***contains strong language and adult situations
***contains sensitive subject matter
Trinidad and Tobago, the 1980’s
I knew from an early age, staying in one place and doing one thing would never be enough for me. I would never reach my full potential if I lived in Trinidad for the rest of my life. As a trained dancer, there was nothing more I wanted to do than live abroad, performing as a soloist in a prestigious ballet company.
My muddah and faddah often told me that I needed to be serious and forget about dancing. Mama always claimed a girl had no business going off and showing her body, writhing around on a stage somewhere. She said the best thing for me to do was finish high school, find a secretarial job and get married. Supposedly, this was all so I could have some sort of security. Maybe that kind of small minded thinking was okay for her and others in the family, but I refused to lower my standards and settle.
Mama and I were always fighting because I rejected the plans she laid out for my life. “Apollonia, girl, you need to be humble. I tell you these things because I don’t want to see you struggling. All of this nonsense of traveling the world as a famous dancer needs to stop!” said Mama, at the time. “Being some factory worker or fisherman’s wife is not what I want to be! That is fine for you, but I’m better than that! I’m better than this sad little life you have and want for your children! Put that on your other daughters, I will have nothing of it!” I argued.
“My sad little life? What is wrong with this life, Apollonia? Your father is a fisherman, my father was too. We have a roof over our head and food on our table. Do not disrespect your own family and our way of life, girl! Let me ask you this, you say you want to be some prima ballerina, no?” asked Mama. I didn’t have a good tolerance level for this kind of shit with Mama and I had about as much as I could take. “It is not simply being a ‘ballerina’, okay? You would know I practiced different styles of dance if you ever paid any attention!” I snapped.
Mama impatiently waived her hand. “Whatever, my question to you is, what other famous black ballerinas do you see in the world? Can you name me one, Apollonia?” she asked. I knew what she was getting at and I hated her for suggesting it. “What does that have to do with anything?” I asked. “Look, child, I say that because, you are crazy if you think a little black ‘ting from the Caribbean will be as famous as those other dancers out there. Even you told me yourself, black girls are discriminated against in ballet. You are only a simple island ‘ting. You do not come from a large city in America or Europe. You’ve never left Trinidad!” replied Mama.
I shook my head and clenched my fist. People wonder why Apollonia has an attitude? Well, this is why, because I’m constantly surrounded by uneducated people with no ambition at all. My family is like that and they expect for me to be the same way! “This coming from someone with a ninth grade education? You’ve never set foot out of this country either, Mama!” I shouted in anger. “I don’t need all these things you believe you want for yourself. Why must you make everything so difficult. I may only have a ninth grade education, but I worked to help my family. I continued to work until I got married and began having my children. I did what I was supposed to do and so will you, Apollonia!” said Mama.
I didn’t care if other black girls hadn’t made it far in the dancing world or that women in general were stuck in behind men. Others failures were not reflective of me. I refused to be stuck, limiting myself to dressing up and dancing at Carnival each year. Afro-Caribbean, modern, and contemporary were among the other dance styles I performed alongside ballet. I began dancing hip hop once we moved to the US. My home country has grown and dancers in Trinidad have better options these days, but there were so many limits back in the eighties.
I could see myself doing everything when it came to dance. I wanted to choreograph for Michael Jackson, he was the best dancer in the world and the king. Everyone would know who I was and would want to work with me. I could dance for any company I wanted, or star on Broadway in New York City. I didn’t want to stay in the same place forever, I wanted to travel and see the world.
My family was never supportive and told me I lived with my head in the clouds. They all had simple lives and mine wasn’t going to be any different, they believed. As the oldest girl, my parents always told me I needed to set a better example for my younger siblings. My brother Anthony was the oldest, then came me, and my younger siblings, Aurora, Adrien, Alonzo, Ariel, Alister, and Ashland. Mama and Daddy constantly compared me to Anthony. He was perfect in their eyes because he did exactly what Mama and Daddy wanted him to do. Anthony worked on fishing boats when we lived in Trinidad and once we moved to the US he went to accounting school and became an accountant. He was ordinary and boring like the rest of them and wanted nothing different out of life.
I told my mama and father, it was not my responsibility to set an example for their other children. I was going to live my life exactly the way I wanted. Anthony and I never got along. He believed he was so great because he was the favored among us. Whenever Anthony said that I needed to be respectful and know my limitations, I told him to fuck off every time.
Once my father told the family we were moving to America, I couldn’t get there fast enough. The possibilities were endless I’d finally have the chance to reach my full potential. I didn’t have to be stuck living on some island country, married to a gas plant worker. I had my mind made up, that once I finished high school in the US, I would go to university and study dance. Mama and Daddy were against this and told me it was silly to waste my time on getting a degree I would never use. My father kept insisting I go to secretarial school, which didn’t take four years like at university.
“Apollonia, you need to be respectful of what I want for you and forget all this dance nonsense. We aren’t moving to America for you to waste your life on some useless fantasy. Once you have a job and get married, you can settle down,” said Daddy. Hearing my faddah constantly telling me to settle and forget my ambition, made me deeply resent him. My parents and family are traditional. My faddah believed a woman should get married and have children, while the man went out and worked. It’s what he did and what his father before him did. But like I said, hell no, I wasn’t destined to live an ordinary life.
When I was younger in Trinidad, I took ballet lessons at a local amateur school near my home. As a teen, I spent as much time as I could in the dance studio. As soon as I got home from school, I would change out of my uniform and hop on my bike. I did my homework and often ate dinner in the studio. I didn’t like to waste any time and wanted to spend as much time as possible practicing. My family wasn’t in my face either, another added bonus. The studio wasn’t prestigious or anything, but it was close to where I lived. Before I knew we were moving to America, my dream was to leave school and move to Port of Spain and enroll in a professional school, but Mama and Pop refused to let me go.
Failure was never an option. If you fell down, you could choose to stay down like a punk or fight your way out like a lioness. I’ve always had a tough mentality and I was never your typical teenage girl. I didn’t chase after boys or live to party every weekend. Yes, I got out and had my share of fun and there were times I got into trouble with my friends. However, my main focus was dancing and making sure I stayed disciplined. I cared more about performing than anything else in the world. I couldn’t be bothered with the silly vices of high school.
I started dancing when I was a little girl. Mama enrolled me in a ballet class to occupy my time and get me out of her hair while she looked after my younger siblings. I didn’t care about not having all of her attention. Once I started to dance, I instantly fell in love and thought of little else. When I danced, I could be someone else, not the little nobody girl my family wanted me to be. I was paradise, I was Jupiter, the stars, the ocean, the air. I transformed and became any and everything. Classical music was typically the norm to dance ballet to, but when I was alone in the studio, the first thing I put on was Sade and let her smooth jazzy voice and easy rhythm carry and guide me.
Jezebel wasn’t born with a silver spoon in her mouth
She probably had less than every one of us
But when she knew how to walk she knew
How to bring the house down
Can’t blame her for her beauty
She wins with her hands down
Jezebel, what a belle
Looks like a princess in her new dress
How did you get that
Do you really want to know, she said
It would seem she’s on her way
It’s more, more than just a dream
She put on her stockings and shoes
Had nothing to lose – she said it was worth it
My instructor at the school was Gabriel Tompkins. He used to dance as a soloist in Europe in the late seventies. As a former dancer and native of Trinidad, he was nationally recognized for his work in other countries. Gabriel wasn’t the easiest man to get along with, but he was brilliant. Despite his tyrannical ways, I was willing to put up with him because of what he could teach me. Gabriel often told me, that I was his favorite student and I had the most talent. His whole demeanor was strange at times and he could be quite possessive. Gabriel always told me that I had the gift to make it, but I needed to live and breath dancing if I wanted to famous.
I studied under Gabriel for just under one year when one afternoon he called me into his office after the other students had gone home. He claimed he wanted to speak to me about a production he was putting together in Port of Spain in the near future. Truthfully, I didn’t care to be alone for Gabriel for long periods of time. The man was weird and he often gave me pervert vibes. I guess I should have trusted my instincts when Gabriel tried to force himself on me on his desk. He thought I would be grateful and claimed I knew how much he wanted me all along.
Clearly, Gabriel was out of his damn mind to think that I would ever sleep with him. When I pushed him off me and cussed him out, he went into a rage, yelling that I would be nothing without him and he was my only chance at a real future. His words burned in my ears for days, but I refused to believe them. Maybe I did give up a great opportunity to learn from him, but I would never lie on my back in order to make it. I never told anyone what Gabriel did and my parents didn’t think anything of it when I stopped going to his classes. As far as I was concerned, I wanted to put the whole experience behind me and never think of Gabriel again.
We weren’t the only De-Sais when we arrived in Miami. Some of my father’s other siblings moved here with their families a few years before us and other relatives eventually moved to Florida over the next several years. My Uncle Marvin told my father of the many money making opportunitie here. He claimed this idea of ‘Reaganomics’ were making everyone rich in this country. I wouldn’t find out exactly what that term meant until I started at university. Even then, I could not give you a full explanation.
The American government and economic system made no sense to me. It made no difference to me because I had no interest in how the Yankees ran their country. It took a while, but Pop eventually opened a fishing and grocery market after we settled in Miami. I remembered thinking, for someone like him, this was the ultimate dream, no matter how pathetic it was.
I could barely wait to start at school and get away from my family. My parents weren’t happy about it, but I enrolled at Miami University after finishing high school. I moved on campus and quickly sought out my reason for being there. The school had a good dance program, but there were better ones out there. I couldn’t get full financial assistance for any other school and my parents certainly couldn’t afford to send me to any prestigious dance school. It’s not like they would, even if they had the money.
I met my husband, Raymond soon after I started at university. He was the best player on his American football team and what people called ‘big man on campus’. Raymond was ahead of me in school and he had a reputation of being some sort of ladies man in the past. He had a steady girlfriend of a few months when we met. I thought Raymond was very handsome when I saw him and it was plain to see many girls chased after him. It wasn’t only his looks that attracted women to him, but he was set to play professional American football and make millions of dollars in the near future. To be honest, if I dated someone or not at school was the least of my concerns. I didn’t have any problems getting offers of dates from both students and faculty, that was never an issue.
It occurred to me, having a famous boyfriend could be very beneficial to my career and my way of life. If Raymond became a rich football star, there was no limit to what he would give me. Soon after we met, I set my sights on making him mine, damned his relationship, I couldn’t care less that he had a girlfriend. I didn’t have to “do” anything extra to get Raymond’s attention. He, like every other breathing male on campus had their eyes on me. It was obvious how attracted he was to me, but he claimed up and down he wasn’t the type to cheat and he was “happy” with this girlfriend, Candace. I told him how funny I thought that was, because I didn’t believe for a second he would want to be with that girl over me. He knew it, as did I.
Raymond surprised me, however. Once I saw he wasn’t just going to come to me like the others, I had to set a plan in motion to break him and his girlfriend up. Raymond didn’t take the bait initially, he wanted to, but he didn’t. He admitted he was attracted to me, but he couldn’t cheat. In the end with a little help from my “friends”, I saw that Raymond and his girlfriend broke up. He didn’t even know I was behind it until years later.
Raymond believed Candace cheated on him. And what did he do? He came for me, just as I expected him to. Raymond claimed he was hurt by Candace’s “betrayal”, yet it took him no time to come running to me and into my bed. He wanted an excuse for it to be over. He didn’t want to break up and hurt that girl for me, so I made it that he didn’t feel any wrongdoing on his part. It was almost too easy. Raymond had morals, more than any other man I knew next to my father. But in the end, he, like every man would fall weak in behind the right woman.
I didn’t have any regrets for some of the things I did then. Looking back on it now, yes, I know I was wrong on many levels. I didn’t really care what anyone else wanted or felt, my goal was to make sure Apollonia got what she wanted. I never worried about Raymond straying once we got together, he was too much of a lovesick puppy dog. We had our share of problems, like most relationships. I broke up with him two or three different times to teach him a lesson and keep him in line. Raymond was in love, I wasn’t. I cared about him, but I didn’t love him, at least not back then.
Several NFL teams were scouting him and everyone eagerly anticipated him playing in the pro leagues. He was all slated and set to make millions, until one fateful day, he had a freakish accident that tore his knee up. The damage to his body he suffered meant he could never play on a professional level. It was the shock around campus. I didn’t understand anything about the game or how violent and brutal it was. I believed Raymond could recover and play, but no his doctors told him there wasn’t any chance for him. I was aware how angry Raymond got because he wouldn’t be a professional football player, but I was more concerned about what that meant for me. I had spent a very long time with this man, giving him my time and attention, taking away from my dancing, because I believed it would benefit me in the end.
It didn’t end up how I planned it, not at all. I needed to put my full focus back into my dancing and finish school. Just when I decided I no longer wanted or needed Raymond, my life changed forever. I was ready to break up with Raymond when I found out I was pregnant. At the time, I believed this was the worst possible thing that could ever happen to me. A baby? What was I going to do with a baby? I never wanted children, that was no secret. I was already an aunt, but I had no interests in any of my sibling’s kids. There were several cousins of ours who had babies, I didn’t bother with not one. Not only did I never want to be a mother, but having a child would absolutely ruin my body. I was a dancer and my body was my most valuable asset.
I mulled it over in my head about what I was going to do. Without question, the child would be born, unless I miscarried. The thought of causing a miscarriage crossed my mind at one time. I was a serious dancer and my workouts were long and strenuous. That sort of stress could surely cause me to miscarry. I’m ashamed to admit that thought crossed my mind. Yes, there were other options out there, but I couldn’t consider those. I came to the realization that regardless of what I wanted for myself, I would give birth to a child, I didn’t really want and my body, most likely would never recover. I considered moving away from everyone and have the baby elsewhere. No one would know about it, not even Raymond. I could have the child and give it up for adoption and no one would be the wiser.
I tortured myself for days before I went finally decided to go to Raymond and tell him about the baby. Raymond acted just as I expected him to. He loved me and he wanted his child. Raymond acknowledged it would be tough because we were so young and didn’t have any money. He made me so angry because he acted as if this would guarantee we’d always be together and I’d stay put. In my mind at the, Raymond was like any other man who wanted to control his woman.
“This is all your doing, Raymond! You and your fucking pull out method. You probably wanted me to get pregnant!” I screamed. “Bullshit, Apollonia. I don’t remember me, forcing you to open your legs to me! Don’t blame this all on me. You knew what could happen, girl. If you were so concerned about not getting pregnant, why didn’t you take birth control?” asked Raymond. I wanted to claw his eyes out. A typical male response. “Because I didn’t want to gain any weight, you asshole, and you knew this!” I shouted. We argued about the pregnancy for over two hours that day. There was nothing Raymond could do to make up for ruining my life. That was something I believed then, but not now.
My parents were very upset I wound up pregnant, especially my faddah. Both sides of my family come from strong islander traditional values ideals. Your faddah basically owns you until you find a husband, then he owns you. No one could be a parent without having a spouse for fear of shaming the family. There were plenty of things I consistently fought my parents on growing up. However, there was a sense of deep moral obligation I felt inside of me despite of what I truly wanted for myself. I was constantly told how selfish and self-centered I was throughout my life. It was true, I was number one. I never wanted to be like the other women, who put a man before them and their whole lives became about their children.
My faddah was angry and he demanded Raymond to marry me. I knew marriage was something he wanted down the line, but I didn’t feel the same way. Now, it was going to be a reality. Daddy made me feel very guilty about bringing shame on the family and myself. With anything else going on in my life, I would have silently told him to fuck off and the rest of the family, I would say it directly to their faces. I didn’t care what my brothers and sisters thought. What stuck in my head was what my Nani and Nana on both sides would think or say about me. Most people’s opinions didn’t carry any weight with me, except Nani Giselle. She was my mama’s mama and the only one in the family that encouraged me to continue dancing. If there was one regret I had about leaving Trinidad, was that we left Nani Giselle there.
I kept in contact with Nani Giselle after my children were born and throughout the years. She was getting up there in age and her health was deteriorating. I remember there were different occasions I told Raymond I wanted to see my Nani in Trinidad, that I feared if I waited, it would be too late. But no, Raymond always had some excuse about not being able to afford a plane ticket. The money we had, was always needed for the house or kids. I am aware all those things were important, but that was important to me too. I often felt Raymond blew me off when it came to something I wanted. He was the breadwinner, so his word was law. Looking back now, Raymond did what was necessary to support our family.
At the same time, I felt as if he could’ve been more supportive when I told him I wanted to go to dancing school again, but we never had any extra money for “real” dreams. By the time Reagan and Kennedey entered high school, I had saved up just enough money for a plane ticket to Trinidad. I wanted to see Nani again, but by the time I was ready to make my reservation, I learned she had passed away. I can not say, that was the straw that broke the camel’s back. By this time in our relationship, there were so much going on in those last few months that lead to me leaving for good. That was a major straw and I despised Raymond for a very long time.
I used to feel that my first pregnancy was the worst time in my life. I stayed sick, my hormones were out of control, and I started to become depressed. I didn’t know it was depression at the time, I just knew I hated my life and there was nothing I found joy in anymore.
Mama often came over, trying to get me to eat right and take care of me. Next to my mother-in-law, she was the last person I wanted around. I didn’t make it easy for her when she reached out to me. I was already suffering and Mama only aggravated me. Carmen rarely came over when I was pregnant. When she did, she was only there to see her son and pass judgment on me. Carmen didn’t like me from the first day we met and the feeling was mutual. She considered me to be gold-digging trash and I considered her as a busybody, with Raymond’s nose up her ass.
Raymond stayed home for two weeks after Reagan was born. It was easier because he was at home with the baby. Once Raymond returned to work, things only got worse. I did not feel a connection to Reagan like other new mothers did for their babies. I had zero maternal instincts and only did what was necessary to take care of her, nothing more. I felt like Reagan didn’t like me when she was a baby. She cried all the time and only wanted Raymond. Reagan, most likely sensed my discomfort. I read somewhere, years later, babies know when you’re tense and in turn, they become tense. Reagan acted like she didn’t want to be around me anymore than I wanted to be around her.
There were times, Reagan would cry for hours. It frustrated me because I fed and changed her. She would take naps, so she couldn’t be tired and from what I could tell, she wasn’t sick. I took her temperature, called the doctor, but she was physically fine. I couldn’t take all that crying, nothing seemed to calm the baby down.
Sometimes, I simply put her in her crib in our bedroom and closed the door behind me. Reagan would eventually cry herself to sleep, usually.
Sometimes she didn’t stop crying until Raymond returned home. He was very good with her and could get her to stop crying most of the time. Reagan was a spoiled baby and she loved to be held, but only by the people she liked, and I wasn’t one of those people.
Reagan started coming to me after she got a little bigger and after I’d given birth to Kennedey, but both of my children always preferred their father to me. After having another child so soon after the first one, I slowly began to realize my dreams were gone for good. Why was I silly enough to believe in them in the first place? Dreams were ultimately meant to die.
There was nowhere for me to go with one baby on one hip and another on the other hip. Everything I’d ever struggled for seemed like a big joke.
During my dark days, I would look at my two babies with resentment. I saw Reagan and Kennedey as the reason my life didn’t go as planned, but I mainly blamed Raymond. I had a lot of animosity toward him. I wasn’t the type of person to sink in my hole with despair most of the time. No, I freely and easily spread my misery around. If I had to suffer, you did too. I never let my family get away with the bullshit they talked about me because I was “like” them now and I didn’t make life easy for Raymond.
I didn’t know I was going through depression at this time. I didn’t even know what it was. If someone told me, that’s what I had, I would argue that I wasn’t crazy! I’ve always had a hot head, it was nothing new for me to go off at the drop of a hat if something infuriated me. But this was different. I could never seem to get control over my moods and it was difficult to get a hold on my anger.
I remember times of screaming and yelling at Raymond to no end. Most of the time, I don’t remember what we were fighting over. I only saw red and Raymond was in my cross hairs. I snapped at my children for no good reason and went on to their father about how I regretted the day I met him. Reagan and Kennedey usually knew to leave me alone when I got like that and I hated myself later on for making them feel afraid of me. They didn’t know I could hear them in their bedroom crying after fighting with Raymond. I knew they were scared and hurt, but I never did anything to comfort them.
As bad as those days were, those weren’t my darkest moments. No, the worse I felt at that time, was when I allowed the thought of ending my life to enter my mind. It wasn’t something I seriously considered because black people didn’t commit suicide. At least that was the false thinking back then. If that is something you wanted to do, then it meant you were crazy, but therapy and medication wasn’t something black people did. All of this anti-depression medications and therapy was an American thing. I never told Mama how bad things got for me, but I did confide in her once how sad I felt all the time.
“Apollonia, child, you need to concentrate on your children and husband. Stop upsetting yourself and acting foolishly over dancing. It is something you need to let go of, child. If you are upset Apollonia, you must pray more and read the Scriptures. You do not pray enough. That is the problem with this country, these people want to rely on medicine to make them feel better. You need to have faith, Apollonia because that is how I raised you,” replied Mama. It was a mistake to talk to her about it. Mama said exactly what I knew she would say. I allowed myself to become weak, but reading the Scriptures wouldn’t help me. Instead of dwelling on my depression, I chose to bury it deep down inside and not speak of it again.
When I wasn’t cooking or cleaning, I was usually somewhere in the house keeping to myself. There were times, I felt completely removed from my situation at home. Very little attention was given to what was going on around me. Although Raymond and the kids asked me to come along with them to the beach or participate in some family activity, I declined. I never really felt like I was part of their family circle. It was obvious that Reagan and Kennedey loved their father more than me. Raymond had a relationship with them, I could never imagine. I never knew how to communicate with my children from the time they were born up until the time I left them.
I didn’t really know what I felt about my children when I first gave birth to them. I supposed, somewhere down inside I loved them by default. Not because I could actively feel that emotion at the time, but because they were my flesh and blood. It may sound harsh and cold, but it is the truth. I had them because it was the right thing to do. I married Raymond and stayed with my family for as long as I could out of obligation. Not once did I have a mother-daughter connection to Reagan and Kennedey and there was never a bond between us. I deaden myself to whatever feelings may have possibly arisen because of that and I never truly thought about the way I felt for my daughters until years later.
My emotions were constantly threatening to erupt at any give moment and my skin was the only thing that kept everything inside. When I couldn’t sit still and get a hold of myself, I did the only thing that calmed my nerves, dancing. Every time I danced, I became very aware of myself and who I wanted to be. It wasn’t the spiteful or irritable person I’d become over the years. The woman inside of me, she was different. I could be sensual, sexy and seductive on my own terms and not one single man in the room. My inner consciousness opened me up to all of these hidden places long since forgotten.
It was only then as I swayed and moved my body to the beat and rhythm, I was completely free and happy. I was high above everything else and nothing looked the same to me when I looked down. I didn’t have many chances to dance there in my living room out in the open, mainly because it wasn’t easy for me to find the encouragement. Dancing didn’t give me a sense of happiness one hundred percent of the time. Many times, it only reminded of life lost, would could’ve been had I not ended up here.
Every now and then I saw Reagan and Kennedey watching me from the kitchen entrance. Their faces were filled with curiosity, but they never said a word. I was never close to my own mama and nothing she did ever interested me. Reagan and Kennedey’s interest in my dancing took me aback the first few times I caught them looking at me. I was at a loss of what to say to them right away. Finally, one day, I asked if they wanted me to teach them some ballet or hip hop dance moves. Teaching proper ballet terms and positions gave me a sense of being alive again, however brief. I didn’t think it was a big deal, but Reagan and Kennedey seemed like they were over the moon when I invited them to join me.
My daughters were nineties babies, hip hop was their life. They wanted to emulate what they saw in the videos, to which I told them was nothing but booty shaking trash. I then taught them what real hip hop dance was about. It wasn’t bad at all. We didn’t have many times like that together. On these rare occasions, there was a possibility of some connection between the three of us and even a small possibility that I felt like a normal mother. But after one or two hours it would cease to exist and we’d go back and assume our everyday roles.
My dealings with my family were bad enough, but if there was one person I couldn’t stand with a passion, was my sister-in-law, Patrice. Anthony and Patrice got together not too long after we arrived in Miami. They were the perfect pair, both of them equally got on my nerves. Patrice liked to talk out the side of her neck a lot about what she called my “shotgun” marriage and accident baby. I didn’t give a damn if what she said was true or not. You can say a lot about me or who you think I am, but what you don’t do, is throw shots at me or anything that represents me. I’m a De-Sai and we don’t go for outside shit talkers aiming for us, be damned if she was Anthony’s wife.
“Bitch, you ain’t in like that! Don’t get punched in the throat again, dumb cow! I rolled your ass up when I was in college and I’ll do it again, guh!” I yelled. Patrice could get told off by me regardless, but she made it worse for herself for being careless and talking too much shit. We didn’t get along from day one. Patrice’s relationship with my brother, only made her head even bigger. She thought because Anthony was a professional accountant and they had a bigger house, it made them better than us. Please, Patrice was nothing but a former hoodrat who married the first guy who didn’t leave her after she slept with him. Patrice tried to act conservative and holy, but if you saw how off the hook her kids are, you’d know it was nothing but a facade.
Reagan and Kennedey were the best looking children in the family and Kennedey was the smartest. My siblings liked to talk a lot of mess to me in those days about my life, in turn I told them their kids had nothing on mine. “Apollonia, how come you never come any other time to Mama and Daddy’s house? When you do come here, you prance around like you’re still on some tired old stage in Port of Spain. You act as if you are better than all of us!” accused Aurora. “Shows what you know, you stupid twit! I never danced in Port of Spain. No, we supposedly never had any money to send me to school there. Daddy wanted to make sure my life turned out as pathetic as yours and everyone else, in this family! I tell you what though, guh, my life may not be what I dreamed, but I would never trade it for the fucked up existence you live! I don’t even know why you bother getting out of bed in the morning!” I fired back.
“My life is fucked up? At least I’m with a man I love and I’m no dried up ass ballerina!” yelled Aurora. I laughed loudly. “Oh, you mean that crispy gremlin ‘ting you with, guh? What is Darryl? Your third baby daddy? Awwwhh poor dat, he’s not the only cockroach, you live with! You’re only together because the others refused to marry you! I never had my legs as wide open as yours to every other jailbird from Broward to Dade County and down the Keys! I may not dance for a profession, but I had choices, and I’m the only one to go to university in this family. Anthony and his community college accounting degree, you and that tired hair school you went to for only three months. All so you can learn how to sew some horse hair, eighteen inch weave on your bald, no hair growing ass head, guh!” I shouted. I didn’t bother stopping going in as several of our siblings and Raymond looked on. Everyone knew, you couldn’t stop a moving train. Aurora wanted to start in on me and I was going to finish it.
“No, I may not live the life I should be, but Aurora, you live the life you were destined to, on welfare and Section 8 housing! You’re the reason Americans complain about lazy immigrants coming to this country and draining the resources. You’ve always been so jealous of me. I would be too if I had to look in the mirror and see your face everyday! I own my house, my children run circles around all these illegitimate bastards running ’round here, and I don’t lay next to a ‘ting who look like some creature from the black lagoon!” I shot back. That’s how I fought with my family all the time in those days. At the time, I didn’t feel bad about the things that came out my mouth. I’m not proud of some of the things I said and looking back now, I do feel a sense of remorse.
Raymond had better hopes for our marriage than I did after we said ‘I do’. He saw it as the beginning of some new wonderful life, where we would raise our children and live the American Dream. This is what he actually said to me. I told Raymond this was no dream and I certainly was not an American. If he wanted to live in that fairy tale, then he could do it without me.
Raymond and I did not have a ‘happy marriage’. He believed in it more than I did and he turned a blind eye to how bad things got as the years went on. Raymond wanted to believe counseling, alone time, or perhaps even having another baby would make our problems go away. The last thing I wanted to do was bring another child into this world. Raymond accused me of checking out on the marriage because I never considered seeing someone about our problems. I told him he could pay some strange man one hundred and fifty dollars an hour to listen to his problems, but I wouldn’t be there with him.
The marriage was strained, but that’s not to say there weren’t moments when Raymond and I got along. He tried to please me as much as possible. He bought me jewelry when he could afford it, took me out to dinner and helped around the house. I could see Raymond was making an effort, but it wasn’t enough. Too little, too late. The last couple of years was the worse in our marriage. The dread and resentment I felt towards Raymond only grew. It got to the point I couldn’t look at his face and feel utter disgust of how this man ruined my life. Yes, it takes two to lie down and make a child, but it was easier to blame Raymond back then.
As a man and a woman, both Raymond and I had needs, sexual needs. That part of our relationship was pretty non-existent unless sex is something I wanted in the moment. I was never a sex-crazed maniac and I could go without it for months. I sooner have a bottle of cab than spread my legs for my husband waiting for him to get his rocks off. But, when I was ready to have sex, I liked to take control. Raymond and I had pretty much switched roles over the years, he was just happy to be getting any. Makes me wonder why he never went elsewhere. It wouldn’t have been very hard for him. I knew Raymond had many female admirers, but he was never the type the cheat. Sometimes I wished he did cheat, then I would have grounds for a divorce, but he didn’t stray.
After we had sex, Raymond often complained that I had issues with intimacy. He claimed those were our most private moments, but I didn’t allow him to get close. “Apollonia, I make love to you, but you only have sex with me,” he said once. “Raymond, I hate to be the one to have to tell you this, sweetheart, but you only have sex too. You can’t make love to someone, who isn’t in love with you,” I replied, coldly. Raymond scratched at his goatee, shaking his head. “Do you think for once you could not be so damn cold and frigid, Apollonia? Would that hurt? Damn. I treat you with nothing but respect. But every word coming out your mouth is nasty,” he said. “Oh, I’m sorry, did I hurt your feelings, Raymond? How about this, ‘oh strong, black, virile, Mandingo warrior, let me open myself up so you can come inside me with your big, black, Mandingo sized…” I was abruptly cut off. “Stop! Just cut that shit out, Apollonia. I’m getting tired of your mess,” replied Raymond.
“Really? You tired of me? Why don’t you get out of here, go the fuck out to Liberty City, and pick up the first big assed ‘ting you see. You would be doing me a favor. Then I wouldn’t have to deal with your sweaty ass dripping all over me in my bed,” I said, dismissively. “Is that right? I thought this is what you wanted. Aren’t you the one who said you wanted sex tonight?” asked Raymond. “So? Don’t flatter yourself, it wasn’t all that good. I could easily do a better job on my own,” I snapped.
Raymond scoffed. “You are something else. It’s all good. If I’m not pleasuring you anymore, by all means, service yourself from now on. I’m done,” he replied and got up from the bed. I let out a small sarcastic laugh. “You don’t even believe that bullshit, Raymond. You’re pathetic. Instead of going out and finding someone who equally enjoys having sex with you, you’ll come running back, begging to smell this island kitty like you always do. No matter what, you and I both know, that will never change.”
The older my children got, the more difficult it became to deal with them. Reagan was bull-headed with a mouth on her, like me. Kennedey didn’t usually talk back, but she was very opinionated on what she saw as ‘right or wrong’. Everything was black and white with her with little gray, the same as Raymond. Kennedey considered herself to be smarter than most adults and she was very intelligent, but her high I.Q. score didn’t mean a hill of beans in the game of life. Kennedey was very idealistic and artistic and saw the world through her high perched liberal idealism and expressed what she saw or believed in through her art.
Kennedey at times believed, the only way to lift herself up or even compete with Reagan, was to put her down in the areas she lacked. They went back and forth, like all sisters do. Reagan was far from innocent, however. In the same vain, Reagan boasted of her physical features and how many boys liked her compared to Kennedey. Neither of my children were ugly or average in my opinion and I believed there no possible way I could ever give birth to a homely child. Kennedey felt she failed in comparison to her sister in the beauty and popularity department.
Kennedey accused me of not supporting her art or the millions of social causes she became involved in. I couldn’t say it was completely untrue. Of the pieces, I occasionally saw in her room, I had no idea what it meant or represented. Kennedey argued that if I ever took the time to understand her, I would understand her work. Art has never been something I took a great interest in. Kennedey’s passion for her creative expression is something she inherited from me. One thing I knew for sure, was dance is similar to art. There are many ways to express it and every dancer or artist has their own of interpreting feelings, moods, events, and so on.
In my youngest daughter’s case, it wasn’t only me who failed to know her, but Kennedey failed to know herself. She was young, but Kennedey’s insecurities held her back when it came to her artwork. She criticized me for not understanding her through her art, even though she didn’t understand herself. Kennedey chose to paint about different injustices in the world and the undying plague on humankind and the earth, but those things didn’t speak to the person she was inside. I cannot say I truly knew her, but one thing I did know, her art wasn’t reflective of who she was. No one believed I ever paid any attention to anything going on around me. Most of the time I stayed caught up in my own misery, but there were other times I became fully aware of everything that was happening. My family just didn’t know it.
I’ve seen Kennedey’s work on her website since she became an adult. What she chooses to paint now, is very telling of the woman she has become. There is a lot of hurt, sadness, and pain in her work, but much of it is covered in beauty expressed with every emotion of the human spectrum. I see love, happiness, sensuality and sexuality in her pieces. I liked to think Kennedey is experiencing those emotions because she’s able to express it so vividly and easily. I wanted to believe it meant my child is happy.
Back then, most people upon first meeting us, thought Reagan was my carbon copy. She and I do share many of the same traits, but it’s always been apparent, she had a lot of Raymond in her. I think once she became older and more defiant, that Leeds sensibility became her saving grace. I loathed the Leeds as much as they loathed me, but I recognized they were a lot calmer and level-headed than me and most De-Sais. Yes, Reagan and I were a lot alike, but it was one thing to be Apollonia De-Sai and quite another to raise her.
I could see from early on, that Reagan was born a diva. She was spoiled, everyone catered to her needs, and she demanded attention. As a popo and around pre-school age, she got into everything and had a fit if she did not get her way. Mama told me once she went through the same thing with me. I knew she liked that I’d received payback. People told me once Reagan got used to having a little sister, she’d calm down. Those people couldn’t be more wrong. If anything, it turnt her up because she wanted to secure her place and Reagan refused to be second place to anyone. Like mother, like daughter.
When my oldest child was born, Mama felt an instant and deep connection to her. Reagan is the only one in the family to inherit my mother’s hair. Back home, Mama was known for her beautiful fiery red mane and green eyes. No one alive in our family shared that with her. There are people who get shamed for being a redhead, but my mama was looked upon with envy. Several of our relatives, including two of my sisters tried to dye their hair to match Mama’s, but their feeble attempts inevitably ended in disaster. When Reagan became school-aged, a few of her cousins made fun and said she looked odd. They claimed red hair didn’t look good on a black ‘ting. I found it funny these were the same children of my sisters who tried to dye their hair in the past and it ended up being an epic fail. They were haters, upset their children looked like everyone else.
Reagan and I had a combative relationship, similar to the one I had with my muddah. Reagan, like me, hated to back down and out of any fight. Either one of us could be dead wrong, know we’re wrong, and yet still argue until you accepted that we were right. She was very protective as an older sister and looked at Kennedey as someone, she needed to care for. They had their squabbles, but Reagan genuinely looked out for her Kennedey. This is where we differed. I am the oldest girl in my family, but I never felt great concern over my sisters. I cared to the degree if something bad happened to them, but they were of no great interest to me. De-Sais did not allow anyone from the outside to fuck with the family. We could have hate among ourselves, but no one else could penetrate the circle. I was never vested enough in my relatives to care, unless it affected me directly. All my life, everything was about me and what made me happy. Reagan wasn’t selfish to that degree. Raymond would not have it or tolerate that kind of behavior from either one of his daughters.
Regardless if Reagan got her ways from me, she received no sympathy, especially when she tried to use that same smart mouth in our quarrels. I didn’t want to fight with Reagan and she realized like anyone else, taking me on, was a very bad mistake. On any given day, World War III could erupt in our house. I got into it with Kennedey too, on rare occasions, but not like with Reagan. More than anything, I knew I did not have the respect of my daughters. And that was one of many reasons we continued to fight.
Reagan knew from an early age how beautiful she was, people told her this every day. Eventually, it became so ingrained in her head, that her looks were the only thing she began to focus on. Popularity and beauty were other things we had in common. Kennedey was a pretty girl, but she didn’t fully blossom until she became an adult. I could see that from her recent pictures and looking at her in person during Reagan’s wedding.
Reagan reminded me of myself as a teen. No one I knew, could boof me and survive, when it came to my mouth. I always gih’ dem. I was known for my sharp tongue and the cold way I cut any and everyone who dared to step in my way. People say to me, “Apollonia, you’re a mean evil bitch,” because of the things that came out of my mouth. I simply responded to those who came at me in the wrong way. No one could get in my face and expect me not to snap back in return. Reagan used the same defense when Raymond and I were called to school because she made some girl cry due to her mouth. Raymond didn’t like her using the excuse that she was provoked hated that I seemed to “encourage” that type of behavior.
Reagan struggled with many insecurities growing up. She didn’t make the same grades as Kennedey, nor was she as talented as her sister. Reagan based her self-esteem on her appearance and the attention she received from boys. Instead of focusing on becoming a whole person, she hid behind her beauty, brand, and boys. Yes, Reagan had a “brand” before she ever became famous. She was this popular gorgeous red haired, green-eyed diva, that everyone wanted to look like and be like. It was the same for me growing up.
I take the blame for being an emotionally distant mother and not helping my children realize their potential. The truth is, I never had a mama who did the same thing for me. That’s not to say I didn’t have a good mama, but she never encouraged my passion. Mama was a kind woman, but openly discussing your feelings wasn’t something we practiced in our household. Acting warm and fuzzy, isn’t the way I was built.
I didn’t properly instruct my daughters on how to be women. What could I possibly teach them considering the type of woman I was then? I’m a better person now and there’s goodness in me. I want Reagan and Kennedey to know that, but there’s a constant fear I have of it being too little, too late.
The last night I was with my family, Raymond and I got into a major fight that started when the girls were out with their friends and continued after we were dressed for bed. I accused Raymond of never being supportive of my dreams and desires. I suggested a few years back that we save some money and leave Miami for London or Paris. I figured, maybe I could have a small chance at dancing again if we were no longer living in Miami. As usual, my husband didn’t want to hear anything I had to say. By this time, I considered Raymond to be no different than the naysayers in my family. He should have known better because he supposedly loved me.
“When are we going to stop doing this, Apollonia? I am tired of having the same damn fight with you. One day you want us to pick up and move out of the country, another day you want to take out a second mortgage on the house and open a dance studio. How many times do I need to tell you, we don’t have enough money to do those things!” yelled Raymond. “Fine, Raymond, I guess you don’t give a damn about anything that matters to me! I hate you so much. You can’t control me Raymond, you’ll see that one day. I’ll be damned if I let you fuck up the rest of my life!” I yelled. Raymond had a defeated look on his face. I knew he was just as tired as I was from all the fighting. But that night, he received no sympathy from me. All I saw when I looked at him, was a dream that disappeared and a life destroyed.
Deciding to up and leave my family wasn’t the easiest decision I could make. I thought about leaving in the past many times before, but the girls were so young and I didn’t think it would be right if I left at that time. Our house was in utter chaos, no one had any peace. The older they got, the more I could see just how much they didn’t need me nor cared for me. We never connected emotionally and there wasn’t anything I could offer them any longer.
I admit that I was very selfish back then. Being in my mid to late thirties at the time, I figured if I only had one last shot at realizing my dreams. I’d live my life for my kids, now it was my turn to find happiness. The odds of making it were against me, but I would hate myself forever if I didn’t give it a try. I deserved this chance, I earned it. I put in my time and now it was my time.
After my fight with Raymond I went downstairs and thought about what to do. While everyone was asleep, I got dressed and took a suitcase I had already packed weeks before and got ready to leave. I sat at the kitchen table and began to write out a long letter to my family about why I was leaving. I explained that I needed to find myself and see what life was about on my own. After filling up about two pages, I threw the it away and wrote a simple note addressed to Raymond. I told him how unhappy I was and that he never supported anything I wanted for my life. I signed off, telling him not to find me. I took Reagan and Kennedey’s baby books with me and a few of their school pictures. I didn’t want to leave and not be able to look at them one day.
I quietly opened the door to Reagan and Kennedey’s bedroom. As heavy sleepers, I didn’t worry about neither waking up. I stood there for a few moments watching them breath in and out. I slowly walked over to Reagan and kissed her gently on her forehead. Then I turned to Kennedey and did the same.
I whispered good-bye and told them I needed to do this for me.
As I walked outside to the waiting cab, I wondered what would Reagan and Kennedey thought of me in the morning when they realized I was gone? I shook the thought out of my head. I tried to convince myself, this was the best thing for everybody. My little kitten, Sammy would be in good hands and my girls were with their best parent. I don’t know if I could ever forgive myself for doing that, but I would learn to live with it, at least for a little while.
After staying in a motel when I arrived in New York, I found a little dirty studio apartment to rent in The Bronx. The place was absolutely disgusting, but I couldn’t afford much else. I had money saved from a part-time job I had back in Miami. Raymond didn’t know about my secret bank account and credit cards. I knew I would need to put money away for the day I finally decided to leave my husband.
Over the course of a several days, I managed to clean the apartment up as best as I could. I bought a new cheap bed and a second-hand loveseat and chair. Usually, I would never buy anything someone else used, but money was tight. The furniture that was here in the apartment was too disgusting for me to ever use. It wasn’t a Park Avenue penthouse, but it would have to do for now.
First on my list, was to get a job. Finding work as a dancer wouldn’t be easy and I needed to pay my rent. I met my neighbor, Laura a twenty-one year old girl who served drinks down the street from our apartments in some low end dive bar. She told me about an opening as a bartender. The last thing I wanted to do, was sling drinks for the crud of New York’s nightlife, but I needed the money and a bar job that would free up my afternoons.
During the day I sought out different agencies to represent me, all of which turned me down. I went to countless auditions. I heard the same thing over and over. Apparently people loved me, loved how I danced, but thought I was too “mature” for the roles they were casting for. It was either that or I didn’t have enough professional experience. Most of the casting directors assumed I was in my late twenties. Even if I got here ten years earlier, twenty-six or twenty-seven would be considered too old for them.
It was hard not to let it get to me after so many rejections. I’ve always been used to getting what I wanted, at least when I was younger. Now, I couldn’t catch a break. Except for one or two insignificant roles in a couple of small productions, way off Broadway, I didn’t find work. My dream of joining the New York Ballet hadn’t taken off. Over the course of my first few years in New York, it was the same thing. I worked at the bar to make ends me and people rejected me and my talent at every corner.
I went on many auditions and casting calls. My body wasn’t like it used to be and I paid for all the stress I was putting on it. I hated to think that maybe it was true, maybe I was too old for this. I started seeing a doctor for my back pain and wrote me a lot of prescriptions to help with the pain. I’ve never been one to like taking medication, but I found myself needing to just to get through one more disappointing audition and one more night on my feet at the bar. As much as it seemed my dancing career wasn’t going to happen for me, I didn’t want to accept it. I couldn’t let the last few years go by and not have something to show for it. I’d be a failure and my entire family would be right.
After being in this shitty apartment over the last few years, it became clear, that my career would never get off the ground in the way I hoped. Constantly being turned down for every good part I auditioned for began to take its toll on me. I kept hearing in my head, my mama’s voice: you’re just a little black ‘ting from an island country…you’ll never be famous, Apollonia. I tried shaking my head as hard as I could, unable to get her voice out of there. I watched the heavy dark rain drops fall over New York City. If I can make it here, I can make it anywhere. Well, apparently that wasn’t true for me. I failed miserably.
The last few years seemed to go by in a blur. It was as if only yesterday, I moved to the Bronx. I packed my clothes one night, got a taxi and left my children. Reagan and Kennedey are in college by now. It’s not like I don’t ever think about them, I do. Knowing Reagan, the only thing about college, she was enjoying was the partying. Kennedey, is loving to learn as much as she can and probably taking on way too much for herself at once. An overwhelming sense of shame and guilt came over me. I slumped down to the floor, holding my head.
What kind of person am I? How could I do that? How could I leave my own children behind? I asked myself. For what purpose? My dreams did not turn out the way I envisioned when I got here. Silly and foolish I am to even believe in dreams. For one glimmering moment I thought I had a small chance to live the life I set out to live when I first came to this country. Never again, Apollonia, never again.
I grabbed a bottle of vodka and stretched out on my bed. I don’t usually go for hard liquor, but wine wasn’t going to cut it tonight. I didn’t bother mixing the vodka with anything, I just took it to the head. I looked up at the peeling paint on the ceiling and the bad speckling job I did when I first moved in. I glanced around the apartment. What a dump. My house in Miami may have not been the biggest or the nicest, but it was clean and I lived in a good neighborhood. I couldn’t say the same now.
This couldn’t be life. Of the three books I took with when I left Miami, Reagan and Kennedey’s baby books, I also brought my Bible with me. I don’t really know why, it’s been years since I’ve read it. There was a time I looked to the Scriptures for strength and encouragement, but I began to reject it the more my parents told me to give up everything I loved and focus on the Bible. In many ways, they ruined it for me. Every time I tried reading Matthew chapter 6 or the or Psalms, I kept hearing Daddy say: Prayer and supplication, prayer and supplication, Apollonia. You must pray and do things the way your mama and I tell you.
I sometimes looked in my Bible when my girls were younger and I thought to myself, maybe God doesn’t like me, maybe His word isn’t for people like me. Perhaps He knew my faith was never as strong as it needed to be. He looked inside and could see how selfish I was. ‘I am searching the heart, examining the kidneys, even to give to each one according to his ways.’ I recall thinking, God knows I’m no good. I looked over at the numerous prescriptions on my bedside table. I had muscles relaxers and pain medications from my workouts and auditions. I never liked taking medication, but these days, I could barely get out of bed without popping one because of all the pain I was in.
All of this thinking about my children and how it is a very real possibility that God sees me as wicked, made very uneasy and anxious. I felt scared. Scared of what the rest of my life would bring me. Afraid that nothing would ever be right again. I didn’t feel happy. That wasn’t anything new, I couldn’t remember the last time I felt happy. Not when I married Raymond, not even when I gave birth to my children. Anything my family has ever said about me, inevitably became true. I wasn’t anything. Nothing Apollonia De-Sai ever did would matter in this world. If I died tomorrow, none of my family would know about it. I go by my Nani’s maiden name, Alexander. No one in New York knew I had children or where I came from.
Reagan and Kennedey were going on with their lives, but there was no doubt in my mind they both hated me. I was their mother, but I wasn’t there for them. I never told them I loved them. I abandoned them to live out some stupid ass fantasy as a famous dancer. What a joke I am. I opened the bottles to my Soma and Oxycontin, popping first just a few of each in my mouth. I took another swig of the vodka to wash the medication down. Within in minutes I began to feel very relaxed.
I grabbed the vodka and the rest of my Oxycontin. I got up from the bed and staggered over to the sofa. I felt hot and thought lying on the floor would cool me off. I opened the bottle back up and spread out a number of pills on the rug. I had every instinct to put every last one in my mouth. I couldn’t think very clearly about anything, except for the pain I felt inside. I reached for the vodka again and accidentally knocked it over. Nothing spilled from it, I didn’t realize I drank it all.
If there was ever a time for me to talk to God, it would be now. I didn’t ask for His forgiveness or the forgiveness of my children, no I simply begged to not wake up. Please just don’t let me wake up. I don’t mean anything by this, I’m just tired. So, so tired.
My stomach lurched and began feeling queasy. I managed to pull myself up from the floor and slowly drag my feet to the bathroom. I’ve never felt so sick in my life. Maybe if I threw up everything, I wouldn’t feel so bad. To this day, I don’t remember what happened when I made it to the bathroom that night.
I didn’t even remember how I got back into the living area. The only reason I know I passed out by the sofa, is because my neighbor, Laura found me. She later told me, she banged on my door before discovering it was unlocked.
Laura immediately called the paramedics and off I went to the ER. I’ve had low points in my life before, but I will always look at that time as the lowest in my life. Seeing how my kids grew up and knowing I have a grandbaby makes me thankful every day I didn’t stay asleep for good. I don’t know, maybe God was watching me and maybe He did hear my cry.
I don’t remember much about the night of my overdose. I barely remember being in the hospital and getting transferred to Flushing Meadows Behavioral Health, which is a mental health hospital out in Queens. My mind was still very foggy the morning I woke up in the hospital.
I set up on my bed and looked across the room. I got in late last night and went straight to sleep. Now, as I looked around the room, I could see that there was another bed in there, but I didn’t have a roommate. Thank goodness, because the last thing I wanted, was for some weirdo invading my privacy. This is such bullshit, I thought. I’m the last person who needed to be in a place like this. I wasn’t some ‘psycho’. I looked down at what I had on. How did I get these clothes? They were mine and then I remembered Laura coming to the ER with a bag of my stuff.
I got up, showered, and brushed my teeth. I had no idea what to expect when I walked outside of my room, but I could imagine it would be very much like ‘One Flew Over The Cuckoos Nest’. After I dressed and ate breakfast in my room, I was told to see the nurse at the nurse’s station. I had no idea what the hell she could want, but I needed answers. I needed to know how to get out of this place.
“Good morning, Apollonia. How are you feeling today? Any thoughts of harming yourself?” asked the Nurse, who I referred to as Nurse Ratchet. “Excuse me? What the fuck kind of question is that? You don’t know me,” I replied, completely offended. Nurse Ratchet looked slightly confused. “Uh, I have to ask you if you’re having any thoughts of harming yourself,” she repeated. Again, I had no clue as to why this stupid woman would be asking me that.
“Of course not! Why would you ask me that?” I demanded. “Well, Apollonia, we are required to ask the patients questions about their symptoms, what brought them here. You came in because you tried to harm yourself. Now, again, I need to know if you have any of those thoughts right now. Also, how is your depression and anxiety today?” she asked. I shook my head, still unable to understand what these questions could possibly have to do with me.
“Like, I said before, no I don’t. I didn’t try to “harm” myself for your information. Neither do I have depression and anxiety. Where are you hearing this bullshit?” I asked. “It’s right here in your chart. The doctor in the ER stated you were suffering from both depression and anxiety. The same doctor wrote orders for you to be treated in this facility because you overdosed on pain medications and vodka,” answered Nurse Ratchet, matter-of-factually. “I’m only saying this once again. I am fine. Who the hell do I see about getting out of here?” I asked. “That’s not up to me. You have to see Dr. Parsons first. He’s your assigned doctor and should be making his rounds shortly,” she replied. “Fine,” I said and walked off.
I started to head back to my room, and contemplate what my next move would be, when I was summoned to a small conference room to meet with the inpatient psychiatrist. “Good morning, Apollonia. I’m Dr. Parsons, I’m the doctor you’ll be seeing while you’re here in the hospital. First, let me ask, how are you feeling today?” he asked , staring at me from across the table. “Fine,” I replied, flatly.
“Are you having any self-harm thoughts?” he asked. “No,” I replied, starting to feel more irritated by the second. I watched him jot a couple of things down on his pad. There wasn’t anything remotely interesting about the man. He’s obviously a super boring person leading a mundane life. His questions to me, seemed as if he were just going through the motions, like he’s asked these same questions hundreds of times in the past.
I asked Dr. Parsons when I would be able to go home, to which he could not give me a definite answer. For someone who went to medical school and made good money, he certainly did not have too much to say. All he did was ask me about my personal history and what led to me “wanting to harm myself.” I swear, the next person who makes that assumption is going to get a fist to the face. “Look, like I told that dumb nurse out there, there is nothing wrong with me. I had a backache the other night and I drank a little too much, okay. Don’t assume that you know me, because you don’t,” I snapped. Dr. Parsons didn’t seem to take my combativeness too seriously. He made a couple of more notes and told me of the drugs he was prescribing for me to take while I was here.
I left the conference room as soon as I had finished talking to the doctor. I went out into the common area and grabbed a book to read. I couldn’t tell you what it was about. I just needed to get my mind off the fact that I was in a place like this. I sensed someone watching me and looked up. “Hi, how you doin’? Mind if I sit down?” asked the man. I shrugged, indicating that I didn’t care one way or the other. “I’m Maurice,” he introduced himself. I rolled my eyes and didn’t respond.
“You gotta name?” asked Maurice. “Yes,” I replied, dryly. “Well, what is it?” he asked. I sucked my teeth, it was obvious this foo’ wasn’t going to leave me alone. “Apollonia,” I said. “Like Apollonia from ‘Purple Rain’?” wondered Maurice. Was this guy serious? “I was in high school when that movie came out, so no,” I snapped. “For real? Damn you look, hella young,” responded Maurice, in surprise.
Since I had nothing better to do, I listened as Maurice told me the reason why he was in the hospital. He had a problem with alcohol and checked himself in here a few days ago. He wanted to know if I’d been to any groups, to which I told him and that I didn’t plan to. I admitted the reason these people said I needed to be here. “It’s such crap. I never had any mental problems before. These assholes only want money from me,” I complained. Maurice claimed he knew how I felt, but said I should try one of the groups. Apparently it looks good for you if the staff and doctors know you’re participating in different activities. I had no desire to sit around a room with strangers and share my personal business.
Nevertheless, I took Maurice’s advice and went to the next group therapy session that started. I came in and sat down, half listening to the mumbo jumbo the group therapist was talking about. He talked to the group about common behaviors and self-destructive patterns people tend to have. I looked over at the other patients, who eagerly shared their own experiences. I found it very crazy, pun intended, perfect strangers would talk about various symptoms they have, what mental illness they suffered from, and their experiences with drugs and alcohol.
As silly and close-minded as I was at the time, I didn’t believe I had anything in common with these people. One of the women talked about how she heard voices and saw hallucinations. What the fuck kind of shit was this? Another lady said she’s been a cutter for over ten years and this was her seventh hospitalization. I shook my head, I couldn’t relate to anything these folks were talking about. They’re the kind of people who need to be in the hospital, not me.
The group therapist, whose name was Jon, turned his attention to me and asked what were some patterns I’d seen in my past and how did I deal with my depression in the past. He made himself seem very friendly and like he had the ‘right’ to ask me such intrusive questions. “I don’t have any patterns cause I don’t have depression,” I replied. A sympathetic look spread across Jon’s face. “Apollonia, it’s perfectly fine to be open in group. Anything we say in here is confidential. Don’t be afraid to open up,” urged Jon.
“Look, do you see my face? I don’t give a damn if this is confidential. I don’t know you people. Spare me with this psycho bullshit, okay?” I said. “Apollonia, it’s not bullshit. These groups are designed to help you,” countered Jon.
I hastily stood up. “Fuck out of here with all of that. Where I come from, we don’t stay high on Prozac. You can keep your little American Psych 101. I’m not here for this,” I said angrily and walked out the room.
More than anything, I began to feel very frustrated while I was in the hospital. How the hell did I get here? When I thought about what life would be like for me, I never imagined this. I didn’t think I could get any lower than this. Over the course of the next few days, I continued to be defiant with the hospital staff. Maurice said I only made things worse for myself. He advised me that I needed to tell the doctor and nurses what they wanted to hear. The longer I put off participating in my “therapy”, the longer they would try to make me stay. Even if I petitioned to sign out against medical advice, the hospital could petition the court to make me stay here. I didn’t feel like going through such a hassle. I decided to play nice and be a good girl. I didn’t share in the groups, that I refused to do, but I made myself go to a few and answer the nurses and Dr. Parsons’ questions without an attitude.
After ten days, I was told I could go home. The hospital social worker set me up with a therapist to see as an outpatient. I acted as if I would go, but really had no intention of talking to some stranger about my personal business. I had bigger problems, Laura called me and said I’d been replaced at the bar for missing so many days. When it rains, it pours. Now I had no job and no income. My little savings were just about gone. This couldn’t come at a worse time. Before he left, Maurice gave me his contact information. Desperate, knowing I couldn’t afford to keep my apartment, I took him up on his offer to come and stay with him. If I’d known back then what I knew now, I would’ve stayed under a bridge than live with Maurice. I rue the day I ever met that son of a bitch.
The last thing I ever wanted to do, was live with Maurice. I had no attraction to him whatsoever, but I had little choice. Maurice lived in Brownsville, Brooklyn, not the best neighborhood. He didn’t have a real job, but held multiple side hustles, mostly illegal to make money. I didn’t know too much about it and chose to look the other way, something I’m not proud of today. Maurice dangled the connections to the dance community in my face, hoping that would keep me around. His mother, a washed up drug addict dancer still had friends who worked in the industry. Oh trust me, it wasn’t anything like Broadway.
Maurice’s mother, Shonte was nothing but a common criminal these days along with the rest of his jailbird friends. She ran a check and insurance fraud scheme out of her apartment and often met over here to discuss her new targets with Maurice. When she and his home boys came over, I stayed upstairs in the bedroom. I wanted no part of what they were into and I refused to associate with such trash, despite that I lived with Maurice.
I didn’t spend all my time laying around the house. Within a few weeks, I found a job teaching dance at the Y nearly ten miles away. I stayed there for a few years, roughly the entire time I lived with Maurice. Not my dream job. The place was an absolute dump, I hated it. Sometimes I couldn’t believe I’d been reduced to teaching people with no dance skills whatsoever in such menial surroundings. I didn’t always have the same students, but of the regulars who came, were pretty decent women. I felt like I was instructing five year olds in their first ballet class, but at least I got to do something I loved for a few hours a day.
The ladies were very impressed with my skills and dance technique. They wondered why I wasn’t dancing for the New York Ballet or some other famous dance company. I had no answers for them, only giving them the excuse, dance was merely a hobby of mine. By this time, Reagan was making a name for herself in the modeling world. I couldn’t believe so much time had passed. She and Kennedey were fresh out of college and living in Starlight. I knew this because I followed them on social media and on their blogs. They of course, had no idea.
Reagan’s celebrity had grown very fast. Not just because of her modeling, but also due to her relationship with Ra$hin. Ugh, when I saw online she was dating him, I thought to myself, there is no way in hell Reagan would ever have looked at that ‘ting had he not been super famous. My daughter wasn’t a gold digger, but considering how young she was at the time, she probably looked at that turd as being helpful to her career. I am only thankful the man she ended up marrying is fine looking and treats her right.
A couple of different times, various students in my class told me how much I looked like Reagan Leeds. It was said we could be sisters. No one knew how old I was and would never believe me if I said I had two kids out of college. I never reacted to the Reagan comparisons. She did look like me, even Kennedey has some of my features. As much as I sought them out online, I never had a desire for people to know my true identity.
My so-called relationship with Maurice was dysfunctional right from the beginning. Barely a day went by that we weren’t in some sort of fight. Many of these fights became physical. Maurice was the type of bitch-made “man” who liked to put his hands on women. I guess he believed he controlled other women like that and he could do the same to me. His ass obviously didn’t know anything about me or where I came from. Maurice soon found out, that no matter if you’re a man, I fight back. I’m a fiery island girl and there was no way in hell a man would beat my ass everyday and I didn’t hit his ass back.
Some people if they knew about it would ask, why didn’t you leave? I couldn’t truthfully say why at the time. Now I know it’s because I didn’t feel as if I had anywhere else to go. I didn’t think well enough of myself to get up and leave. I went around the last several years absolutely hating myself. I didn’t easily recognize it at first, but it’s true. I was a has been dancer, who never was and I up and left the two most important people in the world to me. On top of that, I wasn’t a very good mama to either Reagan and Kennedey and I hated myself for it. There were days, I avoided looking at my reflection in the mirror, afraid of what I would see.
I told Maurice the next time he wanted to lay his hands on me, he should be prepared to spend the rest of his time on earth in a box. Whatever we had was tumultuous and not a real relationship, just a means to an end. I was no weak woman that would ever let him beat on me, no I fought back. We do not play that where I come from. I fought boys in my school and my breddas growing up. If anyone was to swing on you, you swing back, twice as hard. When Maurice tried to get boof with me, it never turned out in his favor.
I couldn’t tell how many fights Maurice and I had or how many times a neighbor called the police to the apartment because of all the screaming and yelling. We were usually able to convince the cops, nothing physical had popped off between us, only arguing. In some cases there wasn’t any hitting.
When things did get physical, it’s not like the cops could arrest either of us with no visible bruises. Other times, the police found physical evidence to arrest both of us. I never did any jail time, but by my second arrest I had to go before a judge and ordered to attend some domestic violence awareness program. Maurice because of his priors got the same treatment plus jail time.
You would think I’d left him after that, but no, I came back. It was very stupid of me, but in all honesty, Maurice didn’t scare me, not him or any other man. Being sentenced to take those classes was bullshit. I wasn’t the aggressor in my case with Maurice, but in this state, if both people threw blows in these kind of cases, both faced consequences. My arguments with my husband had gotten very bad over the years when we were together, but I can honestly say, there wasn’t any physical violence. Okay, maybe once when I was drunk I slapped Raymond, but he never raised a hand to me.
After I finished those classes, I got probation, but the director of the program recommended to the court that I get further psychological counseling because of underlying issues she felt I had. That pissed me off more than anything. I’d still not come to terms back then of why I really overdosed a few years prior or the fact that I suffered from depression.
I’d spent the last several years in New York without anyone knowing my real last name or anything about my background. I soon found out, that you can’t keep everything a secret. What’s done in the dark, will soon come to light. Maurice began to grow frustrated with me after a few years because I never liked talking about my background. Obviously he knew I came from Trinidad. I never told him I’d lived in the United States since high school, I let him assume I moved to New York straight from Trinidad. One day, when I was at work, Maurice decided to break into my laptop to see what I’d been “hiding” all these years.
I came home early and caught him right in the middle of going through my files. Maurice exploded and claimed he felt betrayed because I never told him about my life. He saw multiple pictures of my children when they were little. He saw my downloaded pictures of Reagan and found out I kept up with both her and Kennedey through social media. Once he put two and two together, there was no denying the little red haired girl in those pictures and the fiery diva known as Reagan Leeds were one in the same.
I had good reason for wanting to keep my girls’ identity a secret from Maurice. He was a low ass snake and he would look at this as an opportunity to try to exploit Reagan because of her money. Over my dead body. My top priority soon became to make for certain, Maurice never contacted my daughters. If he were to ever try anything, he would get full wrath. Maurice thought I was some crazy island girl before? Please, he didn’t want to fuck with me, not when it came to my kids.
My Nani used to say to me: Girl, when people show you who they are, believe them.’ Maurice made it no secret of the low down slimy piece of shit he was from jump. Just as I expected him to, he came to me one day, demanding that I make contact with Reagan to get money from her. “Look, bitch, you sittin’ on a gold mine. Did you really think I was just gon’ forget that rich ass hoe was yo’ daughter? I’m gon’ tell you like this, Apollonia, if you don’t want your famous daughter to find out the truth about you, you’ll call her,” threatened Maurice. I looked up into his eyes from my seat on the edge of the bed. There was nothing but sick sadistic greed in them. Maurice falsely believed he scared me. If anything, he only made me want to lurch at his throat.
“Excuse you? What the hell are you talking about?” I demanded. “Look, not only is that little tramp you gave birth to, sitting on her own coins, but she got access to Ra$hin money. I can make it look like you was every bit involved with my mama when she got that money out of Eastern New York Mutual. You ain’t think I got no insurance on yo’ ass? Bitch, I got yo name all over shit and accounts with that money,” he replied, menacingly.
I jumped up from the bed, glaring at him. “Is that really supposed to scare me, Maurice? You don’t have anything better on me?” I asked. “Funny you should ask. I got pictures of you butt ass nekkid, crack pipes, needles and all. You really think your baby girl, want everybody to find out her mama is a crackhead fiend?” asked Maurice. My temperature shot straight up. Mt. St. Helen’s eruption had nothing on the wrath I was ready to unleash on Maurice. What the hell did he mean, crackhead? I’ve never done drugs a day in my life. Maurice told me that one night when I’d passed out on the floor from drinking too much and something he slipped in my drink, he managed to plant pipes and needles near me to make it look like I’d nearly overdosed.
“Oh yeah, and if you don’t think that shit is enough, I got proof to show your daughter, her mother ain’t nothin’ but a psycho bitch, who spent time in the nuthouse from trying to kill herself! I got your medical records, hoe. I think I’ll book my black ass on the first flight out of JFK and pay your kids a visit. Reagan won’t like it when I tell her I’ll put all this shit online about her crazy ass mama for the world to see. The bitch will be beggin’ to write me a fat ass check! You made me do this, Apollonia, when I told you to got to her months ago, you didn’t want. Now I ain’t no choice,” said Maurice.
I stood there, not saying anything for several moments. Finally, I reached back and slapped Maurice as hard as I could across the face. “Muthafucka, don’t you ever come at me like that. And don’t you ever call my children out of their names! Go to my kids, see what happens. Give me a reason, Maurice!” I screamed. “Trick, who the hell you think you is, putting your hands on me? We can make this a lot easier, like I done told you before. Either yo’ ass get a yo’ daughter, or I will go to her myself!” yelled Maurice.
There comes a time when everyone reaches the point of no return and right there in that moment, was it for me. I told Maurice months ago to never speak of my children again. Not only did his ass have Reagan’s name in his mouth, but he planned on going to my kids. Don’t ever get it confused, I’m not in the least concerned about my own reputation, but there was no way on this earth I would ever let someone like Maurice be in daughters’ presence. He would have to kill me before I’d ever allow him to look upon Reagan or Kennedey.
I swiftly walked over to the window with Maurice following close behind. “What you gon’ do, huh? You ain’t gon’ do nothing, bitch!” he mocked me. I grabbed a baseball bat that was leaning against the television in the corner and quickly turned back around. I’ve never been one for baseball, but the way I gripped up on that bat, you’d think I was on plate at Yankee Stadium. “You tried it with the wrong woman. You don’t believe I’d use this? Say it again! Say you’ll go to my children. I will beat the living shit out of you if you even breath in any one of my daughters’ direction! You say I’m crazy because I was in some mental hospital? Muthafucka, I will show you crazy! Certified by the state of New York, bitch! I will turn you from a rooster to a hen in a single blow! Your limp little shit will never work again!” I screamed.
Maurice threw his hands up and backed away. “Apollonia, yo’ ass is crazy! Calm the fuck down!” he yelled. There wasn’t any doubt, Maurice tried to sound like he was in control, but he was truly scared. No one’s ever had so much fear in their eyes before. The tone of my voice and the look on my face, told Maurice I wasn’t bullshitting. Say what you want about me, I do not care, but I’d never let someone like Maurice come around my family.
No, I didn’t do right by Reagan and Kennedey as a mother while they were growing up. But now, now there wasn’t anything on this earth I wouldn’t do to protect my girls. No harm would ever come to them, at least while there was still breath in these lungs.
After I informed Maurice I had my own highly incriminating proof of his illegal activities that could send away for twenty years, he agreed to drop his threats. More than the proof I had, Maurice knew I wasn’t playing when I told him I’d beat him with that bat. He was as scared as the little bitch made ass he is. The same night, I packed my bags and left Maurice. I never saw him again after that and he never sought out Reagan or Kennedey. I didn’t have any place to go, so I called up my old neighbor, Laura. She was more than happy to let me crash at her place for a few months until I saved enough money to get my own apartment.
Laura has always tried to be my friend and stayed in contact with me even after I moved from the Bronx and stopped working at the bar. I supposed she looked at me as some glamorous older sister. I didn’t know where she saw any “glamour” because she rarely saw me dressed up the entire time we’ve known each other. Laura thought I was very pretty and assumed I was only about twenty-eight when we first met. She didn’t know the truth about my background and I had no intention of ever telling her.
Laura often called me to go out to the club or offer to hook me up with some guy she knew. I never took her up on any of her offers. I received plenty of invitations for dinner from all sort of men throughout the entire time I’ve lived in New York. Men from every walk of life, older rich men, young professionals, thugs, hustlers, college boys, married men, everyone. I had no desire to date to go out. Sure, I lived with Maurice for a few years, but we were hardly exclusive. He constantly saw other women and I didn’t give a damn.
Not long after I moved into my new place in East Flatbush, I read what that ugly rat Ra$hin did to Reagan. I really can’t explain what that did to me. Not only had I’d been in a domestic violence situation for years, but I couldn’t be there for her like she needed me to be. Kennedey didn’t go through that experience herself, but I could only imagine what she was going through as Reagan’s sister. No, neither of my kids had me to depend on and for that, I will never forgive myself.
I kept up with the story for months and often wondered exactly what happened and how Reagan dealt with the fallout once the situation became public. I never knew what was going on in Reagan’s head when that ugly piece of shit bastard laid his hands on her. She fought anyone who got into her face when she was younger. I’m happy she got away safely. If she Reagan had a bat or other weapon nearby, I can imagine her cracking it upside his big peanut shaped head. Ra$hin wrecked my girl to the point she didn’t recognize herself any longer. Reagan wasn’t broken beyond repair. There was no way I gave birth to a weak child.
I know for me personally, Ra$hin better be happy I never see him in New York or we had no family out in Starlight. If this had happened in Florida, any number of De-Sais could have buried him out in the glades where no one could find him and the let the gators do away with him. That is not to say the De-Sais were capable of doing that. I didn’t grow up a proud De-Sai, but murderers, we were not. A good authentic ass beating by the entire family leaving that little shit needing a feeding tube would have been perfectly fine with me. The more I thought about what that son of a bitch could have done to my baby had she not gotten away, only made me more comfortable with the thought of Ra$hin getting a beat down. That muthafucka is psycho and everything in me believed he could have killed Reagan that night.
Violence is violence, but whatever would happen to that no ball having bitch would be well deserved. Trinis don’t play with that. I followed the story closely and read in the paper and online how many of my nephews, cousins and breddas threatened him if he came to Miami. It scared his ass enough to cancel several shows in Miami while all of this was going on. That piece of shit would not get his until someone did the same thing to him as he did to my daughter. When I heard her boyfriend, Jaylen beat the dog shit out of him, I felt justice was finally served. Say what you want about that or any De-Sai, no one from the outside should ever expect to hurt one of us and get away with it. Moral of the story, don’t start nothing, won’t be nothing.
I was shocked when I heard about Raymond’s heart attack. Most people would be surprised that happened to someone as healthy as Raymond. I know him and how much he loves our children. Something as traumatic as what Reagan experienced would be just the thing that sent him into cardiac arrest. Raymond loved Reagan and Kennedey more than life itself and it had to make him feel like a complete failure to allow that to happen. No, it wasn’t his fault, but Raymond would take all the blame and beat himself up over it.
I didn’t know all the details because after the media broke the story, Reagan and Kennedey went underground. Neither girl tweeted, posted anything on Instagram or made an entry on their blogs. They loved their father as much as he loved them and I knew it was killing them to see him like that. I didn’t keep up with Raymond or what was going on his life at the time. The only reason I knew about his relationship with his nurse is because of the pictures Reagan posted of all of them shortly after she got married, like some big happy family.
You can imagine I wanted to know everything I could about the next man Reagan became involved with after breaking up with that lunatic. I’m not referring to that little Lake boy, who clearly wasn’t my daughter’s type. No, I am speaking of Jaylen Powers. I spent many hours in the New York Public Library looking up info on this boy. I collected information on his upbringing, family, background, financial status, and bodies he had in his closet. By bodies, I mean the amount of women he’s dated. I wanted to know if Jaylen was some sort of manwhore. Nothing in my intel said to me that he was a womanizer, but clearly the boy loved women and women loved him. I couldn’t blame them, he is a very nice looking young man.
I remembered when I first saw him, I thought go ‘head, Reagan, he’s a fine one. I didn’t know him personally, but after they began dating everyone on the internet talked about her relationship. It seemed to me he treated Reagan right and from the pictures of them together, Reagan looked very happy. That’s all I could ever want for her.
Kennedey’s little boyfriend, Micah received the same treatment from me. Kennedey is more cautious than her sister, so I trusted her judgment a little more off the bat when I found out she had a steady boyfriend. I’ve never known her to have any kind of boyfriend growing up. Kennedey liked them enough, but she wasn’t boy-crazy like her sister. I knew Raymond had to have his boxers in a bunch because of Kennedey dating a musician. I actually laughed to myself thinking of his initial reaction to Micah.
Micah didn’t have as much information online as Jaylen. I mostly saw things about his band and his music he posted himself on his website. From what I could tell of Kennedey’s blog entries about her protests and projects, Micah shared the same interests with her. I’ve followed her blog, ‘Rebel With A Just Cause’ since college. Micah and her other friends often popped up in pictures from latest rally or march she’s participated in. I thought it was nice that Kennedey met a creative person like her. One of the things Raymond and I never could see eye to eye about was my passion for dancing and the need I had to express myself. He was a football star, he didn’t know a thing about being creative.
There was something about working with other people that made me uneasy. I had no desire to sit around some office for eight hours a day, pretending to like people I had no personal interest in. I liked to keep to myself in many situations and that’s given the title of being stuck up to some people over the years. I was very social in college when I needed to be. At the little jobs I held here and there over the years, some intimidated co-worker (usually females) felt threatened by me because I didn’t socialize and because of the way I looked. That’s why me and corporate America never got along. I didn’t really work until my kids got older, but even then, I never held onto a job very long.
I couldn’t be bothered with petty, jealous females or a supervisor breathing down my neck, so I opted to find employment I could do at home. I quit my job at the Y a long time ago and began a customer service job online. I simply answered people’s questions about any number of products they ordered from different online cosmetic retailers. Although I did not care for it, but I took paid internet surveys. They didn’t pay as much as they did a couple of years ago, but I still managed to clear two to four hundred dollars a month from them. Another online hustle I had, was buying things like bags and shoes in an auction and reselling for profit. It could very tiresome, but it made me good money.
Clearly, I wasn’t living my dream life. I finally accepted the fact that I wouldn’t headline the season opener of the New York Ballet, no, that was gone now. I decided I wanted to open my own dance studio. I didn’t know how are when this would ever happen, but I believed I could make it happen. I hated the Y, but I enjoyed teaching people the art of dance. Just about every penny I made, went into my savings. New York is a very expensive place to live, but I felt the need to stay here because it grounded me in the dance community. Yes, I could open a studio anywhere, but there was something about making it New York that made me believe if I became successful, it meant I’d made it here and I could make it anywhere.
I’ve been a girl to love fashion and clothes. I never could afford much of it and I the best with what I had. What I lacked in funds, I made up with my ability to seek out and find the best deals and samples sales in the city and online. Maybe I couldn’t afford the latest Marc Jacobs bag, but I could buy the one from one or two seasons ago for a fraction of the price. Discounted Louboutins, yes, I had that, winning a bid for a third of the price of a new Prada bag, had that too. I didn’t go overboard when it came to shopping, but I made every purchase count. I didn’t have too much going on in my life and shopping sometimes made me forget about the real existence I lived day in and day out.
Being the top model that she is, Reagan has graced just about every major fashion magazine out there. I know this, because I started collecting her most recent covers and back ordered ones I didn’t purchase when they first came out. Seeing the fashions Reagan modeled in Vogue and on the runways gave me a lot of inspiration. Not necessarily because of the designer names she wore, but because it was her wearing them. If Reagan was featured in an ad wearing a dress from K-Mart, I would buy that too. That’s not to say I wouldn’t match it with some Brian Atwood heels.
After years of being away from my children I began to miss them. I felt like I needed to see them again. My life wasn’t going anywhere and there were so many things I wished I could take back. I didn’t fully realize how much I loved them until all the bull with Maurice went down. It wasn’t easy for me to express my feelings because it wasn’t something my family easily did when I was growing up. There were times when I resented my children and I’m ashamed of that.
Reagan was a famous supermodel and traveled all over the world. It wasn’t hard to track someone with her celebrity status down. I usually knew when she was in New York City, either because she posted on Twitter or I read about it on some blog. Under most circumstances, people would think that staking out her boyfriend’s apartment and following her to the park was psycho. I didn’t care. One particular winter’s day I watched Reagan and her then boyfriend, Jaylen playing in the snow in Central Park. She didn’t see me. I watched her for the longest time, thinking to myself, if she only knew I was here. A part of me wanted to say something to her, but guilt consumed me, so I stayed away.
I would’ve loved to see Kennedey too, but she didn’t travel as much as her sister. There were a couple of different occasions that I knew of Kennedey coming to New York with her sister, but I never got to see her. I finally got my chance at Reagan’s wedding. When I first heard about Reagan getting married, I decided it was time for me to contact my girls. My oldest daughter was getting married and I didn’t want to miss it. I wanted my children, no, I needed my children.
My trip to Miami was the most important one I took up until I left for Isla Paradiso. My daughters had to know I was there, they needed to know their mother was watching them. I wanted to see Reagan getting married, how could I miss that? I arrived in Miami days before the wedding. It was of no surprise to me that Reagan chose her favorite beach to get married on. During the ceremony, it was my girls I was looking at, but I could easily see my parents down front, even Anthony. Moreover, I saw Raymond sitting with his nurse. I suppose he had a right to see someone after all these years. It didn’t feel right to me, seeing that woman sitting in my seat watching my little girl get married. Maybe I had no right to that claim, but I’m her mother and it broke my heart.
Rather than focusing on that, I gave my attention to Reagan and Kennedey. Reagan was such a beautiful bride and she looked so happy. It blew me away when I saw Kennedey down by the altar. I’d never seen her look so beautiful and full of life in her face. Kennedey is a beautiful young woman and that night she glowed almost as much as her sister. I decided not to say anything or do anything. This was the happiest day of Reagan’s life and the last thing I wanted to do, was ruin it for her. It tore me up inside that she wasn’t aware of my presence. Instead of showing my face, I watched the rest of the ceremony and simply walked away.
Until I could see my children face to face, I would have to settle for keeping up with them online. I looked at Reagan’s blog, ‘The Reagan Leeds Life’ and Kennedey’s websites every single day. There were many times, I wanted to leave a comment or tweet them, but I never did until after the wedding. I follow both of my children on social media under an assumed name. One day, Reagan posted pictures of her reception on Instagram. She had millions of followers, but I was the first one to leave a comment out of thousands of others. I told Reagan how beautiful she looked. Reagan didn’t respond to all the other comments on her pictures, but she replied to me. She simply said thank you. I know she had no idea that it was me on the other side of the internet, but I wanted to believe that she could somehow feel that I saw her on her wedding day.
Once Kennedey opened her gallery, I went to her website to see all of her art she displays and has for sale. I purchased one small painting from her, it wasn’t very expensive. I left a comment on the gallery’s website that I thought all of her work was beautiful. My purchase was anonymous, Kennedey had no clue it was me. She said how much she appreciated my support of her work and hoped I could check out the gallery if I was ever on Isla Paradiso. Kennedey didn’t know it at the time, but I had every intention of doing exactly that.
When I wasn’t online working or shopping, I was here in my apartment, left alone with my thoughts. I hated thinking about everything I’ve done wrong when it came to Reagan and Kennedey. This wasn’t living, this was existing. Somewhere out there my children and my husband were living full lives. While I stayed in New York, knowing tomorrow wouldn’t be any different than today.
How do I fill these hours? I watched one stupid re-run after another on television or checked for updates online. Not much else to do, so I mainly did nothing. Little by little, I came to the realization that this whole depression thing wasn’t going away. I tried to put it aside for as long as possible, but it began to consume me. I refused to allow myself to get as low as I did the night I went into the hospital. No, I couldn’t let that happen again, but I couldn’t continue on like this either.
Shortly after I returned from the wedding, I started seeing a psychiatrist, Dr. Ambrose. It took a lot for me to humble myself and see someone to sort out whatever was going on inside my head. I didn’t feel one hundred percent comfortable seeing a doctor like her, but I couldn’t let my pride get in the way of what I needed.
Throughout my sessions with Dr. Ambrose, I told her about my dark days when my children were little, up until now. I didn’t want to believe I’d been depressed all these years. When I told Dr. Ambrose I didn’t think it was possible for someone like me to be depressed because I often became enraged over the years and would explode in anger. It didn’t take much for someone to get on my bad side and for me pounce on them and the tiniest thing. My doctor told me, on the contrary, people with depression don’t only present as being sad or stuck in a hole. Many have mood swings, become irritable, and there can be other underlying issues going on.
Dr. Ambrose knew about Reagan and Kennedey and advised me that perhaps in due time, I could reach out to them. She said I shouldn’t expect a warm welcome and it’s possible they could reject initially. I know that was a possibility. I had to put myself in their shoes and think about how I would react if I were them. “Apollonia, even if Reagan and Kennedey reject you, that shouldn’t discourage you. It will take time to heal those wounds. I don’t know your daughters, but I’ve gotten to know you over the past several months. I think it would be very beneficial for you to reach out to your children. I honestly believe, that Reagan and Kennedey need you too. It’s something you’ll have to decide for yourself. You’ve told me that ever since you found out that were about to be a grandmother, you felt the need even more to see Reagan and Kennedey,” said Dr. Ambrose. “I do. The way I think of it is, yes, I screwed up with my children, but maybe there’s a chance I could make it up through my grandbaby,” I replied.
“I understand. Just know that if you get the chance to have a relationship with this child, will not erase the misgivings in your relationships with Reagan and Kennedey. Sure, this child could signify a new beginning for all of you, but you can’t run away from your past. You need to confront those issues within yourself first, which you are doing and then try to heal the relationship with your daughters,” said Dr. Ambrose. What she said made a lot of sense. Yes, I wanted connect with my grandchild, but I had to make things right with Reagan and Kennedey first.
You could say, I had a lot to think about when it came to contacting my children again. I had no idea how I would go about it. I’m not a scary person and nothing intimidates me, but I felt afraid at the thought of facing Reagan and Kennedey again after all these years. As days and weeks went by, I came up with more excuses as to why, it wasn’t the right time to go to Isla Paradiso and see them. I didn’t want to confront what I’d done to children just yet. The longer I put it off, the harder it got for me to get up each day and look at myself in the mirror.
I read online Reagan gave birth to a baby girl. I can’t describe to you how that made me feel. To know my child had a child, awoke a part of me, I wasn’t aware existed. My need to see Reagan and Kennedey became all too real one snowy winter day. I was in Manhattan running errands on foot and I got a beep on my cell phone. I looked at the notification, telling me Reagan had uploaded new pictures to her Instagram. I stared at the picture of the most beautiful baby I’d ever seen. She had the same green eyes, I see everyday. The caption of Reagan’s photo said:
Welcome to the world Marseille Elektra Powers, now a full two weeks old!
I couldn’t move from that one spot outside the subway as the heavy snow came down around me. Reagan’s baby, my grandchild. I’d tried to prepare myself for months, knowing I would be a grandmama soon, but I didn’t expect this. I read every post Reagan made about her pregnancy and looked at every picture she took as her belly grew bigger and bigger.
No, I didn’t think it would hit me like this. Tears stung my eyes and before they could fall, I ran into the nearby building. I steadied myself against a wall and brought my hand over my mouth. I tried to bite my tongue, but it did nothing to keep me from breaking down. I am not one to cry easily, very few things cause me to have such an emotional response. I didn’t cry when my children were born, but seeing my grandbaby was too much. As strong as I wanted to be, I couldn’t.
I gasped for air, the imaged still burned in my mind. The baby looked so much like Reagan and Kennedey both! It was as if I were looking at my own children when I saw Marseille for the first time. I had no idea what to do at this point. I couldn’t go on like this. More than wanting to see my girls and grandbaby now, I had to see them. There was no question about it. I wanted my family back and I would do anything in my power to make that happen.
After I gathered myself together, I didn’t head back to Brooklyn immediately. I walked over to Central Park and sat on a bench, watching the snow. I sat out there for over an hour, unaware of how cold it was. Everything I wanted to forget about in my past kept coming to the front of my mind. How had I ever let this go on for so long? Why did I allow myself to become this person? I didn’t have all the answers, but I knew I couldn’t go on like this.
Once I left the park, I stopped into a Starbucks and ordered a black coffee. I sat in the back, even though the place was nearly empty. I tapped my fingernails on the table and looked down at the steaming cup of brew until the coffee became cold. I’m a horrible person. Even if I went to IP to see Reagan and Kennedey, why would they want me back after what I did to them? Maybe they didn’t need me back in their lives. My children weren’t the only ones I haven’t been in touch with in all these years, but I hadn’t spoken to my parents or none of my siblings since the day I left Miami.
I got up and left Starbucks and my cold cup of coffee on the table and headed back into the cold. For some reason, I couldn’t bring myself to go home just yet. I suppose I knew why. If I were alone in my apartment, I’d be left alone with my thoughts. What I said before about not being scared of anything, wasn’t entirely true. Not only was I afraid of being rejected by my kids, but I was afraid of my thoughts. There were times, my mind threatened to consume me so much, that I’d turn the television up as loud as I could or listen to The Best of Sade over and over again on my mp3 player. Any kind of noise was a welcome distraction as long as I didn’t have to think about the guilt that’s been eating me from the inside out for over ten years. If I could, I would do it all over again, but since I can’t there was only one thing for me to do.
I had ample time to think about what the next step would be, my next step to deliverance. After a couple of months of Reagan giving birth, I decided to put my plan into motion. I would go to Isla Paradiso and take back my daughters and my grandbaby. There’s no doubt in my mind, this is what I needed to do. I talked to Dr. Ambrose about it and she believed it would be the first step to healing, not just for me, but for my family.
Maybe I screwed up with my own children, but maybe there would be a chance that I could make things right through Marseille. She’s an innocent baby and she needs me in her life, as much as I needed her. All the way to JFK, I kept telling myself, things would be alright, like that Luther song. Over and over in my head I envisioned what it would be like once I looked Reagan and Kennedey in the eye. This was it, it was now or never. No turning back now.
Once I arrived on IP, I went about tracking my girls down. My first stop after I left my hotel was to Kennedey’s gallery. I put on a dark dress and dark shades to conceal my face as much as possible. I partially hid myself behind a wall and watched Kennedey talking to a couple of people who looked like they could be art buyers. She looked so beautiful and grown up. Reagan has definitely had an influence over her sister’s fashion sense.
It was very clear, Kennedey knew exactly what she was doing. The way she spoke to people about her art and business in general, left me very impressed. I’d never seen Kennedey look or act so confidently. She owned the room, this was all hers and no one could take that away. After a few moments of watching Kennedey, I turned back around, wrapping my arms around myself. It became too much to look at her any longer. I thought seeing my youngest daughter would be easy if she didn’t know I was watching her, but it wasn’t. Matter- of-fact, it was one of the hardest things I had to do. All it would take would be for me to call out to her, letting her know I was here, but I couldn’t and quietly left the gallery.
The next day, I followed Reagan, her husband, and the baby to a park not far from her house. I was barely prepared to see the pictures of my grandbaby online, but seeing her in the flesh was entirely different. I tried my best to hide behind some bushes and trees so they wouldn’t see me. Reagan and Jaylen spread out a picnic lunch and put Marseille in her car seat next to them on the blanket. Their little family looked so peaceful and happy. I stayed in the park for over an hour watching them from the shadows. I wanted to go over there so bad, but I stopped myself. In due time, Apollonia, in due time, I kept repeating to myself.
Finally, the night had arrived for me to make my presence known. Yes, I was nervous, but there wasn’t anything I could do about it now. If my kids rejected me, I wouldn’t give up, but if they made it clear there was no possibility or room for me in their lives, then it would be something I would have to deal with. At this point, I had nothing to lose and everything to gain. I’d already lost my family the night I walked out on them and I’ve learned to exist with that reality. Maybe I wasn’t ‘living’ but I was surviving.
I wouldn’t give up so easily if Reagan and Kennedey told me they never wanted to see or speak to me again. Knowing Reagan, I can guarantee, that would be her initial reaction. I can’t blame her though. Kennedey would be hurt and upset too, but not like Reagan. I didn’t come to IP for Raymond. He is still my husband and over the years since we’ve been apart, I’ve learned that deep down, I do love him, but he isn’t the reason I’m here. Maybe I had no right to come back after all these years, but I’d be damned if I didn’t let my children know how much I love them and deeply I regret everything I’ve ever done to them. If Reagan and Kennedey wanted to hate me for the rest of their lives, they have that right, but I owed them an explanation, I owed them everything.
I slowly walked up to Reagan’s door after leaving the hotel. My heart was beating so hard, it thumped against my chest. I had played this scenario over and over in my mind. I thought about all the different ways I could say hello or explain the reason that I was there. But once I heard footsteps approaching the door, there wasn’t one thing I could remember. The door slowly opened. I locked eyes with my mirror image. The color immediately drained from Reagan’s face. I heard an audible gasp over her should and saw Kennedey standing in the background, a look of shock on her face. With no other thought in my mind, I opened my mouth, “Hello, Reagan.”
Author’s note: This was a very difficult and personal chapter for me to write. As someone whose dealt with depression for most of their life, it’s important to me and other mental health professionals I know to bring awareness of it’s impact. The subject of mental illness was considered a taboo subject within my community for many years. Although I started having depression at age eleven, I didn’t seek help until I was in my twenties.
Now, my generation is talking about these issues that affect those within the black community. It doesn’t matter your race/ethnicity, mental illness can affect anyone. Apollonia had that old stigmatized way of thinking many years ago, but thankfully she realized that she needed help.
Depression and other mental illnesses are very real, just like any other disease. Unless you suffer from mental illness, depression, anxiety or other psychiatric disorders, it’s very hard to understand what the person who is suffering, goes through. The stigma of mental illness needs to be lifted not only in the US, but many other countries around the world.
Please just remember, there is no shame in getting help.
(I am not a licensed mental health professional, just someone who advocates for education and has suffered from depression for many years)
***Thank you to my brother, Dr. DJB for your insight.
http://www.nami.org/ (no affliation)