The Teenage Man of the House

My heroism was stupidity at its finest. It was between 1994 and 1995. I hadn’t turned 18, yet. I had run away again and this time my parents had given up on looking for me. They had conceded that I was going to keep running away until life had given me an ass whipping and prayerfully I would live through it. I was spending my weekends with my friends drinking until I was sick and smoking marijuana until I could eat all of the snacks in 7–11. On a school night, I stayed at my girlfriend’s mother’s apartment. When I was at the apartment I felt like I was a grown man. I was even told that I was the man of the house.

As I settled into a deep sleep I was awaken with a thunderous knock on the bedroom door (I told you I felt like I was the man — I could close the door when in bed with her teenage daughter). I jumped up immediately, sensing something was really wrong. I ran out into the hallway to only find a dazed and confused middle age woman with tears in her eyes. She said, “that motherfucker took my money!” My first reaction was to look at the time. My second reaction was to ask myself what motherfucker is she talking about. Nobody was there. When I came in that night she was slumped over in an opioid induced stillness.

Hey, none of this matters because you the man of the house and you gotta keep this title. “Fuck this shit. Ain’t no motherfucker going to steal from my mother,” as I tried to pump myself up from the deep sleep I was previously in. So I threw on some clothes and proceeded to go find this “nigga.” He was going to pay up or get his ass whipped tonight.

Immediately, around 1 a.m. we (the mother, the daughter, and I) walked out of the apartment and approximately two miles to the methadone clinic. It was in this vicinity that I was going to beat “the motherfucker’s ass.” Low and behold, he wasn’t there. I was ready to turn around and go back home, but the mother said she knew where his mother lived. (Keep in mind we are talking about people in their 40s.) So, we walked another mile toward shadier communities in Northeast East Baltimore City. I followed with a brisk pace like I was really mad that “the motherfucker” stole my mother’s “got damn money.”

Around 2am we were approaching the thief’s mother’s house. It’s on now. “Hey, I’m going to hide in these bushes and you lure him outside. I got you. We gonna get this money back.” She knocked on the door and he came to the screen door. She began cursing and accusing him of being a thief. As he came onto the porch, I jumped out of the bushes and ran up the steps to approach him. He ran in the house and locked the door.

Like raccoons waiting for trash to tear open, we lingered outside the house for a few minutes. As we walked off, I felt a sense of relief that her mother saw me as the man of the house for walking with her and defending her honor. On the other hand, I was grateful I didn’t have to do anything more than act like I cared and not commit a crime. A few grunts, an angry look, and a scared drug addict running in the house kept me from going to jail that night. As we began walking back home around 2:30 a.m., the police approached and asked for our information. The “motherfucker” had called the police. Since I wasn’t 18 years of age, they only took my ID and wrote down my information. They warned me that I would be in the system for threatening this man and if something happened to him they would be looking for me.

A few months passed and her mother passed away. Her daughter and I didn’t have to attend a lengthy estate meeting or will reading, but were bequeathed the section 8 apartment. A few months went by before we cleaned up “mom’s” possessions from the master bedroom she once inhabited. While cleaning up, a wallet fell from between the mattress and the headboard. It was a small purse with “the got damn money” in it. My heart dropped into my stomach as I realized I could have hurt that man for nothing. I realized that I would have been in jail all because her mother lost the purse while under the influence. I learned a big lesson that night.

LESSON: Make good decisions based on the reality and not a false title that is placed on you to manipulate you into being a puppet.

Corey J Henderson, DrPH, MPA

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