Popcorn & Prosecco
B. Kamilah Ricketts | @brickpages
I met my future self.
I keep saying it and people don't believe me. They think I've
entered the realm of positive thinking, energies brought on by crystals
and witches. They don't understand. But I did, I made a deal with my
future self. It happened in a dream. When she came to me I was in a
dark place. My mind was filled with negative things, about me, mostly.
I've heard I could be a bit hard on myself, and I had been working on it.
But I had just gone through the toughest thing I could possibly go
through, Romantically, anyway.
I had been dating this boy—Cornelius—he was everything I
thought I needed. When I was 13 we had fallen in love but couldn't
really be together so we remained friends. We went to the same
church; We joined the same ministries, we went to the same church
and ran in the same circles. All of my friends were his and all of his
friends were mine. The bond between us was something I hadn't found
before, I could be my complete self with him. We'd meet at Central
Park before Friday night services, hang out after services at the
McDonalds. No matter who we were dating we wanted to be around
each other. None of our partners liked it and sometimes that meant we
couldn't talk. But it didn't matter, because I knew—he knew—that if we
ever needed each other we would be there in a heartbeat.
This was our lives all the way until he turned 18 on August 15, when he left NY to join the army. He sprung this on me one of our walks to Central Park and started by just telling me that he had gone to the doctor that day. The doctor told him he would be good for the army because he had quick reflexes and that's all it took for him. He had already signed up. I looked at him ready to yell, but I knew he was trying to find purpose in his life; he wanted to control the next stages of his life, so I held my tongue and he left. I dated other guys. He got married. I accidentally got into a very serious relationship which lasted just as long as his marriage. Then he was back in New York and back in my life. When I saw him again he was different but exactly the same. I looked him in his eyes and said, "I know you." He protested, "No Charlie, I've been through a lot of stuff. I've done a lot of things." I caught his eyes again, "I mean, I don't know everything but you haven't changed. I know your core. I know you." That's all it took for us to pick up again; we both stopped going to that church. Our outings became drives to play spades in his aunt's house, Applebee's, and pizza in my living room. I knew he was trying to
be my man, but I couldn't give in because I too had been through things. My last relationship was abusive in every sense of the word and it was taking me so long to recover from that. But six months later and fifteen years after our first connection, Cornelius talked me into being with him again. He was strong enough to heal me of all the stuff I had been through. He was six feet tall; his skin was covered in tattoos that you couldn't make out unless you were all over him. Which is the excuse I used to consistently be there and I never wanted to move. We would spend our days exploring Brooklyn because that is where he was raised and he wanted me to know every part of him, even his history. He took me down Cortelyou because he spent a lot of time there on his way home from Erasmus High School. He took me to his favourite pizza shop where we laughed at someone asking for gluten-free pizza. We were together for 1 year. 12 months. 366 days, because it was a leap year.
For seven of those months he battled liver cancer, and I was there. The night he told me, it was like everything paused and I could only hear my heartbeat. I kept thinking this is not about me. Pushing myself not to cry because I would not make this about me. I felt like I was an anchor underwater and I heard my voice above it, asking what stage he was in and how he felt about getting treatment. He said he didn't want to; he said he always thought that if he didn't die in the army, God would take him naturally and he didn't want to fight it. My body went limp but I didn't fall; I took a big gulp of air and was determined to convince him otherwise but that night wasn't the night. I was determined not to make this about me. But in the night, when he was asleep, I cried from somewhere deep. I cried so hard I scared myself. I cried for him because he didn't deserve this. I cried for me because my superhero was there and why would God take him from me on the brink of all my dreams? I was there when he told his family. I told him I was there for him and tried to be there as much as I could. Ultimately, it was his family who convinced him to fight with chemo, and I cooked healthy meals.
I tried my best to be the fun, loving person he fell in love with 15 years prior and I didn't bring it up unless he wanted to. But I did not deal with my feelings. He made it into remission, and when he was well he visited my parents without me. I babysat his nephews. I sat for hours on the phone with his mother. His mother and I had the same birthday, so we planned a spa day together. His sister and I roasted him about his taste in clothes and music; he'd get mad but it was out of frustration that we knew him. We knew him better than he wanted us to. He knew me.
He knew exactly which coconut oil I used on my skin, unrefined and organic; he knew when I was really mad and when I just needed a chocolate bar, some wine, and a hug. He claimed the left side of my bed and would actually get upset if I was on that side of the bed when he got home. He would watch me get dressed for work in the morning and at the last minute ask if I had to be as early as I was, and if I didn't he would drag me back into the bed ruining whatever makeup I had already applied. We binge-watched Underground together, re-watched the entire Roots series, and swore that we would do the same naming ritual with our kids. He realized how Caribbean I was when I could make stew chicken but had to look up how to make fried chicken. He swore he would never need a recipe for pancakes or chicken parmesan because those were his specialties. So I let him cook one day and I sat in the living room for about 2 minutes before I heard a remorseful "Babe?" from the kitchen. He had a recipe up but he just wanted me to be there. He watched me switch my hairstyles 12 times. I bought him products for his beard 3 times so he didn't have to walk around smelling like hibiscus flowers and coconut because he kept stealing my hair products. Part of me knew he liked stealing my hair products. He liked stealing from me. This time the kiss goodbye was intense; it made my knees weak and caused all the tension in my shoulders to disappear. Then he hugged me really tight. For at least two minutes- 120 seconds. During those 2 minutes, thoughts torpedoed through my head Damn, I must smell good. He 'iight? Is the cancer back? Is he crying? Just rub his back, he gotta be going through something he doesn't want to tell you about. Yet. Is he breathing? But none of those thoughts prepared me for what was to come. "Babe, you okay?" I asked a little concerned "Yeah yeah," he said brushing my inquiry off. He looked in my eyes as if he was trying to make me understand something. "I love you, Charlie" In my gut, I felt that something was wrong, but I ignored it and said "Okay- I love you too. You okay?" He nodded and opened the door to leave. "Okay. Text me when you get home." He didn't answer me. "Cornelius! I said text me so I know you got home safe!" He said "I gotchu ma!" and flashed his big ass smile at me. That's the last thing I heard from him.
No, he didn't die- he just cut himself off from me with no explanation. And I called everyone I knew. I called his parents, his sister and they covered for him. Mostly because he did this to them often, disappearing but always coming back. He hadn't done this to me before so I was perplexed; for two weeks I did this, I waited for his return with a good explanation, and for whatever reason, it hadn't occurred to me to look at his Instagram. When I did, he had another girl posted there. He wasn't in the photo with her, but there were pictures of her posing with her hair done as if for a special occasion and a birthday outfit. Pictures from a celebration, a happy and memorable time together, just like he had done for me so many times before. He posted the photos with it a long caption describing why this post was so special and how it had been so long since they met at his job. The new job he got when he was in remission; while we were still together. And I broke. I went through my apartment and smashed his shit. I packed up everything I couldn't smash. I put them in my car because these were things that meant something to him and for some reason, I couldn't bring myself to throw them away but they couldn't be in my house anymore. I cried. I sang really loudly. I went running. I did everything I could. He ghosted me. Me? Why would he ghost me? How could he leave me for this girl? I'd known him since he was 14 and he ghosts me. I was with him through cancer and he ghosts me. I babysat his nephews and he ghosts me. I let him go see my parents and he ghosts me. I gave him parts of myself I didn't know I had and he ghosts me?
Was I that disposable?
Had I seen this coming?
Had I seen the nail in the coffin?
Nine months passed and I still wanted to fight him. Nine months had passed and I wanted to fight him from the grave. I still couldn't make sense of it all, I also couldn't shake the sensation that I did something wrong. That this was on me. That I chased him away. That I would chase everyone away. one could chalk this up to having abandonment issues that were present way before Cornelius ever did anything to me, and they'd be right. My brain worked hard to understand what had happened to me. The idea that something like this could happen to me. I felt like I was walking around with a sign hanging over my head that said I had been ghosted. Getting up for work was the only reason I ever got out of bed because no one else would pay my bills. My 24th year went by in a blur of me trying to get over the betrayal and abandonment. The thing I struggled
with the most was how I could let this happen to me. How could I, a grown woman, allow a boy that did not even know what he wanted out of life to use me and spit me out? Hadn't I grown up? Wasn't I smarter than that? How did I let him infiltrate my home and my mind so much that I couldn't sleep in my bed in my apartment that I paid for? I hated myself for being depressed that this happened to me. I hated myself for needing closure. I hated myself for wanting love. I wanted to escape my thoughts so I went to bed earlier and earlier. I went to bed praying that I wouldn't wake up.
I had a dream that scared me. My hair was on top of my head in a haphazard bun; I had sweatpants on, sneakers, and sports bra. Vaseline smothered all over my skin, ready to fight, ready to slip out of the grasp of my opponent, ready to do some serious damage without scraping myself. I was in front of his apartment and when I looked down at my hand, there was a baseball bat. I called him and sweetly said, "Babe, I need to talk to you, I'm outside." He came out unsuspecting and the moment I saw his face my chest started to burn. I started to swing the bat he, and caught it, yanked it from my hand, asking me what the fuck I was doing. I asked him who the fuck was the girl on his Instagram feed. My hands started to fly. I hit him in his chest, in his stomach, and barely reached his face but I was trying. My legs could almost kick him, but they didn't. For a while none of my blows were connecting; he was untouched, and he just looked at me. Pitying me. This made me angrier and I tried harder to fight. I cried and kept throwing my hands hitting his chest. My blows were beginning to land and I balled my fist and punched, jabbing his stomach trying to remember where the liver was, hitting as hard as I could, and he just took it. Eventually, I gave up and picked up the bat again screaming where is your car? Where the fuck is that car? He told me and I took the bat to every part of the car. But the rage was still there. I fell and cried because it seemed no matter what I did the fire didn't leave. I woke up sweating, with the tears I dreamt about on my cheeks, surprised that this dream was not real. My body carried me to the kitchen to get some water to relax.
That is when I met me. I walked into my room and she was sitting in there on my bed like she was my best friend. She smiled and rubbed the part of the bed next to her as if to tell me to sit with her. She had on a grey oversized sweatshirt that had Queens College in very large red lettering. I had one just like it, but this one seemed older. Her skin was flawless and her hair was as large as a beach ball with her curls healthy and bouncy.
Her eyelashes thicker than mine but under that curtain, her brown eyes had a sort of wisdom that I did not have. She had a full bowl of buttery popcorn sprinkled with lemon and pepper seasoning on the bed with a bottle of Prosecco. So, of course, I felt comfortable to let me talk to me. I remember feeling a wave of relief in my sleep state- like I had been waiting for her my whole life. I didn't know if future me had everything she wanted; she didn't tell me anything really concrete. But she seemed like she had a lot to tell me. What is most weird to me about this whole experience is that I remember everything she, I, said. "Hey," she said while she poured the Prosecco into two glasses. "Eat the popcorn." "I've been craving popcorn. How'd you know?" I said grabbing as much popcorn as my small hand can hold. She just smiled at me. "So... I've noticed you've been at a crossroads lately. You stood there for quite some time." I looked at her with a question in my eyes. She clarified "You're trying to decide if you should go bad. Like you want to stop being a good person. You feel as if you did a lot of good things like you put a lot of good into the world. And you're not getting any of it back." My heart started to pound. My eyes started to fill with tears. I took a big gulp of the wine and my voice hit that high pitch squeal I try to avoid. "If you're just going to tell me that he did that for a reason then I'm just going to stop you right now. I didn't deserve any of that shit. I guarantee that nothing could come in this life that will remind me of hands around my neck and then I'll be like 'oh! That's why I went through that!' Or, or, or 'wow! Thank God Cornelius ghosted me. How would I be able to be thankful for this without that?' No, that's not a thing." She sighed like she didn't realize it would be so hard to get through to me. "You're not wrong to feel the way that you do! But you can't let it change you. Not negatively." I leaned back on the headboard and chomped aggressively on the lemony over buttered popcorn. "You can't allow it to change you because good things are coming. If you do, if you do go down the path of resentment it just gets worse. Trust me. The scars will be there. They tell a story, but they don't have to direct the rest of your life" I rolled my eyes and pulled the covers over my body. "It would be easier to believe you if I could get at least one win. Just one." "So, because it hasn't happened yet means it's not coming?" I shook my head in disbelief. "I'm just saying. You were doing the right thing. You were thinking positively. Speaking words of life into the air. You started to take care of yourself a little more. Don't stop those things because you don't see any physical evidence of change. Because of some boy. You have more goals than love and marriage.
"I know that!" I snapped "But this is the only goal that I see no
"That's what you think. But he just wasn't the one for you.
Remember what we were taught. If you do good, good comes back.
Karma is real; trust me."
I felt around the bowl for more popcorn and realized I had finished it
all. She snickered and rolled her eyes- exhausted
"This was supposed to be a word of encouragement. I don't know
why I've seemed to stress you out."
"I just- I'm not sure I can do it."
"You cannot allow this boy to ruin who you are!" she was starting
to get loud with me "You will laugh again- not that fake laugh from your
chest that you've decided is better or safer- the real one that shakes
your whole body and makes you slap anything or anyone around you.
“Do you even remember that feeling? Don't be a coward and give in to
the part of you that wants to disconnect from people and your body.
You matter. You're worthy."
I stared at her questioning what we had been through. She
pleaded with me staring me down until I felt like putty and I gave in.
I sighed, "Okay."
That was it, she left and I looked around to see if this was a
dream or reality. But my soul knew it didn't matter. I got my orders, I
knew what I had to do. I went through my house and wrote 'I am worthy' on all the mirrors. Even though I'll never really ever get closure when I think about Cornelius it doesn't feel like a gaping wound anymore. He changed me; I have a scar that will probably always be there. But it had to be done- I am exactly where I am supposed to be.
Edited by Clanny Mugabe