cousins lived within a short driving distance from our new house.  I have some great memories here. We lived four houses down from my great grandmother, and many of my relatives were close by. We had a large front yard that was ideal for baseball and kickball games. The backyard contained a swing set and playground built by my father. My brother was born in there. And I have nothing but fond memories of my first memorable house.  We stayed in this location for the next five years.

House No. 4Allen, Texas. Due to a new job, my family of five packed up all our belongings and moved to Texas. A place where we had no family or friends. As a nine-year-old, leaving her entire family behind and moving to an envisioned tumbleweed tumbling, tractor driving, horseback riding flatland was a scary adventure. Much to my surprise, all my notions about Allen, Texas were wrong. We moved into a two-story house with a salt water pool. My brother, sister and I each had our own bedroom with plenty of space to grow. Our house backed up to a small lake and greenbelt with a walkway circling the water. I fell in love with this house and its location; it was definitely one of my favorites. My family resided here for four years, until my parents decided it was best for us to move out of the suburban city and into the country.

Cue House No. 5: Van Alstyne, Texas. The last six weeks of my eighth-grade school year, my family moved 45 minutes North of Allen to Van Alstyne. We moved into a log cabin set in the middle of 20 acres of land. Instead of a pool, we had a barn and lots and lots of backyard. And front yard for that matter. I was against this transition since the idea originated. Moving to the middle of nowhere and living thirty minutes away from a real grocery store did not sound like my idea of fun. But I adapted and met one of my best friends while living there, but it was certainly not at the top of my list of houses. The entire house was brown and dark. Dark brown wooden walls, dark brown wooden ceilings, dark brown tile, and dark brown wood floor. The whole nature of the house was depressing to me and housed some dark days during high school. I couldn’t wait to graduate, leave that town and never look back.

Flash to House No. 6: Longview, Texas. Well, it was more of a dorm room than a house, but I can’t exclude the place where I spent four years in college. Longview is not a large city, but it is certainly more populated that Van Alstyne. It is packed with majestically tall trees and bursting with green life. It’s quiet-natured and lacks much traffic which gives it a definite plus in my book. Most necessities for a college-aged girl were readily available within a short driving distance. And it was here that I met some of the most wonderful people. I discovered who I really was. And in a series of incredible events, I met the man of my dreams. A lot of major life events took place during my college experience in Longview, Texas.

After living in six different houses in six different cities, I somehow found myself back at House No. 5trapped and stifled. I had never intended to go back to House No. 5. In my past 22 years, my input hadn’t mattered about where my family lived. But now, as a college graduate in search of a job, I could choose to live wherever I wanted. In theory, of course. I would require a job that covered the financial burden of living on my own, which I hadn’t quite worked out yet. I was doing everything in my power to add a House No. 7, to the list.

But through all the moving and uprooting, my grandparents’ house had remained the same. In fact, my grandparents had lived in that same house since my mother was a little girl. Do the math and that’s about 50 years. All throughout my childhood and young adulthood, my grandparents’ house had been a desired vacation destination, a central gathering place, a creative workshop, the most delectable goodie store and my favorite place to spend my time. Everyone was always welcome, and good times were never in short supply. When my family lived in Ohio, we naturally spent a lot of time at their House. It was about a ten-minute drive from ours. Even after we moved to Texas, we continued to make trips at least once a year to visit our Ohio family, usually staying at my grandparents’ house. Spending time there was a treat, and one that I never tired of. My grandparents’ house was my epitome of home.

Their House was two-stories high and complete with a basement. It sat on a long rectangular lot with tall trees at the front and back of the property like bookends. The garage had been converted into a workshop/garage so that my grandfather could run his printing business out of their house and still have room to park their Ford Explorer. The garage turned workshop was my favorite element of the entire house. It was carpeted, had a television set up with cable, outfitted with heat and air conditioning and was constantly stocked with any art supply imaginable.

My grandfather is an incredible artist and an even better art teacher. He took great joy in helping to instill a creative love within his grandchildren. Anything we imagined, he would help bring to life in his garage studio. I would spend hours out in the workshop dreaming and creating. None of which was very good, but I didn’t care. And neither did my grandfather.

As soon as I pulled the Pontiac Torrent into the driveway, I expected the all familiar feeling of home to greet me and welcome me in. But to my surprise, the welcoming feeling was nowhere to be felt. I felt nothing. The place looked the same, but the feeling was gone. I quickly glanced back at my brother and sister, but neither of them said anything. I looked closer. They didn’t seem to notice the missing feeling. Maybe I was just tired from two full days of travel. That’s all it was. I was tired. After some time settling in, home and I would be reunited.

Later that evening, after some light unpacking and a home-cooked meal, I found myself out on the covered deck, soaking in the cool night air.The deck was enclosed, but the windows were open so that the screens could let in the fresh air while still warding off the night creatures. I was seated on the porch swing and lightly rocked myself back and forth. The House felt the same, but I didn’t. I felt different. Everything around me looked familiar. Nothing was out of place. Except me.

What had changed? Could it be my newfound individuality and perspective? Could it be that I had grown into my own woman? Could it be that I was simply tired and had been through a stressful past few weeks? As I continued to sway myself back and forth, my grandmother joined me on the swing.

“It’s nice out tonight, isn’t it? The weather hasn’t felt this nice in a few days,” my grandmother disrupted the silence.

“It is a lot cooler here than it is in Texas,” I responded. I didn’t know what was worse. Addressing the drama head on or babbling on about trivial details pretending there wasn’t a giant elephant sitting on the porch with us. His grey, heavy trunk weighing on my shoulders, enhancing the internal pressure I already felt.

My stomach was in knots. There really wasn’t a good direction for this conversation. Of course I didn’t want to dissect my “former” relationship with Kendrae, I knew my grandparents felt the same as my parents. Attempting a conversation with someone who refuses to hear you out is infuriating, not to mention pointless. Neither side can find common ground, and all your energy is left spinning in circles. I was exhausted: from the past two weeks and from the past two days. But, by ignoring the obvious reason for my visit, it just left room for the conversation to present itself later. Leaving me in wait for the inevitable. Which almost seemed worse than just getting it over with.

Meanwhile our talk danced around the truth and consisted of fluff. Filler to appear as if a conversation was being held, but instead we were just living in denial. All the while, mister elephant just continued pressing his trunk on my shoulders. Increasing the pressure ever so slightly. I leered his direction and smirked. After my past two weeks, it was going to take more than a little pressure to make me crack.

Perhaps this was for the best. I was exhausted, out of place and a stranger in what I once considered to be my own home. Delving into my personal life tonight would only lead to more heartache. So I continued swaying on the swing, elephant trunk on my shoulders, and talked with my grandmother about the Ohio weather. The house was reminding me of a familiar feeling, but it didn’t feel like home anymore.

 

No. 14 – The Cycle

No. 14 – The Cycle

I was being shipped up to Ohio for a “fresh start.” Which meant two weeks taken off work. Two weeks away from my parents. Two weeks away from my problems. Well, not really. I was in for two weeks of a microscopic study session and discussion of them. Not to mention, I had to make the 22-hour drive with my younger brother and sister. I didn’t mind having them around, but I just wanted to be alone. Throughout this whole incident, it felt like I was being watched at all times. I was not interested in having company, because I couldn’t think straight unless I was in complete solitude. Which I think was the idea. If they ever left me alone, they feared I would come to my senses and bolt. They were right about that part. But my leaving had to be calculated. Because when I did finally leave, I wasn’t coming back.

I had to seize any possible sliver of solidarity so that I could vet my plan. Which at the moment was: GET OUT ASAP! I hadn’t had enough time to work out the details to get me to that point yet. I was hoping for a job offer that would give me the financial security to make that jump, but right now, that plan wasn’t looking too promising. So Plan B was to waitress as much as possible and save every cent. But with two weeks off work, that plan wasn’t progressing at the pace I’d prefer.

Regardless of my dissatisfaction with the timing of the trip, my brother, sister, and I awoke early that morning, loaded up the car and began the arduous trek to Fairview Park, Ohio. As I directed the car down the long winding driveway away from my parents’ house, my eyes were drawn to the sky rather than the gravely path. The skyline was deeply blue, not quite black. It was the early time in the morning where the nocturnal creatures had called it a night and the early risers were still in bed. It was silent and still. The air crisp and dark with an edge of chill. The crunch of the gravel underneath the tires fell into a rhythmic pattern and lulled my nerves to sleep. My brother and sister settled for a few hours of rest leaving me alone with the road and my thoughts.

As the tires of my brother’s Pontiac Torrent eased us away from Van Alstyne, my eyes continually found their way to the sky. The moment of day break was upon me. The pivotal point where the night turns to day. The point where the light slowly creeps into the darkness. The exchange was so gradual, that I didn’t notice the presence of the light so much as the absence of the darkness. The transition a gentle one, nearly unnoticeable until the light had totally consumed the darkness. The sky danced before my very eyes illuminated with beauty and radiance. Each color sauntering into the next, quietly edging out the darkness while blending together to create a colorful tapestry.

The exchange between the darkness and the light fascinated me as my eyes focused on the road. It gave my thoughts a chance to explore in a new direction. As the road moved us onward, my mind ran parallel to it as well: forward on a new path. Perhaps the action in the sky was prophetic of what was to unfold in my own life. I couldn’t help but hope the magnificent sunrise mirrored what was to come in my near future. Oranges, yellows, peaches and reds painted over the once dark sky in my mind to reveal that every period of darkness ends.

Then, as they often do, my thoughts drifted towards Kendrae. What was he doing? Was he thinking about me? Would he wake up tomorrow and realize this was all too much, and find someone else? No, don’t go down that road. I backpedaled as much as I could and went a different direction. Maybe later that evening after we stopped for the night, I could sneak a moment and give him a call. The sound of his voice would dispel all those nasty self-doubts and give me the strength that I needed to press on. Just the thought of Kendrae’s voice occupied my mind for hours as the sun slowly rose in the sky.

Our 22-hour trek paused for the night in St. Louis, Missouri. All three of us were grateful to have arrived at the hotel and get some rest from the road. The trip hadn’t been as awful as I expected. In fact, I had actually enjoyed the bonding time with my siblings. We didn’t discuss my current prison sentence and I feigned optimism and excitement of our potential “vacation” activities. Regardless of my own feelings towards this trip, I knew my brother and sister were looking forward to it. Maybe if I bought into the vacation idea, I might end up enjoying myself more. It was at least worth the effort for my siblings’ sake.

Three full stomachs later, we were ready to settle in for the night, stretch out and get some rest before another full day of traveling. My brother plopped down on one queen mattress and began surfing the screen of his cell phone, and my sister occupied the bathroom taking a shower.

Opportunity!

I made up some excuse to go look for something in the car, and darted out to the parking lot. I quickly shimmied my burner phone out of my bra and punched in Kendrae’s number. I knew I wouldn’t have much time with him on the phone. Ring. As the phone rang, I walked to the trunk of the Torrent, opened up the rear door of the sport utility vehicle, and sat on the flat, carpeted floor. Ring.I positioned myself behind the head rest so that the hand holding the slim phone to my ear was camouflaged. I didn’t think you could see our car from the hotel room, but I didn’t want to risk being spotted. Ring.I hadn’t realized I was holding my breath until I heard Kendrae’s voice.

“Hello,” his molasses-smooth, melodious voice beckoned me in.

Every muscle and tendon in my body relaxed, even if only slightly. Because I could never fully let my guard down. Not while I was in survival mode at least. Wanting to ensure I captured every decibel of sound in Kendrae’s voice, I pressed the phone speaker closer to my ear. My senses heightened as the car pulling up three spots over caught my eye. Slam. The car doors closed and the couple flitted in, hand-in-hand into the lobby. The aroma of coffee from the diner in the next lot consumed my nose. And the simultaneous softness and prickle from the trunk’s carpeted floorboard danced on my legs.

I quickly updated Kendrae on our day’s progress. I also updated him on the depth of my longing to see him again. And how much I loved him, no matter my geographic location or duration of time between us. Much to my utter relief, Kendrae expressed feeling the same. With reassurance of our love, we daydreamed about when we’d be able to live in the same city and spend as much time as we wanted with one another. But those thoughts were short-lived as I knew I had to get back up to the hotel room. I didn’t want to give my brother or sister any reason to wonder why I was out of the room for more than a few minutes. We both clung to someday, as we exchanged goodbyes with one another, and I promised to text him when I could.

Pressing the red phone icon to hang up the sleek black phone filled my eyes with tears. Recently, I often found myself in an uncharacteristic state of sadness. Despair, depression, melancholy, heavyhearted. All words that better suited the depth of my feelings. But any emotional label other than sadness would have been too overwhelming. Considering myself just “sad” was the least sad emotion I could be feeling and  while still being true. It sounded less hopeless and not quite so far away from happy.

My eyes averted to the skyline above the diner across the parking lot, in hopes of finding the silver lining I stumbled upon that morning. As my eyes settled on the low-hanging light left in the sky, a lump formed in my throat. The darkness was overtaking the sky. Forcing the light out of it completely. Its presence was heavy and weighed down upon my chest. Knocking the breath out of my lungs. The victory this morning was a pyrrhic one. The darkness had reclaimed its kingdom in the sky, vanquishing the light. No matter how many times the light captured the sky, the darkness would always return. My epiphany this morning was nothing more than false hope. If the day’s light cycle was any indication of what my future beheld, the forecast seemed bleak.

But a still, small voice quieted my thoughts and whispered to my soul. A grain of peace sprouted in the depths of my heart. So I steeled my resolve, wiped my tear-streaked face and narrowed my gaze towards the sliver of light left in the sky. Sure, the darkness returned for the night, but it would be dispelled yet again in the morning. Day after day, this exchange of power occurred. The light never tired of battling the darkness no matter how many times it was forced out. Maybe my epiphany wasn’t what I originally thought, but I could still have a change of perspective.

I hopped out of the trunk, slipped my burner phone back in my bra and closed the trunk lid. I quickly checked my makeup in the car window reflection. Ehhh…it was good enough to pass an inspection at a distance. I locked the car and slinked back into the hotel room. My brother was engrossed in the screen of his cell phone, ear buds in mesmerized by another Breaking Bad episode. Bullet dodged there. And my sister was still in the bathroom. Shower off, but steam was seeping through the crack of the door. Another dodged bullet. I quickly gathered my shower toiletries and prepared to occupy the bathroom. I smiled to myself, because the number of obstacles in-between Kendrae and me didn’t matter. Our light would drive out the darkness every time.

No. 13 – The Burner

No. 13 – The Burner

I was standing in the grass outside the house, but not outside the fence that enclosed about half an acre that served as the front yard. Even at 6:00 in the evening, the Texas heat still pricked my skin causing a warming sensation that was both uncomfortable and reassuring. Uncomfortable as my pores opened up and released the perspiration that would cool my body, but dampen my clothes. But the heat was welcomed, as it drew my attention to something other than my current state of depression.

My father joined me in the grass and stood close enough to where I could feel his presence without him having to announce himself. The two of us stood there in uncomfortable silence. Until…

“What are you thinking about?” my father questioned, breaking the ice.

Everything and nothing, I thought to myself. A response that I knew would not be acceptable and only probe further unwanted questioning. One trait my father always appreciated was directness, so I decided to give him what he asked for.

“About how I can get out of here,” I stated as directly as I could.

“You’re not stuck here, Sarah,” my father responded.

As soon as his words hit the air, tears as warm as the sun on my skin began streaming down my face. Tears of frustration, despair, confusion and longing. Somehow, we always came back to the same issue: they didn’t understand. We were speaking two different languages and they refused to work with a translator. Of course, I was stuck here! I tried to leave but was forced to stay. My voice went unheard and my feelings dismissed. Every aspect of my life was controlled and twisted into what their vision of my life should look like. And still, neither party was happy.

“It sure feels like it. I can’t leave. I can’t talk to anyone. I can’t do anything but be miserably stuck here,” I managed to get out between deep breaths and tears.

“You’re making this more dramatic than it really is. It’s not like you’re a prisoner here,” my father made a stab at a reassuring response.

My father was the king of comments that were not intended to be hurtful, but were. I was the one being dramatic? Oh, but not approving of the person your 22-year-old college graduate daughter is dating, so you lock her in your house, take away all her freedom and expect her to thank you for it and be pleasant isn’t dramatic? Breathe Sarah. Bringing that up would get me nowhere and would just further escalate the current situation. I certainly did not want to explore how things could get any worse.

“Right now, it feels like I am a prisoner. I can’t talk to my friends. I have no freedom to do anything. I’m miserable…” I choked out in between more emotional tears.

My father paused for a moment before speaking. “Well, your mother and I are going out to run some errands tomorrow. Why don’t you see if Brad can meet up with us for lunch? He’s a good kid.”

Brad was a friend of mine since I was fifteen. We had met at church and our enjoyment of tennis coupled with our shared bond of being raised by strict parents had made us fast friends. My parents and his parents had never spent time with each other outside of church, but both sets approved of the friendship. We lived about 30 minutes apart, but when you live in the country, that’s as good as right down the road.

To my sincere gratitude, Brad was able to meet up with me and my parents for lunch. We met up at BJ’s Brewhouse and shared an interesting lunch. Brad hadn’t the slightest idea of what chaos my world was in, but he played along nicely. Any rude and sarcastic remarks from my father didn’t faze Brad. He could certainly hold his own. Much to my surprise, my parents decided that Brad and I could spend some time without their chaperone so long as he didn’t mind dropping me off back home.

Brad and I parted ways with my parents and headed towards his car. Before either of us could get our seatbelts on, I exploded. “I need to get a burner phone. Can you help me?”

Without so much as a hesitation, Brad responded, “Sure, I think there’s an AT&T right around the corner from here.” See, there was a reason we had remained friends for so long.

As Brad drove to the AT&T store, I spilled my guts about everything that had gone down. How my parents had broken up with Kendrae for me. How I was an actual prisoner in their house. With no phone, no freedom, no contact with the outside world, least of all with Kendrae. And now I was being shipped off to Ohio, to stay with my mother’s side of the family so that I could be supervised more closely. I think my parents were concerned that I would run away.

Brad was as shocked as I had been. Laughing at the sheer hilarity of it all, because it didn’t seem real. Over the course of our friendship, Brad had come to know my parents through personal interactions with them as well as recounts he had heard from me. He told me that even in the wildest interactions and bewildering stories, he had never expected a concoction such as this.

What a rush of relief I felt all throughout my body! This was the reassurance I had been longing for. That I was not crazy. This was not normal. And was certainly not right. Brad had been my first true contact with anyone in the outside world, and it felt SOgood! The fog from the Twilight Zone had not seeped into my pores yet. There was still a chance for me to escape with myself intact.

A short while later, I was the proud owner of a pay-as-you-go phone. A tiny little thing with unlimited text messaging and 250 minutes of talk time. I had selected the slimmest phone model I could find, because it would have to remain hidden on my body at all times. I paid all in cash, and filled in the home address with my college address, so that no paper trail could ever make its way back to my parents address. When the month was up, I would just come back to this store and pay for another month’s worth of calls and texts. A $40.00 phone and a $25.00 monthly plan was a price I was happy to pay for the slightest taste of freedom.

On the night that my world had been turned upside down, by some miracle I possessed some sense of foresight during utter chaos. After begging my parents to allow me to call Kendrae upon learning of the terrible text my mother sent him, I quickly looked up his cell phone number as I was pretending to dial. And I repeated the digits in my head to commit them to memory. I hadn’t quite known at the time, when I would be able to use his number, but I was hopeful that I would eventually.

As Brad kindly made the drive back to my parent’s house, I held the jewel of a lifeline in my hands delicately. I punched in the one number besides my own I knew by heart, and typed out a brief message.

Kendrae, it’s me, Sarah. I bought a burner phone so we are able to communicate. We’ll have to be careful when we talk and text, but anything is better than nothing. I’m sorry that we have to go through this, but being with you is worth it. I love you.

The second I pressed the send button, a thought caught in my chest and took my breath away. What if this was too much? What if Kendrae didn’t want to be forced to communicate sporadically with a girl whose parents hated him? He certainly wasn’t limited to being with me. There was a long list of girls just waiting for him to be single. In fact some of them, didn’t even care about him being single. What was to say that he hadn’t changed his mind since he agreed to wait?

*New Feature* Audio file of this post. 

 

No. 12 – My Twilight Zone

No. 12 – My Twilight Zone

Twilight Zone:

(n). A state of surrealism, where things that should not make sense seem to do so.

No other word could better suit the house I was confined to. Upon entrance of the house’s threshold, what seemed right was now wrong. What was once wrong was now right. Up was down. Left was right. And I was left tumbling around in the spin-cycle of miasma. Never have I experienced a more palpable feeling of downheartedness. It was as if the house was its own entity. Breathing confusion gas to all who inhabited it. Perpetuating the lack of clarity. Watching my every move. Hearing my every thought. Most of which were incomplete, because I couldn’t get a true sense of who I was in this labyrinth.

My only sense of liberation came from the runs I forced myself to take. My parents allowed me to step off the premises so long as I was going for a run along the winding country road the house was set off on. From the first step over the cattle guard I could taste the freshness in the air. I could breathe deeper. Think clearer. And feel the cloud lift from off my shoulders, and I embraced the sunshine. Each step on the gravel road assured me that I was still alive, and I could find a way out. The strength in my legs wouldn’t allow weakness in my thoughts. No tears or negativity allowed.

With the road at my feet and the wind at my back, the possibilities were endless. It was as if my mind opened up and allowed only positive thoughts to enter in. On the road, I believed that I could get out and that Kendrae would still be waiting for me. I was sure that I would be able to find a job that would lead me far away from my parents’ house. And I was hopeful that the growing strength in my body would translate to inner fortitude that would propel me to freedom. Each run brought me one step closer to anywhere but here.

But as soon as I crossed back over the cattle guard after one of my runs, a powerful haze clouded all sense of clarity I had found on the road. My hopes of escape all fled upon crossing the threshold that led into the 20-acre property. My despair, always awaiting me at the property’s gate, without fail. He had no problems with letting me leave, so long as he could greet me right where we left off once I returned. He’d lead me back down the long gravel driveway. And hold the front door wide open to ensure my entrance back into the house.

The air inside was stale and prevented me from ever receiving a full breath. Perhaps this element is what perpetuated the fog that never ceased to linger and stirred such turbidity. I was forbidden to have any contact with the outside world. My phone was held hostage by my father. My car was useless unless I was driving to work. I was a captive. All I knew was the longer I was kept prisoner in that house, the lower my chances of ever escaping became. As a result, I spent most of my time in solitude outside where the air didn’t seem quite so choking. Anything I could do to stay out of the house that seemed to slowly be killing any shred of me that remained.

My parents had decided that I was to be shipped off to Ohio for two weeks so that I could have a “fresh start.” They felt it would be in my best interest if I spent some time away. My best guess is that they worried if I stayed there too much longer I would either run away or try to meet up with Kendrae. By sending me off to Ohio, I could be better supervised and 1,123 miles away from Kendrae. But the distance in miles had no effect on me. At the moment, it seemed as if Kendrae and I lived in two different worlds.

Initially, the idea of putting a thousand miles between me and my parents was incredibly appealing. My battered heart could use some relief from the constant barrage of questions and pointless conversations that never ended well. Until I learned that my mother had discussed my current situation in detail with her parents, brother and sister-in-law. Now, rather than two people dissecting my private business and discussing it with me to no end, I would get to have the brutal discussions with four more people. Although, discussion is perhaps much too strong of a word. Lecture, guilt manipulation, sermon or reprimand are all much better suited to what was to come my way. And suddenly, my two-week Ohio retreat seemed much more like a punishment than a break.

Sure, I may have been getting some relief from my mother and father, but now the heat was going to be turned up tenfold. This was not my idea of an improvement to my current situation, but maybe the change of scenery could be beneficial. Neither situation was ideal, but there was nothing I could do either way. At least my Ohio trip would have a time frame. My stay here, had no end in sight. Before my brain took a trip down the rabbit hole of self-despair, I remembered something. I hadn’t checked my Facebook to see if Kendrae had written me back. A glimmer of hope broken through the abyss.

Again, I waited for the all too familiar feelings of guilt to seep in. But much to my surprise, I felt nothing. Nothing but excitement about the possibility that the love of my life had replied to my heartfelt and desperate plea.

Perhaps my lack of remorse stemmed from spending the entirety of my life unable to perfect the role of the perfect daughter. I had portrayed her so convincingly, that I even fooled myself for a while into believing that I could actually please my parents. But I couldn’t. My enough never matched their standards. So both my parents and myself were left discontented. Stuck in this perpetual cycle of unhappiness. I was tired of tumbling around exhausted from futile efforts that brought me no personal satisfaction and had clearly not appeased my parents either. If I could make decisions based off what would bring me joy, at least one of us would be satisfied. A seemingly better alternative than three unfulfilled participants in this losing game.

My decision was clear. No more imperfect “perfect daughter.” I was just going to be Sarah. So I anxiously waited until after 10:00 when most of the household was sleeping, or at least in their rooms. Biding my time in the downstairs living room, waiting for an opportunity so I could sneak into the office, grab my computer, and creep into the bathroom unnoticed. I turned on the shower and let the water run. With no intent of going in for several minutes. I opened up my laptop, logged into Facebook, and held my breath as I waited for the screen to load.

And then I saw it. A beautiful, little red circle with a white number one in the middle of it, hovering above the message icon. Kendrae had written me back! I exploded through the bathroom ceiling and through the second floor of the house and soared into the dark night air. The love of my life had seen my message and was willing to wait on our love.

But then, the house realized that I was flying above it. This could not be. So it launched an arrow, aimed directly for my heart. What if Kendrae doesn’t want to wait for you? What if his message is just telling you to leave him alone? Or, what if that message notification is not from Kendrae at all? I was hit. Wounded and unable to fly, I spiraled down towards the house. All the way back down to the bathroom floor. I found it hard to breathe again. My hands trembled as I moved the cursor over the little red circle.

I gingerly pressed on the red icon and held my breath as the screen loaded the new page. I closed my eyes in anticipation. I couldn’t watch the screen load. The whole day, the thought never occurred to me that Kendrae might not want to wait. That he may want to just cut his ties with me and move on with his life. And as devastated as I would be, I would understand. I knew I was asking for a lot. Eyes closed, I took a deep breath in and let it out. My eyes peeled open and focused on the name of the first message.

Kendrae Carter. My heart was racing. I clicked on the message. My eyes absorbed his words so quickly that my brain could scarcely digest it. I swallowed. Leaned my head back. Closed my eyes and let the tears stream down my face. Through the trail of tears, my lips spread and a smile overtook my entire face. Kendrae was willing to wait on us. He didn’t want to be with anyone else, and he knew that our love could carry us through to the other side of the pain.

I quickly undressed and stepped into the shower. I wanted to savor every drop of Kendrae’s message before crafting my response. With jewels few and far between these days, I was determined to make the most of this one. The water washed over my body and rinsed off the stench of the house. My issues would still be there tomorrow. The Ohio trip, the job search, the family dynamic, my fight for freedom. They would all be there tomorrow. But so would Kendrae.

*New Feature* Audio file of this post. 

No. 11 – Porcelain Thoughts

No. 11 – Porcelain Thoughts

I sat hunched on the lid of the toilet in the downstairs bathroom. It was somewhere around 4:00 AM. The door was locked and the lights were off. The only trace of light came from the glowing computer screen on my lap. I turned the brightness down as low as I could. So much so that I had to squint to make out the screen. My senses were heightened as I listened to every creak and moan of the old log house. Every decibel of noise would catch my breath in my chest. My brain hustled tirelessly to catch up with my senses, and to reassure me that creak was just a creak. And that moan was just a moan.

I was intent on typing a message to Kendrae. I wasn’t exactly sure what I was going to write, but I knew I couldn’t leave things as they were. I hadn’t been able to explain what had happened on our phone call. In part because I was wracked with heartbreak and because I still wasn’t clear on those details myself. My mind was still reeling from the series of unfortunate events just a few hours ago. The one thing I was sure of was that Kendrae must be just as confused and hurt as I was.

The cold porcelain of the base of the toilet chilled the skin on my calves. Goosebumps creeped up my skin, slowly, then all at once. The hair on the back of my neck stood at attention maintaining a sense of alertness that coursed through my entire body. I couldn’t get caught. My breath was slow and steady as I attempted to quiet the sound of my rapidly beating heart. The warmth of the laptop radiated through the tops of my thighs, drizzling beads of warmth past my kneecaps and down to my toes. The ebbs and flows of the coolness and warmth synced up with the cyclical thoughts in my head. What once seemed so clear to me would grow hazy within seconds. Only to return into focus moments after the haze.

How on earth could I find the words to explain to the man of my dreams that my family didn’t approve of him and our relationship? That I was given no option and was being forced to end things against my own will. How would I be able to accurately explain that none of what transpired the night before had changed any of my feelings towards him? That even after being dragged through what must have been hell on earth, I was surer of my decision of wanting to build a life with Kendrae.

I couldn’t think straight with my thoughts and emotions so scattered. I closed the lid of the laptop, gingerly set it on the sink and fixed my eyes on the space where I knew the wooden bathroom door set. The trace amounts of light were quickly sucked from the room. I allowed my eyes to adjust to the total darkness. So thick and overpowering that I could taste it. I was in the bottom of the pit. I looked up and saw nothing but darkness. To my left absolute darkness. To my right, more of the same.  I drew both of my legs up onto the toilet lid and pulled them tightly into my chest. As I hugged my own legs, I tried to deepen my breath in attempt at releasing the slightest bit of tension and uneasiness.

The longer I sat in the stillness of the dark, the more real it became. I’m not sure if I left my eyes open or closed, because the blackness was the same. Cloaked over my body like a damp and heavy blanket. Compressing on my skin and lungs making it hard to breathe. The sensation I felt wasn’t as if I was falling, but rather I remained grounded while the walls of the pit shot up higher and higher around me. I sensed I was trapped in the chasms of my own heart: dark, cold and empty.

The night before had been so loud; my ears were still ringing from it. There was so much noise in my head, but none of it came from my own voice. Where are you?I wondered, eager to learn what my own truth had to tell me. So I steeled myself and listened.

With no recollection of time in the pit of despair, I’m not sure how long I sat in wait. My heart rested while my mind roamed aimlessly, so exhausted from the tireless circles it had been running. Then, a soft mummer, like a whisper, spoke to my spirit. Wait.I focused my thoughts on the split second of clarity I had just encountered. What a notion. Just wait.

Just as quickly as my glimmer of hope had peeked through the veil of darkness, my mind quickly pounced atop the light. Could I just ask Kendrae to wait for me? For something that was not guaranteed?  Kendrae had shown me nothing but loyalty, support, transparency and love. Was that fair of me to ask of him?Fair or not, I had to ask. I had to fight for our love the only way I knew how in this moment. By buckling down and waiting out the storm. This would be the kind of waiting with no end in sight. The kind of waiting that would shake and rattle, while we would have to remain unmoved. This kind of waiting came with no security or precedence. It was the kind of waiting that would drive you mad, if you gave him the keys to the car.

I inhaled deeply, then grasped into the darkness for my laptop. The smoothness and warmth of it soothed my trembling fingers. Not quite sure how to begin, I lay my fingers on the keys and let the words flow out of me without thinking or restraint. I typed out a message explaining everything as best as I could. How my parents had seemingly exploded without any warning or provocation. How I was hurting and heartbroken.  How I wanted nothing more than to be in his reassuring arms. I made certain to express that none of my feelings for him had shifted. That I was not going anywhere. That we may have to operate under some new rules for the time being until I was able to get out. That I loved him and that I couldn’t be sorrier for how my parents had treated him. And then I asked him something absurd. I asked him to wait for me. To wait on our love.

I gave a once over to the Facebook message I had written in one foul swoop. The manifestation of my beating heart bled onto my computer screen. I took one final slow breath and hit send. I logged out of my Facebook account, cleared the computer’s browser history, and shut the computer off. I had to be sure that I left no trail, or all my efforts would be in vain. I was never one to disobey my parents. As an avid rule follower, I anticipated feelings of guilt for straying from the path that was so forcefully laid out for me. But there were none. In fact, after hitting send, I felt a slight ease of pressure on my chest for a moment. Yet still, the darkness lingered.

Our love had just begun to blossom. The roots still thirsty and seeking sustenance. Could our love grow through an extended period of waiting without nourishment and light?I thought questions the darkness seemed to have no answers to. So, I sat on the porcelain toilet and allowed fresh tears to warm my face.

No. 10 – Sticks and Stones

No. 10 – Sticks and Stones

Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.

I used to think this was a funny saying because it seemed so obviously overstated. Of course, sticks and stones being thrown at you could break your bones. And how could words hurt someone? They were just words…

I’ve come to radically change my opinion on this topic because of this very situation. I’ve experienced hurtful words before, but none that have pierced through my very skin and punctured my heart. Words that are branded into my brain that even to this day still ache. Words that are so saturated with emotion and so intent on drawing blood that I can still feel their impact. Words that can still bring me to tears. Words that to this day continue to make me sick to my stomach. Words that bring me back to the exact moment in time again and again and again. Words I will never be able to forget.

I remember everything about this day. I remember the warm Texas sun beaming through the open windows. I remember my forest green Crow’s Country Café t-shirt that I was wearing because I had just gotten off working the lunch shift. I remember that my sister had been exceptionally withdrawn that afternoon and seemed anything but interested in how amazing my weekend had been. I remember thinking how incredible my life was and how lucky I am. And then, I remember everything changing.

Kendrae and I were starting to get this long-distance thing down better. No, it wasn’t ideal, but it would do for the time being. We were going to be spending the entire weekend together. Kendrae didn’t have to work and we had actual couple-esqe plans. Friday evening, we decided upon the traditional date night and went to the movies. When I tell you I cannot remember what we saw, I truly can’t remember! I couldn’t concentrate on anything else but the skin of his hand intertwined with mine. Was my hand sweating? Oh God, please don’t let my hand start sweating!

All nervous hand sweat aside, I had never experienced the sheer romance that is holding hands. Perhaps because in a room full of people, your emotional bond with the person with whose hand you’re holding is expressed in the most organic of form. No words, no movement, just pure and utter stillness. That felt anything but still. Electric pulses were shooting up my veins and into my head. First the tingling started in my fingertips. Then it navigated ever so sweetly up my hand and through my arm. Before long, my entire body was intoxicated with the gentle warmth of Kendrae’s hand holding mine. The rest of the night was a blur, but that moment in the darkness of the movie theatre, surrounded by other people was one of the most intimate moments we shared.

The next day, Kendrae and I attended a wedding of one of his high school teammates. Besides the fact that the ceremony was outside in the dead of a Texas summer, I was excited to share a new experience together. Getting to meet some of Kendrae’s friends from high school would be a nice treat. Or maybe the heart of my excitement stemmed from getting to see my man all dressed up. But the other stuff was nice too.

The ceremony was heartfelt, the venue was breathtaking and the atmosphere was playful. The love in the place was palpable, and it was the first time I had been around sheer joy and felt that we existed on the same planet. I had met the kindred spirit I had waited in anticipation for my whole life – joy. A joy that was deeper than happiness that gave me a glimpse of what my future with Kendrae might look like. A wedding surrounded with friends and family that loved us. And a love for one another that was real enough as guest at the wedding.

I ended the weekend with Kendrae feeling better and happier than I could remember in a long time. Nothing remarkable had happened or changed, but his presence made me feel like I could just be Sarah. If I was feeling goofy, I could be goofy. When I was feeling unsure, he reassured me without even realizing that’s what I needed. I felt beautiful all the time around him, whether I was dressed in my wedding best or in a big t-shirt and no make-up with a messy bun on top of my head; it was all the same to him. I could see myself come alive in his eyes. Most of all, I felt safe. Safe to be myself, safe to be vulnerable, safe to fall deeper in love.

My fairytale weekend came to a close and my work week began. After my lunch shift at Crow’s, I came home to find my sister sitting in the family room watching television. We chatted sparsely. In fact, she didn’t say much at all. She didn’t make much eye contact with me either. This wasn’t necessarily unusual behavior for my sister, because she can be a reserved and shy creature. Exceptionally tender-hearted and only spoke when she deemed it absolutely necessary. However, most of this didn’t apply to me lately. Being home for the summer had really given us a chance to bond, and she had opened up to me more than ever. I found myself not thinking of her as my younger sister, but as my true friend. So, I found it odd that the conversation seemed so one sided and didn’t feign her interest in the slightest.

Then my parents both walked into the house at the same time. Not a few minutes apart, not one after the other, simultaneously. My mother sat down on the opposite end of the couch I was on, and my father sat in the big chair directly diagonal of me. Unusual behavior as my father usually went straight upstairs to his bedroom and my mother usually went straight for the kitchen. My sister immediately went upstairs without a word or prompting. I looked after her and wondered why she had left so quickly. As I turned my gaze back towards the direction of my parents…

“Sarah, we need to talk,” my mother declared. Perhaps the most loaded phrase in the English language.

I looked at both my mother and my father and blinked, waiting for what I was sure wouldn’t be a pleasant conversation. Here comes the job search talk…again, I thought.

“How serious is this, Sarah? Are you two talking about marriage?” my father barked.

“With Kendrae? Yes, we’ve talked about…”

“You told me you hadn’t! You lied to us. Why didn’t you tell us how serious this was?” my father continued, disapproval oozing out of his voice.

“You asked me when we had been together for like three weeks. Marriage hadn’t come up yet.” I stated defensively, confused why I was on trial for actually enjoying being with the person I was dating. I had no idea planning a future together would be an issue, I thought this would be good news.

My mother and father were both physically upset. Arms crossed. Stern mouths. Flushed faces.

I was getting increasingly more uncomfortable with each passing millisecond. I could feel that my face was flushed as well. I was completely ambushed by this double-team barrage of questions that seemed to have no correct answer.

Then as if I wasn’t caught off-guard enough, my father aimed his verbal AK-47 right at my heart and pulled the trigger.

“What makes you think he hasn’t cheated on you? You know he’s a player.”

Hit. The first draw of blood.

“Has he hit you yet?”

Hit. I was now stumbling backwards on the battlefield.

“He doesn’t want to marry you, he’s just telling you what you want to hear. You’re going to end up knocked up with a bunch of nappy-headed little kids running around, and then he’s going to leave you, just like they all do.”

Hit. I collapsed on the ground and gazed up at my father who now towered over me with the barrel of his gun pressed directly against my rapidly beating heart.

“He doesn’t love you, Sarah.”

Direct hit.

Each bullet had hit me harder than the last. What started as a beating heart full of love and promise was now a battered and empty shell. I could feel myself bleeding and had difficulty gasping for breath.

Completely speechless and stunned, my body was entirely frozen. Not even my thoughts could move.

I was absolutely frozen.

My state of shock quickly turned to intense pain. I was just regaining my eyesight as the smoke from the bullets settled. My eyes began to focus, just as I realized there was a grenade hurtling toward me.

“You either break up with him, or get out of the house.”

I had seen it coming and managed to duck for cover, but the aftershock still reverberated. The explosion left the air ringing.

My face was flushed and my body tense. I looked into my mother’s eyes and saw something I’ve never seen there before. I couldn’t place it, but something in me realized I didn’t want to stick around to find out what it was. Leave.My body was screaming at me. Get. Out. Now.

I stood up. “Fine. Then I’m leaving.”

I walked out of the living room and up the stairs to my room at the end of the hall. I opened my closet door. My whole body was shaking. I grabbed my belongings as quickly as I could, not bothering to even remove my clothing from their hangers. I took the first load downstairs and began a pile in the middle of the living room.

“You can’t take your car. If you leave with your car, we’ll call the police and report that its stolen.”

I turned my head and locked eyes with my mother. “Fine.”

“You can’t take you cell phone either. It’s on our plan.”

I ignored her response and made another trip upstairs to gather more of my belongings. I’ve never felt so many emotions at once. Confusion. Sadness. Anger. Uncertainty. Brokenness. Confusion.I felt as if I was watching this scene take place rather than acting as a participant in it. Maybe participant wasn’t the correct word, I didn’t choose this. I was dragged into it.

Three loads later, I was still confident in my choice to leave. My father called my best friend, Cassey, from my cell phone. “Come and pick up your friend. She can’t stay here,” he stated so matter-of-factly. The three of us sat in silence in the living room as we awaited Cassey’s arrival.

Cassey couldn’t have arrived quickly enough. My father explained to Cassey what a “slut” his daughter was and that she could not stay in the house so long as she continued to date Kendrae. Cassey, obviously caught off guard, tried to ease the situation. “Now sir,” she said in her most polite tone, “I think this seems worse than what it is, and is something we’re all going to be able to laugh about later.”

My parents were not convinced, and I certainly wasn’t laughing. I grabbed a handful of my clothes. “Alright, Cassey, let’s go. I’m not staying here,” I stated as dryly as I could, hoping my voice didn’t tremble as much as my insides were.

The next moments were a blur because what started out with my attempted leaving transformed into a crumpled shell of what once was Sarah on the couch sobbing uncontrollably.

I was not allowed to leave. I was given two options, and when I chose to leave, my choice was not accepted. Upon realizing that I called their bluff, my parents panicked and would not let Cassey and I leave the house. Two hours of mind-manipulation later, and I was worse off than ever.

Apparently, as I was hurriedly packing, my mother took it upon herself to send Kendrae a sharply barbed text message. “Don’t ever talk to my daughter, or anyone in our family ever again,” she sent him. She read me the text message and convinced me that even if I left, he wouldn’t want to be with me now. She had broken up with him for me. “What did you think you were going to do, Sarah? Go live with him happily ever after? He works at Kroger and you don’t even have a real job.”

The room started spinning again and I sunk deeper and deeper into myself. Mortified and heartbroken, both vast understatements.  I didn’t know what to do. But I begged for my phone back so that I could talk to Kendrae. He did nothing to deserve the rash and sudden break-up text that my mother sent him. I just needed to hear his voice.

As I dialed Kendrae’s phone number, I couldn’t suppress the tears. The pain in his “hello” ripped my heart to shreds. So deflated and lifeless, a side of Kendrae never revealed to me before. I was shaking so deeply from my sobs, that I could barely hold the phone up to my face. “I love you somuch Kendrae, and I’m sosorry.” I must have said those words fifty times. Our conversation consisted of little else, because I could not tame my sobbing. I couldn’t breathe it was so intense. “I love you too, Sarah,” Kendrae told me. Then he hung up the phone.

I collapsed completely and wept. Heartbreak wholly overtook my body to its core. As I laid there in anguish, Cassey stroked my hair. After what seemed like an eternity, I must have cried all the liquids out of my body, because my tears stopped flowing. Cassey left. My parents went upstairs to bed. And I couldn’t move.

The ferocity of the pain had numbed my entire body. Worn out from the most intense fight for my life, I drifted into what felt like unconsciousness. I don’t know if it was sleep, because when I awoke at four something in the morning, I felt anything but rested.

Then, as all survivors do, I had an idea.