Swimming With Rocks in My Pocket
The job was for a marketing company.
The ad said they were looking for students or recent grads for
an entry level position and a basic foundation with accounting
was a plus. I graduated high school with a reasonable grade point
average of 3.6. Although I went directly to Boston College, shortly,
sometime after starting, I dropped out and was currently in a
community college trying to raise my grade point average. Accounting
was my major. I was confident I had the skills to do entry level
marketing. My academics and previous employment carried the experience
the job needed. After submitting my well-worked-on resume, I got
a response back from the company much sooner than I expected.
Things were falling into place. All I needed now, was to look
Buying a brand new suit was completely
out of my budget. I came up with the idea to buy a suit from the
Goodwill and tailor it. I scheduled an appointment at a local
dry cleaner on my way to the Goodwill. Entering the store, I ignored
the smell of old wet yarn that had permeated the place since as
long as I could remember. I noticed a group of about three women
looking through school clothes for their children who were running
around playing what looked like Hide-and-Go-Seek. This reminded
me of my childhood, when my mom coincidentally purchased my first
bike from this exact same Goodwill. I too, was running around
playing with the toys here and now I was looking through
the suits. My search ended when I found a suit that was somewhat
in style and not totally faded; I had no time to waste. $19.99
was an ideal price.
That night, I was nervous, pacing back
and forth, looking at my online banking account that read $219.
It wasnt even half of what I needed to pay my bills this
month. I could hear all my roommates laughing and cheering downstairs,
pre-gaming for yet another thirsty Thursday ritual
they faithfully stuck to. Their parents paid for their rent and
all living expenses. You would think they would be more cautious
about how they spent their money, but they bought marijuana, alcohol,
and ordered out so much, that every time our door rang it was
Amazon or a food delivery. My parents didnt even have a
longitude or latitude where I could locate them. I went to the
kitchen to make a single packet of Ramen noodles with Shriracha
sauce. Ironically, it cost more than the packet of ramen and the
bowl I was eating out of. The night came to an end with my anxiety
at full throttle and my stomach at half full.
The interview was today. My suit looked
great and my Payless shoes looked the best they could. I looked
in the mirror and suddenly remembered the sound of the heavy door
slamming behind me after being released from prison. One year
of eight by twelve confinement. One year of stabbing and fighting,
people attempting to recruit me to join their gang and guards
treating me like the lowest possible piece of matter a human could
be. I thought, will this employer judge me because of a mistake
I made in the past?
The following morning I took one last
look at my roommate. He was in a deep sleep on the couch still
wearing the same clothes from the night before. I closed the apartment
door. My phone beeped and, I remembered the bus app. It was arriving
in two minutes. I realized if I missed it, the next one wouldnt
come for thirty minutes. I ran, ran as fast as possible in a mixture
of snow and ice. I missed it! But if I ran fast enough I could
catch it at the next stop. Snap went my shoe! The entire sole
detached itself and I stepped into puddle of slush then slipped
and fell. I watched the bus disappear into the fog.
I was twenty minutes late. Have
a seat. Hell be ready within the next ten minutes,
said the assistant. Ten minutes felt more like thirty. Then a
young man walked out of Mr. Johnsons office as the assistant
said he was ready for me.
I stood up and took a deep breath.
I sat in the chair with my left leg over my right to cover up
my decapitated shoe. Mr. Johnson was a laid back, late thirties
man, who rabbled on about his days in college, on how he was a
ladys man. He was confident and playful at the same time.
There was a mini basketball hoop stuck on the back of his office
door and under it, a poster of Kobe Bryant. He complimented me
so much that I almost wanted to ask him, When do I start?
Everything he asked about from spread sheets to platforms to salesforce
software I could do. Then he answered the phone and told the assistant
to come in. The assistant came in with a folder in her hands and
walked directly to Mr. Johnsons desk without looking at
Mr. Johnson looked interested in whatever
the paper said. The assistant walked out. Mr. Johnson took a deep
breath. Then he looked me dead in the eye. The energy in the room
was different, Mr. Johnson not so nonchalant anymore and my throat
was dryer than its ever been. The room became cold and quiet
as we played copycat with our pupils. Then he broke the silence.
He told me the interview would have to come to an end. I couldnt
tell what it was but I knew something was wrong. I was just about
to walk out of the office before Mr. Johnson said, Mr. M
, theres a strong chance the position will be filled
before contacting you.
What just happened? Everything was going perfect I thought.
You didnt get the job because of your background check.
It was the assistant. She was outside smoking in the designated
I walked away with no umbrella to stop
the light drizzles. I decided to walk before going directly back
home. The sky was a dark fog like my mood. My right foot was soaked.
I was hungry but only had Ramen noodles to eat. My suit was tailored
with no job to look forward to. My apartment was just two weeks
away from not even being mine. My options were limited. I feared
this would happen.
Go back to school was all I could think
of. What would I do? Live in a shelter while attending college?
I didnt even know where my mother lived nor where to find
her, my father was gone before I turned five. To make things worse
I was adopted at birth, so I not only didnt have an adopted
familys support I didnt even know my birth family.
Where could I work? Gas station, McDonalds or physical labor.
A background check has marked me. I
could get a PhD and still have a background check to worry about.
Why send me to jail to pay for my actions, if Ill be paying
for them for the rest of my life? When is justice served if youre
serving it the rest of your life?
I walked into The Prudential Mall and
sat down on a bench. I took out my phone and surfed the free Wi-Fi.
I felt alone, more alone then jail ever made me feel. At least
in jail there were no bills and no interviews to worry about.
Then I read a post on Tumblr. It said, When you feel like
you have the weight of the world on your shoulders, add more weight.
I got up and made my way to the bus stop.
It was a beautiful spring day and my
father had set his sights on pruning the soft pines whose aroma
would convey smoothly through the air in front of our home. I
went across the street to get a better view of the mildly offensive
evergreens that were now plumping over the handrails and rubbing
the gutter on the porch roof. Having done some landscaping for
my neighbor during summer vacation the year before, I thought,
this wont be so bad, all they need is a little haircut.
Lets get some tools out
here, my father said. In the garage he told me to grab the
wheelbarrow and he filled it with a rake, broom, hedge trimmer
and what he called, loppers, which were giant scissors to me,
and finally an extension cord he placed over my head and hung
around my neck. I followed behind him with the wheelbarrow as
he carried the ladder, he began by stabilizing it and then telling
me to fatten up his beer, which meant fetch him a cold one from
the fridge. I grabbed the empty can and headed to the kitchen
thinking, maybe things wont be so simple. Even at thirteen
I was skeptical of my fathers ability to prune. I am sure
that Budweiser had no experience as a horticulturalist and had
no business being involved in this project. Also, my father was
not very handy; hed crack a pane here and there washing
windows, never mind the inch of paint he would get on the floor
while cutting in baseboard. I always felt protective of my father
because he was older than my friends fathers. Now, I was
even that much more protective because my dad was going through
radiation treatments to shrink a tumor in his lung behind his
aorta. I did not realize how serious his condition was because
when I went with him to his treatments at the Bonne Secours Hospital
he would joke and make the nurses laugh; they all called him Jack.
Still, when he was pruning I worried more about him than I did
I plugged one end of the extension
cord into the hall outlet and the other into the trimmer. I passed
the trimmer to my father and even though hed stabilized
the ladder, I held it just in case. Soon my arms, hands, head
and shoulders were covered with branches, dust and needles, from
the fat perennials. When hed move the ladder I would rake
the ground clean so he could see where it was most safe to set
it up again. When I knew he was steady I raked the rest into a
pile on the walkway. There was a lot to rake, too much, I thought.
An hour passed. It was time to swap an empty for a full. This
made number three for the King of Beers, the 16 ouncers that my
brother called pounders. I just called them beers.
My brother was my dads favorite,
the first boy; he even looked like our father. He had blue eyes
and blondish hair and I had brown and brown. He was Junior. He
got the fun stuff. He and my father would go to Red Sox games
and on other days go fishing. Every so often they went to a little
hole- in-the-wall fish market in Lawrence Massachusetts that served
fried haddock like nowhere else on earth. On the ride home my
brother got to steer the car while my dad controlled the gas and
brakes. My brother would tell me about his excursions and I would
wonder why I was not included.
One time, my father took me to my aunts
house in Lowell Massachusetts with our dog, Max. I hung out while
my dad and his sister had a few beers and some laughs. When it
was time to go, I gave my aunt a hug and a kiss and hopped in
the back seat of our Impala. I didnt think much of it back
then when my dad opened his door and he and Max sat in the front
together and my aunt yelled Jacky! He said What?
He knows his place. My aunt looked at me and just shook
her head, and I continued to wonder if my father really liked
I walked up the stairs and realized that I could see more of the
trees trunks than I had ever seen before. My mother was
in the kitchen and as I grabbed the fridges handle and reached
to the back, she asked me how it was going. I could only turn
and raise my eyebrows with a smirk on my face and a shrug of my
shoulders. So my mom got up and went out to the porch and as I
snuck around her I heard her say, Oh Jack.
My mother told me to go and play with
my friends. I went to the corner store, got a Pepsi and headed
over to the Shawsheen River Bridge. I sat on the cement barrier
looking down at the moving water. I spent almost three hours there
looking for turtles and then eels down by the falls before I thought
it safe to go home. As I got closer to our house I noticed a portion
of the porch roof that I hadnt seen before and the siding
with light green stains from pine needles. It was like seeing
a women with no makeup for the first time. I became anxious. I
could no longer see the fulsome towers. When I finally got to
the driveway I saw three stumps. One was my Dad. He was sitting
on the porch steps with his elbows on his knees and his head bowed
down as if he were in mass, listening to sermon. His hands, wrapped
around his beer, resembled hands clasped in prayer. I said, Hi
Dad, which seemed to break his trance. Hi, he
said solemnly, then got up and went in the house, as it was almost
At the table we all focused on our
plates in silence. I looked at my mom and I could tell she was
not mad at my father. She just felt bad for him and sad for the
trees. My mother is a wise woman. She knew my fathers pride
was hurt to its deepest roots. That night I could hear my mom
and dad in the living room, but not clearly. I scooted down the
stairs on my butt and when I got about halfway I could hear my
father saying, How am I going to get them out? I knew
right then it was time to play my role in the aftermath of the
The next day was Monday. I was focused,
not on school or hanging out with friends, but on going home and
getting those stumps out for my dad. This was my perfect opportunity
to make him proud of me, the kind of job only my brother could
do. As soon as I got home, I ran to the garage and grabbed the
axe, pick, and a spade. Looking at the naked front porch I decided
to tackle the left stump. It was a very warm afternoon and I was
already sweating. I had dug holes in the past to bury our pets
that passed but digging ground with roots was entirely different,
like combing gum out of hair. I used the shovel, then the axe
and finally the pick which was the perfect tool for exposing and
separating the roots. Sweat stung my eyes as I lifted the thick
earth- burrowed veins and severed them with the keen edge of the
axe. My hands were burning where blisters had formed and already
popped from the repetition and force of the blows. I wiped the
grimy sweat from my forehead with my elbow and dropped the axe.
I grabbed the stump; it was finally rocking back and forth, but
I still had a second one to contend with. I really wanted to finish
before my dad got home to surprise and impress him. But before
I knew it, he and my mother pulled into the driveway which lead
to the back door. I didnt stop digging even when my mom
came out on the porch said, My, youve been busy.
Kinda, I said without skipping a beat, like it was
no big deal.
The second stump was easier than the first. By then I had developed
a technique for exposing the roots and then hacking them apart.
I hadnt changed my pace but I wasnt as sweaty since
the sun the sun was no longer directly above. Dinner was going
to be ready soon but I could taste victory.
No one looked up when I sat down to
dinner. I was late. Everyone else was half-finished and no one
said a word. My father finished eating, got up and went to his
chair in the living room. I scarfed down what was on my plate
and then immediately sat in the chair by the window. I was hoping
my dad was going to say something about my effort, an attaboy
or something along those lines. It did not happen during the time
the news was on T.V. during my homework time and; it did not happen
when I got ready for bed.
Time passed. Grass sprouted where the
trees once stood. The space they left was like the space between
me and my father that we could never fill.
At the age of seven I was loyal to
the cartoon called Voltron. I was Voltrons biggest fan.
On Christmas night my family and I got together to open our gifts
and as I opened mine, I tried to guess what I could expect. So
I thought about Liono from the Thundercats because I already knew
he was affordable. Plus, my Moms saw me looking at him one day
at the mall and asked me if I liked him. But when I finally unwrapped
my gift, I was in shock. I realized that I was holding in my hands
the black lion of Voltron. He was the leader and the main lion
of a five-piece collection. I raised him up like I had won a championship
trophy and ran towards my mom and dad calling their names and
almost crying with thanks. Everyone saw my impression of a dream
Now I was focused on how I could get the other four pieces to
complete the entire five-piece set to turn the single lion into
Voltron, the robot I loved so much. I convinced my brother to
trade me his blue lion that was one of Voltrons legs, for
some Mario arcade game. Then, a couple of weeks after, I exchanged
with my neighbor, some hot wheel cars for the orange lion, which
was the other leg. A few days went by and I traded my Hulk Hogan
action figure from the WWF for the red lion, which was Voltrons
arm. My cousin had the green lion, which was Voltrons other
arm. Green was my favorite color, too. But my cousin refused to
trade. So I pulled out my toys and grabbed two G.I. Joes and a
couple of Hot Wheels to call his attention to an offer. My cousin
said he would do a deal for five G.I. Joes. The deal was outrageous
and as he started picking them, it hurt. I felt so much pressure,
but I sacrificed five of my best G.I. Joes just to be able to
own the complete robot of Voltron.
Now I owned Voltron. I was so proud. It was the first time I had
put a plan together and accomplished it. Now Voltron was mine.
But I hesitated to play with him because I did not want to risk
breaking him. My plan was to keep him forever.
But I would soon learn that plans can
Around that time, my mother, on an
emergency, had to travel from where we lived in New York to Puerto
Rico to take care of my grandmother. My father took care of me
and my brother. Then my aunt took care of us for a few months
too, while my father worked, but I still needed my mom. I had
problems going to bed at night without my moms tucking me in with
a kiss good night sealed with her blessing. A few months went
by and she decided to move to Puerto Rico permanently. So my brother
and I had to travel from New York to Puerto Rico alone on a plane.
We were both seven.
I packed my own suitcase and I grabbed a small box. I put all
my toys in it along with my Voltron. I secured it all around with
duct tape, wrote on it my P.R. address and I wrote my name on
each and every side of the box with a permanent black marker.
The day of our flight arrived and we had with us our Chihuahua,
Browny, in a kennel, our luggage and I was holding tight in my
hands, my box.
On the plane, the flight attendant
told me to buckle up and then she told me to hand her the box.
I said, Negative.
She said, Please? and told me she would put it away.
Sorry, I said. Not happening.
She said The plane will not take off if you are holding
the box in your hands. Then she gave me some earphones so
I could listen to the movie and I handed her my precious box.
She put it right above me in the overhead compartment.
When the plane arrived, my brother
unbuckled his seatbelt, got up, and ran out of sight to look for
our dog. Suddenly I was alone and afraid and went chasing after
my brother. We found our dog. We met up with my moms, but I was
not feeling right, like I was empty for some reason. And then
I realized that I was not holding my precious box with all my
toys in it including my Voltron! I had left my box behind! I tried
to go back for it, but I wasnt allowed back on the plane.
My moms put in a claim for it and made calls from the house, but
no one ever found it.
Even now, after all Ive been
through, I still think of that day as being the worst day of my
The Games Choice
At the early age of eight years old
I experienced a hurting loss of my father. He got shot in the
back of his head on June 8th 1991 by a Boston police officer named
Leo J. Ronan. My mom got a phone call from a friend who told her
my father was laying face down, stiff and dead in a hallway of
the project where he was born and raised. He was unarmed, but
still got gunned down by a law official who didnt get charged
for taking my fathers life when my father was twenty-five
I was a first-born child and my mothers
only child, though my father had two other kids by two different
women. I carried his first name and my mothers last and
as crazy as it may sound all the women my father had children
with were from the same neighborhood. Back in the 80s he
had a way with the ladies and he had a big name in the neighborhood
because he was getting large sums of money in the drug game. My
mother didnt care about that part of his life. She loved
him for the person he was, not for the money he was making in
the streets. She just wanted him to be a father to his first-born
child that they had when they were both eighteen years old.
Now, as time moved forward, my mother
took on both roles as mom and dad being the strong black woman
that she grew to be. She taught me right from wrong, how to respect
my elders and always keep myself well-mannered. She wanted me
to be focused in school and when I wasnt around her or with
other family members, I learned form her how to be independent
and stand on my own. At eleven years old, I learned how to cook
a meal, wash and iron clothes, keep the house clean, be neat and
organize my stuff, and always take care of my shoes. She taught
me how to take care of your business, how to plan and set goals
in my life. I was taught from a woman what it was to be a man.
But the streets defined manhood differently,
and when I became a teenager, I listened to the streets and not
to my mother. I grew up fast coming out of the projects in Boston,
Massachusetts, better know as Bromley Heath, also known as Heat
Street in Jamaica Plain. Everybody there was family and
looked out for one another. If you werent from around the
area you werent welcome unless you were with a person from
Bromley Heath or invited to come there. Outsiders couldnt
just walk in and hang out, not even at the train station, Jackson
Square. They would get robbed, stabbed or killed for being in
I wanted to dress nice, but didnt
have the money. Yet, I still managed to wear the latest clothes
out. How? The explanation is simple. I saw older dudes driving
expensive cars, wearing flashy clothes and hanging out with the
finest women Id ever seen. Jamaica Plain was literally flooded
with drugs, especially heroin, cocaine and weed. I saw two options
staring at me: use drugs and get fucked up by circumstances or
sell drugs and use circumstances to survive.
Beside all of these distractions, school
didnt hold my attention because I couldnt see how
school would help my situation. I observed that an education did
not always guarantee employment, at least not good employment.
I knew people whod graduated school who werent doing
much better than the high school drop-outs. Why waste time pursuing
an education that didnt pay off?
My cousin, Dee, gave me my first package
and introduced me to the fast life. He wasted no time in schooling
me. For you, Nate, lesson number one: Dont ever get
high off of your product. It will make you loco. Number two: Dont
ever tell anyone about me. Number three: Stay low and always follow
instructions. Trust me. Money will never be a problem for
you. Money will never be a problem. Those were the words
any young kid in the ghetto wanted to hear. I thought about my
poor, dear, mother working hard, struggling to support us on her
own. I knew this was far from what she wanted from her only child,
but situations like mine might tempt many people to break the
law. I swear I didnt choose the game, the game chose me.
Dee gave me my first package and I
took it to the streets. I needed someone to check it out and make
sure it wasnt bullshit. I got my reading and it was time
to open up shop. I couldnt stop customers from coming to
the spot I was working out of now, knocking on the door, back
and forth, and waiting for me out front of the building. It was
getting crazy. Some say you have to be scouted before you make
it to the big leagues. Thats how the drug game goes. I was
hustling hard. I was on my grind and it seemed like I blew up
Competition is a major part of any
game and when it comes to the drug game, competition has no end.
Jealousy, envy, hate, greed and the love of money often make the
outcome of the game ugly. All it takes is a few words spoken to
the wrong people at the wrong time and your so-called drug empire
is finished. There was a no-snitching code on the street. At least
I lived by that code, but when youre getting too big on
the streets and eating good and others are not, they will go to
the cops and squeal which is what happened to me, all because
somebody told a lie to lessen their jail-time to get me in trouble
to reduce the trouble they were in.
A mans fear of not surviving,
not making it or not having, is far greater than his fear of incarceration.
This is why temporary desires make risk factors obsolete. The
game kept me short-sighted and tunnel-visioned. I saw nothing
but the limelight: the money, cars, clothes, women and jewelry
and not what was really at stake, like coming to prison instead
of graduating high school and going to college, and losing out
on seeing my daughter and hurting those I love. There is no real
strategy that leads to success for players in this game. Yes,
one or two might fall through the cracks, but the hard truth is
that the majority of us living this lifestyle are locked down
or put in the ground.
I am blessed, but my poor decision-making
cost me time out of my life and stole valuable time away from
my child. It was a lesson and an experience that I had the opportunity
to avoid, but I chose to be pulled into the lifestyle of a hustler
who later became a boss, who would later take the biggest loss
of lifes experience, which is sometimes the best teacher
we can have.
Instead of allowing this time in prison
to be a crushing blow of defeat, I am using it as a stepping-stone
to higher accomplishments. I have spent my time on study, prayer,
and personal commitment. My experience has taken me from being
a man of the streets and shaped me into the man my mother made,
the man I hope I am today.
Father Son Day
My ten year-old-son had just gotten
a haircut from his favorite barber. Not wanting to go through
the lengthy wait of sitting at the bus stop or wasting money for
a cab, I called my friend, Marcus, for a ride. Be there
in five minutes, he said. By chance he had his son with
him too, and we decided to take the boys to Evans Park on the
corner of Thetford Ave and Evans Street. The park was located
two minutes from my home and would make it easy to feed the boys
As we were driving up Thetford Ave,
I saw a black Volkswagen. The car whipped around the corner, no
different than a leaf being hurled away on a windy day. Then it
barreled towards us down the street. Even in a rush, the average
person wouldnt drive down a tight side street like the one
we were on at that rate of speed. Then the car seemed to be straying
over to our side of the road.
Thunder struck! We all jerked forward
and everything stopped. A second felt like an hour. I saw a cloud
of steam. The car hit us head-on. Marcus and I looked back to
see if our boys were injured. Are you guys ok? we
both asked. They were both sitting upright in their seat belts,
Marcus and I got out of our car to
assess the damage. I glanced up at the black Volkswagen to see
two guys, both with their eyes wide open no different than an
owl in the night. I guess it was safe to assume that these two
idiots were in shock. Then both of them jumped out of their vehicle
and took off running. At this point all I can think was, what
the fuck? Do I let them run or stand here like an idiot? So, I
took off running after them and so did Marcus. We didnt
pause to think about what we might be getting into. My only thought
was that they almost killed us and someone had to pay. As a father
Id feel extremely wrong if I let them get away with it.
We chased the two idiots into a yard about ten feet away. The
guy that hopped out of the drivers seat cleared a fence
as tall as me and the passenger tried to run around to the other
side of the house, but the idiot got stuck. The fence braced the
side of the house tightly. He tried to run past me and I grabbed
him. He was swinging like a mad man as I tried to wrestle him
to the ground. Marcus shouted, Watch out! and my grip
loosened and his shirt began to slip out my hand. He swung a few
more times and I lost my grip on him. He fell to the ground. Then
this idiot jumped right back up and took off running out of the
yard like a greyhound. I attempted to give chase but was too winded
from the tussle. I also came to the realization that I was a little
out of shape. I hadnt had this much action since high school.
Me and Marcus walked out of the yard
and saw a lady standing by the car. She was talking to the boys
and making sure they were all right. She looked at Marcus and
me and said, I hope yall kicked their ass. We
jumped back into our car and proceeded in the direction the fool
took off running. Despite the head-on collision the car appeared
to be driving straight. Someone has to be held accountable, I
I couldve called the police at
that moment, but anger and frustration dominated my thoughts.
Even if the thought had occurred to me I wouldnt have called
them. The police are never around when you need them, but are
always on time for nonsense and harassment. I remember in my teenage
years an instance where a young girl had been shot in a neighborhood.
An unmarked detectives car was a block away but didnt
respond to the scene. In this same neighborhood, Id see
young guys my age being frisked for no reason, day in and day
out sitting on sidewalks with their shoes off while officers
dug through their pockets and pants. Then again what use would
the police be if the other driver and his sidekick had gotten
away? Better to have caught one than neither.
As we hit Norfolk Street we saw flashing
lights behind us, none other than Bostons Finest. Where
were they minutes ago? Marcus pulled over. We waited for the officer
to walk up to the window so we could explain to him what just
transpired. Instead, I looked up into the barrel of a gun. Two
young black guys and a shaky white officer with his gun drawn.
The wisest thing to do at this point was to put our hands up.
He noticed both of our sons in the back seat and put his side
arm away. Common sense finally kicked in. He actually apologized.
It got worse. Five to six more police
cars showed up. Before I knew it, we were being pulled out of
the car and being searched. Standing against the car that we were
hit head on in, legs spread with both hands in the air I thought,
this is crazy! But then again, given the neighborhood that we
were in I wasnt surprised. Guilty until proven innocent.
The police in Boston are more focused on the number of arrests
they could make than actually being public servants that take
care of the neighborhood. Just another day in Mattapan, I thought.
Marcus and I both asked the officer why we were being searched.
His response was that his boss told him to do it. He seemed confused!
Then a tall white guy who I guess was his superior came over and
tied Marcus shoe laces together, mine after, and told us
we are being arrested. Tied our shoe laces together! What part
of police procedure is this? Then again I had never been to police
academy. I could only imagine how slaves felt on the plantation.
We asked what are we being charged
with and got no answer. Then we watched as both of our sons were
put in an ambulance. Luckily, I was allowed a phone call to my
girlfriend and she arrived quickly. I saw her speaking to the
EMS crew. The boys were good. Seeing a face that they were familiar
with was more comforting than having police officers and EMS workers
asking them questions. Marcus and I were put in separate police
cars and off to the police station we went.
At the station Marcus and I spent about
thirty to forty-five minutes standing in the booking area. Something
isnt right we both said to each other. At this point we
had been searched by a detective three times already in the police
station. Each time we asked the booking officer what were we being
charged with. His response was, I dont know.
This circus wasnt over yet. The detective came down and
searched again for the fourth time, checking my collar, lifting
my pants leg with a puzzled look on his face. I asked him what
he was looking for. I got no response. Then, a moment after, I
was told that Marcus and I were being charged with Assault and
Battery with a Dangerous Weapon.
We were fingerprinted read our rights
and given a bail of $341 and to the jail cells we went.
I was pissed off at this point, stuck in a stinking jail cell.
Back in a familiar place, not a good one. A heavy metal door slammed
shut behind me. I sat for a second and took in the gray walls,
still atmosphere, and dim lighting. I sat down on a slab of gray
concrete took a deep breath then exhaled. Alone in this cell I
felt pissed off, but what could I do? I made a call to my girlfriend
to take some money from my wallet to come bail me out. What a
wicked turn of events. I never in a hundred years wouldve
thought the day would have ended so terribly. Ive gotten
into my share of trouble in the past. A few times coming to Dorchester
Court in order to resolve possession of marijuana, fire arms possession
and driving without a license. Five years prior to this incident
I completed a two year mandatory sentence and said to myself that
would be the first and last time Id be in the grasp of the
The following day we both appeared
in Dorchester Court for arraignment. Once again another place
that I had been before and never wanted to return to. My girl
wanted to accompany me to the court, but I felt it unnecessary.
Having gone through this circus before I knew nothing would come
out of it but another court date. We were given two public defenders
also known to some as public pretenders. Dealing with
these people was like rolling dice. The majority of the time you
roll snake eyes. But I thought that this was a simple situation
that could be resolved with common sense and I felt no need to
hire a private lawyer. I had been through worse in the past with
a public lawyer and I came out on top. Marcus, though, decided
to fire his. Had I known better, Id have done the same.
We had several court dates that followed
the arraignment and each time the prosecutors claimed to be unprepared
and the victim was being held in another county. My lawyer was
sure that it was an easy case to beat. He talked a good one. After
the fourth trial date in the course of nine to ten months I thought
the case would get thrown out. From previous run-ins with the
law in my younger years, Id known this to be a general rule
of thumb. Then again the judges at Dorchester Court had a history
of practicing colorable law. That is when a judge,
thought to be unbiased and objective, makes decisions based on
his or her personal and subjective opinion. I asked the lawyer
why he wasnt pushing to get this case dismissed? He assured
me that I need not worry, the trial will be dismissed, he said.
But it wasnt. On the last trial
date my lawyer clammed up and was completely unprepared. I attempted
to fire him, but the judge denied my request. The clown that I
got into the tussle with showed up to testify against me. So I
guess they made him a deal so that he could get a lesser sentence.
(My sentence was eighteen months in the county jail with two years
The system that is said to serve justice,
unjustly served me. The justice system isnt set up for a
black man to be successful. My two sons, mother, and girlfriend
are left to fend for themselves. Ive left them financially
secure, but money cant take the place of a father, son,
and boyfriend. What started as a beautiful father and son day
ended in disaster. Will I ever trust police, lawyers and judges?
I doubt it. In this day and age a black man can get shot for putting
his hands up in submission, according to those who witnessed the
death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. And during an arrest,
a black man, gets choked to death in an illegal chokehold and
officers not be held accountable for using excessive force. Unfortunately,
as black men, we must trust a system that isnt worthy of
a black mans trust.
Worth a Chance
I grew up in a broken home where everything
needed fixing. My father was an alcoholic and my mother was a
crack addict. I was the youngest, my brother the oldest, and my
sister the middle child. They were more like my parents.
We all had it rough. When my mother
would say we were going food shopping, I would get excited when
my sister and brother would look angry and wouldnt want
to go. I didnt understand. It was a kids dream, right?
To fill up on cookies, chips and ice cream until our tummies hurt.
But we had to remember to fill up the cart, too, then get in line
and leave the store one by one and laugh on the way home. I was
too young to realize my mother had smoked the food money away.
My mothers crack addiction stole
whole Christmass from us, too. She was the Grinch. One Christmas
morning I went to the tree and there were no presents there! I
was heartbroken. I kept trying to think what I did wrong. I woke
my brother up with my crying that Santa didnt come, thinking
I was naughty. My brother came into my room and sat beside me
and said I wasnt naughty. He said, Santa was so busy he
probably just missed our house by accident. Then he told me to
wait. He came back with something behind his back saying, Here.
He gave me his favorite Thunder Cat action figure. I played with
it all day and fell asleep with it in my arms. And even though
he was an Indian Giver, and took it back two days later, Ill
never forget how he tried to make up for my mothers mistake.
Although I didnt know it then,
my father knew and allowed these things to happen. He was afraid
to be alone, so let my mother and her addiction run all over him.
And she was just as shallow, for she let his alcoholism run her
as well. And thats why she allowed him to hit her which
only fueled her addiction. My father was drunk every day of my
life and passed out drunk every day of my life, so usually what
he was mad about one day he would forget about the next day.
One night a loud scream woke me up.
It was my mother yelling at my dad for more money, both crying
and the sound of loud smacks, then my mother screaming louder.
That was just one night. There were many more. These were the
things I saw at my house. But when I tried to talk to my parents
about it, they were too busy dealing with their own issues and
didnt want to listen to me. I had to learn to grow up quick,
hard, and pretty much emotionless, burying my sensitivity and
compassion for others. Because I didnt know how to manage
my emotions, I dealt with them the only way I knew how.
At the age of twelve or thirteen, I
began smoking weed and drinking. I started hanging with the older
kids. They were just like me, looking for and needing attention.
They saw I had no fear. I would do anything to prove myself to
anyone. If it was a fight, I fought. Break a window, I did it.
Anything. Everyone in my circle knew that. So the first time I
was released from D.Y.S. I visited an older girl I used to hang
around with. She was talking about doing heroin, how good it made
you feel, how nothing compares to it. At first I fought, made
excuses, but she already had me and she knew it. I even paid for
In Johann Haris book, Chasing
the Scream an addict describes the feeling as being a
big warm hug. Heroin was the hug I needed when I was younger,
the hug I needed when the yelling and fighting began, when I had
nightmares but my father was passed out drunk and my mother cracked
out. It was the hug I needed when I got left at school because
my parents forgot to pick me up. It was the hug I needed. Why
would I have not wanted it and what reason would I have had to
So as the years passed, my addiction
grew. Shooting heroin every day comes to be expensive. I was committing
crimes to support my habit. At first it started small. Shoplifting,
stealing car radios. Then I began doing B & Es which
I got good at. But everyone gets caught. Me, I got caught a lot
and was in and out of the county jail. Then, while serving a sentence
there, I was caught bringing heroin into the jail and I was sent
to a state prison for the first time. Even while incarcerated,
I couldnt fight the urge to get high. Every time I was released
from prison I felt my addiction and my mental state were worse.
The first time I was sent to a state
prison, I was classed to a level of Super Max because I caught
my case at the county jail. I, who only had a minor criminal record,
was sent to a maximum security prison where the majority of the
population were murderers, rapists and violent offenders. I had
to adapt to my surroundings so as not to appear weak. I felt like
I was that kid again, having to prove myself all over again, so
I was known to have a short fuse. Because of that, my institutional
record became worse and I couldnt do programs or go to school.
Yes, my fault for fighting, however all of it stemmed over my
having brought heroin into a county jail to get high. Nobody was
hurt. I just wanted to get high. Was that worth my being sent
to a maximum security prison? All of it could have been avoided
if I had been given drug treatment. If my offense was smuggling
drugs into prison, why not handle it in-house and get me help
and support for a drug habit?
Ive been to a few drug detoxes,
but thats all. If I had ever been allowed to go to a program,
would I have completed it? I dont know. But you have to
try something in order to get an outcome. What I want to learn
is: who is worth a chance and who isnt? How can one determine
if Im worth a chance or not by my record when one doesnt
know me? My record does not define who I am. True, its a
part of my life, but only a part.
Law enforcement and those in the Justice
System dont know the way I grew up, the way I had to live
on the streets, the hurt and the pain Ive lived through.
How I wear my heart on my sleeve and sadly, only do the
things I do to support a drug habit that I would give anything
not to have. If only I could get a job, better job training, heroin
reduction drug treatment where people arent calling me worthless,
and instead, showing me that I can become a part of society again
and that they want me to become a part of society again.
First, we must accept that there is
a drug problem in America, instead of brushing it under the rug.
Author, Johann Hari illustrates in his book Chasing the Scream:
the First and Last Days of the War on Drugs, how the prohibitionist
system is designed to keep kicking the recovering addict back
down, making it harder for the part of him that wants to walk
away from drugs. We should develop a new system, a system that
treats addicts with compassion, that treats addicts with respect,
and gives them hope for success. In fact, there are other governments
that have made tremendous changes with astounding results, like
Sweden and Portugal. Johann Hari writes, in the United States
90% of the money spent on drug policy goes to policing and punishment
with 10% going to treatment and prevention. In Portugal, the ratio
is the exact opposite. (p. 239). At one time, Portugal had
one of the worst heroin problems in the world. After Portugal
changed its system from the prohibitionist system, figures were
carefully collected The Portuguese Ministry of Health reported
that the number of problematic drug users was literally halved
from a hundred thousand to fifty thousand (Hari pg. 249). Instead
of looking at addicts as criminals we should look at them as people
who need help.
How to Survive in the Hole
In the prison I'm in there are two
types of segregation units. One is the regular segregation unit
where you do up to fifteen days to thirty days in the hole. The
other is ASU which is the Administration Segregation Unit where
you serve up to six or more weeks in the hole. Either way its
hard to be in both units, isolated in a cell for 23 hours of the
Segregation is hard. There is nothing
you can do in the cell besides look out the window and walk around
in circles. Youre confined in a small space for a long time.
When I was in the hole I passed my time by reading lots of books
to keep my brain stimulated. It took weight off my mind. Reading
made time fly by. Before I got locked up I never read a book besides
Dr. Suess, Green Eggs and Ham. In the box I became curious
and interested in reading books like urban books, books based
on true stories and political books based on prisons. Teachers
who worked in the education building would bring me the books.
They would come up and visit us if we requested a teacher, or
if we requested books or if we were a student in their class before
being in the box.
When I was not reading I worked out.
I spent about one hour doing pushups with a deck of cards, an
Ace is 50, and King is 40 and so on. The point of doing it is
to stay in shape so you wont lose weight and to keep your
mind occupied for a while. Pushups make you very hungry. You only
get three meals a day unless you order canteen. Before working
out eating a snack or two helps out. I think exercise is key to
getting through your hole-time.
The time you have in the box is limitless.
Youre not going anywhere anytime soon. You have all the
time to think about your life and how did you end up in the box
in the first place or jail period. One time I felt a little crazy,
not suicidal though. I banged my head on the wall to try to figure
what the hell I was doing and what was I going to do next with
myself. When you are just sleeping and not being active with yourself,
crazy thoughts come to mind like suicide or hurting yourself,
because your brain hasnt been doing anything besides sleeping.
When youre in the hole you are
not always alone. I would talk to the other guys that are in the
hole in other rooms. Sometimes they are people you know. I knew
a few guys that I chilled with on the street. We would talk about
things that we did before being locked up and how we went to school
with each other. It may seem weird but its easy to talk
to other people on the same unit. All you have to do is talk under
the door or yell through the crack of the door. If I was not talking
to someone on the unit, I was talking to a female a couple floors
above the unit. I either yelled through the vent in my room or
I would talk in the toilet. The way you do this is to take a cup
and use it to empty all water from the toilet into the sink. Then
you hit the sink button a couple times or yell through the sink.
Wait two minutes and you will get a response. Once she does the
same thing, start a convo. Thats how you keep from feeling
or being alone, by communicating.
The best way to survive the hole, though,
is to stay out of the hole. Ive been out of the hole for
sixty days because I was focused on getting my high school equivalency
degree, so I wont have to go back to school when I get out
of prison. I honestly thought I would end up back in the hole
for fighting. Some people come out of the hole and go right back
the same day or a week later. But so far, I havent had any
problems with anyone.
Some tips on staying out of the hole
Get busy doing something. You have
to keep yourself occupied. I suggest getting a detail on the
unit. You have a little freedom and more time out of your
Another way is to sign up for school
and take some type of class to take your mind off the nonsense
that floats around the unit. Try to stay to yourself and no
one will bother you.
These tips helped me stay out of the
hole. I know if I can do it, anyone can do it.
The Woman in the Mirror:
Conceal Her by an anonymous
painter, exposes all who see it to the harsh reality endured by
so many women all over the world. We could say that we dont
recognize this woman, but dont we? How often has society
overlooked a woman like her? How many times has this woman in
the painting passed us by and how did we treat her? This painting
raises our awareness and our sense of accountability for battered
women who are battered everywhere.
Conceal Her is a painting
of a black woman with long brown hair who is holding a make-up
compact in one hand. Her other hand is applying concealer to her
bruised face. She has two black eyes. Her eyes look straight ahead.
They are focused on the damage done to her face but they also
appear to stare, not at herself, but at the viewer. Beyond the
bruises, there is an expression that represents her hardship.
Her forehead, the definition of her eyebrows scream to us her
physical and mental suffering.
Her body is bare and is highlighted
in places. The highlights suggest the reflection of light. The
reflection continues down the left side of her body, giving the
impression that the light comes from the left. Moving to her right
hand which is holding the compact, we see more lighting on her
fingertips in addition to lighting on the compact. The glare on
the outer rim of her eyes is much greater than the glare that
would come from the mirror of her compact. We are looking at a
woman who cannot see us, of course, but is looking into a larger
mirror beyond the one in the compact. But because we stand to
view the painting right where her mirror would be, she is looking
The meaning of the title, Conceal
Her is cleverly the opposite. By making us the mirror, the
painter forces us to see the truth about the concealment battered
woman practice every day. The mirror-effect opens a conversation
about battered women and awakens us to the ugly truth of what
is happening to women everywhere. Paying attention to women who
have been in the position of the woman in the painting will help
us focus on what these women are concealing. After viewing this
painting one would hope that we do not take for granted the safety
we have in our own homes. Finally, we must begin to give more
attention to not only women, but people everywhere who need help.
We should remember that the woman in the mirror is our friend,
girlfriend, sister, and mother.
My failure was my win.
Last year, when most people would be
happy and full of joy, I was depressed. For me, joy was deeply
stressful. I didnt go out. I stayed in. My living room was
always dark from the drapes always being closed. I had no energy
to do anything. I didnt want to eat. No cleaning. I didnt
even get up to feed the animal. Small tasks felt overbearing for
me and on top of all that, I was having a child in a few months
and even more stressful, I hadnt started his nursery. His
crib was still in the box. His clothes needed to be washed. Boxes
of diapers were everywhere. My house was filled with objects everywhere,
from dishes in the kitchen, laundry everywhere in the laundry
room. Just a mess. I didnt want to deal with it. I was lazy.
No motivation for anything. I wanted to clean. I wanted to complete
the babys room, but I couldnt.
I was buried, buried under all my depression.
I became even sadder. I would cry like an infant. Id ask
why am I crying and feeling this? Why had I no help? Where were
the people who said they had my back? Id try reaching out,
but no luck. Then it seemed that I was a burden to people and
Id distance myself from everyone. I told myself I was horrible
and this was the way. Emotionally, I was drained. Id break
down at any and every moment. I hated myself. I wasnt good
for anyone. My heart ached. My hands were clammy. I would become
hot from anger building up inside. Id get more upset for
crying. Why was I crying? Why did I feel this way? How long will
it last? Why me? When I asked for help Id get responses
like, Just be happy. Or Dont be stupid.
Its not a big deal. But it was a big deal to
I finally went to a doctor. The doctor
told me I had depression, manic, and anxiety issues which seemed
right. Then the doctor prescribed me some meds and said wed
see how theyd affect me. All in all, they made me feel worse
and it felt to me that everyone around me felt worse too. I hated
how I felt and I hated being the reason people were upset. Thats
when the idea came to me that I should leave forever and not bother
them anymore. I just wanted to escape this feeling that was taking
over me and my life. I wanted to rip out of my skin. I wanted
to disappear. I wanted to die. Did I matter to anyone? How would
I know? Did I even care? Sleep
never wake up to this again.
What a tempting idea. But how could I? Would I? Thats when
it struck me like a bat hitting a ball. Id take my meds,
my whole script of sleeping meds.
The next few days seemed to drag on
like a weight on my ankle, slowing me down. All I thought about
was killing myself. I looked for a place to commit my act and
I decided to do it on the beach. It wasnt far, just outside
the house. I might as well go with a nice view and the beach was
a nice enough view for the last view Id see.
On that day, the beach was empty. No
one around. Just like I wanted. It was 9:00 a.m., not too hot,
just a nice day. No clouds in the sky. The ocean met the horizon.
And there were fresh footprints in the sand from whoever had run
by last, but no one was in sight. Alone. Just me and the waves.
As loud as they were, I was surprised I could think straight.
I grabbed the clear brown prescription bottle. It felt great to
open it up, felt like a monkey off my back. I opened the bottle
of water and in two huge gulps I ingested the pills and water.
The pills felt like bricks hitting my throat. After I took them
I felt bad, like Id done something wrong, but my feelings
were also mixed because I had wanted this for so long, now.
I sat in the sand, which was wet from
the morning dew. I sank into it like a therapeutic mattress. It
formed around my body like I was a baby in his cradle. I thought
of how the waves smashing against the sand would be the last thing
I would hear and the cold spray-mist on my face, the last thing
I would feel. Time moved slowly. All noise became muffled as if
my hands were over my ears. The blue in the sky was a blue I had
never seen before as if I was seeing it for the first time. Everything
was so bright and noiseless and beautiful and scary, and then
the only thing I heard was my beating heart.
I had a best friend named Chad. We
went to B.C. High together. I knew him since we were seven-years-old.
We got into fights for each other and went to the movies together.
There were times when he bailed me out of trouble. Chad didnt
talk as much. He was always reading Hood Books. He loved to play
chess. He taught me how to play chess too. He loved to dress.
Most of our clothes, we shared. He always advised me on how to
talk to women. We listened to jazz. He gave me confidence to play
football. His asthma slowed him down from playing football. He
couldnt play as much as he wanted to. He talked about traveling
the world and about becoming a millionaire when he got older.
If he saw a homeless person on the street, he gave them some money
or food. He was loved. He always smiled when things were not fun,
but yet, he spoke his mind in a peaceful way.
One summer night, when we were sixteen,
we were driving home from school. We went to the pizza shop. We
saw some girls there and we started talking to them. Five minutes
in they were digging us. Just a few words got us invited to a
party on a Saturday night. So we had two days to put together
an outfit to impress a bunch of different women. But the two women
that invited us, Toya and Kiesha, they took interest in us bad.
We were at the party having fun, looking good, me and my best
friend Chad. We were inseparable, but we split up at the party
and started making out with the two women, Toya and Kiesha.
Next thing you know, we lost track
of time, and next thing you know its four in the morning.
Looking good, dressed nice, couldnt tell me shit, we were
on our way home. I was worried about getting stopped by the police.
I saw the Boston Herald delivery truck go by. It was cold outside.
It was cold outside. It was cold outside. Three steps later I
saw the police cruiser pull up. I heard tires screeching on to
the curb and two cops get out and pulled out their Glocks. I looked
at Chad and said, oh shit. I knew something was about to go down.
I just didnt know what. The pigs were screaming at us, telling
us to shut the fuck up, and dont move, let them see our
hands then we were on the ground wearing some fly- ass gear. My
anger was out of control. I saw Chad laying there. His face was
red breathing hard. Then he is reaching for his inhaler. Then
I heard a loud noise of cannon. I see Chad lying in a pool of
blood. I got my face on the ground crying nothing but pain and
I picture, day in and day out, his
lifeless body and say, why? It was sad that he did not make it
out of the 9th grade. If he lived to see today, our friendship
would have been a lot stronger. I never saw anybody get killed
in front of me before. The worst thing that traumatized me was
seeing the blood pouring from his body. There was a time when
I wondered, was it my fault? For over twenty years, I have felt
bad because I saw his mother fall to the ground when she found
I was sitting on the back of the police bumper. I was looking
at is body under the white sheet. Sometimes I have wished I was
under those white sheets. I have never been the same. I have his
shirt that has the bullet holes in it. I still look at it everyday.
Nothing to See Here
by David C.
Johnny, my father yelled,
Help your brother get dressed. My brother hated helping
me to dress because most times I had shitty draws. My brothers
used to tease me and call me droopy draws, which would always
make me cry. Why does he have to go? my brother said
under his breath. It didnt bother me though, because we
were going downtown and that meant a ride on the bus and train.
I had only been on the train three other times with my mother.
As we walked outside our front door
a burst of cold wind hit my face. The snow looked so white and
clean. My brother took off running up the street and I was right
behind him, leaving my father behind. There were cars parked on
both sides of the street, most covered with snow, and people were
digging them out. Rags! Rags! The man hollered from
his horse-drawn cart Rags! The only other time that
I had seen a horse was on T.V. The man stopped, and my brother
ran over and began to pet the huge animal and when I followed
him into the street my father yelled, Boy! Get your ass
back up on that sidewalk! I sucked my teeth, but I did what
I was told. Bam! My brother hit me in the head with a snowball,
knocked my hat off and it almost landed in a pile of dog shit.
Whyd you do that? I screamed. My dad looked
up and said, Keep it up and Ill turn around and take
your butts home, right now.
The bus stop was on Blue Hill Avenue.
It was only a five-block walk from our house, but it felt like
we had traveled to the other side of the world. There were so
many people walking up and down the Ave. Cars were stuck in the
snow. There were some men helping to push a womans car out
of a snow bank. I looked up the Ave and could see the bus coming
and I could feel my excitement build. Rrrrrhhhhmmm! The bus pulled
right up to the sidewalk and the door opened and I stood there
looking at the driver. He was a chubby old white man with a white
beard. He almost looked like Santa Claus. My brother pushed past
me and got on. I was right on his heels. All I could smell was
cigarettes and fumes. As my Dad ushered us to the back of the
bus, the driver barked, Hey, hey! Wheres the fare?
All the white people on the bus stared at my dad like he had just
stolen something. Johnny, he said. Wheres
the dime I gave you for the bus?
Right here said my brother.
Johnny walked back to the front of the bus and put the money in
the box. My dad gave him a slap on his head and said loud enough
for people to hear, You kids are gonna drive me to drink.
We walked past several empty seats, only to stand up at the back
of the bus. I had to hold on to my fathers pant leg to keep
my balance. What a ride! Finally, seats opened up and Johnny and
I shared a seat next to my dad. I fell asleep and when I woke
up, we were pulling into Dudley Station.
As we got off the bus I could smell
the popcorn and the peanuts that an old grey-haired black man
cooked in a big red cart on two great big ole wagon wheels. Peanuts!
Popcorn! he yelled. Cars were honking, people talking loud
and bumping into one another. There were Christmas lights strung
up everywhere. Come on, My dad said, and we walked
over to a hot dog stand. The sign read Joe and Nemos . How
many? the man behind the counter yelled out. My dad ordered
three dogs with mustard and relish. Man! What a treat! It was
by far the best hot dog I had ever tasted. I tried to eat mine
slow to make it last. I looked at my brother and he was on his
last bite. Man, youre so slow, he said. As I
took the last bite, I could hear the train. I looked up at the
tracks and saw the sparks and heard the screeching wheels as it
made its way around the corner and into the station.
Is that our train? I asked.
No, were gonna get the next one. I wanna go in that
store over there, said my dad.
I looked over at my brother Johnny and he sucked his teeth and
kicked a big hunk of ice.
Whats the matter? I said.
Thats a liquor store! he shot back.
But I still didnt understand why he was so mad.
Watch Davey. Ill be right out.
Just as my dad went into the store another train was leaving the
station. Johnny pointed an imaginary rifle at the train and started
shooting. Bang! Bang! Bang!
I reached for my gun and started shooting with him. Bang!
Bang! Got it.
No sir. You missed, Johnny said.
Just then my father came out of the store. He had a brown bag
in one hand and two candy canes in the other. He put the bag in
his pocket and just as he was handing us the candy a big white
policeman came over to us and said, O.K. Wheres the
We stood there in shock for a few seconds. Then he grabbed my
brother Johnny and began to pat him down.
I looked at my father. I was scared to death. My eyes welled up
with tears and my nose began to run.
Whats going on? asked my dad.
Wheres the gun? the officer shouted again.
He aint got no damn gun! my father shot back.
The officer let go of my brother and turned to my dad and said,
You watch your nigga mouth. As he said it he was poking
my father in the chest.
I felt so helpless and scared. He said a bad word and my father
didnt say anything. I almost thought my dad was scared.
Why was my father letting this monster scare us? The officer turned
back to me and my brother and said O.K. Open your coats.
I looked at Johnny and I could see the anger in his eyes. He sucked
his teeth and said, Told you I aint got no gun.
Is that a fact! the officer said. O.K then,
take your coat off.
I looked at my father and a feeling of shame came over me.
As a matter of fact, all of you take your coats off,
We took our coats off, and as we stood there in the freezing cold
for what felt like an hour, the cop seemed to get even more angered
because he didnt find a gun. When he went through my dads
coat he found the brown bag that was in his inside pocket. Ill
take this, he said. Take your shoes off! he
What! said my dad.
You heard me, I said take your shoes off and sit down.
Tears of anger were now streaming down my brothers face,
which made me cry even more. As we sat in the snow I look at my
father and he was looking down at the holes in my socks and I
almost thought I could see tears in his eyes.
People were walking by looking at us and then at the cop. You
could see the disgust in their faces. Keep moving,
he said. Nothing to see here.
Are you satisfied? my dad said.
And with a big smile on his face, the cop said, Yeah, you
can go now.
We put our shoes and coats back on
and I heard my father say under his breath, Damn cracker.
I was shivering and cold. My socks and my butt were wet. All kind
of things were going through my head. I knew that niggas were
those men that hung out on the corner of my street or one of those
bad boys that my oldest brother Danny knew. But why did that man
call my dad a nigga? Was my dad a nigga? Was I a nigga? And whats
a cracker? I mean we ate crackers. My mother used to give us sardines
and cheese with crackers sometimes for dinner. I was so confused
and angry at my dad.
It started to snow again just as we
put our coats on. I looked at my hands, then at my brother and
over to my dad. Not until then, had I ever thought about the color
of my skin.
Why did you put on those dirty holey socks? my father
I looked at my brother Johnny and he
gave me the evil eye, a look that I had seen many times before,
so I said I dont know.
Wipe those tears out your eyes before I give you something
to really cry about. And wipe your nose!
I wanna go home! I cried, as I licked the snot form
My dad looked down at me then he let
out a sigh. He told my brother Johnny to watch me, and he went
back into the liquor store and when he came out we got back on
the bus and went home.
The Good the Bad and the Ugly
A Critical Analysis of Edvard Munchs Woman in Three Stages
Many cultures expect women to present
themselves with sophistication and propriety, Also known as the
good girl. A good girl is more demure and not promiscuous
and holds strong motherly values that every man wishes he had
in his fiancé or wife. But as we all know the good
girl doesnt exist. Women are human like everyone.
They are flawed and also very complicated. Perhaps they are more
complicated than men. Many women try to put on that good girl
face because thats how they wish to appear. In truth they
have their own emotional downfalls or insecurities, and have evolved
to disguise their complexity behind the good girl
image. Edvard Munch depicts the many versions or complexity of
this kind of woman, one who does not present her true self to
The drawing depicts three women who
are the same, but look different. They are shown in three different
stages with different backgrounds. The first stage is an innocent
pure, strong and demure woman. Although she isnt in the
center of the photo, she seems to pull the eye to her as if she
were the main part of the picture. She is wearing a long, modest
white dress. White implies that she is innocent and virginal.
Todays society would consider her the good girl,
the version of herself every woman is expected to present. She
is a woman who is free, independent and confident. We see this
based on the fact that shes placed on the brighter side
of the picture, leaving her more exposed and without fear. She
is also placed with her back to, or in front of the other stages,
as if shes covering them and wants people to see her mostly
as the good girl. In her section of the picture the background
shows a lot of swervy, flowy lines which could be perceived as
a long road, perhaps a long road of wisdom shes traveled
to get to that stage of the good girl image. Also
in front of her as she stands on this road, are compressed
swervy lines that look like a deep blue ocean. This could initiate
her future and the endless amount of possibilities or opportunities
she has to look forward to.
On the far left of the lithograph is
the image of another woman. She is on the opposite side of the
drawing from the good girl woman because she is in a completely
opposite phase. She is wearing a long solid black dress covering
everything up to her neck; her hair and make-up are also black,
expressing her side that is mysterious, dark and complex. Perhaps
its the good girls inner demons or everything that
does not define a good girl. The good girl is virginal and confident
in what she wants and she expresses that openly. The darker images
face shows that she is stuck. She is confused and secretive. Perhaps
its a more erotic side to her that isnt socially acceptable
for her to reveal. She wishes she could because its who
she is. Perhaps Edvard Munch expresses that all woman generally
have some type of darker emotion who, just like her, shove it
to a dark place and hide it from view. Her hands are placed behind
her back representing a form of confidence for what she believes
in, in her own dark inner world. She will never express that publicly.
Thats why she is still fully clothed in the dark. Though
that mystery is what pulls men in: The fact that she presents
herself as a good girl but deep down could be that naughty, freaky,
wild girl of every guys fantasy.
The final version of The Sphinx, or
Women in Three Stages depicts a woman who is completely nude.
She is in a very relaxed position, almost as if shes lying
down on a bed with her hands placed behind her head. Her eyes
are closed. Her hair is messy and her face expresses a pleasurable
state. For the third woman to reveal herself, one has to break
through her other two versions. Perhaps this is the reason shes
placed between the good girl and the dark girl.
She will only reveal this part herself if she is completely secure.
This stage can be considered both good and bad; perhaps this is
why she is placed in-between dark and light. The good part of
it is related to her own pleasure and how every woman good or
bad desires sexual pleasure. It expresses the degree of comfort
that she finds with herself and a lover. This same idea can be
a bad thing as well, because she can use her sexuality as a weapon.
A man never knows what hes going to get at any time. Because
one minute a woman can be giving him the best time of his life
and another minute she can be his worst nightmare.
Most men have seen or caught a glimpse of the complexity of women
but are still confused about them. Men have their own complexity
and perhaps this is why men and women are attracted to each other.
Men, who feel that what they see is what they get, later find
out that this is not the case. The lithograph by Edvard Munch
will open up the eyes of men and help them understand women. Edvard
Munch has contributed to greater understanding and harmony between
men and women.
A Sexual Renaissance
by Ronald F.
At the age of six or seven, I met a
girl. Her name was Davina Hamlin. She was in my first and second
grade classroom. We rode the same school bus and lived in the
same housing development. She was always smiling which to me meant
she was a very happy girl. She seemed like she was the boss of
the other girls in our class and on our bus. She always wanted
to sit next to me in class and it made me feel special. Because
she sat next to me and talked to me a lot, I received a lot of
attention, more than usual, I guess, or rather, more than I was
accustomed to. I liked the attention very much. I felt important.
At this time, I was a good student
and paid close attention to the teachers. I sat at the table with
and next to Davina and some of her girlfriends. We used to hang
our coats on the back of the chairs and pretended the table was
like a secret fort. One day, Davina went under the table, saying
she dropped her pencil. The next thing I knew, I was pulled by
my legs and under the table. Davina straddled me and ground below
her pelvic area into my own and before I knew what was really
happening, it ended. I climbed back into my seat and said to myself,
Wow! That was so cool! The teacher never said anything about us
being under the table, which is what I expected. I got such a
rush from not getting caught. The feeling of my private area being
basically massaged felt exhilarating and pleasant at the same
time. Soon after, we would sneak into the girls bathroom
and do this same act at least three times a day.
The principal caught me in there one
day. I had to sit in front of his office for a while. The next
thing I knew, my mother came walking through the main entrance
of the school and she was very angry. We walked out and as soon
as we did, she pulled a belt out of her handbag and began to hit
me. She ordered me to never go into the girls bathroom again.
Everyone knew what happened to me and
I was so embarrassed. Davina said she could make me feel better
and told me to meet her in the girls bathroom. All I knew,
was I really liked what we were doing and I loved the way it made
me feel, so I did what she told me. My mother was called up to
the school a few times more and yes, I got whipped each time.
I didnt care. It was worth it.
One day, after getting off the school
bus, my brother and I were on our way to the house when I heard
someone calling me. I kept turning around and then realized the
voice came from the building window. Once I located the voice,
I knew it was her. She asked me to come upstairs and I ran to
the building. She let me in her apartment and led me to her room.
I had a weird feeling about this. Her parents werent home
and I thought I shouldnt be in there, but I trusted Davina
and she knew it. She told me to take off my pants and my underwear,
as she did the same. She led me to the bed. She lay on her back
while bringing me on top of her. All the while massaging my boyhood.
She inserted it into her girlhood. With her hand on my backside,
she guided my movements. What I felt was indescribable. It was
so magical. I had such a warm sensation come all over my body
and mind tingled. I thought to myself, I wanted to feel this all
Davina devised a plan. She would come
to my house every weekend and sometimes more, to ask if I could
come out to play. Well, my mother would let me go. My mother knew
I was in the girls bathroom with Davina and I thought it
strange that she would always let me go outside with her. There
was no supervision outside. These thought left me very quickly.
When Davina came to get me she would be accompanied by her friend,
Vicki, and her cousin Cheryl. They would be on bikes. I was instructed
to get on the back and we rode up to the Hennigan School. We would
go behind the school where it was very secluded. There, I would
penetrate all three girls, one after the other.
This went on for the next two years.
This was so natural to me. Sex was a normal part of my life. I
would still play with the other boys, tag, ride our Big Wheels,
cops and robber etc. etc. Sex, however, had its own natural place
and time which was whenever Davina came for me, which was often.
All the time, no one knew what was going on, or so I told myself.
I never told anyone because I didnt want to take a chance
on the other boys getting what I was getting. I wanted to be the
only one to feel this and be with Davina.
I remember one day, while in the fourth
grade when I was nine, my little brother was with me because I
had to keep him with me while we were outside. The girls came
for me and I told them he had to come, too. We got to our usual
place behind the school, and I told him what was going on and
what to do. When the girls took off their pants and panties and
lay down, my brother ran away. I didnt care because I wanted
what I came for.
Having sex at this age had a profound effect on me. I cant
honestly remember when I knew it was sex I was engaged
in. All I knew was that it made me feel excited and it was exhilarating.
I felt like I was the most important boy in the projects. I had
fun with the boys, playing on the monkey bars, racing around the
fenced-in yard that resembled a track, but I must admit I would
have rather been with the girls. We would play house using their
dolls and the boys would tease me I would be with the girls a
lot playing house. I didnt care and had no regrets because
I was having fun and it always led to my getting those special
feelings sensations that no one else was getting. I would always
imagine sex with every girl who came into contact with me, even
my teachers. I often wondered how people could not want to be
doing it all the time and why I didnt have different and
more partners. I knew one reason was because Davina didnt
want me talking to other girls except Vicki and Cheryl.
By the time I was in seventh grade,
I had multiple sex partners. I was in another school and moved
from Jamacia Plain to Roxbery so I was in an entirely new environment.
I didnt see Davina anymore. I think she also moved. My grades
were okay. I liked my new school, especially because thats
where all the girls were. I learned how to talk to unsuspecting
girls and get them to let me have my way with them. I say unsuspecting
because when I would bring up the subject of sex, they were either
shocked or pretending to be. Either way, when I was subtly forward,
they were compliant.
So many girls told me that I had the
prettiest eyes that I would try to use this to my advantage. When
I would talk to the girls I would gaze deeply into their eyes
giving what I thought was a hypnotic gaze. It didnt hurt
that I was new to the school and I was very good in all the sports
I played which included softball, volleyball and football. By
then, sex was all I talked about and all I thought about. Every
moment was about how I could get this one and that one to be with
me. I stopped hanging out with boys and only sought the company
of girls. The only normal thing I would do was sports,
but sex and sports went hand in hand. The better I was at sports,
the more popular I would be with the girls.
I almost never used condoms and knew
I was taking a big chance, but condoms didnt give me the
same feeling as it did without them. At fifteen, seventeen and
twenty-one, I was a father, all by three by different girls. I
dont remember when I knew sex made babies but I did know
what I was doing was irresponsible and it was very possible I
could get someone pregnant. I was very distant from my first babys
mother. I had no clue what was expected of me, or anything. My
second childs mother, Kim was very different. She was loyal
and devoted to me. She started to change the way I saw relationships.
I was still promiscuous and felt guilty every time. Thats
when I knew I had changed. I had sex with two of her cousins and
got one of them pregnant. No one knew because she had a miscarriage.
Kim knew I had sex with them, but not about the pregnancy and
I felt horrible and wondered how she
could forgive such an egregious act? This is when I truly came
to understand what loyalty was. We were living together at the
time, but we had a house fire and briefly separated. I went back
to my mothers house. Soon I began a sexual relationship
with a woman in the next building and she got pregnant. Kim and
I got back to living together and I was afraid to tell her about
this other woman and the possibility of my fathering another child
while we were still together. Months after my son was born his
mother came to my job which was at the welfare office. I tried
to hide. She didnt know I worked there, but she saw me.
She acquired my phone number and called my home. Kim answered
the phone and by the look on her face I knew the secret was no
more. Kim was crushed. She cried for weeks, yet she didnt
leave me and again to my surprise forgave me. She told me she
loved me and nothing would change that. Thats when I told
her about my first-born. She told me she still loved me. For the
longest time I couldnt understand how she could still love
me when I betrayed her so bad. I came to have a respect for her
which made me have an admiration for her that humbled me. Kims
loyalty and devotion caused me to look at what life was really
Sex used to be solely a carnal act.
Now I understand that sex is spiritual. From the age of twenty-five
to now, at the age of forty-nine, I have come to understand the
meaning of sexual relationships and all the feelings associated
with them. Ive come to respect women and their feelings
and value relationships with women more than I could ever have
thought possible. I understand monogamy and once I began to practice
it, devoting myself to one woman, I became a deeper and more loving
man, not only of my partner, but also of myself.
by Michael H.
At seventeen, I was a normal teenager.
I had many friends, I played sports and was socially accepted.
I hoped to go to college and play football. However, the events
that took place in my senior year changed and shaped my life.
The message on my house answering machine
was from a classmate, but directed toward my mother. At first,
I didnt really know how to take it or what I should do about
it, but seeing as where I came from a violent alcoholic father
with strong beliefs, I knew this kid crossed the line. I was the
only person who heard the message and I knew I recognized the
voice. I listened to it twice before deleting it. It would have
devastated my mother.
My father sat on the couch with a Budweiser
in his hand watching Sports Center. He was zoned out, checking
out the scores and highlights from the day. We sat silent for
a few minutes before I said anything. My stomach felt queasy,
like a knot constantly flipping around. Finally I told him. I
could see the vein in his head enlarge as he took his focus off
the T.V. He placed his can of beer on the coffee table and turned
to me and asked me who it was that left the message. After I told
him, he stood up and over me and told me that I better handle
that or he was going to handle me, the kid who left the message,
and the father of the kid who left the message. I had watched
my father fight many times, most of the time I was in the car
with him. He had a lot of road rage. I remember I used to get
stomach aches when he would fight. At that time, I had only been
in a few fist fights over schoolyard sports and small arguments
and the kid who left the message on the answering machine was
a lot bigger than me. As I watched my fathers violent gestures,
his clenched fists and red face, I started to get angry and felt
there was only one thing that could give me justice for the disrespect
of my mother. I felt I had no other option. That night, I went
to bed knowing what I had to do.
The following day was a Saturday. The
annual high school hockey jamboree was that day. I woke up both
excited and nervous. It was ugly outside, wet and cold. The phone
rang and it was a friend of mine letting me know there was a bunch
of kids form school meeting up before the hockey games and that
there was going to be a keg. At that moment, I got a pit in my
stomache knowing that this was where I was going to move on the
kid who left the message. I got dressed, putting on sweatpants
and hooded sweatshirt and clipped my three inch folding knife
onto the waistband of my sweatpants. Id had the knife for
a few years. The area I grew up in, everybody had them. My father
gave it to me and I carried it every day. It was more of a fear
tactic. I never intended on using it unless it was absolutely
My sneakers sunk into the earth as
I walked across the baseball field toward the crowd of high school
kids. My heart beat faster and faster. It was a good feeling.
It gave me a head rush and a burst of adrenaline. But in the back
of my mind, I still struggled with the question, why? I could
only speculate and think that this was done over the fact that
my mother was pretty or that some of my closer friends used that
as a way to break my balls. Nevertheless, this kid was not a close
friend and he did not know my mother. Growing up, I remember the
kid always being around, trying to fit in. He was a big kid, much
bigger than me. I used to see him around, but he was acquaintance.
I distinctly remember him picking on smaller kids in school. Thats
how I recognized the voice.
From about thirty feet away, I noticed
him holding a red keg up, talking to a group of people. As I moved
closer I started to shed some clothes to give myself a better
advantage. I moved my knife from the front of my sweatpants to
the back, so that it wasnt noticeable. I was three feet
away and his eyes met mine as I cocked my arm and curled my fist.
I swung and felt my hand cave in the left side of his face. Each
heavy right I threw, he fell lower and lower. I could remember
it felt like chopping down a tree. At one point, somebody in the
crowd tried to intervene by pulling me off. I remember swinging
wildly at that person. When their grip released, I remember not
being satisfied because this kid was not out cold. He was still
squirming on the ground, was trying to get up. At that point everything
went silent. I pulled out my knife and snapped it open. The kid
was on one knee trying to gain his balance. I lunged toward him
and he could see the glimmer from the steel as I swung my arm
in a slashing motion, trying to hold back from poking. The crowd
was silent. After what felt like a lifetime, I stopped. It was
a strange, awkward silence. I put the knife back in my waistband
and turned to a friend and asked for a ride home.
I never gave any thought to what the
consequences might have been, an arrest, suspension, or something
else. All I wanted to do was let my father know that I took care
of the situation. I was anxious, and as I pulled up to my house,
I noticed all the lights were out. Nobody was home. Later, when
my mother and father pulled up to the house, the police were in
the driveway and I was in handcuffs being placed into the back
of a cruiser. I remember my father coming up to the window and
telling me not to worry and that he would be down to bail me out.
As I sat in a jail cell for the first
time, I remember caring more about my dads reaction than
the judicial reaction. It felt like I was in there for days, but
six hours later I was released on bail. My father was waiting
in the lobby. His face looked serious. As we walked out, he said,
I take it you won, in a joking manner. I remember
the anxiety and nervousness flushed out of me as I cracked a smile
and gave him the play by play.
I can remember thinking that it wasnt that serious and I
really didnt even care. Soon, I realized it wasnt
a joke. The consequences started to come down on me after I had
my arraignment at court. I was expelled from school that week.
I was told that I would get a diploma because I had enough credits,
but that I couldnt attend graduation. I was also banned
from all of the high schools remaining sporting events and
functions, such as the prom and all other senior activities.
My attitude towards life started to
change. I was home from that point on and I started drinking a
lot more than the occasional weekend. I also smoked more and started
using painkillers that I thought were great at the time because
they got me through the day without feeling depressed and that
I was missing out on my senior year. As I look back now, I realize
what I did definitely deserved punishment. However, back then,
I was bitter toward everybody because I felt like the victim.
I felt that what I had done was honorable and justified.
Months began to pass and I felt alone.
Friends stopping by became few and far between. Eventually eight
months later, I was sentenced to eighteen months in Billerica
House of Correcton. I didnt feel much at that point. I really
didnt care. I realized that my life took a drastic turn.
I never went to the prom. I didnt go to graduation and that
dream of going to college was gone. I was surrounded by convicts
who were just like me: into drugs, commiting crime and not really
caring about much. I remember being taught how to carry myself
in jail. What to do and what not to do. Also, a big part was earning
and giving respect to people. It made me feel that what I had
done was right and that my fathers outlook on life was the
way everybody else grew up.
Still, to this day, I have mixed feelings on the matter. On one
side I have over three years of being incarcerated. Hence, the
jailhouse mentality. And then on the other side is the opportunity
to live on the outside with some sobriety, to know my life now
is somewhere I would not want to be or want a child to go through.
When I was younger, I thought it was part of becoming a man, the
kind I wanted to be in my fathers eyes, and that it gave
me life lessons. But maybe there are better ways to become a man.
If there are, Im still looking for them.
A Breath Away
I used to be normal. I drank and had
fun. I ate and enjoyed food. I walked through crowds of people
never looking over my shoulder. I took for granted my sense of
security and how the whole world was at my fingertips. Then I
went on a yearlong deployment to Iraq. During that year I missed
cruising the roads that wound through the green mountains of central
Vermont. I missed lounging on the benches in The Green eating
soft served ice cream. I missed my family and my friends. Most
of all I missed America.
In Iraq I saw people washing clothes,
bathing and dumping their night soil in the same ten-foot stretch
of the biblical Euphrates River. In markets freshly butchered
meat hung for sale covered in flies. The crowds watched us on
our patrols; we were a grim reminder of the war. The people of
the villages lived a more simple life. They were closer to the
earth. Death, hunger and danger were more common than cell phones,
taxis and justice. Seeing a dead body in the street wasnt
rare. People barely reacted to gunfire and explosions.
To escape, my buddies and I told each other of our past adventures;
we described in great detail our favorite foods, past relationships
and our families. Our most common conversations were of what we
planned on doing when we returned home. We talked about visiting
our families and having barbecues or just relaxing. We planned
on partying and finding a girl. It wasnt until I was home
for half a year that I realized how much I had changed.
I was an active duty soldier, so when
I returned to the states my job wasnt done. My unit returned
to garrison life. We scrubbed our gear clean, spent hours on drill
and ceremony and dusted off our old study manuals. It was as if
I had just enlisted. The old soldiers left to new posts. Our ranks
were filled with new recruits, green as summer grass. I was promoted
to team leader that meant I was responsible for the daily supervision
and training of four soldiers. These kids were eager for war;
their heads were full of glory stories from their drill sergeants.
It made me sick. They thought of war as a video game. The reality,
I knew, was far different. With their expectations of blood, guts
and glory their disappointment was palpable when they learned
of their duties. They had to memorize weapon descriptions, battle
drills, map reading, land navigation, and on their free time they
had to clean the barracks. They would complain about every task.
They hungered for battle. They yearned for a loaded machine gun
and a field full of enemies. To open their eyes I would tell them
that I had left friends in Iraq that would love to take the mop
out of their hands and not voice a word of complaint; for dead
men have no voice. I was thinking of my fallen comrades, men like
Jiminez and Fouty who never made it home.
After a few years I got out of the
Army. I started life over as a civilian. I moved to the city of
Boston. In the city I got a job as a security guard in the financial
district. My daily life changed drastically. I went from being
surrounded by soldiers, weapons and war to businessmen, city crowds
and coworkers. I would walk the streets of downtown Boston looking
at all the buildings and street vendors. The smell the pepper
and onions filled the air. At first, I was dazzled by the beautiful
architecture and the historical landmarks. After a few weeks the
glamour of the city wore off, but my head was still on a swivel.
Someone might look at me and think that I was still admiring the
scenery or looking for a friend. The truth was that I was on guard.
I felt like I didnt belong, like I was different from everyone
else. I listened to the sounds of the city and the voices from
all the crowds. I had an eye out for danger and a possible escape
At work I noticed that the other employees
rarely showed up on time. They always took an extra ten minutes
for their lunch break and they didnt seem to think that
anything was amiss. Whenever the boss would make a change to procedure
everyone would criticize it as an unnecessary upgrade, I was thinking,
Maybe you should worry about showing up on time.
I found myself judging the people around
me. It was the businessman completely absorbed in his cell phone,
the guy begging for change, the store clerk holding a conversation
and ignoring the growing line. Everything seemed to be driving
me to the boiling point. I wanted to scream at the top of my lungs.
I wanted everyone to see that what they were doing was wrong.
They should be thankful they lived in a free country where they
could earn a living not begging for change to buy a little dope.
They should be vigilant and guarding their lives that are so easily
extinguished instead of focusing on a 4 inch screen in their hand.
I wanted people to be more appreciative of what we, as Americans,
have and can pursue.
But Instead of screaming from the rooftops
I drowned myself in whiskey. I didnt really understand why
I was so aggravated all the time. All I knew was that alcohol
made me happy. It took me a couple years of being a civilian,
several shrink visits, multiple gallons of whiskey, rehab, a divorce
and finally a bid in county jail to realize that the problem wasnt
in others but in me. I was unhappy. I couldnt appreciate
life like most people because I thought I didnt deserve
it. Instead of enjoying myself, I constantly judged people because
they were living their life as though death wasnt a breath
away. I blamed everyone for the fact that I had lost good friends
who deserved to still be here with a chance at life. I always
compared my surroundings to Iraq and it made me hateful. I expected
everyone to see the world through my eyes, to know that life is
I see people enjoying life and I envy
them. But Im starting to realize that most of the people
that I see enjoying life have their own scars and their own war
stories. I will never be who I was before I went to Iraq. War
has changed me. But had I remained normal I would
have been living without growing.
There are many ways to define success,
but what can be said of failure? We are led to believe that failure
does not have positive consequences. Mary Pickford has been quoted
as saying You may have a fresh start any moment you choose,
for this thing we call failure is not the falling down but the
staying down. Her words hit on the heart of the reason why
failure is associated with a negative outcome. Society defines
failure as falling short of a goal. If that were the case, many
inventions would have never been made. Giving up on anything worthwhile
is and always will be failure.
Our entire planet has been built on
the foundations of someone elses failure. It took Thomas
Edison 2,000 attempts to create what we now call the light bulb
(Overcoming Obstacles: ed. Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen).
If he had stopped trying we would probably still be using whale
oil or kerosene for light. There is the age- old saying nothing
beats a failure except a try. We are always judging success
by unfair standards. Sports teams often feel that not winning
a championship is failure. What is not understood is that being
able to compete at all is a success.
There are many things in life that
we want to do before death inevitably claims us. If we live life
without an effort to become better people, that is not living
life at all. So, Mary Pickford is really saying that failure is
not defined by our falling short of our goals; failure is when
we dont try to live a good life.
by K. Young
No need to watch movies. All I had
to do was look out of my bedroom window. Friday nights were like
a scene out of a movie with people gambling and drinking late
into the night.
Come on six. Daddy needs some
new kicks, Miz said while shaking the dice.
Miz was the neighborhood crack dealer.
He used to stand outside my window and all the pot and crackheads
would run to his call. Three dimes for twenty dollars or
three bumps for fifty. Get it while its hot.
My dad didnt like him cause he
sold drugs and drugs had killed the relationship between my father
and his brother because my uncle used to come over to our house
and steal whatever he could get his hands on: clothes, jewelry,
food. Even T.V.s and DVDs. Since he was my fathers
baby brother, he tried to help him by checking him into a rehab
program and finding him jobs, but my uncle just kept stealing.
My father would tell me my uncle was like that because of people
Despite what my father thought, I liked
Miz, because he was always nice to me. He used to send me to the
store and let me keep the change. Plus, he stayed in the newest
Jordans and always had the flyest parts and designs in his
head, not to mention the fact that he had all the ladies.
Come on six! Daddy needs you, said Miz as he rolled
I bet fifty cash you dont
hit that six, said a big black dude with head like a gorillas
and huge hands that had to be double the size of both my hands
put together. There was another light skinned cat there I couldnt
see. He was bent down to a car window talking to someone, who,
by the sound of the voice, seemed to be a woman. He said, I
bet twenty on that, as he looked over his shoulder toward
Anybody else got ends on this?
said Miz to the other two guys who I also couldnt see because
the street light they were under was shot out so it would be harder
for the police to see them hustling.
Naw, we cool, one stranger replied.
Okay, said Miz, still shaking the dice. Come
on six! Click, clat, click was the sound of the dice bouncing
against the wall. Six! What I tell you, motherfuckers! Give
me my money! yelled Miz.
Double or nothing, the gorilla man replied.
What about you? Miz asked the light skinned man who
was still leaning into the window of the womans car. Naw.
We even, he replied, not even sticking his head outside
the car window.
Okay then. 7 or 11. Bring daddy money from heaven,
Motherfucker, you gonna shoot or you going to sing all night?
said the gorilla.
In a hurry to lose your money, I see, said Miz. Crack
was the sound of the dice hitting the wall. Eleven!
yelled Miz. Give me my money, homey, said Miz.
Naw. Fuck that shit. Shoot that back, said Gorilla.
Naw. Put your money down. I am already one-hundred up,
Little homey, I got bread. I aint ass beatin,
replied the gorilla man.
Then put up, said Miz.
Motherfucker. Heres your buck plus five more.
Cool, said Miz, as he shook the dice. Come on
7 or 11. He shook harder, squatting in position with a smile
on his face, as he tossed the dice towards the wall. Both dice
bounced off the wall and spun for a few seconds as Gorilla and
Miz looked on eagerly to see the outcome of the roll. One at a
time, the dice stopped. A pair of fives. Ten! Okay. Tens
the number. Come on Big Ben, said Miz as he rolled again.
Six and four. Hell yeah! said Miz.
What the fuck is this shit? Gorilla yelled as he stood
up out of is squatting position and wiped his forehead and sucked
his teeth, staring down at the dice.
You down six-hundred, so far. You sure? said Miz.
Yeah. What. You scared? Shoot the whole damn six.
Naw, never scared, Miz shook the dice and threw them
against the wall. Five and six rolled out. Yeah! Thats
what Im talking about, yelled Miz.
Naw. Fuck that. You cheating, Gorilla Man said as
he pulled out a huge shiny gun that reminded me of the Jokers
gun in the Batman movie I just saw.
At that moment, everyone stopped what
they were doing. I wasnt even outside and I was terrified
and my crotch began to get warm, but I was too shocked to move.
Now all yall get against
the wall and dont move. And get out that car, bitch, and
get against the wall. Wanta cheat me, Ill show yall.
Empty yall fuckin pockets.
Everyone did as they were told. Even
the woman and the three men I didnt know. Everyone except
Miz. He rose slowly from his squatting position, saying, Man,
fuck that! I aint giving you shit!
That was when I was sure Gorilla Man
was going to shoot him. I thought to myself, Miz must be crazy.
Dont he know thats the gun from the Batman movie?
And even the Batman knows you dont argue with a big gun.
Gorilla said, Look. I will blow your fuckin head off
if you dont drop that money and empty out all the money
in your pockets.
Miz never replied. He just kept rising,
slowly. He never dropped his money. If I didnt know any
better, Miz was going to die tonight, for sure.
I was still glued to my window like
I was watching one of those gangsta flicks my dad wouldnt
let me watch. Out of nowhere Miz lunged at the gorilla with rage
in his eyes only to be stopped dead in his tracks. BOOM! The sound
of thunder rang off. BOOM! At that very moment my whole left pantleg
was warm and wet, not just my crotch. The gorilla just pumped
two bullets into Miz, sending him flying. I couldnt believe
it. Everyone else scattered in every direction the way the roaches
do in my house when you turn on the kitchen lights.
Gorilla Man stepped over Mizs body and reached in his pockets
and pulled out his money and snatched Mizs chain off of
his neck and said, I told you motherfucker.
When hed gone, I lifted my window
screen, leaned over, and looked down at Miz.
What I saw next, I would never forget.
I saw Miz staring up at me. His eyes were wide open, like he just
saw a ghost. And behind his head, I saw what looked like spilled
noodles that were smoking in a liquid the color of cranberry juice.
I saw the dice still in his hand and
they read four and three.
Author, Peggy Rambach, runs creative writing workshops
in community education settings for the Healing Arts in health
care, correctional facilities, ESL programs and immigrant support
centers as well as offering assistance with lesson plans in professional
development presentations for middle and high school teachers.
She teaches memoir writing in medical schools as part of the curriculum
in Narrative Medicine and Medical Humanities. Ms. Rambach is conveniently
located for teachers, students and participants from throughout
New England including the Vermont (VT) cities of Bennington, Burlington
and Montpelier, the Maine (ME) cities of Portland, Gardener, Kennebunkport
and York, the New Hampshire (NH) cities of Portsmouth, Concord,
Manchester, Dover, Nashua and Rochester, the Massachusetts (MA)
cities of Boston, Newburyport, Amherst, North Hampton, Salem,
Beverly, Lawrence, Lowell, Haverhill, Gloucester, Plymouth, New
Bedford, Manchester-by-the-Sea, Marblehead, Rockport, Hyannis,
and Falmouth, the Rhode Island (RI) cities of Providence and Newport
and the Connecticut (CT) cities of New Haven and Hartford.