“When a woman meets a man, his eyes do not reflect an immediate heartbreak or pain. At most, she senses trouble, warning, often mistook for an invitation.
I looked at him because I liked him and he was one of the first who ever returned the favor. I didn't have time for love, though. Whether it was loving somebody or somebody loving me—even loving myself. From the moment they met me, people assumed they shouldn't dare forget me: I had been working everyday since I was 17 years old; I was the girl who may not have had a boyfriend for every season, but I sure had a job; I was the one who always sternly said I was going to be somebody, and, unlike every other dreamer hailing from the Bronx, I had the credentials to back it up; I was the girl people could point at to define work, devotion—to symbolize hustle and showcase success.
But I am not perfect.
I looked at him.
I liked him.
It's funny because—you know how mothers warn you not to let a man interfere in your life beyond ways you want him to? How you always respond, 'Yes, Mama. I know, Mama. That's not going to happen to me, Mama." And, then, you end up sitting up in bed after hours of crying, weeks of contemplating, realizing too late you didn't stick to your mama’s words? At least once in our lives, we women ache with guilt knowing our mothers warned us right. Truth is, I've slept better without love in my life. But I allowed that high, sensation, obsession, the fact, I finally found someone worth wanting beauty and bliss with.
I allowed him to lead me down the ugliest road I never thought I would encounter.
I found out I was pregnant last summer, the most inconvenient time possible—the summer before my senior year of college, my full-time paid internship at a major cable network; a child conceived with the most inconvenient person possible. Him. The man who captured my heart, innocence, and faith in love. Being the girl everyone saw me as—destined for success—I knew I could not keep the child, but to this day I wonder if I made the decision because it was what I wanted or because it was what was expected. Maybe it was a little bit of both. I settled on adoption, but the longer I rested on the decision, the closer I became to the being growing inside me, the more the threads holding my life together frayed apart.
I could envision the child, its looks, its sounds, its being: a rambunctious little boy or a feisty little girl. I know I couldn't have mothered the child, but like anything else I did I would have done my best. In my head I planned visits in his or hers adoptive home, watching them grow from afar. But regardless of economic status or motherly ability, I could not bring that child into this world; I couldn't bring that child into my world.
Throughout my pregnancy, countless times, the man I loved was off loving someone else—over and over again: he told me how much he loved me, how he would always be there, and when I’d reach out for him with my guard down… no response. He was no man, no matter how much older he was than me. How could I bring a child into my world where the only love I knew was emotionally abusive and corrupt? How could I explain love to the child when I knew for a fact they weren't conceived with half of love and the other l could not grasp for myself?
But I loved him. I still do. Most of all, I loved that being inside of me. So much that I knew it could not have been part of my life. I knew I didn't need him when I was sitting on my living room floor, alone, calling to rings and no answer, as I said goodbye to the one person who I knew would have truly loved me unconditionally.
The pain of that goodbye didn't leave overnight, either. It still hasn't.
After one hospitalization and two suicide attempts later, it still hurts. It wasn't until I was boxed inside a hospital room, confined by stale, white walls and given no right other than to read or watch TV that I realized I didn't have to let the pain of that goodbye define me or pave a depressed life for me. I still struggle. Every day I wake up and I fight. I fight for my life back and the ability to be myself again. I fight so that one day I can believe in love again. And it’s only now, after a year, that I’ve begun to let go of my restraints, the things that have kept me back. We do not learn through bliss, but in the after-effects of pain. The suppressed reminders of past hurt, but they are what lead us to be wiser, better.
And after all this, that is just what I've been: better.
—Interpreted by BIANCA BETANCOURT, as told by TYLER MCDERMOTT