Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Russian Roulette

Growing up is like playing Russian Roulette. When you come out of your mother’s womb it’s like BANG!; an empty chamber and the good life, or BANG!; a chamber loaded with bad luck’s bullet. It’s not up to you where the bullet is.
It’s hard to remember any good times. I’m sure there were some, they’re just hiding behind all the bad memories and feelings, fearing that if they come out, they will be scooped up and forever forgotten. The bad memories have wills of their own. They come and go as they please with no compassion and no consideration whatsoever. Today they are coming for a visit. They have met up with PMS on the Depression Highway and both are doing 90 in a 65mph zone. It doesn’t help that I was in the mood to listen to the greatest hits of Sade, the one singer I vowed to my mother I would never listen to when I grew up because it seemed like we heard her everyday. There’s something about her music that makes you think about past times. This time I am thinking of that one memory that I hate.
It’s dark and we have no electricity. We have been using hurricane lamps and candles. It’s summer so at least we don’t need heat. My baby brother Will and I have been at my best friend’s house all day. Shauna was my savior in those days. Her mother was nice and Shauna would do anything for me. She also had electricity, hot water, and food (something we didn’t). But eventually it was time to go home. She told me that Will and I could spend the night at her house. She offered the invitation a lot, and her mother never objected, so I think even though I never told her, she somehow knew the situation at our house down the street. When I realized she knew, I got so angry. I took it out on Will, who was only a little kid at the time. Only 10 years old.
“Why do you have to follow me everywhere? I am tired of being bothered with you all day long. I never have any time to myself.” And with that I took him home, lit a candle and told him to go to bed. I then left him there, while my mother was working and my other younger brother was at his friend’s house. I left him there in a trailer with no electricity, one candle burning, and all alone. I tell myself that it was not my fault. That he was not my kid and I should not have been made to take care of him. But that’s all talk. I was 17. Old enough to know better. As the years go by I try to tell myself it didn’t affect him. I tell myself that Will is okay and everything turned out all right. But then I realize that can’t be true. Because my guilt has not diminished over the years, and I didn’t turn out all right, so how could he? I couldn’t feel worse or loathe myself anymore now than I could then. Time has not healed that wound. I tell myself, ‘I’m sorry Will. If I could go back I would never do that to you.’ But all I see is his little back turned to me, laying on the couch in the light of that one candle, all alone, while I close the door and spend the night at my friend’s house. I feel sorry for Will because he had to play Russian Roulette also.

My brothers and I are not as close as I would like. We can't laugh for hours at anecdotes we can remember from when we were growing up. There just aren’t any. My middle brother and I have always argued and fought. I tell my mom it is something all kids do. But deep down I know the reason is because of me. I was so hateful, so livid at our situation, that anger was an everyday part of my life. Anger was as common to me as brushing my teeth and going to school. It was just a part of me. The unhappiness brought me to great levels of self-hate and loathing. I always took it out on my brother Samuel. He would be the target of my outbursts. It was always for no good reason. Just because I was angry at the world and he was there. I try to tell myself that all brothers and sisters fight. It is a part of growing up. But the reasons my brother and I fought were not healthy. They were as dysfunctional as you can get. I always wondered if my brother remembers how mean I was to him. During a recent phone conversation he let me know, in a subtle way, that he does remember. But it wasn’t until going back home for his wedding that I realized he had no idea as to why I treated him so bad. He looked me in my eye and told me the reason I didn’t like him was because he was darker than my brother Will and me. That floored me. I had no idea that he had harbored these feelings for 23 years. So why would my brother think such a thing? Color was never an issue in our house. It was never mentioned. There is a theory about why Black people have always been obsessed with the color of our skin. It was something slave owners did that had such a profound affect on our psyche that now it seems as if that trait is passed on from generation to generation like high blood pressure and heart disease. Slave owners would keep the lighter skinned slaves in the house, near the family, while darker skinned slaves did the harder manual labor in the fields. This made slaves believe that the darker you are, the less value you have. It is a shame that we still have some of this same mentality today, even when it is unwarranted. But his comment to me made me sit down and write him a letter about the real reason I treated him the way I did. It made me air all the things I had been holding inside for so long. If my brother had never made that comment, I would not have been compelled or had the courage to write him a letter telling him the reason I treated him so bad was because I hated who I was, and I took those feelings out on him. I would not have written a letter giving him a heartfelt apology and asking him for forgiveness. It gave me a reason to express what I have always wanted to say. My brother’s wife called me and told me he got the letter and that he cried. She then put my brother on the phone and he told me he loved me. I felt as if one of the many weights I carry had been lifted off my shoulders. I don’t feel that I deserve forgiveness, and I will never forgive myself, but heaven could not be better than having my brother’s forgiveness and love.

composed 2003


Blogger Blu Jewel said...

you had me in tears with this one Nay. your expression of feelings touched me to the core and i could feel your energy through your words. i hope you and your brothers have put all the childhood mess behind you and are working toward a richer and closer relationship.

9:15 AM  

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