Dating the Right Reverend, Part Three
By Rae Lewis-Thornton
May 9, 2012
This piece originally appeared in Rae's blog, Diva Living With AIDS.
Yep, I left the Right Reverend's little town all in love, but what I didn't know was a freight train was gonna hit my ass. I should have followed my first mind. I knew in my heart of hearts that this shit didn't feel right. I knew it, but I didn't want to be alone, especially with HIV.
The Right Reverend was so accepting of my HIV status, I wanted to believe that my best interest would be a priority. I wanted to believe my best interest would be severed all the way around. Well let me tell you, just because a man is great in one area does not mean he will be great in another area. Nope.
And when the freight train hit my ass, I had no idea what happened. I was in Chicago visiting Mama. Lawd, she had finally joined the church and was getting baptized and I was not going to miss that one if my life had depended on it. Growing up with Mama, she never put her feet inside of a church, NEVER. I would leave her in bed hung over on Sunday morning. Interesting though, she always had Sunday dinner ready when I got home. She was a functional alcoholic to the max.
But back to the Right Reverend. He had a preaching engagement that weekend in another town. So when I settled into Chicago that Friday night I called him at the hotel he was staying at. He was not there. Then I checked my messages and sure enough he had left a message. He said, "Sweetie, I've made it safely. Don't call me tonight I'll check with you in the morning." Now ummmm, we NEVER went to bed without talking and that just didn't sound right.
I shook it off, but only for a little while. A few hours later I called back to the hotel and he still wasn't in. I hung up but I couldn't shake it. Where was he so late? Now, this was way before cell phones. I went to bed, but I just couldn't shake it, "Where the hell was he at this hour," I kept asking myself? This was so out of our norm. I went to bed but I couldn't sleep. I just laid there, numb. Then I remembered when I called the hotel, the city name sounded familiar. I thought about it long and hard, and then it hit me, I saw on those letters in his apartment. Yep the ones I found in his closet.
So I got up out of bed and called again. He still wasn't there at 2:00 a.m. and yep, it was the same town. I got this feeling in the pit of my stomach. I got nervous ... Lawd did I get nervous. I didn't want to know, but I needed to know.
I needed to know ... I needed to know!!!! So I picked up the telephone again and asked for directory assistance in this small town. Y'all they didn't have this universal directory assistance back then; times have really changed.
So I called and I asked for the listing of the woman's name that I remembered seeing on the letter. She had a number. I wrote it down and then I fell to the floor. Lawd, this cannot be happening to me. This cannot be happening to me. He was the best thing since sliced bread and he certainly was the best thing, so I thought, since I learned that I was HIV positive. But the bread had molded and now I had to decide if I was gonna keep it or throw that shit away.
I had to know. I had to confirm my suspicion, but I needed to get my wits about me. I went into the kitchen and made me a cup of Lipton tea, they didn't have all this fancy stuff yet. I sat at the kitchen table and I talked to God. "Lord now you know, you know, you know." That's all I could say, and truly needed to say, because God does know. I took a deep breath, "Just give me the strength and courage to do the right thing?"
After I had finished my tea, I made the call. Hello, I heard a woman's voice. I took a deep breath and I asked for the Right Reverend. I heard her say, "It's for you," so they must have been close. When I heard his voice my stomach dropped.
I lit in, "What the fuck are you doing?" His ass was just as calm and you know that pissed me off more. "I'm visiting a friend Rae." "At 2:00 a.m. the fuck clock in the morning?" I hollered. He said, "I'm not going to deal with this right now." Huh? I looked at the phone. He had dismissed me, all hell naw, HELL NAW!!
"What the fuck are you doing there?" "Rae, Rae," he was trying to calm me down. "You better get the fuck out of there and I mean now. How can you do this to me?" I yelled. He was still so calm. "I'm not going to discuss this right now,"He said. "The fuck you ain't," I hollered!
"How could you do this? I thought she was just a friend?" I asked. "She is Rae," he said calmly. "The hell she is! You don't visit your friends at 2 in the morning," I fired back! "Rae, listen I'm visiting a close friend that's all," He said. "Well you better unvisit her ass," I hollered. He finally relented. "I'm going to the hotel and I will call you from there." "Fine!" I hollered and hung up the phone.
I sat at the table and waited and about 30 minutes later the phone rang. I answered on the first ring. "What the fuck was you doing there, what the fuck was you doing there?" I hollered before he could say a thing. "Are you going to listen," he asked? "What were you doing there?" I repeated myself then added, "I'm not enough woman for you?"
"Rae will you please calm down please?" I shut up and started to listen. He plead his case. We are just friends he explained. "But you fucked her before," I said. "Yes Rae, but I'm with you now. Baby I love you with all of my heart. Really, we were just sitting there talking." "Yeah well, why didn't you want me to call you late?" He had an answer for EVERYTHING, I mean everything.
That night we didn't resolve anything. We argued and argued about it for the next few days, but I gave in because I didn't want to lose him. He then flipped the script. Men are good at that shit. It became an issue about him being able to trust me. I had roamed through his things at home and now I'm tracking him down at other people's house. He had me on the defensive.
But this didn't feel right. It just didn't feel right. Nor did I like this feeling. I had it way too many times. A woman should feel secure in a relationship. Yes she should. But instead I felt trapped. I didn't want to be alone; I just didn't. "Who else is gonna want me?" I kept asking myself.
Yes, he said that he loved me but his actions were not matching up with his words. I knew in my heart of hearts that this was not right. He might have loved me, but I didn't like how his brand of love felt. I knew it had to come to a head. I knew I needed to get on with my life, but the fear of being alone was just too much. Fear paralyzed me to do the best thing for me. I was young with HIV and I didn't want to be alone, I just didn't.
In those early days self-love was slow coming, but I always came around. Now I know today, that slow coming caused a lot of emotional damage. That's why I tweeted that young lady that day about her relationship.
No one should be in a relationship that does not let you shine; that does not lift you up to be the best you can be. Bullshit ain't nothing, there is no man or woman on this planet worth your dignity!! The longer you stay in the relationship that beats you down, the more you lose of yourself, self worth and self esteem. You are the best thing that ever happened to you and that should always be your guiding light.
Yep, in those early days having a man in my life was the most important thing and it took more hurt and shit piled on top of me to walk away. It took a few months, but I had to let the Right Reverend go. I knew in my heart of hearts who he was. Living with HIV, I didn't think I could handle anymore hurt. So I did what I had to do. I left. I left knowing that I had HIV and I ran the risk of maybe not finding another man to love me. But the fact of the matter, his brand of love hurt more than it felt good. I just had to be honest with myself at the end of the day. So I left!
We stay stuck in these unhealthy relationships because we don't want to be alone. We stay stuck because he/she is what we know and knowing what we know is better than what we don't know. What I know for sure, as long as you keep holding on to shit, you will always stink. You have to clean up and out to be the best you and to attract the best for you.
Rae Lewis-Thornton Speaks
Rae Lewis-Thornton is an Emmy Award-winning AIDS activist who rose to national acclaim when she told her story of living with AIDS in a cover story for Essence Magazine. She has lived with HIV for 27 years and AIDS for 19. Rae travels the country speaking and challenging stereotypes and myths about HIV/AIDS. She has a Master of Divinity degree and is currently working on her Ph.D. in Church History. Rae has been featured on Nightline, Dateline NBC, BET and The Oprah Winfrey Show, as well as in countless magazines and newspapers, including Emerge, Glamour, O, the Oprah Winfrey Magazine, Jet, Ebony, the Washington Post and the Chicago Tribune, to name a few. She earned the coveted Emmy Award for a first-person series on living With AIDS for Chicago's CBS News.
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