As Told To Veronica R. Wells
I Don’t Listen To “Forever My Lady” Because Of Him: A Story of Abuse And Survival
I was twenty-one… and a half. We were downtown about 56th-57th street, over there near Columbus Circle. He was walking by me and I was walking by him and that’s how we connected. He approached me--well, it was kind of a mutual approach because I’m a little stubborn. You know, ‘Don’t tell me to come to you.’ It was a meet me halfway type of thing. So you know, we started talking. He told me about his family but he never told me the ugly side of what goes on in the family. It was the family who was like, ‘You sure you want to be with him?’
The first time he hit me, I was like ‘That’s it. We not going to be together no more!’ I remember it because I had ended up moving in with him in the projects over on Tenson Ave. And I said,
‘This is not the life for me. I am not a project girl. I’m not living in the projects.’
I was starting to move out and that was the first time he grabbed me up and he told me I wasn’t leaving him. I said, ‘I’m not leaving you, I’m moving away.’
We went outside, we’re walking in the street with some of his friends and my friends. And I was like, ‘We’re not going to talk about this now. We’re going to have a good time.’ And I made the mistake of walking over to his friend because he was like going in on me. And I was like ‘Oh, you not going to embarrass me in the street.’ So I walked over to his friend and I looped my arm into his friend’s arm. And his friend looked at me and was like, ‘Yo, don’t do that C.” And that boy—now my son’s father is 6’4, 245 pounds. And that man slapped me so hard that one of my contacts came out of my eye.
When I say that I was shocked... and then the type of anger that took over me was amazing. And I wanted to kill him. So I went to go get him and his friend grabbed me and said ‘Charrisse, don’t do it, don’t do it!’ And he was apologetic, ‘I’m sorry, I’m sorry. I don’t know what got into me.’ So his friend was like, ‘Just go Charrisse, go home.” I had another one of my little friends with me and she was like, ‘Let’s go. You don’t need to be out here.’ And I told him I ain’t never want to see him again. And I just happened to have a couple of his game cartridges and I flung those things in the street, right?
I went to the house that I was going to live at, which was one of my girlfriend’s who was with me. And I didn’t see him for a couple of weeks. Then he ended up, I’ll never forget because Jodeci was out then and they came out with “Lately”…no what’s the lady… “Sweet Lady”? No, that’s Tyrese. Whatever the one is about the lady. Something lady. I don’t listen to Jodeci. I like Jodeci but that particular song I won’t listen to because he said that was his song dedicated to me and how he wanted to come back and he was sorry and he would never. raise. his. hand. to. me. ah-gain…yeah. Said ‘I would never raise my hand to you again.’
So, six years later, I musta gotten beat no less than like twice a month.
I got pregnant with his son and I remember one day on the 6 train…Now, I’m pregnant, right? He’s sitting down and this chick decides that she’s going to stand in between his legs. Now he was already uncomfortable and he was trying to push her off. But you know, I’m emotional. I didn’t say anything on the train but I wanted to follow him off the train just, ‘How could you let her...?’ And he took me by my neck and pushed me back into the train. And I was like, ‘Okay…okay, wait a minute.’ Now this wasn’t the second time. This might have been the fifth, sixth, seventh time he put his hands on me. And I was just like ‘Wow. Why am I staying around?’
One of the worst times, I had moved over here. I had my good friend Rich. Very good friend. And Rich calls me one night. I had gone out with my girlfriends out in Brooklyn. I told him [her boyfriend] where I was going. I let him know I was going to go see some exotic dancing so it wouldn’t be no big thing, right? Rich just happened to call the house. I wasn’t home. And Rich ended the message with, ‘I’ll call you later babe.’ That’s it. Now, that’s cool because I’ve known Rich since college. I come home, he’s in the bathroom. And I was like, ‘Honey, you home?’ And I was like, ‘Yo, I’m tired.’ When I say that man snuffed me with a balled fist. A balled fist. I felt like his fist was The Incredible Hulk. That’s how bad…When I say…I came to and he was standing over me and I kept saying, ‘Why can’t I see?’ I couldn’t see out of one of my eyes. So I just happened to turn my head and I saw blood on the walls and I said, ‘Oh my God I done killed this man, Jesus.’ And I went to touch my eye. And I was like, ‘That’s my blood.’
That’s when I knew that it was time for me to go. But it wasn’t time for me to go, it was time for him to go. This my apartment. I mean, even with all the love I had for him, the lessons that I learned from that type of love---
It’s a sick love.
I’ve learned that there’s many facets to love. I know that God’s love is the ultimate love and that’s the standard we need to measure our relationships by.
Be unashamed to go seek professional help.
And it took me a minute and I thank God for my J Crew—when I used to work for the J Crew headquarters. They made me go and seek help. I don’t know if it’s a Black stigma. ‘Oh, we don’t need no help. Tough it out. It’ll just die away.’ But I was thankful that I did go because what I learned out of that entire relationship—and I saw the doctor for about six months—I learned that I’m a perfectionist, which is one of the reasons I didn’t let go of the relationship. Because, it wasn’t just about ‘Oh I can change him.’ It was about I wanted to make him perfect. I understood that he came from that type of relationship. He saw his father beat his mother for sixteen years. One of the worst times, it was a marble table. Gave her a concussion and everything. So that’s how he equated love. I had to learn that people love differently and they see love differently and they will treat you the way they learned how to love.
Also learned that you can tell someone in an abusive relationship as many times as you want, ‘You need to get out of it. You need to get out of it.’ I can’t speak for a man but for a woman, if her heart is in it, it’s only going to be her and God that’s going to get her out of it. What you do is though, you keep planting the seed in hopes that she will hear you and come out of it. That’s what you do. And you constantly talk to her and just say, ‘Listen, I can’t tell you what to do, this is your life.’ But you can give her the facts, you can give her the lessons.
Back then, when I heard my mother say to him, ‘If you put your hands on my child again, I will kill you.’ and walk away. She didn’t crack a smile. She never liked him. To hear my mother say that, that messed me up…a lot because I was like, ‘I never want my mother to be so disappointed.’ Cuz that’s how I felt. I felt like I’ve now disappointed my mom and that’s a problem. And so little things like that’ll shake you, when you’re a disappointment to your family. And my mother told I was never a disappointment. She said she was very surprised over the fact that I allowed it to go for so long. And it taught me what she meant by she was raising strong daughters. Not bully daughters but strong daughters. And from that lesson I had to learn how to be strong and not a bully because I was so angry. He’s a big reason, when people say, ‘Oh you was mean back in high school.’ I didn’t know him in high school. I wasn’t mean. I thought being strong meant to have an angry face and to be ugly all the time. But that’s not what it was.
God’s word is true.
If it wasn’t for God—Ima be really honest because I’ve been in a lot of abusive relationships and the one thing my son’s father did…I didn’t know God. But I knew everybody kept saying, ‘The word of God is true.’ So I got me a Bible and I began to read the word for myself. And I remember them saying ‘Find yourself. Find yourself in the word.’ And I, still trying to figure it out, whatever, trying to understand what they meant. And I was reading the Bible in bed one night—I was with my son’s father still—and he turns over and he goes, ‘What are you doing? Why is the light on?’ I said, ‘I’m reading.’ At this point, I had been at my, you know when you had enough. When enough is enough is enough, that type of thing? Yeah, I had been at my enough. So I didn’t care what he was saying to me at that point. For me, it was like, ‘You can go to hell I don’t care.’ That’s where I was with him. I was reading Genesis because I didn’t know where to start so I figured I’d start from the beginning. And he was like ‘What are you doing? Why all of a sudden you reading the word? When you start reading the Bible?’
I didn’t answer him. And he was like, ‘You don’t hear me? Oh, you ain’t gon talk to me?’ He went to slap the book out my hand. Don’t you know that book stayed? It was almost like God Himself was like, ‘Ima fight your battles. Don’t you even worry about this one. I got you on this one.’ And he was like, ‘Oh, you ain’t gon put the book down.’ And I’m looking at him like, ‘I guess not.’ And that’s when I knew—I started to say, ‘Who is this God that everybody’s talking about? Because He just did something for me that I clearly couldn’t do for myself. And the funny thing is after that, I realized, ‘There’s a certain type of man I want in my life. I don’t want this type.’ God is showing me different, Ima do different.
The odd thing about his love—he really did love me. It’s the weirdest thing. And people be like, ‘What?’ And I go, ‘Yeah.’ He did love me, he just didn’t know how to love me.
Christmas 1997 was the best Christmas present I ever gave to myself. That’s when I put his behind out of my house. Christmas Day, I traditionally get up and I make breakfast. And we had our son. Once I got my apartment here, my mom let my son live with me. And I say let only because l wasn’t in a good place to keep my son with me. I was dumb enough to stay in a relationship but I was smart enough not to bring my son into that. I got up, I made breakfast for all of us, traditionally grits, eggs, some sort of meat. And I made tea or coffee. He was a coffee drinker. I was in front with my son, opening his gifts. His father bought him one Christmas gift. One. And that’s when them stupid, little trucks was out with the remote control. My son was very appreciative. You know he a little boy, he don’t care. He happy. And I got yelled at because I didn’t wake him up. I said, ‘I did try to wake you up.’ So I made breakfast, I went in my son’s room and I was sitting there talking to my son. I said, ‘You enjoyed your gift?’ And he was like, ‘Yeah.’ We were eating together.
He comes in the room and he goes, ‘Why’s the food so bland?!’ So I went ‘Psssh.’ He goes, ’Oh, really? You gon disrespect me? You not gon answer me when I talk to you.’ I was like ‘Pssh.’ He went to move to hit me and my son came in between us. And my son said, ‘Don’t you put your hands on my mommy!’ Every time I tell this story, I get a little weepy because my son had to see that. And so I said, ‘That’s it. You don’t like it there’s salt and pepper in the thing.’ He goes ‘I don’t want it.’ And threw his dish across the room. And my son went to his leg and grabbed him like he wanted to break his leg. And he was like ‘Son, what are you doing? What are you doing?’ And he went to take my son off him. And he didn’t do it in a violent way but what I saw was him throwing my son across the room.
And I stood up and I said to him, ‘It would be in your best interest that you leave my house right now.’ And I guess it was the way in which I said it. Because today I’m going to die because if you touch my son you’re going to have to kill me to get me off you. So he got dressed, he got ready, he went to work. I called my mom, I told her to come get my son me and the girls are going out. My girls came. And I had been planning. I was strategizing, I just didn’t know which way the plan was going to go.
We were getting dressed. Matter fact, one of my girls, who’s my best friend today, she came with a new lock. She said, ‘Does he still have the key?’ I said, ‘Umm hmm.’ She said, ‘Ok, no problem.’ She came, changed the lock, we started getting ready, right? I said, ‘Girl, you know he going to come in here he gon fuss.’ She said, ‘Let him fuss.’ I hear the door, right? They’re in the bedroom getting dressed. He starts ringing the bell, ringing the bell, ringing the bell. So I let him stand out there for like ten minutes.
His routine has always been he comes in the house, he puts the key down at this little desk that I have at my front door. And so he came in, he said, ‘What the hell is wrong with the top lock?’ I said, ‘Unono.’ And you know, I’m very calm and he’s looking at me like… I’m dressed, I’m cute. I’m very cute. And he’s looking at me and he said, ‘Where you going?’
I heard the key hit the thing. So I made my way to the front. And I said, ‘I’m going out.’ And he was like, ‘No you’re not.’ I said, ‘Let’s get this very clear. I am a year older than you. I’m going out and I don’t need your permission.’ And he was like, ‘Are you talking to me?’ And he came to charge and all you heard was the doors of the bedroom open. Bow! Bow! And he looked and my girls was standing there like, ‘Please hit her. Oh, please hit her.’ One had a bat. The other one had a knife in her hand, like ‘Please hit her. Please hit her. Please hit her. Because we in her house and it’s self defense.’
And he looked and he was like, ‘Oh you got your b*tch#s on me?’ I said, ‘I ain’t know they had that.’ I knew they did cuz they was in my house. And so I said, ‘I would suggest that you leave and leave quickly.’
‘Well, I need to get my stuff.’
I said ‘That went out with the trash when I took the garbage out today. There’s nothing here for you.’ I said, ‘You know what I realize about you, you like to hit women and you got a lot of bark but do something now. Do something now!’ I told my friends, ‘Don’t do nothing because I don’t need y’all to be in this.’
And he’s like, ‘You got to walk outside this house.’
I said, ‘You threatening me? You really want to do that cuz you don’t know who I know.’ Because at this point now you’re making me bring out the big guns because all I have to do is make one phone call to my pseudo brother. And my hands will always stay clean. He never met my brother because that wasn’t for him to do. And I was like, ‘You’re going to have to leave.’ So I thought that would be the end of it but he was like, ‘Where are my keys?’ I said, ‘You don’t live here no more. Buh-bye.’ I said, ‘You got two seconds otherwise I’m going to call 9-1-1. Which one you want it to be?’
‘That’s alright, that’s alright! I got places to go. I was f-ing with another b—ch anyway. ‘
I said, ‘Good for her! Matter fact, give her my number cuz she’s going to want to call.’
So he leaves.
That man pursued me for about four years. I got a phone call for my birthday or around my birthday for four years. He always calls me on his son’s birthday and he want to be like ‘how you doing?’ So this lesson always taught me: mental illness. Because I was like, ‘Yo you crazy! Something is wrong with you.’ It wasn’t just about what you saw, you have now lost your mind. It eventually stopped because what I realized was that I gave him attention and when that attention stopped, he didn’t know what to do.
I wish him well. I wish my daughter’s father well. But I realized that type of physical relationship, I don’t ever want.
Neither one of my kids’ fathers have ever given me child support. I have been doing this by myself for twenty-five years. And let me tell you something, I learned that I’m stronger than I thought I was.
But the most powerful thing is this, if you don’t allow the relationship to break you, you’re going to find out how easy it is to come back and love again. You’re going to find your strength but you got to find it in Jesus Christ. It is not any man or woman. If you rely on it, you are definitely going to kill yourself fast. You’re going to lose confidence in who you are. When the Lord told me—I got saved in 99—when the Lord told me I was the apple of his eye, there was no relationship—From all the relationships I learned I have a big heart that God can mend and allow me to love again.
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