“Peeping through my Window Pt 1”
I’m a boy.
We have this patriarchal society that demands a man be a man, even proclaiming it with gusto! And yea, I’ve gone through things that made me become a man earlier than I should’ve. I’m in a testosterone heavy environment as I write; I’m physically strong with hardened features and scars, and I’m a 31 year old absentee father of two, man enough to admit that I’m still just a boy.
In my life, I figured that age isn’t just a numbers thing. Too many numbers rule our lives as is, time, ratings, statistics, height, weight and monetary figures. But age is a rite of passage, given the things one sees and does in order to stake claim to adulthood, but even deeper, it’s about emotional identity and maturity. That’s where I’ve come to understand that in the broad scope of life, with still so many assumed and arguably hoped for years ahead of me, in my own traumatic 31 years of life, I’m still a thrill seeking questioning lost indecisive wounded boy with mommy familial and abandonment issues. Adorning a myriad of missing links that may never find their proper place again in my chain link fence of battered stories and fractured memories.
I was a child of the land. I say that because even as I experienced a roof, I felt bottomless; I don’t think I ever stepped a day on solid ground. Growing up I was in a merry go round of foster and group homes, shelters, family respites, and juvenile facilities, while my mother was largely incarcerated most of my life. I had no real concept of a father. Later on in my teen years I finally understood where he had been all these years and it wasn’t the story I was once told. He died at the hands of my mother while she was pregnant with me during a drunken altercation where in her panic she had stabbed him once, fatally, in self-defense, protecting us both.
I was a child of devastation, doomed to be traumatized, a sacrifice of man for boy, a life for a life, a love for a love. A choice that would preordain me for a life of ups and downs. I never asked for nor understood why. I just lived and believed normalcy in the things I saw, heard and felt. The one constant though was that I always held on to the memory and love of my mom. Her love was the best and never shied from showing me how important I was, whether she was there or not. I felt like the world and only the world in her presence. When her light left my side, I only knew darkness, shadows, vacant words, voided feelings, consolation kinship, and obligatory love. Nothing ever felt quite whole or genuine without her.
Of course, as I grew I learned to be embarrassed of her because I was embarrassed of myself. I don’t remember any lessons of “love myself”. Only “you’re smart, strong, talented, athletic” and “you can do this and that”. I learned what I could do for others, so I figured I’d be those things to get the inclusion I wanted so much. That became my identity: what everyone else said I could be or wanted of me, there I would find wholeness. Giving everything of myself until I am empty, then give more. Making everyone comfortable, embracing my discomfort, then I’ll never be lonely again because I have something that someone needs, some of everything because I could do so much!
I met so many kinds of people throughout life because the constant moving, absorbing different personalities, upbringings, and colors. I learned white people at an early age, which is as it sounds, but that was when I learned to be embarrassed of myself, when not comparing myself to my real family, feeling like the odd one out, like “my mom’s son”.
White people talked, acted, ate, joked, dressed different and went to church different. Their families and perceptions were different; their homes looked like small buildings. Before this new kind of white people, I only knew the poor ones. You know when you’re a kid and meet a few people that have the same characteristics, so you unknowingly blanket all like that, like “why do they…” statements.
Ironically we do it with more venomous as adults.
This was around the time I used to run the streets with no socks and shoes, to run faster, racing and playing killer man. Then I went to a suburban foster home and taking my shoes off to play wasn’t normal, along with eating the school food nor my thick wool colorful sweaters. I was an alien again, until I beat “their fastest” person and in a blink of an eye, I was the new cool fast black kid. Accepted again, for what I could do, see the theme? One day, I was invited to play smear the queer, I said no, I’ll watch, and then I was like oh! that’s killer man and played. It was either same game different name, or same name, different way in suburbs.
Even black people were different. The foster family I lived with had a son I saw in roller blades, with some pink specs. I’d never seen a black dude in tight jean shorts in rollerblades. I still see that vividly, sheesh!
What I noticed so fast was cultural differences, questions I never had answers to or considered. Why am I in foster care, what did my mom do, why wasn’t I with my real family. Because everyone was good except my mom, it’s not like my family had despot drug addicts and poverty. They all had homes. Trying to assert that didn’t make sense to them, then not me. I saw people think but not say what I thought too. They didn’t want me, a consistent theme no matter where I went, no matter who I chose to be, no matter what thoughts I tried to block and no matter what I kept myself from saying and doing, I was just too much!
I have so many years and situations I’ve blocked out or forgotten. But I remember when I didn’t feel a part of my family any longer. It’s when my grandpa died and I was away in a foster home, he loved me like my mom did. That was the worst day and news because at that time I felt officially no ones. I held onto the one day a year I consistently went around my family on Thanksgiving; that’s all I had left as far as feeling like family.