with Ciarra : we ran together
This is a sister piece to be read in tandem with “My Week With Bridget”
It’s interesting to think back to the day me and Ciarra drove to the sand dunes from LA. I don’t know if I really knew what I was getting into. I had never camped let alone been to a dessert. Especially not a sand dune and to top it off I was agreeing to go with her and SHE had never even been! This is May 2018. It marked the end of the most grueling semester of school I have ever had. Grad school is hard enough and then coupled with:
a harsh Chicago winter
a depressing breakup
It’s a miracle I finished, even with a 4.0, I guess school was the one thing that was predictable and I felt like it was the only thing I was in control of. Even though I wasn’t proud of any of the work I did I was just trying to get through it all. I felt like I was floating trying to stay above water and understand who I was, without him…
It was November 2015, and I was living and working at a super cool black agency, making good money reaping awesome perks, living in a beautiful 1-bedroom apartment in the arts district with my own car too. I was set. I had a true sense of identity as defined by my success and my job and I was completely okay with it all. There was so much room for growth at my agency and my team wanted to see me get there. At the same time my creative projects were gaining momentum too. I was very motivated and inspired. My documentary had the support of the Stony Island Arts Bank ad I was doing interviews every week! It was my 24th birthday and I joined forces with a good friend and now, prolific artist to release my documentary trailer and bday party. Thats when I met him. I had seen him maybe once before and was instantly attracted, tall, dark and mysterious - i loved it. At the time we met he had a girlfriend so we danced close but not that close or so I think (I was pretty wasted from all the birthday shots) But I do remember calling and visiting my previous fling’s house who was over me but I could not get enough of him and had very aggressive, drunk sex. I just wanted to be loved and wanted.
And that is a preview to the tumultuous cycles between myself and the men in my life. It all boils down to a longing desire to be loved unconditionally by someone I wanted too. O, to have someone pour into me, in the same soul-barring ways I would pour into them. Him and I became so close, he shared his secrets and I kept them warm and locked away from the world. I held his burdens on my back with pride. I was his vessel that he could see, touch, and feel inside - soon enough his long-distance girlfriend faded and we began to emerge from the rubble.
The highs were high and the lows were so low I can barely bring myself to think of them - as I type this I have to remind myself to exhale. But over the course of 2 years I tried to morph into the woman I knew that he so truly desired. I knew she wasn’t me but I knew I could be her, for him. He was older and has experienced several heartbreaks so, we were a different type of desperate. We were two people who were inherently not for one another forcing different combinations until one of us broke - it was me.
I had completely lost myself and everything I thought I knew. I was raging, jealous, paranoid, angry and violent. This was not the person i knew myself to be - nor I person I ever wanted to become. My world was merged with his. My “Me’s” became “we’s”, “i’s” became “us”. And when I was forced to break away I realized just how tangled our web of identity had become. So in November 2017 I traveled back to my father’s homeland in Accra, Ghana and I ran away from the hurt. And when I returned in December, I ran away again to Paris, France for a month. It was the solitude and quiet beauty of Paris that began my healing process. I began to confront my feelings and responsibility through writing and literature. I found solace in the works of James Baldwin and I felt uncomfortably similar to the “lost generation” that Ernest Hemingway wrote about. After struggling through my semester I tried to pick up the puzzle pieces and reconfigure my life and my identity.
What do I like?
What excites me ?
What would I do for free?
I just couldn’t answer these questions. I felt lukewarm, numb to everything. So I went back to the last place I felt alive - LA.
Ciarra and I have known each other since 2011. We grew up in the same neighborhood (down the street) and her high school best friend was my best friends younger sister. When I saw her out she was hard to ignore. The only other loud, funny girl out and plus she had long flowing hair dyed every color of the rainbow with enough personality to fill up an arena. She was magnetic.
I remember late 2012 we were all partying and someone I loathed and was simply terrified to see arrived and I instantly shut down. No one really noticed except Ciarra. She and I were cool at that point but her attentiveness, care and protection is what brought us closer. She took me in a back room of the campus apartment we were partying in, just us two, and asked me what happened. She already knew but had to ask me. I had not disclosed how scared and broken I was to anyone and laughed it off to everyone because he was popular and I was the class clown. Ciarra was a year younger but she saw through the party facade, perhaps because she used the same mask. I looked her in her eyes and told her he raped me. She replied I was raped too and she told her tale with such strength I knew I could trust her. She was more than just a pretty, funny, party girl. The guy who raped me was her “best friend” at the time and she was the only person who stopped all communication with him, for me. I loved her for that and she became my sister. We had the same battle scars and protected ourselves with the same coat of armor: the parties the drinking the drugs - we both needed help and we both needed each other.
In May 2018 the bread crumb trail I was following to get back to myself led me back to my “LA fantasy life” , back with Ciarra. It was in LA I was free to be my own person. But what I failed to factor in was the amount of time that passed between me and my LA life, in particular between me and Ciarra. We were different people and the energy was different even on the first day as we adjusted to one another. I had not watered our friendship. My time, love and attention - all my nurturing had been funneled into him, my ex. He was no more and my friends were left withering. Our trip to the Sand Dunes was a leap of faith and watering hole for us both. I wanted to be present with her. I wanted her to know she deserved friends and men alike that could pour into her because she is worth it. We took a 3 hour road trip to the Kelso Sand Dunes and with every mile we both stripped away a layer of protection. I shared and she shared, we built a foundation on the soil of what was lost.
I remembered what it was like to be ugly in front of someone, to not have the answers and them still support you, for someone to know all your insecurities and still build you up, for someone to help you love yourself again just as you are. I found that with Ciarra.