I still remember how I felt when I initially listened to the first sixty seconds of 4:44. That sample from Hannah Williams and The Affirmations gave me goosebumps. I restarted it several times before allowing it to play through. I bopped by head along with the track, my face scrunched up. That shit sounded so good to me.
I finally let it play through.
The first verse opens with Jay Z saying, “look, I apologize, often womanize. Took for my child to be born, see through a woman’s eyes”. I rolled my eyes so fucking hard. I knew some bullshit was about to follow. It was inevitable. The idea that a man can’t understand how to respect women and treat them fairly without citing their proximity to him is gross to me. You can’t figure that out? You can’t respect me because I’m not your daughter or sister or mother? That respect should not be conditional. Jay Z didn’t consider how his actions have impacted his wife until he had a daughter. Because now the idea of a woman being disrespected is troublesome. Fuck outta here.
I adjusted in the chair and fixed my face in preparation to hear the rest of this fuck ass song. I could feel an attitude brewing in my chest. There were certain points of the song that made my stomach hurt.
“I seen the innocence leave your eyes. I still mourn this death.”
I remember sitting in DCA waiting for my flight to Miami. I paused the song and closed my eyes and replayed that line over in my head. I let the song play out. I sat in silence for a few minutes. I got this weird feeling. I had these thoughts creep in but I shooed them away. I ignored it and chose to avoid listening to the song moving forward.
A year and a half later it’s Jay-Z’s birthday. I decide to be corny and listen to a playlist while I carry out my morning routine. On my walk back to my place this song starts playing and my heart jumps. I started to skip it. I know that the last several months have been rough and everything is fresh. I definitely don’t want to poke that wound. Something stopped me, though. I remembered the airport. I remembered the stomach pain. I remembered the shooed thoughts.
I let the song play through.
I still feel the same ways. I know now, though, that those pains were because it was all so familiar. I projected. It is so unfair to have someone devastate you or destroy you in the process of becoming a better version of themselves. I hate apologies like this because they feel so hollow and cruel. It’s not only an apology, it’s a reminder of why they’re apologizing, it’s a reminder of what you went through, it’s a reminder of how that shaped you. It’s not just an apology. On Mother’s Day my ex wrote under a picture of me on Instagram: “I wouldn’t be the man or father that I am today without you” and that translates to, “I know you’re broken down and struggling existentially. I know you’re finding it difficult to identify outside of this family that you fought hard for. I know in return I disrespected you, abused and cheated on you and you didn’t really gain anything BUT I’m a better person. Yay.”
Fuck that, man. It really upsets me. I am not a better person as a result of our relationship. I did not reap a single benefit. I am not walking away with this wealth of knowledge or wonderful memories. I am walking away damaged, hurt and untrusting. I am walking away disappointed and stressed. I am walking away with health issues and too many bills. I am walking away having lost my twenties. I am walking away with a decade of memories that I can’t trust. But yay, you’re a better person. You’re more conscious, you’re more informed, you’re more of an ally, you’re more mature, you’re more evolved as a man.
I am worse for the wear.
I…am fucking tired.
The innocence left my eyes, too. Hey, at least she got an apology.
Fuck this song.