Sometimes...You Gotta Let Go
The pain you experience from people is weird, especially when you consider them friends and your reverence for them is in the highest of regards. Even when you don’t think about it, moved on from it, the effects of it still linger. It shows up in your interactions with other people. It haunts your thoughts. The pain keeps you from living sometimes. It debilitates you in moments when you least expect it to. There is a resolve for it though.
I’ve had some pretty shitty, fucked up, adverse experiences with people. For a long time, I really thought something was wrong with me. I questioned my value, worth and why people always fucked with me more than they fucked with other people. Most of my life, I thought that people didn’t like me and treated me fucked up because I was fat, because I was gay. These two labels, the ones that I unwillingly bought, were used as tools by others to destroy me and tamper with my self-worth. And because hoes are inherently mean to fat people and gay people, I got a double dose of shit. I’ll leave being a Black out of the equation for brevity.
When I open up to share my experiences, other people have always questioned whether or not my horrible experiences and stories with other people are valid, honest, truthful – reliable even. I almost feel like people questioning what I went through was another form of oppression, to invalidate my experiences in an attempt to silence me, but also, I had to accept that some people not only don’t have these experiences, they often times don’t recognize when they are happening. I stopped being vocal about some things, but I never stopped warning other people who were on a similar path as me, what the roadblocks ahead could potentially look like.
Over the weekend, I attended a black, gay book event – an arena I haven’t entered for the past decade. I’ve never openly shared my experiences about being on tour and what it was like for the 20 year-old version of me to be out promoting and selling a book I published with my own backing. People really just didn’t know what to do (back then and still don’t) with an overly confident, smart, funny, openly gay Black boy, who wrote a whole book about sucking dick. I met a lot of great people, I forged some solid friendships, but for every nice person, there were 3 shitbags trying to take my money, sabotage me behind my back and promote other writers over me who were more aesthetically pleasing. I went to this event primarily to support my friend JC, who just released his third book. I knew going in that I would at some point have to speak to and or confront the very people who didn’t do the right thing by me some 10 years ago. I also knew that it was up to me as to how I was going to react to these same people who transgressed against me, if I responded at all. But I knew in order to move on and prove to myself that I could be tactful and exert my self-control while being in a room full of snakes, especially since I am going to publish a book at some point, soon, I was going to have to come face to face with the very thing, the very people I didn’t want to.
In the middle of a conversation with JC, who I was there supporting, one of the key people that did the most damage interrupted us and initiated a conversation. As soon as he started talking, I could tell that he was bothered by what that had transpired 10 years prior. I knew that when he first saw me, he was reminded of everything that happened. How he and his powerful friends thought they were so high and mighty – so much to the point where they told me in so many words that I was NOT worthy enough to write and that I should consider hiring a better editor if I wanted to make it or be taken serious. There was one instance where the culprit and his friends had invited me to an event under the guise to sell my books, but when I showed up, the event was specifically for another writer. It was hurtful to say the least. And to my 20 something year old ego, it was a pretty tough blow.
When he offered an apology, JC studied me. JC knew that everything that I had ever said to him about what I experienced was valid and he took note. It felt good to be vindicated. But I also wondered why I had to experience that and carry around that pain for all of this time, some of the pain that prevented me from writing and releasing a book.
I’m grateful that I was able to release that pain that has held me up all of this time. Not many people knew of the things that happened to me professionally that made me take a step back. But, I couldn’t help but think about a couple of other experiences with people that have left a bad taste in my mouth. The thing is, it’s not just anyone I let affect me. It’s the people that I respect, look up to, have spent time with – that I’ve connected with, that is really blindsiding and the most hurtful. For far too long, I’ve allowed the other people to take up too much free space in my mind. Had you told me two years ago around this time, hell a year ago around this time, that one day I would revel in gratitude and be free of this shit, I wouldn’t have believed you.
In 2016, on this very date, I was in the throes of what I’ll call a temporary emotional upset. And that upset led to what I refer to as a divorce. A complete dissolution of a 3 year “relationship” in which I thought we were on the same page…then the gas lighting came, followed by the lies, betrayal and the flat out attack on my character and reputation. With all of this shit going on with me in Arizona, I reached out to my extremely close friends. One friend in particular completely ignored me. I thought maybe she was busy, still to no avail after three attempts, there was nothing. At a time I needed to speak the most, I was being shunned, for no reason. I considered all the reasons why she wasn’t responsive and over analyzed every single interaction I had, had with her in the prior months in an attempt to discover anything on my part that may have pissed her off without me realizing it. NOTHING.
When I moved back to Los Angeles in October of 2016, I was in the deepest depression I had ever experienced. I didn’t know my way around the city I had grown up in. I didn’t trust anyone. I didn’t talk to anyone and I was definitely being punished for speaking up for myself. All of my friends that I had made over the previous few years weren’t there and one of the people who was instrumental in helping me get back to being me was directly associated with my friend that hadn’t spoken it me. It was weird and it was more isolating because I just knew, once I got back to L.A. I could be around people who had my back and I learned very quickly that wasn’t the case.
Word had gotten out about my ”divorce” and everyone blamed me for what happened. People kept calling me giving me convoluted stories about what everyone was saying behind my back and why I should take the blame for something fucked up that happened to me. I was ruined. No one in the city would hang out with me. I felt like I had a plague. I thought at the very least, the people that I had been there for, would be there for me. Even if it was to just listen.
I really wanted to talk to my friend. Someone who understood the magnitude of what I was going through. Even though she hadn’t responded to my three attempts previously, I thought, maybe I’ll try on her birthday. I sent her a text and got nothing but a green text box, that was once blue. I ended up watching her birthday party on Snapchat. A party that I had been attending for the last decade, I was now watching from the confines of bed, surrounded by squalor, fueled by depression. On the heels of everything else I had experienced, I was now mourning the loss of a friend who clearly wanted nothing to do with me.
I now knew how others felt when I ignored them. Was this my karma? But the people I ignored did shit though. They fucked my boyfriend, they talked shit about me at my own birthday party, they had the FEDS at my door at 4 a.m. and they stole from me – grievances, legitimate reasons to not fuck with someone. I did nothing to this friend.
2017 rolled around. I was trying to get back aligned with myself, but it wasn’t happening quickly enough. I was still extremely depressed, but I was a little more trusting of people. That March, I turned 35. Against my better judgement I had a birthday party. I knew that I wasn’t well enough to do it, but I thought it would make me feel better – and it did somewhat. But not before my cousin said she would show up and didn’t and not before I got a hint as to why my friend stopped communicating with me. In hindsight, those were clear signs of who these people are in their character. I wasn’t able to see or accept it yet.
One of our mutual friends showed up to the penthouse for my party. She always had my back, but I knew to tread lightly because they were still good. I inquired about our mutual friend. Her response, “Call her and ask her yourself.” When I told her that my calls were being ignored and my texts were not being responded to, I asked her what I did. She paused, looked for an answer in her head, like she was really thinking and she was, because WE BOTH KNEW, I hadn’t done anything. She looked at me and said, “The only thing I can think of is you smoking weed on her balcony.” I thought to myself, “Chile if she is tripping over that, it’s bullshit. I always smoke weed on her balcony.” I said okay and finished chatting up other people at my party. I tried to leave it on the floor that night and move on, but I knew that wouldn’t be the end of it. 13 years of friendship was over because I smoked weed on her balcony? What a birthday gift. Here I was being penalized again, for being myself. But I was angry enough at my divorce not to let it phase me, but to merely say, “Fuck her then.”
That September, I got a random call from the friend in question. She was inviting me to her house warming party. I thought it was strange, because I literally had not talked to her since August of 2016 and she had been ignoring me since September of the same year. I went. I went there because I didn’t want to completely give up on my friendship and I wanted to reconnect since I was back in L.A. and trying to get back to me. But I was met with some shit when I got there. Long story short, I finally saw her after 30 minutes of being there and she said to me, “Where have you been?” to keep from crying and asking, “Really bitch?” I smiled and I said, “I’ve been some of everywhere.” Just then her boyfriend interrupted and needed her for something. I took that as my God given way out….out the door. I got in my car and I cried all the way home. Here I was expecting to rekindle a friendship and I was met with more bullshit. “Where have I been?” I thought to myself. Not at your birthday party or anywhere in your orbit. I wasn’t calm enough in my mind for anymore shit. My divorce had made me so mad and vengeful, I couldn’t take one iota of bullshit from anyone without flipping out. And instead of rolling around L.A. flipping out on everyone (because people think it’s fun to watch until it’s them on the receiving in) I stayed in my room, in squalor, unbothered, smoked the fuck out. It was the only safe space and the only space impenetrable by other peoples shit.
A few days later, she called me on the phone and asked me to proof a very important speech she had to write for a speaking engagement. Against my better judgement I did it – attempting to realign our friendship and not wanting to cause friction before her live TV appearance, I sent it to her with my edits and she said nothing else. Not a thank you, simply silence. I watched her read my exact words on the Soul Train awards. I threw my phone at the TV and vowed to never speak to her again.
I can handle people not speaking to me. I will eventually get my life and move on, but to keep fucking with somebody when it’s clear you don’t respect them, is some sick, twisted, time consuming, demented shit. I don’t have time for it and I’ve dealt with too much in my life to keep being used and disrespected by people who don’t recognize my gangsta.
Tuesday night I was supposed to be in West Hollywood at a friends Happy Hour for her birthday. Because the entire city of L.A. is under construction, the drive from my Downtown L.A. apartment to West Hollywood took more than two hours. Instead, I found myself stopped over at my Mom’s house waiting for traffic to die when my friend Renee from High School called and told me that a mutual friend of ours having a Happy Hour for her birthday in Hermosa Beach and did I want to come. The first thing I said was, “She didn’t invite me, so I’m good.” Even though we were cool, I didn’t get an invite and I’m not showing up, especially since I had been to her party the last three years. To me, I wasn’t putting myself in a position to be hoodwinked again. I was prepared to watch this party on snapchat too.
45 minutes later, I found myself in Renee’s Mercedes headed to Hermosa Beach. I had my speech prepared for our friend as to why she didn’t invite me and I was ready for whatever excuse she had for me. When I walked in, everyone was happy to see me, as if it was my party. As soon as I got a chance to bring up not being invited, she was actually ready for me. She had all of her receipts lined up – and it felt good to be checked by someone who HAD invited me and had a text to prove it. But she sent it to the wrong number. I knew I had sent her my new phone number; she just hadn’t deleted the old one. It was a sign from the universe telling me to relax and to let old shit go. Everyone isn’t fucked up. Some people actually know how to appreciate others. They know how to be thoughtful. They know how to express love. They know how to accept people for who they are.
It was just about 1 a.m. when I backed my truck out of Renee’s driveway. Instead of making a right down Crenshaw off 43rd to head to the 10 freeway, I went straight, up through the hills and stopped off at the 7-11 on Slauson and Angeles Vista. When I hopped out and went into the store I noticed a familiar face. We locked eyes. He smiled. Whatever he was buying, was left on the counter, I dropped my car keys and gave him a hug.
He was like a wizard to me. A bank of infinite knowledge and wisdom – that could only be tapped if he let you, only if he gave it to you. We studied each other over to make sure we were both okay. I met him years ago backstage at a concert and since that night, I’ve run into him in the last places we’ve expected to see each other. Once, in 2008, I was still trying to figure out why all the crazy shit that was happening to me on tour with the gays was happening. I ran into Patrick at The Abbey. We drank a bottle of Don Julio and he broke down what it was like to be black, gay with a level of fame. We bonded that night. I thanked him for saving my life, because without him, I wouldn’t have been able to navigate any further than that night.
The funny thing was. I was just thinking about him the night before. I was watching one of his movies from 2000, that is easily one of my favorite movies. Here we were standing face-to-face in a 7-11 parking lot. And just like 10 years ago, I’m at another crossroads. Trying to end old beefs, move on from shit that was holding me back and trying to figure out who I am again after all of these temporary emotional upsets.
Then it hit me. Out of nowhere I started thinking about her. The one who stole my speech and read it at the Soul Train Awards. The one that wouldn’t return my phone calls. The one who vowed to never speak to again. I looked at him. He stared back at me. I was nervous as fuck. “Just say it.” He said. He knew I had a pressing question. Then I just spit it out, “Has she said anything about me to you?” He was silent. I knew there was something there. The pain that he had hidden was staring me back in my eye. “As a matter of fact, she hasn’t said anything to me about anything.” For me, that meant more than he could ever say. We both stood under the 7-11 parking lot lamps and shared a pain that not many people could relate to. They had been friends longer. They had been on TV together. We bonded. He looked at me and said, “You didn’t do anything wrong. It’s not you. Let it go.” I held back my urge to cry. I wasn’t hurt. It was all I needed someone to say to me. I’ve been allowing this cloud of “What did I do?” to hang over my head for the last three years in dealing with her. Even though I knew deep down inside, I did nothing but be a good friend, I still needed it to be validated. He set me free.
Sometimes we’re lucky and get an apology for what has happened to us. Other times we never get an explanation for being a pawn in someone else’s mind game. But what I do know is, we will always be vindicated. God will send someone along to let you know that it’s not only time to move on, but it wasn’t just you that got hurt.