I walked Tyrie to the door, and turned to give him a kiss.
“I don’t want to leave,” he whispered into my face. I smiled bravely, gave him one last hug, and closed the door behind him. As soon as I walked back to my room, a hoarse shriek escaped my lips. Water rushed to my eyes, pushing violently against my tear ducts. I buried my head in my pillow and sobbed, “I’m sorry, Tyrie. I am so sorry.”
I was sorry because I did not love him. I was sorry because he was my boyfriend.
I have always felt an obligation, a strange compulsion, to make myself love "good guys”. Probably because I was raised by a mother who did the same thing.
Thirty years ago in Detroit, my father was a recent Haitian immigrant who had come to America on the goodwill of missionaries. Meanwhile my mother, raised in a fatherless inner city home, had become a top accountant at Arthur Andersen. She had also recently become a Christian, and lived a loud, zealous life to drown out the demons of her painful childhood.
They were an odd couple, and by his own admission, my father got the better end of the deal. Try as she might, my mother could not turn the general benevolence she showed toward my dad–invitations to Thanksgiving, help with schoolwork, home-cooked meals–into love and affection.
By the time my Dad proposed to her, she still couldn’t. As she stood at the back of the church, flowers in hand and tears streaked on face, she still couldn’t. I often asked my mother why she married someone that she did not love romantically. “I fasted for three days, and God told me to,” was her answer.
It was easy to detect the sense of duty with which my mother carried out her marriage. She was supermom, a faithful wife. But, deep down, me and my siblings knew she was not happy.
As a little girl I was confused. I thought God was good. I thought He was kind. Why would He force my mother to marry someone she did not love? But then, if He hadn’t forced her, I would not exist.
The thoughts were too difficult and confusing, so I kept them tucked away. But in the recesses of my mind, they began to boil, and inform my own views on relationships and marriage. And, at age 22, here they were again. Reincarnated and alive.
Tyrie had heard about me through a friend. He sent a friend request over Facebook. I accepted it. We made a few tentative exchanges. But I could tell, right off the bat, he was not for me. He had a head full of dreadlocks, was a youth mentor, and maintained a pretty comfortable roost at his mother’s house in Chicago.
I, on the other hand, was a young journalist with stars in her eyes. I wanted so much from life and felt I hadn’t been exposed to everything available to me. I dreamt of becoming the first CNN reporter to rock an afro-puff, of opening my own dance studio, of marrying a movie star.
In between completing news assignments at work, I mused over Tyrie’s Facebook profile. I should like this guy, I thought to myself. He’s a smart, nice, Christian guy. Wasn’t that all that was necessary? That is what was given to my mother. Dare I expect or ask for anything more?
I decided that Tyrie deserved to be loved and I would be selfish for not doing it. I introduced him to friends and family. We went out for dinner a few times.
After five months of Tyrie patiently waiting, I agreed to date him. And I wondered if the sinking feeling I felt afterwards was normal. When I was busy, at work, at my dance classes, or even talking to Tyrie, everything was fine.
But when all was still, when I brushed my teeth in the morning, or lay in my bed at night, the sinking feeling wrapped itself around my intestines, refusing to release its grip until I acknowledged it. And now this shriek, this foreign sound coming from my own body, was a sign that something was terribly wrong.
I was lying, and I knew it. But there were people, my mother chief among them, gazing at us with approving eyes. We were a cute, intelligent, college educated, black Christian couple. He treated me like a princess, and I was always by his side.
But I knew that it was not enough.
I don’t understand the will of God. I don’t understand why my mother felt God tell her to marry someone that she did not love. Was it really God’s voice that she heard, or was it excessive Christian zeal?
Do I serve a God who allows people to form loveless bonds? I do not know. But what I did know is that I had to dissipate the cloud hovering over my life.
I told Tyrie that I had to stop. I told him that I was lying to him, and to myself. I apologized. And it’s been painful ever since. I understand that I am putting Tyrie through a lot, and my heart bleeds for him. But beneath the pain is a flood of relief. And a tiny sense of the joy that should accompany long term relationships.