2016 was the year my husband died, I lost 10 pounds and traveled constantly to escape my grief. It was also the year my heart was broken by a dude in a kufi, who called me “queen” and idolized Drake. I should’ve known.
Early last year, my husband passed away suddenly due to a peanut allergy and a heart attack. I’d just spoken to him on the phone during his lunch break and the last thing I remember him saying was that he’d call me later. Instead, I got a call from his phone from the hospital saying that they’d found him unresponsive in his office building. I rushed to his side, only to find that I was too late. My sweet prince was already gone.
After my husband passed, I dealt with wicked loneliness. I’d cry for hours until I’d pass out from exhaustion, only to wake up and cry again. Months later, I got a text from a friend inviting me to be the subject of a photoshoot for her natural hair magazine, which I eventually would end up working with.
That’s when I met him, he was the creative director and photographer of the publication. He had messaged me on Instagram the year before, inviting me to shoot with him, but said he backed off once he found out I was married. At the time, it seemed serendipitous and we laughed it off, even though he seemed embarrassed. During the shoot, we connected through conversations about our favorite music and dream vacation spots. As a photographer, he made me feel at ease and encouraged me to be myself. He made me feel beautiful again. I missed how my husband could make me feel beautiful by the way he’d look at me.
After the shoot, we spent a lot of time together. We’d drink wine and smoke like teenagers while we watched Coming to America. He reminded me so much of my husband some days. How he’d cater to me, rub my feet and randomly break out into song and dance just to make me smile. Many days when I felt alone, he’d hold me and tell me that things would be fine. I felt like he really understood what I was going through and genuinely wanted to be there for me. He felt like home to me in a way I couldn’t describe.
He eventually relocated to New York from Los Angeles, but we kept in touch and dated casually. He visited me during a month-stay in LA, and I visited him for a week in NYC. As New Year’s Eve drew near, I told him that I wanted to visit him, and he said he couldn’t wait. I was eager to end my year on a high note and I was certain that this would be my grand opus.
I’d arranged for us to stay in Harlem and stopped by his office on my way to pick up the keys to the brownstone. We snuggled for a bit, then I grabbed a cab and headed to the place. I called him as soon as I arrived. He said he had something to tell me, which seemed odd since I’d just seen him and he said nothing. He slowly explained that he and my “friend” had started seeing each other within the past two weeks. I thought back to two weeks ago, on my birthday, when he posted a photo on his Instagram. It was a picture of him holding a picture he’d taken of me. I fought to catch my breath, grappling to make sense of this new development.
I spent most of the next day sobbing in bed. I felt so betrayed. With his “I’m in love with this woman” texts, coupled with ambient photos he had taken of me when we were in LA together—and by her. A woman who had me proof-read her magazine’s editor’s note on sisterhood, but who failed to live this truth.
Now there I was in New York City, in the gloom of winter, all alone in a three-story brownstone. I struggled to pull myself together. Aimlessly I roamed the streets of Harlem, looking for answers in stores, museums and coffee shops. I’d come here to spend time with someone I thought cared about me and now I wondered what to do next.
First, I needed to officially cut ties with the magazine. I sent a formal resignation letter, stating that I was quitting all magazine related-business, effective immediately. I pressed send and felt my heart sink. I loved what the magazine stood for, and how it aimed to make black women feel beautiful in their natural state. But knowing the truth about the creators ruined it for me. I knew it wasn’t real anymore, I no longer believed in Oz. As I walked back to where I was staying, I called my good friend and told her of my misfortune. In a former life, she was one of my bridesmaids. So in true bridesmaid fashion, she arrived hours later with wine.
Randomly, she suggested I go on that dating app I’m always talking about, and book a date to get my mind off of that womanizer for a bit. I took her advice and opened Soul Swipe, swiping until my heart was content. By mid-afternoon, one of the guys invited me to dinner that night and I was actually excited.
In the meantime, there was still the small issue of what to do for NYE. I tried not to think about it and began to get ready for my date. I met the guy at a cute restaurant and we talked for hours, laughing and drinking wine. I told him what had happened to me, and he seemed to be equally as shocked, but he actively made up for it between giggles, cheering me up. It was one of the best dates I’d ever had. I felt rejuvenated. My girlfriend had also lucked up on tickets to a huge NYE party, so things seemed to be turning around.
On New Year’s Eve, I thought about how much pain I’d endured that year with the death of my husband and picking up the pieces of myself through my heartbreak. It seemed too much for anyone to bear. I reflected on how far I’d come, through the bouts of depression, loneliness, disappointment and heartache, and how I somehow had unwavering joy in my heart. Ultimately, I still believed in love and how good life could be.
That night, dressed up like a rose-gold disco ball, I left all my worries in 2016. I left behind all the pain, all the fear and all the heartache. I wanted to manifest positivity for the new year. And as the clock struck midnight, I could feel one chapter closing and a new one beginning.
Vee Prince is a writer, host and business consultant in the Los Angeles area. She is a big fan of grilled cheese, protective styles and anything Motown. Vanessa is also a recent widow and is learning how to navigate the dating scene again. Follow her at @untamedladyvee.