Falling Out of Love

One of the most foolish, foolhardy things we can do as people is fall in love with someone we do not know. As much as people show us who they are through their actions, we tend to mitigate those negative actions with false ideals created by what that person tells us. It’s like a relationship where your partner consistently punches you in the face and says, “I love you.” Is that really love?

I have met many people in my life and no matter how influential or meaningless those people are, I learned something from each one of them. What I have found is that I cannot vibe with a person who shifts blame, denies and lies. I cannot take seriously a person whose actions so vividly belie their words when the two forms of communication may very well be night and day. 

Not too long ago, I expressed to my cousin problems I was having in a recently-ended relationship before it ended. “Give her a chance,” my cousin said, and I did. Still, this person lied, denied, misinformed and misdirected. Even when she was wrong, she found a way to shift blame or redirect the blame. For some reason, she could never fully own her mistakes or bad decisions. 

Recently, I had been testing her, asking her questions to see if she had grown because she told me she had. However, from the answers she gave me, I know she hasn’t changed. She is not ready to accept her actions as her own. She is looking to shift blame and not say, “It was me. I am to blame, but this is why it won’t happen again.” She is still at the “It could have been my fault but I won’t say it was because it may have been something or someone else’s fault.”  

Firmly, I am a believer that people do not change people. People change themselves. Dealing with the aforementioned person could have been a case study to prove the previous saying. She proved to me that no matter how nice I was, no matter how much I tried to reason with her, no matter how much I attempted to meet her in the middle, she could not be a trustworthy person who owns her mistakes. 

Looking back on this failed relationship, I realize I too am to blame for it failing. My biggest mistake was getting into a relationship with a person who constantly demonstrated that she was willing to lie and deceive, even when caught red-handed, to make things go her way. My worst decision was choosing to ignore those red flags for what they were. What can I do? Nothing but live and let live. 

This is my advice to you. Love is temporary. It is not permanent. It changes, grows and even fades away until nothing is left. If someone shows you who they are, believe that person. Do not make excuses or think they can change. They won’t change. They are not to be trusted. Run before it’s too late. 

#relationship #relationships

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The Mortality of the Writer

Last night, I saw two people die in a car accident. Their car hit a pole, splitting the hood in two. I opened the driver’s side door to see if I could help, but the interior was so mangled, I knew he was gone. I went around to the passenger side and saw a guy I had known in passing, that I hadn’t seen in years, and he too was gone. This morning, I logged onto Facebook, and the passenger’s sister and also my Facebook friend was mourning the loss of her brother. My heart is shattered.

Being a father, an author and MFA student, I sometimes live my life fast and full of anxiety. If there isn’t one thing to do, there is another. I hardly have time to breathe, let alone decompress. What I witnessed last night reminded me of my own mortality. Someone can be here one moment and gone the next.

I write because I will not live forever, but my thoughts, words and ideas can. Even from beyond the grave I can put a smile on one child’s face, give one person the courage to go on or touch someone in some profound way. If there are no other rewards to penning novels and drinking 8 cups of coffee a day, the things I previously named are enough.

I saw two people die last night, and it hurt me to see people in such a way, their lives snuffed out so instantly and permanently. I hope they find peace beyond the stars and enjoy the afterlife even more than they did here on Earth among us mortals. I hope to find a similar peace when the time comes.

 

Our Own Sort of Fun

Drugs. Violence. Police brutality. Hate. Love. Love. Love. 

In 1995, if you would have read about the Robert Taylor projects, the news report would probably have headlined something like this: 

“17 Men Arrested in Drug Sting at Robert Taylor Homes.” 

But inside those forsaken buildings where no one but those who lived there would have gone, children lived there. And those children, like all children, found a way to make the best of their situation. We did so in part by playing “It” in abandoned apartment buildings with holes in the walls.

Looking back on those days so many years later, I know my mother would have had a fit had she known what I was doing. As a father of three, I know I would not ever knowingly allow my daughters to play in abandoned buildings. Yet I also know that those dangerous moments where we had fun chipped away some of our surrounding circumstances and gave us a hideaway. 

Maybe my children will not ever experience what it is like to grow up impoverished in one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in Chicago, but they will hear many a stories from me about those moments. 

Inspiration Comes from Everywhere

As you’ll find if you read my blog thoroughly enough, I grew up in the Robert Taylor Projects on the Southside of Chicago. If you do any research, you’ll find it was not the ideal place to grow up, being overwhelmed with drugs and gang activity. But it is where I am from, and I am not ashamed of it.

My uncle Milton lived there as well but for over thirty years. When I was younger, he made a painting on my mom’s wall of the cartoon Tom cutting off Jerry’s head. Blood was everywhere in the painting. My mom was pissed to say the least. I was delighted, until she made him paint over it.

Milton is a very sarcastic person who you’ll either love or hate with hate seeming to be the winner in most cases. Yet he is comfortable with whom he is. On Monday, June 4, 2018, the Chicago Sun Times did a spread on him concerning his upbringing, painting and one of his pieces currently on display at an art gallery. This inspires me.

My family is condensed with people in the arts. I’m a writer, my uncle is an artist and some of my family makes music. Most of us came from those dilapidated buildings, but we have success, college degrees and each other.

Someone once asked me why I never failed to mention that I am from the projects. This person has a painful history, having grown up extremely poor to the point of having no running water in the house. Her childhood was traumatic. She is doing well for herself now, but she shies away from her past. She will not discuss with anyone how she grew up. It is this denial that leads her to question me. How can I, having grown up in the most notorious part of the city, be able and willing to speak openly about it?

I am not ashamed of where I come from. It has made me who I am, good or bad. It showed me that the world can be harsh, but that doesn’t mean I can’t make a difference. It is what inspires me to do better for my children so that they don’t have to experience what I did. The point is, embrace your past to know your future as the Sankofa bird of West Africa tells you.

 

A Newborn

Nearly three months ago, my third beautiful daughter was born. Her eyes are a color I have never seen before and I cannot name. I was hoping for my first son, but I’m blessed either way. The question is, where do I go from here?

Near Death Experience

One of my most devastating moments occurred when I was just twelve years old when I was hit by a car. I hardly ever talk about this, and I don’t know why. What I do know is that since that moment, I have always been aware of how life can change within just a matter of moments.

In grammar school as I have been throughout most of my life, I was somewhat a prick. Before Tristain and I became best friends, I was his enemy. I would pick on him and call him names, mostly because he wore glasses and had a long “tail” (a single braid of hair located towards the back of an otherwise shaved head).

“You’re ugly,” I said to Tristain.

“You’re ugly,” he said.

So on this day, while in line after lunch, I punched Tristain in the stomach. Unfortunately, our teacher saw it. She was a behemoth of a woman who wore a blonde mullet and glasses. After asking how I would like to be punched, she socked me in the stomach. I lost my breath and went down for the count.

I was enraged, so I ran out of school. The security guard, a former stripper, chased behind me. He was too late, as I jetted into the street. I remember being hit by a blue sedan. I was knocked into a pole, but I managed to stumble away. When I came to, I was surrounded by people from my project building. They were all telling me to be still.

The ambulance came and the paramedics cut me from my clothes. The fifty cents I’d had in my pocket is still unaccounted for. I don’t remember any pain.

I was out of school for two weeks while a large sore on the right side of my face healed. Although there were cameras in the school and it was confirmed that my teacher had punched me in the stomach, nothing was immediately done about it. This was the 90s, a different era in a different part of Chicago.

Eventually, the teacher who punched me was either fired or relocated. I learned not to punch people.

I Am a Drug Dealer, Not So Much

One of my most vivid memories of my life in Chicago’s Robert Taylor Projects is my friend Travis and me walking through a grassy field and finding a huge ZipLoc bag of crack cocaine. There had to be at least 300 rocks in there. 

Up until this point, I had seen plenty of crack transactions. I was only nine or ten, but this was a way of life where I lived. But still, seeing crack without a dealer sent a raw fear through me. I felt like I would go to jail just from being around it. If the cops came, they would charge Travis and me with having it. 

“Damn,” said Travis, picking up the bag. “We’re rich.”

“We need to leave that alone,” I said, stepping away. 

“What? You scared? You a punk?”

After a brief argument, we decided to take it to my uncle. I knew he smoked crack and I thought he would know what to do with it. In his bedroom, my uncle interviewed us.

“Did you still this from your brother?” he asked Travis, since his brother was a well-known dealer. 

“No,” Travis said. 

“And don’t nobody know y’all got this?” he asked us.

After my uncle confirmed our story, he promised to sell it and give us some of the profit. Needless to say, we never saw a dime. Travis was mad. I wasn’t. We should have known not to give crack to a crack head. But I did not want anything to do with it anyhow. I realized then that I was not a drug dealer. 

Bullet and a Baby

This is a true story. 

When I was little, my favorite place to explore was my uncle’s bedroom. Although he was a die-hard crack addict who kept bottles of piss in his room, he had a plethora of things: magnifying glasses, telescopes, knives, swords and a host of other things. 

One day, my cousin, sister and me were playing in my uncle’s room. We had with us our infant niece. We came across a bunch of large bullets and a hammer. In our young minds, it was a great idea to bang a bullet with a hammer. 

After dozens of hits, the bullet was damaged but was sturdy. My cousin slammed the hammer so many times and my sister couldn’t get the job done. That’s where I came in. 

“It’s my turn,” I said, handing my niece to my sister and taking the hammer. 

I beat the bullet senseless but nothing happened. When I took my final swing, the bullet exploded. The heavy gun powder choked all of us. The explosion deafened me. I thought I had been shot. 

“What the fuck are y’all doing?” my mother said, rushing into the room. She smelled the gun powder, saw the shell casing and the hammer. She saw my baby niece. 

Needless to say, we all tried to shift the blame and minimize our involvement. My mother was the judge, jury and ass whipper. Who knew years later, a bullet would change my life forever.

She Died at Three Months Old

There is an image seared into my brain of my sister running through the house screaming as she clutches her three-month-old dead baby. This image is so clear, I can pull it up and see everything exactly as it happened.

The death of three-month-old Jennifer had a huge impact on my family. Since then, my family has been plagued with drug-addiction, alcoholism and huge feuds. When she passed away, I was only eight years old. Yet I understood my own mortality. It was at this very age that I understood that I could die and no one could prevent it.

Jennifer did not get to live a percentage of her life. Everyday, I think of her, wonder how she would have laughed or cried, wonder what her favorite color would have been, what career she would have pursued. I wonder who I would have been if I would have been able to be the uncle she needed.