LIFE & DEATH

DMX Died and Took a Piece of Me With Him

Some people were monuments. They were institutions. Eras. And losing X is losing the only other person who remembers what I remember about us.

With DMX on the set of Aaliyah’s posthumous ‘I Miss You’ video shoot, 2002.

I loved him, still. He was one of those people you could never forget, the kind you couldn’t help but check up on years after you swore you’d never talk to him again. He was loveable and wild, and he was more careful with others than he was with himself. We were lovers and friends, and when our time was over, he left me with some of the most endearing, thrilling, and unforgettable memories of my life. We fought like dogs in the halls and lobbies of posh Beverly Hills hotels, spent dusk to dawn in recording studios, and nights in the dark, dank corners of LA nightclubs. We were young, uninhibited, and destined to disengage. Then, last week, he died, and a part of me went with him.

My twenties and early thirties were like something out of a movie. There were drug lords, pimps, rappers, actors, murderers, and government officials. It was Pamela De Barres’ I’m with the Band on steroids, and I had a fucking blast. Ofcourse, there were some horrid lows, like a drug overdose and a few other near-death experiences, homelessness, and heartache, but I survived it all. Hell, more than that, I wrote a few books about it and turned my lifestyle into a career.

Chapter sixteen of my first book, Confessions of a Video Vixen, is entitled ‘Dog Eat Dog’ and chronicles some of the highs and lows of my relationship with DMX. It’s filled with fond memories and harrowing moments, conveniently leaving out sensitive information and details of the night I knew it was time for me to leave him. That was 2003, a lifetime ago. Since then, I haven’t been able to stay away, not completely. While he and I would never speak again, I would often check with a mutual friend to see how X was getting along. It’s something I find myself doing with several key figures from my past — men I’ve come away from but still think or care about.

As much as I practice and preach the advantages of moving forward and leaving everyone and everything that no longer serves me in the past, there are certain people I’ve had a hard time untethering. A couple of them I watch from afar, while a few had been allowed back into my life after promising myself I’d never talk to them again. In the past year, however, I’ve done a better job at breaking the yokes of cantankerous friendships I held onto solely for the sake of nostalgia and habit. Still, there are two men, in particular, I haven’t been able to get out of my mind. One of them is DMX.

Before moving from Los Angeles last fall, I sorted through my book collection and found the copy of DMX’s autobiography, EARL, that I took from his hotel room the last time I saw him. In it was a long note, handwritten in pencil on hotel stationery, from one of the many women also tortuously in love with him. I kept both the book and note all these years as a reminder of our time together and why I left.

X was alot.

He did everything with the same intensity. Whether he was fucking or fighting, loving or lamenting, he was painfully passionate. He was exciting, dangerous, protective, explosive, generous, and loving. Being with him was emotional sensory overload. The letter the other woman left for him was filled with much of the same feelings I had, and after reading it, I knew it was futile to love him from such proximity. None of us was going to win. He was a slippery bar of soap in a bath too hot to stand.

Last fall, when I found the book and the letter, I read a bit of each before tossing both. It wasn’t easy, but it was time. I was leaving Los Angeles, and the two decades I spent ripping 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 on the east coast with my family. That meant that anything with a backstory that included an ex-lover, boyfriend, or husband wasn’t going to make the trip with me, except for a few photos and the richness of my memories. That meant EARL couldn’t come.

And that’s been the theme of my life this past year, more than ever before. I’ve made a new habit of looking at objects and people and tracing my attachment to them back to their origin. It’s how I make space for new things, people, and experiences. I consider the memories something or someone evokes and question how each memory makes me feel. I found a potato peeler my first husband left behind. It made me angry, so I tossed it. There was a pair of sneakers my third husband bought me. They made me feel stagnant, so I threw those out, too. Then, there was EARL. The book made me feel nostalgic, but for a time and a life fraught with confusion — love and hate, lust, fun, and addiction.

So much addiction.

Weeks after tossing relics from my past, I boarded an airplane and flew into my new life, feeling lighter, knowing that part of me would stay in LA and I’d be making new memories on eastern soil. But then, it all came rushing back when I logged onto my Twitter account last week and learned that, reportedly, X suffered an overdose and was on life support.

The memories I have of him dug their way from the back of my mind to the front, and I could hear him laughing, yelling, and talking to me all those years ago. I remembered all the times I thought I’d die while in the car with him. Notoriously, he always drove like a stunt man. I thought about how he jumped out of the car in the middle of traffic to save a woman from an attacker threatening her with a tire iron. And I remembered the dozens of roses he bought for me from the flower peddler outside an LA nightclub, how I threw them on the ground later that night during an argument, and how hurt he was.

The news was troublesome, but I wasn’t worried. He’d survived so much. I always said he was the only “Dog” I knew with nine lives. I thought he must’ve had at least five of them left.

X died April 9th, and with him went a piece of me. I’d been contemplating mortality and loss all that week as my beloved grandmother celebrated her 91st birthday a few days before, and I was reminded of how little time I have left with her. I’d been thinking about other losses, private ones, and how badly they still hurt. I kept trying to wrap my head around the concept of dying and the fact that one day, it’ll be my turn. I was trying to prepare myself for my grandmother’s eventual passing and mine, praying that I live as long as she will. I cried a lot that week, mourning all I’d lost and all I’m sure to lose in the future, and then X left us, and I couldn’t keep it together.

It felt as if an entire era had died.

I thought about the way his music got me through an abusive relationship years before we met. His first album, It’s Dark and Hell is Hot, gave me strength by so eloquently and painstakingly giving credence to the audacity of survival. I thought about his tenderness with my son. He loved children and became one of them in their midst. I remembered him and my son flying remote control airplanes in the park and the joy on X’s face while playing with his new toy. I thought about everything we’d ever done and said all those years ago and regretted never letting him know I was still checking up on him.

He touched our lives and our hearts in a way that knows no space or time. I ache, like everyone who has known him, and the millions who felt as if they did, but still, not half as much as his family and his children.

The world lost someone very special.

For me, his passing felt like an institution had been burned to the ground, the way I feel when I go back to my hometown to find that monuments from my childhood have been removed or destroyed. So much of who I am is wrapped into these people, places, and objects that have touched me in some way and left indelible marks on the fiber of my being. And I never really understand how much I lean on the memory of them until they’re gone. It’s why I kept that book and letter for so long. It reminded me of my time with X, a time when I felt so much and lived so loudly before the world shamed me for being free. It reminded me of the night I walked away from someone I loved because I knew he would never miss me.

It’s a time I’ve been trying to escape this past year but can’t. It doesn’t matter how many books, letters, or photos I toss. It doesn’t matter how different and new my life is now or how many more times it regenerates. I can never remove or outrun the memories or how the people I’ve known and my experiences with them have molded me. All of it — the laughter, the tears, the fights, the leaving — it’s all a part of me. And some people were monuments. They were institutions. Eras. And losing X is losing the only other person who remembers what I remember about us. Now, I’m the keeper of it all. And then one day, I’ll be gone.

I’m glad X chronicled his life and that I have chronicled mine. In that regard, we will never die. Still, the sorrow following his passing has been palpable. As I was grieving and preparing for other losses, this one blindsided me and knocked the wind from my lungs. It quickly showed me that I can’t prepare at all, not for my grandmother’s imminent home-going and never for my own. Life comes at you fast, but not nearly as quickly as death.

Memories of X fill my eyes with tears.

With him, he takes a piece of me.

With me, I take a piece of him.

3x New York Times bestselling author, copywriter, and columnist. lilibetovesen.com

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