I’ve been running around the city trying to make money and meet people -- get things going in my life. But the same streets that I proudly called my own as a teenager have turned into my young adult quicksand. And I'm still reeling from a personal tragedy that has changed me, but for privacy reasons, I can't get into the details of specifically.
Then there's the day to day reality of just making it through the week. I keep getting bad news after bad news -- especially when it comes to money. The only good news I got was when the Oscar nominations were announced.
My ex and my friend Rosalino is an associate producer for a short documentary that just got nominated for an Oscar. (And he's given me permission to write this piece.) He received the nomination after coming back from being paid to shoot something in Cuba. And I’m still here in New York. Reality is clenching its teeth and it’s hard not to sink down with it.
I will be honest. My initial reaction was jealousy. I felt like I was not doing the right things, making the right choices, not good enough. Then, happily, I got over myself, and my feelings changed to just happiness and gratitude for his success.
Then he emailed me a few days ago and said he wants to meet up to transfer some footage. We're both filmmakers. I agree. I’m really stressed. But I think it’ll just be nice to be around someone who I can be proud of.
So, here I am. In Ros’s friend’s apartment. For the entire night, one of Ros’s friends tells everyone stories about how shit-faced Ros got on New Year's.
“I remember I was walking. I accidentally bumped into a guy and made him drop his drinks,” Ros starts saying. “He was like, come on -- let’s go to the store, you’re gonna buy me some new drinks or we can go to an ATM and you take out whatever cash you got for me. I was like, nah, man, nah. I’m an off duty cop. I’m always around this block. You don’t wanna do that shit with me,”
“You did that shit?” Ros’s friend asked.
“Yeah, I gave him some made-up number. Told him, call the precinct, give them that number, and I’ll just hook you up whenever you need it. Then I left. I wasn’t paying for his shit.”
They continue talking. We've all been drinking, and we're laughing.
Then I get a text from someone in Brooklyn, “Hey, are you home?”
“No. What’s up?” I write.
That's when I get a text about the personal tragedy that just occurred in my life. More details. I can’t get awful pictures out of my head.
Ros and the rest of the boys keep talking and joking. I sober up every time my eyes imagine these awful pictures. I’m in a room filled with people but have no one to talk to about how much the world weighs right now. I keep my head down and read the texts over and over again.
“Do you keep your apartment this cold for the purpose?” Ros asks his friend. His friend starts laughing to himself.
“Yeah, the purpose,” his friend says.
This catches my attention because I can see that Ros is smiling and looking at me even though he’s talking to his friend.
“What’s the purpose?” I ask.
“Tell her what the purpose is,” Ros says.
“It’s when I have a girl over," his friend says. "She’s always like, ohhh, it’s cold. I go, awwww, you’re cold, come over here.” His friend explains as he mimics cuddling with a girl. Ros is still looking at me. I feel like I’m melting at the stare of my middle school crush. I cover my face with my hand.
Ros says, “I’ve done that. It works all the time. Don’t you think it works, Iemi?” I want to slap him.
“Rossss, I dooon’t knoooow.” I slouch down in my chair.
The night continues, everyone's drinking, having fun. There's a weird undercurrent of dread underneath it because of the tragedy. But I can't say that.
We eventually sneak into an apartment complex that has a huge theater with surround sound.
We put on "The Godfather." I sit next to Ros. Something in my gut tells me that this is it. It’s been four years since we’ve broken up. He’s made attempt after attempt during those four years. I can tell that tonight is his last one. I don’t know what I feel but I know that if he were ever to write me off, I’ll never get his name out of my head.
I let my head fall on his shoulder. Get nervous. Sit back up. Do it again.....and again.
“Put your head down,” he says nicely. Annnddd then he looks at me. It’s hard to fight it anymore. A few things happen. A lot of things are said. Memories start to replay.
Ros and I met when we were 15 at an after-school film program. We started dating at around 16. College time came around. We both made a lot of mistakes and didn’t get what we expected when graduation arrived. I kept trying to move ahead and Ros felt like a bag of sand I had to drag with me. No matter what I did or said -- he wasn’t changing. There’s nothing more annoying than watching someone you care about not live up to their full potential.
(Here is a video we made together when we were 17:)
After we dated for a year and a half when I was almost 17, I remember we both went to some concert together. I was looking at him and walked away upset. He grabbed me and asked what’s wrong. “I know when I leave you, that’s when you’re gonna start getting your shit together,” I told him with a side eye.
Then he did something that really upset me that I can't get into here. But it was when I was too tired to care anymore. So I sent him an email that said: “Leave me alone.”
Fast forward a few years later, I graduate from college at 20. The first job I get is doing translation work on a feature-length documentary.
In a strange twist of fate, Ros turns out to be the person to tell me what to do. He’s my first post-college manager and we hang out after work. A year later, he’s nominated for a fucking Oscar and we’re in this theater we've snuck into together. The front that we both held up for so many years has thinned out.
“Iemi, I never apologized for what happened. I was an asshole,” he tells me. Looks at me straight in the eyes, “I’m sorry.”
We hash out the past, accept the present, and think about the future. “Now what?” I ask him.
“I don’t know. When can I take you out?”
“Ros, I don’t want to put more complications in my life. Nothing is where it should be right now.”
“What do you mean?”
“Just with work. Money. Everything. I feel like a loser. And, I don’t know. With the tragedy.” I want to talk about it, but I can’t find myself to say it out loud.
“I’m sorry you’re going through something like that.”
So, we’ve been talking. Getting to know each all over again. Taking it really slow. A lot of Facebook chat.
I feel like Rosalino is a drop of water on a pile of soil.
A slow unavoidable spread to the rest of my life. He was one of the people I made my first movie with and he, unknowingly, was my first push into animation. A lot of my big moments in life can be bookmarked by my days with him. And now, life is getting deeper and we’re taking the first bites of reality to our dreams.
(This is the second part of the video we made together, when we were 19:)
Changes will soon start to arise and then I don’t know what happens. What happens if a change is bigger than us? Do we go another four years of being mad at one another or what? I’m as happy as I’m scared. However, there is one really nice part about this.
During our four years apart, no matter where I was or who I was with, Ros was still there. Not in reality, but in mind and my heart.
Now he is just there. And I'm so proud of the man he has become.