It is April 2002 and I’m riding shotgun as Raquel drives down Broadway. I’m delighted to be in my girls’ presence again. Since meeting David a year ago I don’t see her as much. Raquel’s free time is devoted to him. I do miss the fun times that we had when she was single: the weekend trips up to Vancouver to go clubbing since we were underage, the house parties with friends and our monthly trips to the nail shop together. But I understand the change. After all, Raquel is in a serious relationship now; you’re supposed to focus on your man once that happens. On this particular day I’m just going to enjoy our afternoon together. As we cruised down the street a massive R &B hit by a newcomer to the music industry comes on the radio. We start singing along together:
I trusted you, I trusted you
So sad, so sad
what love will make you do
All the things that we accept
Be the things that we regret…”
I related to “Foolish” because it described my current relationship with someone who was unfaithful to me. As I recited the words though I had an epiphany. The fact that I could relate to such a song showed I was in a dysfunctional situation. I knew I had to end it and told Raquel so.
“I know how you feel girl”, she said sympathetically, going into her own issues with David and why the song spoke to her too.
“But fuck that last part of the song”, Raquel declared. “I’m not going to regret ANYTHING! He won’t keep his hold over me!”
Three weeks later she found out she was pregnant.
When Raquel told me she was expecting David’s child I was surprised. I knew she was frustrated with the course of their relationship and getting closer to ending it. I was hoping that would happen, because my friend started to change with David. David critiqued Raquel’s ambition and goals in life. When they met she was attending a local university and working a great part-time corporate gig. David would attack formal education and accuse her of thinking that she was better than others. Slowly but surely, the positive aspects Raquel had going for her initially began to dissipate. Raquel was so bright and so driven! I prayed that she would get back to being the girl I’d grown up with. With a child on the way though I knew that process would get back on hold.My prediction was confirmed when she went back to him and they continued living together.
“Daniella, can I talk to you for a moment please?”, Raquel’s Mom Wendy said to me in July 2002, grabbing my hand and pulling me away from our entourage. Raquel. Wendy, Tisha and I were attending the Bite of Seattle together. As I planned on moving to North Carolina that August, this would be one of my last opportunities to see my peeps. We strolled the grounds of Seattle Center that day, laughing and stuffing ourselves with food. But it was clear that Wendy wasn’t quite herself. I followed as she led me away.
“Sure let’s talk. What’s up?” Wendy sighed.
“I’m worried about Raquel and this guy.”David’s background alone-his age, lack of employment, living situation when he met Raquel and his number of children from previous relationships-concerned Wendy and Felipe, Raquel’s parents. In spite of that they initially welcomed him into their home when Raquel introduced him and tried to get to know him better. Yet David remained distant and cool towards them. Wendy would invite David over for dinner and he would refuse to come. This perplexed Wendy, as refusing hospitality was unheard of when courting a woman in their culture. Wendy asked Raquel why David didn’t like being around her family. David’s answer is what Wendy wanted to talk to me about.
“Daniella”, she started shakily, “do you think my family is racist? Have Felipe and I ever made you or Tisha feel unwelcome in our home?”
“NO, Tisha and I both love hanging out with you guys! We always have! I always feel like I belong. But what makes you ask that? Where is all this coming from”, I sputtered, unsure of what this was really about.
“It’s David”, Wendy sighed. “He accused us of being racist. He has actually convinced Raquel that her father and I disliked him from the beginning because he is a black man!” I listened as Wendy continued on but in my head I was thinking: Negro PLEASE! I felt David was trying to run game on Raquel, making her parents entirely reasonable concerns over his attitude and treatment of their daughter into a race issue. Now Wendy and Felipe were put in the awkward position of having to prove themselves to David. I loved Wendy like a second Mom and wasn’t feeling the fact that she was given such a guilt trip. When she stopped speaking I took advantage and jumped in.
“Wendy”,I began,”can I be honest with you? If anything I’d say you and Felipe were overly nice to David. Tisha’s family and mine alike would have would have been much harsher and judgmental if we brought home someone like David, and we are obviously black ourselves! You have nothing to feel bad about.”
“I know”, Wendy replied, sighing once again. “But what can I do? David has twisted her mind against us. ”
David’s accusations against Raquel’s family-and his unwillingness to be around them-marked the beginning of his campaign to drive a wedge between Raquel and her loved ones. In the years to come it would intensify, leaving Raquel vulnerable and isolated when the situation deteriorated further.