“Love is the feeling that you get when you’re with somebody, and it’s like a brother and sister relationship. But when the weekend come, you might not be brother and sister for a little while.”
I met her seventeen and a half years ago when I was helpin’ a friend get his driver’s license. I fell in love the minute I seen her. She looked good! A hell of an attractive lady. A friend of mine worked at the driver’s license place, and I said, “Who is that lady? Please man, look, you gotta give me her number.” He said it was confidential and he couldn’t give it out, but he said, “Go follow her and see if she give it to you herself!”
And so I kind of like trail her outside to a sandwich shop at the Lake Kenilworth Mall. And I never forget, Sally Jesse Raphael had a good program on that day and everybody was sitting up there looking at the program that was on TV and I eased over there to start talking to her.
She was reluctant. She just stood back and looked a little bit.
But we went to talkin’.She came from the St. Bernard Housing Project . I’m from the St. Thomas housing project, which is one of the toughest ones. I just came on out and told her the truth, told her the type of life I was livin’. I was a hustler. Cynth was in the corporate world. She was the special-events coordinator at Harrah’s Casino.
I was ready to change my life. And she told me that the relationship she was going with was kinda rocky. She looked at me and she said, “I’m just tired, Russell, I’m ready to get out.” And I said, “Me too.”
A couple of days later she called and invited me to dinner at her sister’s house, and everything else was history.
At that time, I didn’t trust nobody. Me, I was a Mike Tyson character. Love? Man, fuck that! I didn’t care about love! I didn’t even believe in that. I was there with the gang of dudes. Do what you have to do and move on, that was my thing. Until I met this woman, and I found out what love was about.
I just felt that this was the right person. When my Mama first met Cynthia she also knew. She said, “Cynth, Russell is kind of mean but through it he’s got a heart of gold. If you can put up with him and don’t give in, you can break him. You could make him become that man that you want.” And that’s what Cynth did. She done broke me in.
Man, they used to call us Beauty and the Beast when they first met us. They couldn’t believe a woman that pretty got somebody rough and tough as I looked.
I started playing the whole role, bringing flowers to her, bringing little presents, little gifts, taking her out for lunch. I just started giving it up from there. It’s very seldom that you’d see most black guys do what I did. I’d start to have a flower for her at work every Friday.
About six months later, she laid down the law. I had a decision to make: Do I want to be with the gang, or do I wanna be with her?
And you know it’s funny man, I had gone to Victoria Secret and bought her so many fancy lingerie and stuff –for Valentine’s day, her birthday. So, one day she sit me on the side of the bed and she open up her drawer and said, “You know what Russell, if you don’t slow down or try to do something with yourself, suppose you go to jail? Some other man gonna see me wearing these underwear.” And then I started to think about it. And it motivated me.
I learned a lot from her. I believe this woman changed my life. The project that I come from, you couldn’t afford to laugh or show kindness or friendship because they’d think that you were weak. This woman learned me how to laugh.
It was a transformation. She started with me, man, from knife, fork and spoon, showin’ me how to live in the white-collared world. She came from a world where you know what side the fork is supposed to be on, or this the salad fork, this is the dinner fork. I came from a world where you just pick up your meat or just grab a fork and a fork do everything. One fork for me was every fork!
She got me doing things that even I couldn’t believe. I never thought that I’d see the day that I’d play golf. When golf come on on Sundays, I thought it was the most boringest thing in the world looking at this TV. But this woman got me—man I’m chasing a golf ball.
My partners look at me sometimes and say, where’d Russell at? He ain’t shootin’ pool, he ain’t clownin’ no more? Look at him, that woman got him henpecked. Man no, I’m in love.
Watch a short video of Russell
For the rest of Russell’s story, read US: Americans Talk About Love