Fade to Black

Image courtesy of spaceanswers.com

Life is crazy, one day you are reading encyclopedias at your grandma’s house and pretending to be an adventurer searching for treasure, and the next you are holding a knife and yelling “get out or I will fucking kill you” at the top of your lungs. A lot can change in a very short span of time, the space between Raiders of the Lost Ark and Romancing the Stone was only about three years or so. After those three years my childhood ended, my life changed in so many ways. It seemed as if I had endured a decade’s worth of time-compressed, condensed, and crammed into my young mind. This is also the beginning of the fade; my memories get shady around this time. I call it the fade because that is exactly how I perceive it, lots of images and stories stored in my mind start to fade out. I didn’t know it at the time but each time I experienced something traumatic a singularity would begin to form. A singularity is the center of a black hole, with a gravitational force that would crush and consume memories. It would also suck my adolescence into its infinite depth and perhaps to another dimension where an alternate version of me lived a happy life filled with love.  You see in the singularity the laws of physics cease to apply and perhaps there I could escape the laws of my reality.

It started when I was nine, my mom was pregnant with my brother, yet I have no memory of what that was like. I do not remember my mom’s belly or even helping like I did with my sister. I didn’t really feel connected to or loved by my mother and as I grew older my interest in her began to dissipate even more, so perhaps that’s why I didn’t hold those memories. I am sure that my mom loved me in her own way and had moments when she was kind, nice, and even pleasant during that time but I don’t remember any. I remember when I was in my twenties and my mom told me that she loved me I was totally blown away. Just hearing her say the words instantly sent a little wave of heat through my body as I realized that this was the first time that I heard her say it. So back in the early 80s, there was no talk of love, no hugs, no giggly games, and no connection. This is gonna sound silly, but I use to talk to myself a lot back then, no it wasn’t an imaginary friend that talked back. It was straight up me having a conversation with me. I would tell myself “You know she ain’t yo real momma, right?” I would say it in a real matter of fact sassy black girl voice. I told myself stories about how my REAL mom was out there somewhere, she was beautiful, and kind, and loved me so much. I would tell myself, “you know she is coming for you.” I would imagine that the day she came the sun would be the sunniest and she would be wearing one of those dresses looking like the black version of Beavers mom from Leave It To Beaver. She was later replaced by Claire Huxtable and her high-powered legal looking suits. lol! I fantasized about how she would run up hugging me so tight with tears because she was so happy that she had finally found me. I know, yes, it’s a little throwed but hey I was a kid and conversations like this helped me get through.

Image courtesy of imbd.com

A few months or so after my brother was born my mom decided that we were going to move to California! I knew exactly what and where California was and its major industries, it’s topography, and population all thanks to my days spent coupled up with my Granny’s encyclopedias. What I didn’t know or understand was how we were going to live there. We were barely making it in St. Louis, but honestly, I was excited this would be my first adventure. Maybe my real mom was in California waiting and this was how she would find me! I remember that over the next few months we sold everything we owned only keeping a few sets of clothes because we were taking the bus and because we didn’t really have a place to stay and therefore no place to put the two large black cat statues or the super thick layered glass table that my mom had in our living room or any of our stuff for that matter. I sat and watched as each item was sold so we could head out on our journey excited but unsure about what was to come.  

The bus ride took three days! It was three days of either playing music on my tape player my dad got me before I left or playing spades and dominoes, yes it was a requirement in our household to learn to play. We ate sandwiches and stopped and a lot of dusty nondescript towns along the way. My favorite was Albuquerque because the letters looked ridiculous to my dyslexic eyes. I loved the way it sounded over the intercom when the driver informed us that we had reached the Albuquerque station and had 30 min before we would continue on our trip. Eventually, we made it all the way to California! I don’t recall the exact day or how we got to where we would be staying but I remember walking into an apartment complex courtyard and feeling as if time had shifted from day tonight. The courtyard was completely shaded by osage-orange trees with their large alien brain looking fruit littering the ground all around us. We; my mom, my sister, my brother, and I would be living in a two-bedroom apartment with some man. When I walked in he was sitting in his chair, I was unsure if he could walk or even move around the apartment at all. From my perspective, he was the black and slightly uglier version of Jabba the Hut. I was afraid of him mostly because he was so ugly, smelly, and so big, it’s harsh but I was a kid and it’s how I felt. I avoided talking to him or being in the apartment as much as possible. I could climb the trees in the courtyard and sit on the roof watching people come and go, I would also accidentally drop a few of those huge green brains down to the pavement just to witness their demise. Splattering chunks of its green matter across the concrete. Whenever I see an osage-orange I remember that a courtyard and those days.

I was very fearful during this time I didn’t know anyone, I was unfamiliar with everything, and nothing felt safe or permanent.  It didn’t take long (maybe six months) before mom and Jabba got into an argument about something and we had to go. We bounced around, apparently, we had family on my grandfather’s side that lived in Inglewood, so we lived there for a bit, crammed into a house with a whole family of family I did not know existed a few months before. Of course, arguments eventually erupted, and we were on to the next stop, this time though it was our own apartment! It was a small one-bedroom place on the second floor but no one else lived there but us, so I was happy. I went to school, sorta made friends, and started to settle into my Cali life. It didn’t take long for my mom to also settle in and meet Henry. She loved Henry and made sure he knew it by cooking big dinners and following behind him no matter how mean and nasty he was to her. I hated Henry. I did not speak unless I had to and spent most of my time outside or in our room. I was in the room doing I don’t know what, when I heard it. It was different this time, louder and more unsettling. I stayed in the room for as long as I could because I knew the consequences of getting into grown folk business but listening to it I knew I had to do something. I walked in just in time to see my moms bloody face as her body was flung across the room knocking over everything in its path. I had heard it before, but I had never SEEN it and now as I stood there looking watching as my mom’s tears ran I too ran! I ran and grabbed the biggest knife and yelled: “get out or I will fucking kill you!”. He mumbled something about me being crazy, but he got his ole lead singer of Earth Wind and Fire looking ass out of our damn house! I was so scared and shaking as I walked over to my mom, scared because I knew I had crossed the line scared because I knew that a whooping would probably be coming soon. She told me to get away, to go to the room with my sister and brother and leave her alone. That is what I did. We didn’t eat dinner that night. We just stayed in the room. My sister and brother eventually fell asleep on our makeshift beds (blankets and pillows on the floor around my mom’s bed). I couldn’t sleep I just lay there thinking about my real mom. When I heard the door open and I immediately closed my eyes pretending to be asleep.  Pretending that I didn’t hear it, pretending that she wasn’t my mom, pretending that he wasn’t with her on the bed, pretending that the sounds I heard didn’t exist, and allowing a lot of things after that to no longer exist. The black hole was beginning to form, and the singularity at its core began absorbing all the light and all that mattered…

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