I have a story that I want to share with you. Every time I tell someone my story, I always end up crying, because the story is very heartbreaking. I don’t want to tell you my story; if I don’t, then my story will be forgotten. The story is about a man and I and how we were in love during the summer in Orangeburg, South Carolina. During that summer of last year, we were always together. We were so much in love with each other, we slept together unexpectedly.
Although we don’t see each other that often, we send each other letters and visit each others blogs and Facebook pages just to keep in touch. And we always talk on the phone a lot. In the sixteen years of my life, I have been taught about love and its lesson that came with it. One of those lessons came to me so unexpected that I didn’t know that it would hit me.
That lesson was: you should never fall in love with our own relative. Even if that relative you fall in love with is your very own cousin. Here is my story.
It was the spring of 1999 that I first met Ray Quidame. I was seven years old and had just came home from school. As I entered the apartment, I noticed a pair of suitcases and a guitar by the couch. I was enchanted by the guitar, when I heard sounds of laughter from the kitchen. The laughter was that of my parents; but there was another laughter that was so musical that it blended with the laughter of my parents.
I strolled into the kitchen and was surprised by the guest sandwiched between my parents at the table. The guest was a White man in a gray suit. He wore glasses and had clean-cut hair that was the color of Pepsi cola. His eyes were angelic blue that made you weak in the knees when you looked into them. He was so lovely like a prince in the fairy tale books that I read. When the stranger glanced his blue eyes my way, I was caught in his enchantment. Momma looked at me, then at the stranger. Momma spoke for me since I was too speechless to speak.
“Ray, this is my little girl, Sheila, but we call her ‘Butterfly’.” Momma told him. Turning her gaze toward me, Momma introduced me to the stranger.
“Butterfly, this is your cousin, Ray. He’s visiting us for the weekend. Say hello, baby.”
“Hi,” I spoke shyly.
Cousin Ray inspected me from my brown hair to my red Mary Janes.
“Hello, my honey,” Ray finally spoke. When Cousin Ray said hello, he spoke in a rich, not too deep tone of voice. It was so perfectly pitched that I thought that he was a singer in disguised.
I leaned later from my daddy that Cousin Ray once lived in Canada as a boy and moved to New York at seventeen to study law and become a lawyer. Cousin Ray and I looked at each other, hoping of what to say. But I knew what was in my heart to say. I saw it in my cousin’s eyes as well.
That night Daddy ordered take-out from an Indian restaurant that was a favorite of ours. Momma was eating slowly since she was pregnant with my sister T.R. In the middle of dinner, Cousin Ray asked my parents if he could play his guitar for us after dinner. Momma told Ray that she didn’t mind him playing.
After dinner was over, Cousin Ray played his guitar and sang. Both sides now, Yellow Taxi, Dominique; Norwegian Wood, Puff the magic dragon. His voice was so wonderful that I begged for him to play anther song. But Daddy said song or no song; it was past my bed time.
“Come on, Walter, it’s Friday night. Let her stay up just a little longer,” Cousin Ray egged.
“Three songs, then right to bed.” Daddy bargained.
“Deal.” said Ray.
Ray singed My love and The Rose. The last song he played was a song he wrote back in middle school in Canada. He dedicated the song to me, then began to play his guitar and sang:
After the times that we spent together for so long, I decided that I must leave you.
I believe that in order to be free, I have decided that we should be apart.
I love you, but sometimes love has to die like a dying rose.
Though I try to forget about our love, your face is always in my heart.
In my dreams, I’m holding you, when I’m awakened; I realize that you are no longer mine.
Parting is such sweet sorrow that I no longer love you.
Everyday is painful of not being with you, my dear.
I have no sun without you, and your sweet voice are just echoes.
I cry everyday because you’re not with me.
I long to be with you, but it can’t be fulfilled.
I have to realize the sad truth.
Parting is such sweet sorrow that I no longer love you.
As Ray played on, I felt like crying. The last lines Cousin Ray sang broke my heart:
If you see me, please remember our lives together, and remember us.
It’s such sweet sorrow that our love has to end.
After Cousin Ray finished the song, I wept. Momma held me as she rocked me in her arms. I never cry at most songs, but Cousin Ray’s song was that one song that moved me to tears. After I finished crying, Daddy put me to bed.
As Daddy tuck me in, I asked him, “Why did Ray sing me that song?” Daddy sat down by my side as I sat up to hear him speak. Daddy took a moment to answer my question.
“Ray wrote the song for a girl he was in love with back in middle school. Ray was fifteen and the girl was thirteen. They were best friends back in elementary school. Ray was in love with her. One day before spring break, Ray and the girl were sitting under the cherry tree in the school yard. Ray told the girl that he loved her and asked for her to be his wife when they met again as adults in seven years. She would be twenty and Ray would be twenty-two.
“The girl knew that they were just kids and that she had a whole life ahead of her and she was just too young to get engaged and be married. She declined your cousin’s proposal and wouldn’t even take the gold necklace he’d found for her. It was the best decision that she made to turn down the proposal. Many years later, she became a model and a movie star. They met once in Paris, and then she was gone off to Italy to do a photo shoot. Ray never saw her again. To this day, he still plays the song about the girl he lost as a child. It was the same song that he played for the girl.”
“And Cousin Ray played it for me,” I said. “But why?”
“It’s because you remind me of her.” a voice spoke. I saw Cousin Ray standing under the doorway of my room.
“Alright, time for bed, Bright Eyes,” Daddy said, “you’ll see Ray in the morning.
Daddy gave me a peck on the forehead and clapped off the lights. I told Daddy and Ray goodnight as they left my room. In the darken room, I sang Ray’s song to myself as I drifted off to sleep.
The next day Cousin Ray asked me out on a play date. Cousin Ray was taking me to Central Park and the zoo. I wanted to stay home and watch cartoons, but Momma and Daddy made me go with Ray on the ‘play date’.
The first place Ray took me was Central Park. We walked around the park, rode the carousel and visited the zoo. At the zoo, animals were pairing up and ‘going crazy’. (I finally found out that they were making out.) After the zoo, Cousin Ray took me to a hot dog stand to eat. After the hot dogs, we went to Dylan’s Candy Bar and brought some candy.
Down the street, I felt like a princess, with Cousin Ray holding my hand. When we were at the door to my apartment, Ray looked at me with those blue eyes as he lifted up my chin to face him. With his thumb, he traced my birthmark on my face. Every time someone looks at my birthmark on the left side of my face, they often tell me that my birthmark looks like a brown, fuzzy caterpillar resting on my face. That’s how I got the name Butterfly from.
The door opened as Ray stopped touching my birthmark. Momma appeared at the door way. “I was just checking on you two,” she responded softly. Cousin Ray replied, “We’re just fine, Phyllis.”
Before we went home, Cousin Ray and I stopped at a photograph shop. Cousin Ray doesn’t like to have his picture taken, but he wanted to do this just for me. Cousin Ray paid the photographer and led me to the bench in front of the camera. Cousin Ray held my hand my hand as I placed my head on his shoulder.
“Is this your daughter?” the photographer asked Ray.
“My cousin,” Ray corrected.
Before taking our picture, the photographer told us to smile. Cousin Ray and I smiled as the lady pressed off the shutter button.
The next day it rained. The downpour was so hard that I thought that the earth would flood over. I spotted a large, white envelope, a bouquet of daisies and a card on my desk. I hopped out of bed and dashed over to my desk. I picked the card off my desk. The card was a Victorian styled picture of a dog on a train, waving goodbye to a cat outside.
I opened the card and read the words my cousin wrote:
I’m sorry that I couldn’t say goodbye to you in person, so I have to say it in this card. I’m so happy that I got to meet you and spend some time with you. I am saddened that I may never meet you again. My dearest cousin, I have seen the art work you have creative by your own hands. I didn’t know that you were an artist. I’m an artist myself. I not only an artist, but I also write in my spare time. We both have a calling to become artist; when I do my craft, I’ll think of you. I have to go. Please take these three gifts as a token of my love. I hope to see you again someday. Please take care of yourself, your parents and your unborn sister when she comes into this world.
Your Beloved Cousin,
I opened the envelope and pulled out the frame that had the photo of my cousin and me inside the glass cover. When I saw Cousin Ray’s smile, it melt my heart. I kiss the frame and embraced it to my heart. I cried because I never got to say thank you to my cousin. I thought about Cousin Ray as my tears fell onto the frame.
To Be Continued/ Stayed tuned!