*And we now continue with our scheduled blog series*
“I don’t even know you and I’d kill you myself
You played with her like a doll and put her back on the shelf
Wouldn’t let her go to school and better herself
She had a baby by your ass and you ain’t giving no help…” Eve
A day before MLK Jr day in 2003 I receive a phone call from Raquel that I’ve been waiting on for months.
“Lady the baby is coming! I’m heading to the hospital now!”
I sit up in bed and wrench myself away from the comforter. Though Raquel is in the very first stages I want to make sure I am fully alert and present when her baby boy arrives. Regardless of what I thought about the father, I was going to support my girl. In the early hours of the next day Jonathan arrived. I held my best friend’s son in my arms in the delivery room that morning, amazed at his perfection and very protective of him already. Raquel was glowing, fully engaged with her precious boy. Within weeks, however, our joy over the new baby would be interrupted by the erratic behavior of David.
When Jonatan was around four weeks old I called Raquel, hoping to arrange a visit with her and the baby that weekend. Her response threw me.
“Sure girl, that will work. But you have to come over my parents house-I moved back in with them”.
I was confused. Just days ago Raquel and David shared an apartment together! Though I liked the idea of her being around her family I wondered what brought about the change.
“Oh, okay”, I responded,”well what happened. Why are you back home?”
“Well David decided he didn’t want me and Jonathan in the apartment because he needs his own ‘space’.”
I saw red. What kind of man kicks out his newborn child and the woman who just gave birth to his son? This was MADNESS! I sucked my teeth loudly then spoke.
“HE needs SPACE? Then let HIM be the one to get the HELL OUT! You just had a baby; what sense does it make for you and J to be the ones to leave?”
“I didn’t feel like fighting with him, it was better to just go. Besides we aren’t together anyway.”
In my mind it was still ridiculous that David put Raquel out. Maybe there was a silver lining though: returning to her parents home would give Raquel more stability. And sure enough she began to rebuild her life once she broke up with David and only had a co-parenting relationship with him. So when Raquel approached me about becoming roommates in March 2003 I jumped at the opportunity. We were both living at home at the time. When I returned to Seattle from my time in North Carolina I moved in with my Mom and younger siblings, an arrangement that was far from ideal in my mind. Raquel and I both craved the independence we had when we lived away. Raquel and I had initially planned on moving in together back in 2001 but those plans were changed once she started dating David. I was glad to go back to the plan. We started looking and soon settled on a two-bedroom apartment in West Seattle. I look back on those first few weeks fondly. I can still see Raquel in our kitchen, painting it with the bold sunflower yellow that we picked out at Home Depot together that morning. We split everything 50/50 and created a clean, warm place for ourselves. Our living situation was drama-free and happy. Then David started coming over.
Initially David would come over to visit Jonatan. That in and of itself didn’t trouble me. After all David was still Jonatan’s father, regardless of what I thought of him and how he had treated Raquel during their relationship. However David slowly started moving clothing and personal belongings into our apartment. I watched this with trepidation. I had not signed up to have a male roommate, let alone THIS male in particular. I asked Raquel about it.
“Lady what’s up with David bringing all his stuff here? I hope he;s not moving in!”
“Oh no girl”, Raquel reassured me, “he just needs a place to store some things.”
I hoped that would be the end of it. But within a week of that conversation David had brought even more of his things over and was spending most of his time at our place. In light of the fact that David was the one to kick Raquel out his presence living in our place did not sit well with me. HE smoked a lot of weed, and I’m not a fan of the substance. He invited all of his friends over and treated the place like it was his own. I would come home from work to find David and his friends-all unemployed men in their 30s and 40s-in our living room passing sherm-laced blunts. Raquel saw no problem with it. I stewed, spending nights away at either my mom’s place or that of the guy I was dating. I couldn’t live in that environment. But one Thursday night I stayed home instead, witnessing an incident between Raquel and David that left me terrified for her.
As stated above at this point in time Raquel and David were not in a relastionship. They were single and free to do as they pleased. David behaved as if he was single even when they were still together, openly flirting with and chasing other women. Raquel only had eyes for him. But four months after their break-up Raquel met and started talking to a young man named Paul. It was still very early; she was just getting to know him and they were not an official item yet. Paul made a CD of current hip-hop songs for Raquel as a gift to her. While David was at our place he went through Raquel’s belongings. He saw the CD and the message that Paul wrote in the CD liner for her and flipped out on her that night. I was in my room when it started.
“YOU OLE STANK HOE”, he bellowed out at her. “OH YOU THINK YOU CUTE HUH? YOU GOT NIGGAS MAKING CDs FOR YOU AND SHIT? YOU THINK YOU SPECIAL? OUT HERE ACTING LIKE A HOE!”
“SHUT THE FUCK UP BITCH! I’M A MAN; IT’S DIFFERENT! YOU’RE MY BABY MAMA AND YOU OUT HERE TALKING TO A GUY?”
Raquel starts sobbing.
“But we are just TALKING; I haven’t done anyth-”
“You’re a HOE! I always knew you were a hoe! Can’t trust these bitches!” He goes on and on, yelling insults. I’m pissed for Raquel and worried this emotional abuse is going to escalate into physical abuse. I get out of bed, open my door all the way and stand in the hallway. I see Raquel seated at the computer desk, tears streaming down her face, skin red. David is inches away from her face, his spittle flying onto Raquel’s glasses as he cusses at her more. I hold my cell phone firmly and watch him. He senses my presence.
“What the FUCK are you standing there for? This ain’t none of your fuckin business!”
“Anything related to Raquel’s well-being is my business”, I spat back. “I can’t stop you from talking crazy to her like this. But I swear if you get any closer to her and touch her I will have you ass arrested!”
David moved away from Raquel.
“Fuck you”, he yelled at her,”and fuck you too, you nosey ass BITCH”, he yelled at me as he stalked out of the apartment. I went over to Raquel and hugged her. She was shaking and sobbing bad.
“I’m so sorry girl! What is wrong with him?”
Raquel tried to catch her breath. “I don’t understand him! How can he talk to me like this? I haven’t done anything to warrant this!” Raquel went on, saying she would just stop talking to Paul.It was hard to listen because in her words it was clear she felt she deserved part of the blame for this. But there was no justification, and David’s actions that night were about controlling her and breaking her down mentally. It was a continuation of the emotional abuse that started in 2001.
I’d heard of it from Raquel before. When David met Raquel she was a fly Butta Pecan young woman, who stayed fresh and clean from head to toe. Her makeup was immaculate, eyebrows on point and hair laid. After a few months of dating David-who obviously was strongly attracted to Raquel’s beauty-began to berate her for it. He’d glower at her when she put on lipstick and dresses, saying she looked like a hoe. And sure enough she began to change, opting for plain clothes, removing her acrylic nails and going bare faced to appease David and make the insults stop. It became a pattern,which is why I disagreed with Raquel that ending her budding relationship with Paul would fix anything. Indeed David’s behavior followed what is described on the Domestic Violence wheel. He used intimidation,emotional abuse and isolation at times to get his way.
Yet a week later David was back visiting like nothing happened. I started paying attention to Raquel’s body language and attitude in his presence. I noticed how much she flinched. I saw the way her posture changed. Her shoulders rounded inward as if though she was trying to shrink away from herself. It was then that I first suspected David had already abused her physically. I asked her about it directly.
“Oh girl NO you know I wouldn’t stand for that”, she responded, waving a hand in the air dismissively. “He knows better than that!”
I didn’t buy her denial. The way she cowered in his presence told a very different story. But she said he never hit her. I didn’t see her with bruises(yet) so there was no proof. I had to accept her answer. But the dislike of David that began when I first met him continued to grow. I didn’t trust him. I didn’t believe that a man who could talk that way to my friend truly loved and respected her.
In July 2003 my own life would radically change with the discovery that I was expecting my first child. I talked to Raquel about David, sharing my fears and concerns for her safety and mine with him in our place. She didn’t agree it was that serious. When our lease expired in September I would not renew it. I loved my friend and was torn. On one hand I wanted to be there to make sure she was okay. But on the other I had to make the health and well-being of the life growing inside of me a priority. So I moved out while Raquel stayed on. Two months later Raquel would have to leave the place due to David’s shenanigans, which broke the apartment community’s rules. Tired of the drama with him she enrolled at a local community college, hoping to get reinstated to the university that she previousky attended locally. In November 2003 Raquel was working part-time, in school full-time and raising the son she had with Jonatan. David responded badly to Raquel’s improved circumstances. He would lash out at Raquel and her family, pulling a stunt that is typical of abusers and one which left us all stressed to the limit.