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Before I Let Go
By Coleman, Darren
Amistad PressISBN: 0060594845
Surviving the Game
My whole life changed when Shelly said those three little words to me: "Cory, it's over." We were in the throes of a discussion about how to keep our soon-to-be long-distance relationship alive and well when I left home to go to Atlanta for graduate school. At the time, getting a good job and making plenty of cash were my main concerns. I'd never been rich, but I wasn't prepared to struggle due to bad decisions either. I believed wholeheartedly that an MBA from Georgia Tech in project management was sure to open a few doors for me in the future.
I'd done well in undergrad, but it wasn't as if schools were beating down the doors to get me to choose them. I had attended Morgan State University, a small black school thirty miles from my home in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. It was no secret that the prominent graduate schools held that against you. Their unspoken mantra seemed to shout "Sure, you may have performed well against your peers, but that doesn't mean that you can make it here with the privileged." That's why when I was accepted to grad school at Tech, I chose to go there instead of even thinking about applying to Temple, where Shelly was headed to work on her master's.
The fact that I was leaving the D.C. area and heading down south meant that we wouldn't be within driving distance, but I was convinced we could make it work. I knew it would be difficult missing her. Through my years at Morgan State it had always been easy to find me. If I wasn't hanging out downtown in the clubs with Brendan and Nate, then it had been a safe bet that Shelly and I were together. Adjustments would have to be made. I'd assured her there would be long weekends and holidays for us to see one another. Hard as it is to believe now, I had had no idea that I was tearing Shelly's heart apart in ways that I couldn't have figured out at the time.
After she'd rocked my world with her statement, Shelly didn't look me in the eyes. I was speechless, trying to figure out where she was coming from. She went on to say, "A boyfriend 750 miles away can't meet my needs, Cory."
Her words and attitude made her seem like a different person. During the three years we had been together she had never given me any drama other than an occasional lovers' quarrel, and at first I expected this spat to be no different. But somehow Shelly had turned as cold as ice. I'd thought that I'd picked up on her fears, and maybe she was just feeling unsure of our being able to maintain the relationship over the long distance. When I questioned her about it she told me that she definitely had concerns, but not just about me remaining faithful. When I asked her what she'd meant by that, she flatly said, "When the cat is away the mouse will play."
"So what are you saying?" I asked her apprehensively.
"C'mon, Cory. Do I need to spell it out for you? Be realistic. I ... I ... just don't think we can expect to make it. There'll be so many women down there."
"And there'll be so many men up in Philly."
She'd stood up from the couch and said, "Yeah, that too."
I lost my temper at that point. I remember saying some nasty things and hearing her cursing me back in a combination of English and Spanish. Shelly was Puerto Rican and always spoke in Spanish, her native tongue, when she got mad or emotional. She didn't stop until I walked out her front door. Like any young couple we'd had a few major fights, but somehow we'd managed to make up each time. The only difference was that this time, in two days, she'd be leaving for Philly, and I was heading to Atlanta.
She didn't ring my phone during those two days, and when I finally called her to apologize, her younger sister Nina made it a point to tell me that Shelly had gone out on a movie date to see He Got Game. If she was trying to make me jealous, it had worked.
It worked so well, in fact, that my mind began to race with doubts about whether or not I should have ever trusted her.
At that moment I cut her off from my love and me as far as I was concerned. I hung up and began packing for my trip and my life in Atlanta. I was leaving early. I knew she would probably be calling back later, but I wanted to make sure that it was too late. I called my boys, Brendan and Nate, to see if either of them wanted to ride with me on the ten-hour drive to Atlanta. They both were willing to roll down to keep me company but neither was ready, and my anger wouldn't let me wait around.
It turned out to be better that I was alone. I'm not ashamed to admit that I shed a few tears on my ride down 85. I don't know why I tortured myself by listening to all of that damned slow music. K-Ci and JoJo's "All My Life," Brian McKnight's Anytime, and don't get me started on R. Kelly. By the time I reached Charlotte my rage had given way to paranoia. I had envisioned R. Kelly going half on a baby with my girl simply because she reminded him of his jeep.
My shattered ego coupled with my confusion and suddenly everything was all starting to make sense. I reasoned that Shelly must have been cheating all along. That was why she hadn't made a fuss about my decision to not go to school up North with her ...Continues...
Excerpted from Before I Let Go by Coleman, Darren Excerpted by permission.
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