We've All Been There: Reflections on K. Michelle and the Timing of "Situationships"

by Bee Quammie

The last time I saw him was in the subway station.

Hearing the whoosh of the incoming train and the chime that signaled its opening doors, my casual strut turned to a full-out sprint as I hurried down the stairs and onto the platform. I prayed that I’d make it in time, but as the subway doors closed in my face those hopes were dashed.

I sighed and cursed under my breath, then turned to share a sheepish smile with the other woman who ran for the train like I did. As she went on about subways and kids at daycare and Ugh, how long until the next train?, I glanced behind her and my breath caught in my throat.

It was him.

What we had was nowhere near a platonic friendship, but never grew to become a committed relationship. Standing there on that subway platform, I came face-to-face with my past and the "situationship" that was.

I recently caught myself head-nodding to K. Michelle’s new single “Maybe I Should Call,” reminiscing about the times when I wanted to call and didn’t, or shouldn’t have called but did. When the promotional campaign for her new album Anybody Wanna Buy A Heart? began, K. Michelle teased—then confirmed—that the entire album is based off of an 8-month relationship she says she had with actor Idris Elba.

First, I admit to being totally thrown by their pairing (before learning that they worked together on her Rebellious Soul musical). Then, I wondered how they managed to keep their relationship under wraps. Finally, I remembered that Idris recently had a son with his girlfriend Naiyana Garth. All of a sudden the timeline got murky and that line, “She’s having the child I should have carried,” in “Maybe I Should Call” made a bit more sense.

The self-proclaimed “Black Taylor Swift” was extremely forthcoming in her media appearances, sharing details of their relationship and how she handled its ending. While I couldn’t relate to being involved with a man knowing he had a baby on the way, I could identify with the passion she described, the connection she felt, and her lamentations of bad timing. No matter what the outside world may think about K. Michelle’s recent confessions, she was clearly caught up and mourning the loss of what could have been.

And I’ve been there. 

When we first met, I was struck by the way his name flowed off of my tongue, and I loved how he said mine. Sparks of attraction intertwined with threads of inexplicable familiarity, creating an intoxicating sense of comfort that had me acting out of character. Hours-long phone calls, “I was just thinking about you” texts, late-night dates that had me yawning at work the next day: I didn’t know where things were going, but I was determined to enjoy the ride.

Our work schedules eventually made things tricky—he traveled fairly often, and I had a demanding position that started to mess with our time together. Things were becoming inconsistent, and while we spoke often of how we felt about each other, we never talked about what we were to each other. I once contemplated introducing him to my mom when she was in town for a visit, then decided against it. When he found out, I was confused by how upset he was. I wanted more but figured I wouldn’t get it, and protected my heart accordingly. He never made it clear that he was ready for more, but felt affronted when I pulled back. Work schedules, assumptions, and poor communication had our situationship feeling like a game of double dutch—we were both on opposite sides of the ropes, watching and waiting for the perfect time to jump in, and never finding it.

We began to fade from each other, but random phone calls and rendez-vous pulled us back in stronger and more passionately every time. One night he said to me, “If I had met you six months earlier, things would be different… better… the way they’re supposed to be.” The inevitable was happening, and we both knew it. This thing between us had run its course, and what hurt the most was knowing that our precarious romance really did have the potential to be something great… but timing got in the way.

Do matters of the heart always require a label? Do these situationships carry less emotional weight than defined and established relationships? Are we taking the easy way out when we blame their demise on timing? Should we have tried harder to make things work?

These questions flew through my mind when my situation ended. While K. Michelle’s situation was intensified by fame, Elba’s child, and realizing she was a “glorified side chick,” I’m sure similar ones have gone through her mind as well.

Standing there on that subway platform, I found myself face-to-face with someone who I hadn’t seen in years. He had once meant so much to me, but he was now a footnote in the grand story of life and love.

How funny was it that the catalyst to bringing us back together was a missed train?

Timing, your humor is never lost on me.

Photo credit: Todd Williamson/AP

Bridget "Bee" Quammie is a Toronto-based healthcare professional, writer, social media consultant, and founder of 83toinfinity.com. Recognized by Black Enterprise and the 2014 Black Canadians Awards for her digital work, Bee aims to live '83 To Infinity's motto: "It's never too late to learn something new, do something new, or be someone new." Follow her on Twitter at @BeeSince83.

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