December 2014 :
Keith and I were sitting comfortably in the living room of our New York apartment. Although we lived on the west coast permanently, there was no way we couldn’t keep a place out here. For vacations, to visit family, or just to get away from all the bull that goes down in Hollywood. A little over twenty years in the business, and just hitting twenty years in our relationship, we did quite well keeping ourselves grounded.
Today, Christmas, we were just sitting around, waiting for our daughter to get up and open her gifts. It wasn’t a tradition, but we wanted to see the look on her face this year. This year we finally decided to spoil her, giving her the things she needed and the things she wanted most.
We ended up just sitting around for an hour, watching Christmas episodes of some of the shows he and I grew up on. Then, wiping her eyes and stretching, Kendall came walking into the living room.
“Ma, Dad, I figured you two would be off recording somewhere.”
She smirked, laughing like Keith. “You’ve done it before. Merry Christmas.”
“To you too, Kendall. Gifts all under the tree. You don’t even have to pretend that you wanna wait.”
“Ayeeee! Thanks Ma, after fifteen years, we finally understand one another.”
“No, I’m just tired of seeing that anxious and annoyed look on your face every year. Since we embarrassed you for your birthday, we’ll save you the pain of having to sit through Christmas dinner.”
Kendall smiled, pumping her fist as she pretended to get emotional. I swear, she don’t get this over dramatic side from nobody but Keith.
There were so many big boxes, and we both laughed as she paced back and forth, unsure of which to open first. “Okay, I’ll start with these two tall ones. I bet it’s something you’ve gotta assemble.”
Keith nodded. “Yep.”
“Oo-hoo.” Kendall smiled, shrieking in delight every few seconds as she opened box after box. “I can not believe this!” Two box lights, a circle light. Her own sets of microphones, three different ones, so that she could stop borrowing mine. A new, updated editing program. “All of this to go with the camera you got me last year?”
I moved over as Keith removed his arm from around my shoulder, standing up so that he could get her last gift from behind our smaller couch. “Not quite, Kendall. I was skeptical at first about you and this filmmaking passion of yours. You know, you switch it out every two or three months.” She chuckled, knowing he was right. “But I noticed that you’ve been doing your little studying and what not, taking the time to sit and talk with the folks who do videos for me and your mama. Even got you those four week lesson at that film institute in Cali, and you stuck with that too. So, to show you how proud we are of you finally getting serious with something… we got you all of that.” He motioned towards the stuff she’d already opened. “Plus this Canon XA20.”
Kendall screamed. “No way!”
“Yes way. I was gonna go smaller since this will be just a hobby when you’re not focused on school work, but you’ve earned this. You gotta take good care of it though. As much shopping around as your mama and I did, this ain’t one of those cheap cameras. Best quality a beginner can get.”
“Thank you so much! I love you both so much, and I promise I will be extra careful!” She hugged both of us tightly, taking the box from his hand as she opened it and began to pull her new camera out.
“No problem Kendall, I also got you multiple memory cards. Three or four, I forgot which. Got you a brand new tripod since your cousin broke the other one you had. And, I’m finally clearing out that spare room back home so you can have your own space.”
“Oooo, I got the best parents ever!”
I nodded my head, standing up so that I could sit on my legs, resting my head in my hand as I watched her open the rest of her things. “You sure do.” Of course, there were more things for everyday use. Clothing and shoes. Keith and I lucked out with Kendall being one of the few kids in the world who enjoyed getting new clothes for the holidays. Tops, bottoms, undergarments, hats, coats and sweaters… she loved it all. Of course, I got her a couple of the new albums by her favorite artists since she was as much of a music lover as I was. She was also an avid reader like me, so I added to her already outrageous personal library with some of the sci-fi and teen-fiction novels she’d been asking for. I also had the feeling that along with this filming, she might get the urge to get into writing.
I’d come across some of her stories years ago but kind of thought nothing of it since she kept them to herself instead of telling us. Not wanting to pressure her, but encourage her a little, I got her a laptop of her own and one of those storyboard pallets that she can hang on her wall to write or sketch stuff out. Although we’re allowing her to use it all, in moderation, these are things I don’t have to worry about going to waste because she is a tech kid, totally into it all.
Anytime Keith and I go all out, as she gets older, we know it will be worth it.
Kendall was also like her dad in the sense that nothing went to waste. The both of them will keep something until the screen is cracked, black, and damn near too dangerous to use if I let them. I can’t tell how many times I’ve randomly run my hand across one side of Keith’s face and he’s had cuts and scars from holding the cracked and broken screen of a phone to his face when he could have easily gotten it replaced or repaired.
I blinked, seeing Keith standing in front of me. “Aye, I don’t care how many years we’ve been together, you know not to call out my full first name like that.”
“Then learn to answer me when I talk to you.”
I felt my left eye start to twitch, felt the urge to slap his ass. “What were you saying?”
“I said Tani, would you like your gift now or would you like to wait until I take you out to dinner later?”
“If it’s making up for all of the shit you’ve put me through over the last twenty-one years, I’ll wait so that it can be worth it.”
“You know what? I’m tired of you. Getting that same, ugly attitude you used to have.”
I shook my head. “I never got rid of it.”
“And here I was thinking this Christmas was going to be awkward. Just wouldn’t be right if you two didn’t fuss over nothing.”
I shrugged and Keith blew me a kiss, smirking. “Ugly ass.”
“Kendall, your mama loves me so much. She couldn’t bare the thought of losing me.”
I cleared my throat. “Oh, I could bare it. I often think about what it’d be like to not have you around, every time I watch Snapped or 48 Hours on ID.”
Kendall fell out laughing and Keith bit down on his bottom lip, throwing a piece of balled up wrapping paper in my face. I flipped him off before focusing on Kendall. She was sitting in the middle of the floor, staring wide-eyed as she read over the directions for all of her stuff. Keith blew me another kiss before moving around to set up all of her lighting equipment. “Anyway, Kendall, what is your first film project going to be.”
She smiled, but never looked up. “That’s easy. Love and Hip-Hop, and the correlation between the two.”
“You’re going to do something based on that trash reality show?”
“Haha, no dad, I’m going to do a documentary on the real aspect of it. Love in Hip-Hop, love for Hip-Hop and the culture, love between artists involved in Hip-Hop. The mainstream aspect, the underground aspect. I most definitely want to talk to all of the fathers and mothers of Hip-Hop. Since I know we’ve got a project coming up for the new semester, this could be what I turn in. I could show my classmates and friends what’s really up.” Kendall cleared her throat. “And I was thinking that I could start with the two of you.”
“Why your dad and I?”
“Because Ma, y’all literally came up in what I consider to be the golden age.”
“Golden age was when it all started Kendall, late 70s, early 80s. Your dad was already in it, producing and whatnot, but I didn’t get my foot in until ‘93.”
“But you’ve gotta admit, your era, early 90s to mid 2000s and when it was really poppin’.”
Keith nodded his head, agreeing. “I’m in. What I gotta do?”
Having put in one of her memory cards, and already turned her new camera on, she decided to test it out right then and there. Kendall got up and turned on the lights since Keith was still messing with her boxes and circle lights. “Okay, this is just a test run. It will be done again. But since I’m throwing in the love in Hip-Hop aspect too…”
“And what is the purpose of that?”
She shrugged. “Lots of my friends believe that there can’t be mutual love and respect between two artists in the same genre. Two males, two females, a male and a female. It’s like there’s some unwritten rule that there has to be beef between everybody. I don’t agree with that; like you always say Ma, there’s enough room for everybody to make money.” My child really had it all thought out. “Not only do I want to show the both of y’all and the friends that you’ve made over the years, I think it’d be pretty dope to show that you two are both Hip-Hop artists, and you’ve been together for like a hundred years.”
Keith nudged her and she laughed. “I’m just saying, yes y’all argue but it’s not like y’all hate each other for real. Everyone can see that there’s love, respect, admiration, and pride that you two have in one another. I remember there being one point where y’all were up against one another a lot in joint categories for awards, and y’all supported each other. If you didn’t win, you wanted Dad to win, and vice versa. It’s possible, I’m living with it so I wanna show case it.”
“Alright, count me in to. Since this is a test run, where do we start?”
Kendall smiled and turned the camera on herself as she gave a small introduction to herself and the project. “Hello. My name is Kendall Tiara Ruffin, and I am thrilled to welcome you all into my brand new project. ‘Love and Hip-Hop : The Ins, Outs, and Reality Of An Ever Changing Culture’. In this mini-documentary, we’ll be exploring all aspects of both love, and the world of Hip-Hop, and how the two have come to be greatly associated with one another. I’ve come across many who believe that there is simply no room to love and genuinely support others, without some type of motive, and I hope to dispel a bit of that before the end of this.” I gave a goofy smile, a bit surprised. “At the age of fifteen, I’ve had a great amount of luck in my life. The daughter of two important figures of 90s Hip-Hop, I’ve had a good bit of insight into what goes on behind the scenes. The time it takes into creating the perfect beat; the kind that captures you and pulls you into the exact mood that you want to be in. Through the guiding and expertise of my dad, I’ve learned that. The time it takes into perfecting lyrics with meaning and a message, maintaining a positive outlook and strong belief in yourself, and most importantly… never trading your values and sticking to what you believe is right. Through the guiding and nurturing of my mom, I’ve learned that.”
Keith smiled at me, setting up the two box lights he’d finally put together. Kendall turned and gave him a thumbs up once he turned them on. “To start this project off, I thought I’d speak to my parents, and reintroduce them to what is considered my generation, so that they can fully understand why it is important that artists of our generation give major props to those who came before them. Having recently celebrated twenty-one years together, and eighteen years of marriage, they are also proof that there can be genuine love and respect for peers and loved ones within the same business, and genre.”
She finally turned the camera on me. “To start us off is my mom Tanisha Ruffin, known to the world by her stage name, Tani Harrison. Her time in the industry began officially when she performed an unreleased, and currently rare, single titled Take It Off at a park event in New York back in 1993. Of course, she began her journey some time before that, but true success didn’t find her until a few weeks before she debuted on the original run of the Arsenio Hall Show in October of 1993, performing her first number one hit ‘Ruffneck’. From there, as they say, the rest is history. Before we get into her great accomplishments in Hip-Hop, I’d like to discuss the love aspect of her life.”
“What would you like to know?”
Kendall paused for a moment and smiled, almost like a light bulb went off in her head. “As your daughter, I’ve heard many stories of how you and Dad managed to work your way through the struggles of life itself and life in the industry. But I’ve never heard of how you two came to be. How did you and Keith Ruffin meet?”
I smiled. “It’s not really that big or fancy of a story. He doesn’t know it but I was out with my friends one evening. We were talking about the type of guys we liked and after I described my ideal guy, I spotted Keith. I didn’t know his name and I wasn’t about to walk up and ask him. I was just enjoying myself.”
“So how did you come to meet one another, officially?”
“Through a friend, another producer who only went by his first name. Hakeem. I was recording and fighting with this real disrespectful dude and Keith walked in.”
“Was it love at first sight.”
Keith fell out laughing and we both looked at him. “Sorry to ruin the shot.”
“No Dad it’s good. It’s genuine, that’s staying in. But seriously, was it love at first sight between the two of you?”
I shook my head. “Not at all. I couldn’t stand Keith.”
“He was arrogant, annoying. He thought the world revolved around him. Controlling, thought he knew everything.” Keith rolled his eyes as I continued. “He was so disrespectful and rude. Oh, I can’t tell you how many times we got into it behind him calling me out of my name. Did I mention that he was cocky, for no reason. Immature, uncompromising. Petty, selfish.”
“So basically, he was the male version of you.”
Keith burst out laughing again, saying yes a few times as I rolled my eyes. “Yes, he was. And I hated it because I was a strong-willed person. Much like now, I hated to be told what to do. I had a very clear vision for myself so for someone like Keith, and others, to come in telling me what to do or what they thought would be better, that didn’t sit well with me. We butted head for months.”
Kendall nodded, clearing her throat. “So the whole process of falling in love, what was that like. How did you two go about keeping the business and personal aspects separate so that you wouldn’t break up.”
“That was simple. He finally got it through his thick skull that I was the one running my career, even though he was my manager later on. And I finally learned how to just go with the flow and understand that some of his ideas were better than mine.” I sighed. “That was the hardest thing. In the end, we learned to work together and that boosted both of our careers and we maintained a somewhat healthy relationship.”
I nodded. She knows good and well her dad and I could argue for hours, over nothing, and be cool thirty minutes after it’s over. It’s often petty, and pointless, but that’s how he and I have operated for years.
I cleared my throat, looking down at my watch. “Know what would be a better story to show what you’re trying to show? That there can be arguments and tough moments but two artists can still be together and support one another.”
“Your dad and I almost didn’t get married.”
Kendall’s eyes bugged as she looked back and forth between the two of us. “What?”
“We broke up like two weeks before the wedding and I called everything off. Set your tripod up so that you don’t have to hold the camera the whole time. This is a somewhat long story. Keith, baby, come tell the story with me. Since most of it is your fault.”
He laughed and shook his head. “We agreed to share responsibility in that moment.”
He sat beside me and we smiled at one another while Kendall got her things together. I know saying that shocked her, but it really will be good to tell it. Listening to her give her introduction, I got the feeling that she believes everything between the two of us has been perfect all of these years. That if we could make it through, everybody else can and that’s not always the case.
“Okay, before you start the story, tell me one thing.” We both looked at her, waiting for her question. “What brought you back together?”
She cut the camera back on and I cleared my throat. “Love. As much as Keith and I fight, I love him. I get on his nerves, and sometimes I go overboard with how I react to things. Once I pull myself back, it allows me to see what I could lose by acting crazy for no reason..”
He smiled and took my hand in his, speaking up. “And I love Tani. In life, and love, you say things that you don’t often mean and you could end up hurting the person or people that mean the most to you. If you honestly love and care for that person or those people, you’re gonna put your pride aside and do everything that you can to win their forgiveness and trust again. I have an ego, and it sometimes gets the best of me, even after all of these years. But that ego is never worth losing what means the most to me. For me, that’s Tani and the life and family we’ve built.”
September 4, 1996 :
Yawning as I walked through the door, I closed and locked it behind me before putting the key Tani had given me on the hook and headed straight for her bedroom. Trying to prepare myself ahead of time did no good because I already know I’m about to be right back in the damn dog house.
Our frequent fights and breakups is the only reason we still don’t live together, even though it was our initial plan to do so once we got engaged last year. Walking in, I noticed that she was lying on her side, dressed in lingerie instead of her usual pajamas, or my boxers and t-shirts. As always, her crazy ass was watching America’s Most Wanted.
Looking over her shoulder for a moment, Tani rolled her eyes before focusing back on her TV. Never answered me, didn’t even bother hitting me with the usual ‘where you been’. “I said wassup?” Nothing. “My bad. Hi Tani, how are you this evening, Baby?” Still nothing.
I shook my head and started removing my clothes. It’d been a long day and all I really wanted to do was lay up for a while. “You can keep all of that on.”
“You heard me. Ain’t no way in hell you’re about to get in bed with me and think you’re going to touch me anywhere.”
“Uh, you act like I was out doing some grimy shit.”
“For all I know, you might’ve been.”
I rolled my eyes. “Come off that shit Tani. You know damn well I’m not cheating on you.”
“Yeah, but I also know damn well you and your crew weren’t just sitting around a bingo hall or some shit all night. Nigga you smell like nothing but liquor, cigars, and cheap ass perfume to hide the musk coming off them funky ass strippers.”
I cleared my throat. “So you just gon’ question me, like you haven’t been to this very strip club with me? I told you where I was gonna be and who I would be with. If you ain’t read the note I left, that’s on you. Can we not fight over stupid shit, for once?”
Tani shrugged, moving over and climbing under her covers. “We ain’t fighting.”
I smirked, sitting next to her after I kicked my shoes off. I ran my fingers along her arm, laughing every time she attempted to jerk away from me. “Stop fucking touching me, Keith.”
“What you mad for? I wasn’t tossin’ money this time, I promise.”
“Kiss my ass.”
“Haha, gladly Baby. For real, tell me how I fucked up this time.”
Tani sighed, pushing my hand away again before pulling her comforter up to her chin. “I read your stupid note, and I kept paging you repeatedly, waiting for your ass to call me back.”
“You know I could go days without looking at my pager, even if I hear it.”
“Which is stupid as hell! What if something happened to me?”
“Well, did something happen?”
“Nope, I’m good. But you ignoring me repeatedly makes me feel like you don’t care as much as you claim.”
I threw my head back, apologizing. “I’m sorry, okay. You know I care, and you know I love you. And you’re right, after fifth page, I should have called you back.”
“Know what? Get out, since you wanna count and shit. I’m through with you.”
“No you’re not.”
I pulled her comforter back, attempting to climb on top of her. Her little ass had the nerve to wanna use her strength this time around. “Get off me, Keith, you stink. I’m not playing, you ain’t getting shit tonight. I don’t care if your balls are blue, black, red, or orange. Move.”
I pouted, kissing her lips before I sat back on the free side of the bed. “Aiight. But for real, you mad at me?”
“Hell yeah, I’m mad. I had plans, real special plans and your ass forgot, or you just brushed them off like it ain’t matter. It would have been cool if you’d just called me back after I paged you. I could have did some other shit with all these hours I waited for you.”
Yep, definitely in the dog house. Although she’s become a bit more caring and somewhat nicer towards others, she still don’t do random or spontaneous things for people, and that includes me. I already know, her plans had something to do with today, my birthday, and I blew her off just to chill with my boys for a chance. “What you want me to do? I’ll do whatever you want, just to make it up to you.”
I sighed, heading into her bathroom to take a shower after I grabbed a pair of my boxers from one of her dresser drawers.
After a twenty minute shower, I got out and dried myself off and put my boxers off, making sure to leave her stuff the way I found it. There was no need to have her mad at me about something else.
Walking back into her room, I set my clothes where I could get them and got in the bed, making a second attempt to get back on her good side. “I’m really sorry Tani. It’s late as shit, but I bet there’s at least one part of your plan we could still do.”
“Mmhm, there is. But whatever, I’m over it. Goodnight.”
I took one deep breath before moving away from her.
After a rough night, on my part, I woke up to find Tani gone. I’d just made my way out of her room when she walked through the front door, dressed in a pair of sweats and a t-shirt. “Where you been?”
“Yes. Is there an issue?”
I held my arms out for a hug but she walked right past me. Following her into the kitchen, I watched as she let her hair down and grabbed a cold bottle of water from the fridge. “So, how about we do everything today? I’ve got nothing to produce or record today. Got plenty of time to relax before my flight tomorrow.”
I watched as she quietly started pulling things out of her fridge, all of which looked to be some of my favorite dishes. Things I told her my mom would cook for me growing up. “No can do. I’ve got soundcheck in an hour with Missy. You know I just dropped my album last week, I’ve gotta promote it before we drop this second single.”
I nodded. “What about when you’re done?” She didn’t say anything. Instead, she began to warm everything up, grabbing a plate from the cabinet. “Come on Tani; you know I hate it when you slip into your lil’ petty mode. We get married in two weeks and we aren’t past this childish stage yet, how does that work?”
“I told you that I’m not mad anymore. And after I finish the soundcheck, I’ve got two interviews and some other stuff. I’m busy today.”
“Basically. I mean, why do you think I insisted that we be together on your birthday. I have a full schedule today, and I knew you had to fly out tomorrow.” I sighed, apologizing again. “Anyway, after I fix this plate for you, I’ve gotta go. Your gifts are in my room, in the closet. You can let yourself out when you’re ready to go because I doubt I’ll be back anytime before midnight.”
I grimaced, mad at myself for missing our moment. Sure we both got a break coming up, but it’s literally been months since we’ve seen one another for longer than an hour and not only did I miss one day, I have to miss a second.
So much has changed since I found her a new manager so that I could focus on my own smaller career. I sat at the table, running my hands over my face. Once she’d warmed everything up, she sat a full plate in front of me and kissed me. “Happy birthday, enjoy.” One of the coldest kisses ever.
Grabbing her wrist before she could walk up, I looked her directly in her eyes. “Tani, we good, or is this the prelude to another breakup?” They all start this way.
“I told you, I’m not mad. I’m good, you good.”
She walked out, heading to her bedroom to change.
After rehearsing for a little over two hours, I was finally taking a few minutes to sit back and chill. I was watching JD and Missy as they moderated some argument between the girls of Xscape, the featured artists on my current single. It was going on noon, and I still had more to do. Interviews, a meeting with my label and manager, and a recording session with the newly formed LSG. That last one would take a couple hours because there were supposed to be about six of us on one song. Then, I still had to stop by and visit my mama. To say I’ve gone damn near a year, with reason, without seeing her is ridiculous and I needed to speak to her without wedding plans being the main focus of our conversation.
“Yo Tani, they’re leaving but JD swears up and down that they’ll have it together by the time y’all get ready to do that final show before your big day.”
“Thanks Miss. You leaving too?”
“Nah, I got somebody else to rehearse with. We’ll probably bump into one another later today though. You know I gotta head into my session with LSG too.” I nodded, jumping a little when I felt my pager vibrate.
“Damn, this my mama. I’m gonna get my visit with her out the way, but I’ll talk to you before the week is over if I don’t see you later today. I wanna get one more rehearsal in with you for our song.”
“Alright Tani, I got you. Tell Mama I said hey.”
Once I stopped and called to let her know I was on my way, I made the drive to Brooklyn. It’d been a minute since I made my way back to my home town, but nothing had really changed. There were still kids, mostly dudes, hanging on the corners rapping and battling, waiting for their chance to come up in the game. I spoke to those who recognized me, gave a little of the advice they asked for and went on my way. Using my key, I walked in and called out.
Wasn’t too surprised to find Mama in the kitchen, cooking as if she had more than two mouths to feed. I spoke to her boyfriend as he walked out and leaned against the counter after she gave me a hug.
“You’re getting a little thick there Tani, something you want to tell me?”
I shook my head. “No, I am not pregnant, Mama. Stop trying to put that on me and I haven’t even married that fool yet.”
“Y’all stay calling each other fools and every other name imaginable. I find it hard to believe y’all have made it to three years, almost.”
I chuckled. “Yeah.” I sighed and sat down, blurting out what had been on my mind. “So, as always, I made something bigger than what it really is and Keith thinks I’m mad at him?”
“Nah, not anymore. But you know how I get, even after I calm down I can still be…”
I rolled my eyes. That was the second time today the world ‘childish’ was thrown my way. Even though I’m about to turn twenty-six, that has me thinking a lot. “Mama, is it possible to be grown, of age, but still not be an adult.”
“Yes. That is you and Keith to the fullest.” I frowned, hating that she could readily admit that. I mean, I don’t care if she feels that way about his ass. But I’m her child.
I sighed. “Okay, what makes me childish? What are the qualities?”
“Both of you are still very selfish; always disregarding what one does for the other, or brushing it off as if it doesn’t or didn’t matter. Any time you get into it, the both of you are in my ear asking for advice or talking mess about the other when you could simply talk things out together. Y’all don’t like to talk. Instead, you go through the motions for a few days, then y’all break up. Then both of y’all asses mope around and act as if you’re gonna die from a broken heart, but still refuse to talk things out.” Instantly I regretted asking. “Although it’s very easy to see that you love one another, neither of you have ever been willing to sacrifice something for the other.”
“I take that back. He’s actually sacrificed quite a few things, even toned his own attitude and behavior down but you still act the same way you did when y’all met. If you want me to be real, if it were me, I would have left your rude ass.”
“Mama! How can you say something like that? I am your child.”
“I know, that’s why I’m saying the shit you don’t want to hear. You don’t pick your battles wisely, neither of you do. If it’s not you getting mad at something simple or small, it’s him getting mad at you for the wrong reasons. I’m not Oprah or Sally Jesse, neither one of y’all are paying me for the drama y’all put me in the middle of when I get calls.”
“Great to know, what else?”
She turned and looked at me. “I don’t know how many times I have told the both of you not to go to bed mad; whether you’re together or at your own houses. Say how you feel regardless because what, you don’t know what will happen to one another.”
“We’re not guaranteed another day.”
“Exactly. As for your own personal issues, Tani, it is okay to let your guard down. It is okay to be soft and feminine. It is okay to be a little needy, it is okay to be a little submissive. YOU don’t have to be the only one to wear the pants in the relationship. You can’t control everything.”
Mama cleared her throat, sitting down after she set a bowl of cabbage and pigtails in front of me. “I would say that I don’t know why you fight so much, or why you’re so damn stubborn but you get that from me. As far as you not knowing how to handle a relationship, that’s always been an issue for you. Probably ‘cause your dad was never around to show you how you were supposed to be treated.”
“You did just fine Mama. The dudes I messed with just weren’t shit.”
“Every nappy headed boyfriend you’ve ever had, you had issues with.” That was true. “Keith is the only one who has stuck through it, and that says a lot. Y’all mistreat each other, but y’all are still together so obviously there’s something real there. But you know what Tanisha?”
“No Mama, what?”
“Through every relationship you’ve ever had, you never took the time to discover things about yourself. Always had a bad attitude. You never figured out what, aside from music and whoever you were seeing, made you happy. Keith may or may not be a part of the problem, but the majority of the issue lies in you.” She cleared her throat, looking down at her watch. “I love you both dearly, and I know that regardless of how much y’all fight, that boy is going to be my son-in-law. But figure out if you’re really ready for what’s coming in two weeks. Don’t go into that marriage without finally talking about things, that’ll only lead to bigger problems down the line.”
I simply nodded, taking my time as I ate since her whole ‘Truth’ speech made me lose my appetite.
I got through the rest of my day as quickly as possible, ending that recording session around 8:30 p.m.. Since I knew Keith would be home, I headed straight to his house. Once I was inside, I gave him a hug, letting him know that we had something to discuss.
Although I had a ton of work related things on my mind, it didn’t stop me from mulling over everything my mama had said. It was all the absolute truth. While Keith did make me happy, that happiness never extended beyond being with or around him and being on stage somewhere.
It wasn’t just him I had a bad attitude with constantly, I had a nasty attitude with everyone I came in contact with. And I know they all notice it, my mama is just the only one willing to say something because she’s not afraid to hurt my feelings. All of the overcompensating issues I told Keith about before we officially got together, it was all still there.
I had fame, I had a good life, and I had him … but I am still, always, so damn angry and I do not know why.
“Keith, I’m sorry. I blew the whole thing up when it really wasn’t an issue. You work just as much as I do, and while you could see me whenever, I know it’s hard for you and your boys to get together.”
He shook his head, kissing my hand. “You don’t have to be sorry. Like you said, I should have called. I shouldn’t have ignored you paging me. I knew you said you had something planned and I didn’t even consider calling you to make changes or let you know what was up. I’m sorry. I just don’t want you to be mad at me anymore, I don’t like that.”
I smiled. “I was over it five minutes after you left out to take a shower. I was just being petty, as usual. But look, that’s not the only thing that I came to talk about.”
“Okay, what’s going on?”
“You feel like you and I are meant to be together, right?”
“Hell yeah Tani. I know we talk mad shit, but you’re my everything. And of course, I know you’d be so lost without me.” He chuckled, and I know he was joking, but that was something I was kind of afraid of. Being so into us that I lose myself. “I was kidding, Tani.”
“I know. Um, remember what you asked me this morning?”
I sighed. “We get married in two weeks and we’re still at our childish stage, how does that work?”
“Almost three years, I’ll say it works for us quite well.”
“What about after we get married though? What if we have that one argument or fight that we can’t come back from?”
We were sitting on his couch, and he inched away a little. “Why are you asking me this? You know how we are; we fuss, we curse one another out, we break up, and then we’re good again. It’s annoying as fuck, but it’s us.”
“I don’t want that to be us, Keith. I don’t want to always be angry at you for no reason. Playful and fake fighting, sure, but getting mad over irrelevant shit… nah, I’m tired of that. We fight too much, and one of these days we gon’ fuck around and say some shit that hurts for real.”
“So what you saying, Tani?”
“I think we need to postpone the wedding and, once we get all of our business out of the way, we need to spend a few days together. Talking all of our problems out. There are so many personal issues I have and I feel like I can’t talk to anyone about them, nobody but you. I know it’s short notice as hell, but, better than getting to the altar and freezing up, right?”
Keith didn’t say anything at all, for a long time. Instead, he looked at me, with a look in his eye, as if I’d done something wrong. “Yeah, whatever. I’ll call and get everything canceled tomorrow.”
“Don’t worry about it. This is your way or saying you wanna end it, cool.”
I groaned, clearing my throat so that my voice wouldn’t crack. I was trying so hard not to cry. “I didn’t say that I want to end the relationship. We’re still engaged. I love you Keith, and I just want to make sure we’re good. Isn’t that what you asked me earlier, are we good?”
“You good, I’m good. That’s what you told me. Take your lil’ time, I don’t care.”
He got up, heading towards the staircase. “You don’t care? What the fuck is that supposed to mean, Keith?”
“Just what I said. I don’t care. You’re right, we fight entirely too much. And yeah, I know it’s always over something stupid. You wanna talk, okay? I was over it all, especially trying to please someone as difficult as you.” I sighed, taking that one blow because I know it’s the truth. But now his ass is doing a bit much. “Maybe this needs to be the final break. ‘Cause obviously, whatever we’ve been doing isn’t enough.”
I wiped away the single tear that fell, standing up. I attempted to pull him into my arms but he pulled away. And his actions weren’t anything like when we play like we’re mad at one another. “Why are you so upset with me now? I’m just being honest. I want us to be in a good place.”
“Shit, stupid me for thinking that us working through real problems, regardless of how silly or real they were, meant we were in a good place. I was thinking this all while we dated, when I proposed…”
“Keith, come on. You act like I said it’s over. That’s not what I’m saying.”
“Well I’m saying it. I’m over it. It’s over.”
For half a second, it literally felt as if my heart had been ripped out. There was the most dry look on his face and I knew he was serious. I nodded and wiped my tears away, pulling my engagement ring off and handing it to him. “Glad I brought this up before it was too late.”
I headed towards the door. “Tani, wait, you know I didn’t mean it. I thought this was one of our usual…”
“Fuck you, Keith.”
I slammed his door behind me, running to my car as quickly as possible. Pulling out of his driveway, I took a few deep breaths and shook my head. “It wasn’t supposed to go like this.”