Family baggage



Chapter Four

   I remember clear as day the first time I rode the greyhound bus and I must say the experience was one that I would never forget. Seemed as if time had slowed down and came to a dead halt as we sat on uncomfortable, cramped seats for hours at a time, waiting for our next pit stop. As we ride, we pass through parts of Texas and Arizona that looked like small deserts that were so dry and lonely. An ancient place that had become deserted and yearned for the company of cowboys to ride their horses through them once again. The only thing left standing were cactuses of different shapes and sizes that wore needles as body armor and rocks that sat up against mountains that looked old and tired like they may have lived once. The sight was truly amazing to watch as a child but the distraction of body odor and urine seemed to get the best of me causing the ride to drag on. It seemed as each time we transferred busses the stench became worse. Finally, three days later we make it to our destination.


   Mama quickly found us a two bedroom house. A small shotgun house that you could see straight from the front to the back, which was just big enough for us two kids, Dean and mama. Though it wasn't much, it was our home. Me and my brother were only five and six at the time and I rarely remember having any friends to play with during this time in my life. The elementary school we attended was okay but nothing to brag about being that I kept to myself. If I weren't at school it were home were I mostly played in my room that I shared with Wayne. There were times I did get to go and visit grandmother.


   My grandmother's house was in walking distance and just a couple blocks away from our home. She had to be relieved that she had her own space now and a piece of mind even though she lived right behind my aunt Tam's house.  The one bedroom cottage like house was just perfect for her. I had a pink and white Barbie big wheel that I left at her house so when I came to visit I could ride and enjoy myself in the front yard. There was no grass just dirt so it made it easy for me to pedal. It was a happy time in my life and for a brief moment  I thought that things were falling into place just as they should be but I had no clue that a storm was yet to come and became worse as time went on.


   A few months later my baby brother was born and we called him Dee. Shortly after his arrival that is when corruption entered our home. First came the arguing and behind it came physical abuse. I don't know what it felt like to Wayne but it scared the hell out of me. We usually tried to stay in our room, distancing ourselves from mama and Dean. There were other times when we were right there with a front row seat as we witnessed chokes slaps and punches being exchanged along with profound language. There were times I would watch mama rough this man up as if she were fighting another female but in reality it was like watching two men fight. Of course he was the corporate and always poked, prodded and picked with her until she became angry. When he hit her she would come back with an even more powerful punch. When mama felt as if her patience was being tried she could be very standoffish no matter what the situation may be. He then began to yell and talk to Wayne and I and eventually began to lay his hands on us. This scared me being that I was a young child and that was my mothers place, not his.


   It's cool to play step daddy, especially if you love a women. In order to be with her and she has kids from another man you must learn to accept them also. If the love is real you must learn to accept the "family package." What's not cool is if you physically and verbally abuse another man's child. As our home became disruptive, he began to threaten to give us a beating straight from hell. If Wayne and I were to loud or didn't move quick enough when we were told to do something we were whipped good. Sometimes he gave us one of two choices, stand on our knees with our arms out which was an all day process or get thrashed good by one of his belts. Either way was pure hell just like the way he would look at us telling me with his eyes how he couldn't stand the sight of us and we were just in the way. I would choose to stand on my knees and hold my scrawny arms out any day over those torturous beatings that seemed to last forever. There would be times that I would silently cry from the pain that shot through my arms as I struggled to hold them up and my knees would hurt and begin to tingle eventually becoming numb. He would stay right there in the room with us making sure we didn't drop those arms rubbing it in asking us "are you guys tired yet? If so I can whip you now and get it over with." I began to look at him as if he were an incurable infection that I just couldn't seem to get rid of. Just the sight of him would make me cringe inside and little did I know this was just the beginning of my nightmare.


   Mama would be out handling business and when she did this we were left with Dean. She knew he disciplined us but when she wasn't around this scolding was abuse. One day he waited for me at the bus stop after school. The walk home wasn't far and he seemed to notice that I was missing my jacket. He asks me "where is your jacket?" I tell him "I forgot it at school." He begins to yell and looks me right in the eye and says "when you come home from school tomorrow you better have that jacket or I will beat your ass!" I say "okay." The next day after school as I got on the bus to head home I remembered I had left my jacket behind and the whole ride home I had to prepare myself for what he was going to do. As soon as I stepped off the bus that is the first thing he noticed. His exact words were "you forgot your jacket and I told you I was going to beat your ass." I cried on the walk home and as soon as we walked through the front door he began to take of his thick, brown, leather belt and for a second it seemed as if the look on his face was that of satisfaction. He had an excuse to beat my ass and with each lash that he gave me it seemed as if a little piece of me were breaking away. At the age of six I began to hate my life.


   Mama had announced that she would be traveling back to Louisiana and I must admit I was a little excited and thinking to myself, let's get away while we can. The little bit of hope I had was quickly stripped away as mama told me she was leaving me behind with grandmother and only the boys would be going with her. This made me feel like I was unwanted and at the time I just didn't understand. I stayed behind with grandmother which wasn't a bad thing but being without mama was. Mama promised me she would be back and as saddened as I was I waited for that day to come. I missed her so and wanted her back with me but on the brighter side Dean was nowhere around and my life had a sense of peace in it. He was miles away and this was comforting. I'm sure there were happy times but it's just to bad I don't remember them. 


   What I do remember is me going outside and playing with my cousins. They were older than me and I looked up to them. My favorite cousin is and will always be Thina. As far back as I can remember she could sing and I don't mean humming or holding a tone. She had a big, loud, soulful voice. Her skin was of smooth dark, chocolate and her hair was shoulder length. She was outgoing, spunky and comical. One day she wanted to pick some peaches but we had to sneak into someone's yard in order to get them. We both decided I would hold the brown paper bag and she would climb up and drop them down to me. As we are in progress of stealing peaches I am placing them in the bag, moving as quickly as possible as if I were in a race. Moment later, in the blink of an eye a Hispanic man dressed in blue jeans, cowboys boots and hat with a white button up dress shirt comes through the back yard and yells "Hey, get off my tree!" My cousin jumps down and yells "run!" We ran as fast as we could that day, like two run away slaves. All behind a bag of peaches. Sometimes I would hang out with my cousin Tina. She was short and skinny with caramel brown skin. She was much older than I and we would hang out and listen to lots of R&B music but her favorite was Prince and Michael Jackson. She would sometimes put on a record and have me dancing all over the floor until I would become breathless. This was a time that I was not bashful or shy and realized how happy music made me feel. Other times we would lay in her bed and watch the Mtv music channel.Though I had no worries I still missed mama.


   During the time that mama was gone grandmother showed me how much love and affection she could give me but being stern when letting me know she had the upper hand. She filled the nakedness of mama being gone and did an excellent job of doing so. She showed me how to peel potatoes and would let me stir things when in the kitchen cooking. I can still see the old, cheap knife that had a worn out wooden handle which seemed to be as old as dirt but it always did it's job when in use. Other times I would sit at the kitchen table and watch her. My favorite dish of hers were her famous tea cakes. When eating her food it was like having your soul touched. What she cooked, how she cooked, the way she cooked and how it tasted let you know how much love, time and patience were put into each dish. She would sometimes pause in the middle of cooking and turn, looking back at me with a smile, like she were reading my mind because she knew I missed mama. That day of missing her was finally over as she walked through the door giving me the biggest hug and planting kisses on my cheeks. Even though she was only gone two months, to me it felt like two years.


  Mama came back without Dean and boy was I relieved. I was happy that he wasn't around anymore trying to pump fear into us and trying to regulate. The days mama went out our grandmother watched us and every morning and afternoon she accompanied us to and from the bus stop. One day it was time for grandmother to meet us at the bus stop which was down the street from her house. My brother Dee was asleep and he was about six months at the time. She didn't want to wake him so she left him in the house. Grandmother figured she would be right back and he would still be asleep. After I get off the bus and begin walking home a faint smell of smoke was in the air but we thought nothing of it. The closer we came to our home the stronger the smell became. As we walk upon the house, blazes greeted us. As seconds pass the fire grew bigger causing it to look as if someone had pissed it off. You could hear the crackling and popping as the wood burned wildly. My grandmother demanded we stay back and don't move as she walks into the house to retrieve my brother but by now one side of the house is on fire and part of the roof is aflame looking as if it were screaming in a heated rage. I was in panic by now crying and thinking to myself please make it out safe. I began to pull and yank at my clothes from fear and nervousness praying that no one would get hurt. My heart began to beat at such a fast past, felt as if it were trying to escape my bird chest and make a run for it. My grandmother exits through the front door with my brother Dee in her arms. He was to young to realize what was going and looked around confused at what all the commotion was about. The pet turtle in the medal, red, folgers can was not so lucky and was burned to a crisp. Just black and charred from the life being torched right out of it. My big wheel looked as if someone had drove it through a funeral home furnace and was distorted from the melt down. The house was burned really bad and there was no way we could live there. We found out that the neighbors next door had left the heater on and forgot to turn it off before they left that morning. 









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