I still adored him. He was one of those people you could never forget, the kind you couldn’t stop thinking about years after swearing you’d never talk to him again. He was endearing and wild, and he was more cautious of others than he was of himself. We were lovers and colleagues, and when our time mutually came to an end, he left with some of my most charming, enchanting, and memorable memories. We fought like dogs in the halls and entryways of posh Beverly Hills hotels, worked from dusk to dawn in recording studios, and spent nights in the gloomy, dank corners of Los Angeles nightclubs. We were inexperienced, uninhibited, and doomed to disengage. Then he died last week, and a piece of me died with him.
My twenties and early thirties felt like they were straight out of a movie. There were drug lords, pimps, rappers, actors, murderers, and government officials among the participants. I had a fucking blast listening to Pamela De Barres’ I’m with the Band on steroids. Of course, there were some horrible lows, such as a drug overdose and a few other near-death experiences, homelessness, and heartbreak, but I made it through it all. More than that, I’ve written a few books about it and turned my hobby into a career.
‘Dog Eat Dog,’ chapter sixteen of my first book, Confessions of a Video Vixen, chronicles some of the highs and lows of my relationship with DMX. It’s full of happy memories and terrifying moments, but it conveniently omits sensitive information and details from the night I knew it was time for me to leave him. That was in 2003, a long time ago. I haven’t been able to stay away completely since then. While he and I never spoke again, I would frequently check in with a mutual friend to see how X was doing. It’s something I’ve found myself doing with a few key figures from my past men who I’ve moved on from but still think about or care about.
As much as I practice and preach the benefits of moving forward and letting go of everything that no longer serves me in the past, there are some people I’ve found difficult to let go of. I keep an eye on a few of them from afar, while others I let back into my life after promising myself I’d never talk to them again. However, in the last year, I’ve done a better job of breaking the yokes of cantankerous friendships I’d held onto solely for nostalgia and habit. Still, there are two men in particular who I can’t get out of my head. DMX is one of them.
Before leaving Los Angeles last fall, I went through my book collection and discovered the copy of DMX’s autobiography, EARL, that I had taken from his hotel room the last time I saw him. It contained a long note, handwritten in pencil on hotel stationery, from one of the many women who were also madly in love with him. I kept the book and the note for years as a reminder of our time together and why I left.
X was a large number.
He approached everything with the same zeal. He was painfully passionate whether he was fucking or fighting, loving or lamenting. He was thrilling, dangerous, protective, explosive, generous, and loving all at the same time. Being around him was an emotional and sensory overload. The letter the other woman left for him expressed many of my feelings, and after reading it, I realized it was pointless to love him from such close quarters. We were all going to lose. He was like a slick bar of soap in a bath that was too hot to stand.
When I found the book and the letter last fall, I read a bit of each before tossing both. It wasn’t easy, but the time had come. I was leaving Los Angeles and the two decades I had spent tearing through its streets with the who’s who of Hollywood. I was leaving my bawdy twenties and much of my thirties behind and looking forward to a new life with my family on the east coast. That meant that anything with a backstory involving an ex-lover, boyfriend, or husband was out, except for a few photos and the richness of my memories. As a result, EARL was unable to attend.
And, more than ever before, that has been the theme of my life in the last year. I’ve developed a new habit of examining objects and people and tracing my attachment to them back to their origin. It’s how I make room in my life for new things, people, and experiences. I think about the memories that something or someone evokes and ask myself how each memory makes me feel. I discovered a potato peeler that my first husband had left behind. It irritated me, so I threw it away. My third husband had bought me a pair of sneakers. They made me feel stagnant, so I got rid of them as well. And then there was EARL. The book made me nostalgic, but for a time and a life filled with ambiguity love and hate, lust, fun, and addiction.
There is so much addiction.
Weeks after tossing relics from my past, I boarded a plane and flew into my new life, feeling lighter, knowing that a part of me would remain in Los Angeles and I’d be making new memories on eastern soil. But it all came rushing back to me last week when I logged into my Twitter account and learned that X had reportedly overdosed and was on life support.
My memories of him pushed their way to the forefront of my mind, and I could hear him laughing, yelling, and talking to me all those years ago. I recalled all the times I thought I was going to die in the car with him. He was notorious for driving like a stuntman. I remembered how he jumped out of his car in the middle of traffic to save a woman from an attacker wielding a tire iron. And I remembered the dozens of roses he bought for me from a flower vendor outside a LA nightclub, how I threw them on the ground later that night during an argument, and how much he hurt me. The news was upsetting, but I was unconcerned. He’d been through a lot. I used to joke that he was the only “Dog” I knew who had nine lives. I figured he had at least five of them left.
X died on April 9th, taking a piece of me with him. I’d been thinking about mortality and loss all week, as my beloved grandmother had celebrated her 91st birthday just a few days before, and I was reminded of how little time I had left with her. I’d been reflecting on other losses, private ones, and how much they still hurt. I kept trying to wrap my head around the idea of death and the fact that it would be my turn one day. I was attempting to mentally prepare myself for my grandmother’s eventual death as well as my own, hoping that I would live as long as she did. I cried a lot that week, mourning everything I’d lost and everything I’m sure I’ll lose in the future, and then X left us, and I couldn’t hold it together any longer.
It was as if an entire epoch had passed away.
Years before we met, I remembered how his music helped me get through an abusive relationship. His first album, It’s Dark and Hell is Hot, gave me courage by so eloquently and painstakingly proving the audacity of survival. I reflected on his tenderness toward my son. He adored children and became one of them among them. I remembered him and my son flying remote control planes in the park, as well as the delight on X’s face as he played with his new toy. I reflected on everything we’d ever done and said all those years ago and regretted never informing him that I was still keeping tabs on him.
He had an indelible impact on our lives and hearts, transcending space and time. I ache, like everyone who knew him and the millions who felt the same way, but not nearly as much as his family and children.
Someone very special was lost to the world.
His death felt to me like an institution had been burned to the ground, similar to how I feel when I return to my hometown and discover that monuments from my childhood have been removed or destroyed. So much of who I am is wrapped up in these people, places, and things that have touched me in some way and left indelible imprints on the fabric of my being. And I never realize how much I rely on their memories until they’re gone. That’s why I saved the book and letter for so long. It brought back memories of my time with X when I felt so much and lived so loudly before the world shamed me for being free.
It reminded me of the time I walked away from someone I cared about because I knew he’d never miss me.
It’s a time I’ve tried to avoid for the past year but haven’t been able to. It makes no difference how many books, letters, or photos I discard. It makes no difference how different and new my life is now, or how many times it regenerates. I’ll never be able to erase or outrun the memories of the people I’ve known or the experiences I’ve had with them. Everything the laughter, the tears, the fights, the left is a part of who I am. And then there were the monuments. They were establishments. Periods. And losing X means losing the only other person who recalls what I recall about us. Now I’m in charge of everything. And then I’ll be gone one day.
I’m glad X documented his life, and I’m glad I documented mine. We will never die in that regard. Even so, the grief that has followed his death has been palpable. While I was grieving and preparing for other losses, this one caught me off guard and knocked the wind out of my lungs. It quickly demonstrated to me that I am incapable of preparing, not for my grandmother’s impending return, and certainly not for my own. Life comes at you quickly, but not nearly as fast as death.
Three times New York Times bestselling author, copywriter, and columnist.