No Place Called Home: All Things Fall Apart
I. Am. Beautiful. The boyfriend of your wet dreams. I’m fucking handsome. Close your eyes and think of everything you assumed would blow your mind and you find… me. I’m all types of afro-sweat-dripping-purple-rain-sipping-psychedelic-drug-using-leather-pant-butt-cheek-gripping, beautiful. I’m what happens if Morris Day’s mirror was held in front of a darker-skinned Prince. Yeah I said it. And fuck you. I gotta love myself. Gotta dance in my socks ‘til I slip on hardwood floors in my apartment and bust my ass. Get up, laugh about it and dance harder. Sometimes. Other times not so much.
My legs crossed, a small puddle of salt water collected at my feet. I felt triumphant and broken and confused and clear and hopeful and defeated. All at the same time. The universe had a way of — almost ritualistically and routinely — laughing in my fucking face. When I was little I remember one time Jerel punched the shit out of me. Right below my bottom right rib. It wasn’t the being struck that made me cry grown man tears. It was the moment that immediately followed. You know, the one where the entirety of your existence reaches for air, only to find a raggedy little machine that says, “I know you trying to catch your breath, but it… will cost… you… a quarter. And I didn’t have my wallet or pants on even.
But you get up. And while recounting the story to my friends, I say, “yeah after that, man, I whooped my brother’s ass…” but in actuality — between breath — I called him a bully and threatened to report his poor behavior to John, Sr. You tell a soul… and I’ll come for you next. Got it? Then we understand each other. I’ve never been one to instigate the things life has thrown at me. I’m usually just the dumb kid who sticks around too long believing that people will figure out the grand lesson of how to give a shit about anyone other than themselves. Imagine how, latching on to that hope, I’ve looked in relationships then.
I got married when I was twenty-five. I was so in love. Man, she was everything. At least that’s what we tell our friends so we don’t look like clowns or fuck-boys, right. Reality is always much more brutal. Reality… I met my biological father twice. Both times he promised me stuff he had no intention on giving me. I only asked for his time. Hell, by then, I figured child support payments were not his strong suit. While living in Radcliffe, Kentucky, I met a girl. A girl I was genuinely into. But who the fuck was I kidding, I did not love her. And that wasn’t her fault. I just had no idea how to; not properly. And she didn’t love me either. But she was carrying my first child inside her womb. So, under the guise of love we became convenient for each other.
Convenience. That sounds so horrible. What could be worse to tell another person they are to you? I know, I know. I’m fucked up right? Less than human. Maybe if we would’ve both just said that to each other from the beginning we could have saved ourselves a large amount of trouble? Who knows. So at the time, I didn’t tell a soul how I felt. One year turned into six, and before I knew it, the guy who I saw in the mirror was a completely different dude. I had created this hell for myself and decided I’d live in it as long as it kept my son from growing up like we did. It wasn’t bad everyday, but I’m sure an inmate would say neither is prison. You acclimate. You find things to fill up your time. You workout. Read books. Whatever to pass the time. And, at some point, you discard whatever hope of normality and liberty you had. Wow. I was in prison.
I wasn’t perfect. Actually, I sucked at being a husband. I tried. I really did. Even sat through marriage counseling and essentially heard her tell me I wasn’t shit, counselor tell me I wasn’t shit. That I was somehow a horrible parent because I wasn’t as good at things she was good at. I read that stupid love languages book, too. Went to church. Tried to be a good Christian. Spent less time on music and art and things that made fireworks go off in my brain. Even binge-watched Housewives. Truth was, I hated the traditional southern black family construct. It felt rooted in the same ideals as slavery. I stopped believing in Christ after my grandmother died — I didn’t blame Black Jesus for any of it, I just realized that this was a very one-sided relationship — and I hated church. But most importantly… I thought the women on Housewives were all horrible human beings.
She had some idea of what she wanted in a man. I was never going to be that though. And after five years of trying to become something opposite my coding, I was done. I didn’t yell. Unless doing so served a very specific purpose. And some times that purpose was being as big an ass as I felt she was. It’s one of my better qualities. Mastery of emotion. Like, look ma’am… you not gon’ get me riled up. Hell is wrong with you? So I developed this awesome ability to be calm as fuck. Calm like when the entire room wants you to scream and yell because they screaming and yelling, but you don’t scream and yell. Then you laugh at them because they screaming and yelling. Inside my spirit animal was like, “Nah b. We good. Her ol’ loud ass.” Why does it feel like my spirit animal was one of the screenwriters for Paid in Full?
We watched me fall apart. The last year or two should’ve came with a box of Kleenex and a bag of popcorn. Separate households, limited time with the kids. Distance. Reunion. Single parenting. Being treated like shit by public servants who were either surprised or offended by the idea that a single dad was bringing in his daughter to speak with a specialist due to allegations of child molestation. Getting them through that shit. Watching my 3 and 5 year old hike six miles like little bosses. Trusting grandmom to keep the kids for the summer. Their mom showing up on her doorstep. Finding out it was likely planned. Child support. Rent increases. Shit getting cut off. Divorce proceedings littered with lies of me shooting at a police officer the night I attempted suicide. Having my mental health be made a mockery of. And everyone who was close to the situation being collectively baffled by words that — even reading them now — shouldn’t have surprised me, but somehow still do. Wait, let me back up.
I got the divorce decree days before my 31st birthday. So, yes, if I said I was single prior to that, then that wasn’t exactly true. But Tinder though. Okay focus. It was supposed to be the end of a lot of bad days, having to be the friend that always has another new layer of drama poured on top of conversations about baby mothers, crazy white girlfriends, depression, anxiety, panic attacks, and how much life sucked. I hated being that guy. I took the letter from my mailbox. Shoved it into my backpack and rode my bike through downtown to work. I was standing when I slit the envelope open. I was on the floor by the time I got to the last page.
I cannot break down at work. What would that make me look like? I tried to type the politically correct message that both of my hearts had literally been ripped out of my chest and that in that moment I was exactly where I had been just two short years before. Unimpressed with the prospect of living. Especially when that life would need to be carried out on a daily basis without my two little champions. I grabbed my planner to fan air into my eyes. Kept them dry long enough to locate the ‘send’ button. Done.
The email said I would be taking off a few days to figure things out. Process bad news. It was going to be longer than that. I went home. Fought back the heaviness that made pedaling hard. I clawed my way to the inside of the privacy of my own space. Then collapsed.
Brandy was, on that day, what Brandy has always been. A friend. Life support.
That day I had no intentions of thinking into any version of this future. Then there was a knock at my door. Brandy. The fuck, universe?
to be cont’d.