Archive for May, 2007
This entry is dedicated to my brother, someone I have admired, loved and felt proud to call “my own” since I was little. My Mom once said to me that after I was born, she wanted to have a second child so I would have a friend, and someone who would be there me…and I for them. My brother has honored Mom’s dream and more… he is more than a brother but a blessing from God.
Swervin ‘Round the Moon
I found myself in all the ways I was different from my brother. I found challenges in all the ways I wanted to be like him. And somewhere between, we always came together while remaining two, unique individuals.
The earliest memory I have of my brother is seeing him dressed in his long, white baptismal gown with the lace collar and matching white lace bonnet. My brother was the most adorable baby with locks of curly black hair framing his bright, brown eyes and cheeks as round and brown as caramel rolls. I remember that my brother was lying on the floor and he was so cute, I could not resist but to lean over and kiss his chubby face. That didn’t last long because when he was older, we would fight a lot–between the times we were racing down the street on our bikes and much later, driving mom crazy with loud rap music blasting from both our rooms.
Some of the happiest memories of the past year happened when my brother let me borrow his car–a purple Scion. For a time, I felt free of the problems that led me into a shelter. Even more, I was able to get to crucial appointments, building a strong foundation for my new life. The car was not what stuck out so strongly in memory but the feeling that I had earned my brother’s trust. My brother had worked so hard for his car, and was getting married in a week–so much was going on in his life and yet when it came to family, life stopped to be supportive of each other. I hope to give back some of what was given to me.
Domestic violence is like the web of a spider. Even as you attempt to escape, the intricate web is the only life you have known, its presence is real, hanging from your limbs and memories. Sticky threads must be cut; the grasp of the web must be destroyed before you can rebuild. Some threads are so fine they can hardly be seen, yet reminders of the web linger—seeking to snare you again. The most dangerous time for a victim is escaping the abuser. Taking the first steps into your new life is n–the challenges that arise are unimaginable to those who have never been there. Five months after fleeing the place that truly never was “home”, I was homeless (happened in thirty seconds–believe it, can happen to you), disabled and unable to work due to health concerns. I just needed a ride to one appointment, which was past the bus line and was so thankful when my brother offered me the use of his car–a purple Scion shaped like a crescent moon, the silver rims resembled glimmering stars.
One day of borrowing the car turned into two weeks–for a time, I was given respite and saw that happiness was possible. It was not so much that my brother borrowed me his car–but the intention behind it. I felt so grateful, and also excited of what life my brother would have once married. I was so proud that he had found true love, that a generation of my family would break the cycle of violence. It’s hard to put into words but knowing love is one thing–seeing it adds another dimension. I always knew what kind of person my brother is but when I saw his actions, and was gifted with a sign of his love–there was a certain excitement, and hope that carried not only into my life but what I saw for his own life, and that of his family.
These are the memories that bring a smile to my face when I think of those times:
“With the top down feeling the sounds, Quaking and vibrating your thighs, riding harder than guys…”
I truly do not understand road rage, what’s the big deal about being in your car when it can be a place of sanctuary, as cool as the room I retreated to as a teenager. I was in the midst of traffic, enjoying the moment. Soldier was blastin’ on the CD player, which I was dancing along to. For a minute, I was so into the song that I saw myself as a new member of Destiny’s Child. My reverie was broken by the unsettling feeling of being watched. My heart thudded so loudly in my chest that I could not distinguish it from the bass. The hair rose on the back of my neck as invisible eyes stared from afar. I sat up straight, playing it cool as I scanned the street, carefully noting the pitch-black shadows of the alley for any movement. To keep my courage, I continued to sing:
Better be street if he looking at me
I need a soldier
That ain’t scared to stand up for me
Known to carry big things if you know what I mean…
Sure enough I felt invisible eyes watching me. My gaze fell on a hand casually draped outside the car in the next lane, one long finger pointed in my direction. My eyes followed the long line of the finger, to an unrelenting stare of penetrating black eyes, a faded teardrop tattoo fell at one corner. A black du rag was tied low over the forehead, obscuring the face. A frantic snap-snap-snap sound followed next. From the car one shoulder leaned toward me then pulled back. The teardrop lifted in his brown face, like rain going back into a cloud–a smile. Not only was I being watched while I was making a fool of myself, turning the car into a stage fit for “American Idol” but the driver next to me was now dancing along! Something was building in me, perhaps road rage…
He don’t know it might be on tonight
Oh he looking good and he talking right (talking right)
He the type that might change my life (change my life)…I was lovin’ “road rage”, if you could call the tipped, crazy exuberance of having a dance partner to join me rockin’ to the music amidst traffic. For the past months, fear and regret had gripped my mind. I was going nowhere with these thoughts, locked in a mental traffic jam. I now saw the way through was so simple. While everyone else was grumbling and rushing through the streets, I could just ride With the top down feeling the sounds, Quaking and vibrating your thighs, riding harder than guys, losing the moment in myself.
My brother had been nice enough to borrow his car to me; the least I could do is get an oil change for it. While the car was being worked on, I sat in the lobby sipping a soda and reading the outrageous horoscopes in the City Pages. The City Pages is known for being controversial, and raw so I didn’t really pay heed to warning in my horoscope: Now its your turn to be in trouble and you will be too stunned to face it. I am an Aries–no one tells me what do when my horns come down, I charge–damn the consequences! The mechanic motioned me to the counter, I was ready to pay the bill and get on with the day. Why did an oil change take so long, anyways? What was going on back there, an environmental clean up? City pigeons are known for being greasy, there was no changing that! The mechanic was rushing through the paperwork. He shoved a yellow form in front of me and tapped his pen down hard on the laminate counter, indicating where I should initial. My eyes scanned the byline–talking something about not responsible for any damage.
More markings, more big words, I felt an intense sting behind my eye; a thousand bees had begun to attack with a piercing headache. My brother’s beloved Scion was damaged!?! I knew my only redemption was if a tornado up and swept that car to Oz. My brother might look cool driving in the emerald green carriage pulled by the Muchkins. Or he might look like one of the Village People– white leotard, glittering shoes with a pointed toe, funky hair and the funny singing accent definately were a sign that the Munchkins had taught the Village People everything they knew. I clicked my heels three times then beat my purse on the pavement–nothing was changing this situation.
When I got to the Scion, I noticed wide, white scratches on the bottom and towards the rear of the car. My brother was getting married in less than a week, how would I tell him? I could put off the news until the wedding. Speak now or forever hold your peace would take on new meaning when a brawl ensued. My news surely would open a floodgate of other confessions. Both mothers would be on speed dial with Dr. Phil, crying their eyes into the something blue lace garter handed down or the borrowed heirloom. My brother’s massive friends, big as the stone giants of Easter Island, would erupt in a fist-fight, the pipe organ would be thrown from the balcony. My sister-in-law, more beautiful than an Estee Lauder bride in a white satin dress with diamonds glittering on her chenille veil would never forgive me–I’d receive fruitcake every Christmas and dead flowers on my birthday. No, I resolved, I could not do that to my brother–my cute brother in the billowing baptismal gown, my brother who wrote his own songs on the Rapmaster key board, my brother who been there for me through everything; more thick than thin…
I carefully drove the Scion to an auto body shop–avoiding potholes, major streets, and dive bombing pigeons. The City Pages lay sprawled on the narrow, wooden table in the lobby; I sought to distract myself in its sordid tales. The technician came back, a lopsided smile on his face–was this good or bad news?.
I reluctantly stood and followed the technician to the Scion. He knelt near the rear bumper, bringing a fingernail to a white mark, long as a fifty-yard line. When he muttered something about “just wax” I leap up then hugged him, tackling the poor guy to the ground..
Vamos: Another Thirty Second Relocation
After nearly a month of delay, the transitional housing I applied for, and received emergency assistance for the deposit, had come through. When I went down to the office of the shelter to tell the staff, my notice was immediately put in–pack my bags, vamos, lets go. In thirty seconds, or less, I would be moved out. Understand, every night the shelters are full; families with children find themselves juggling for space when a bed becomes available. County homeless shelters are also full–people are housed in empty schools or churches, anywhere someone is willing to donate room. Every night, the need increases. Amidst the luxury library in downtown Minneapolis, the proposals for billion dollar sports stadiums, and increased funding for corporate welfare and state funded art projects the needs of poor and victimized are overlooked. Welfare has a five-year lifetime limit—while corporations are given huge grants from tax payer’s hard earned money with no assurance of repayment, let alone any limits.
Shelter life is just “shelter”, there are no extras. Most of the food is served past its expiration date (saves money), some is donated from public school lunches–other schools sell leftover lunches to farmers to be used as pig slop. I have slept on mattresses on dirty linoleum floors. I have seen the blankets given to families being used on other mattresses when new people come in–never washed or sanitized. Bunk beds in rooms crowded with up to eight people are also common–the extra space is used to squeeze in a toddler bed or a crib. Some people would cringe, but knowing you are safe is a blessing. You don’t cringe–you fight for survival.
I didn’t have much to pack: just the food in the fridge, a notebook filled with poetry, and the one bag I was allowed to have under my bunk. I said my “good-byes” to the women that had become like family to me and made my way towards the Scion. The sky had begun to darken as I put my key in the ignition, rolled down all the windows and turned up Angie Martinez in the CD player…
If I can go, contigo, I’ll pack my things, soon as you say
Baby vamos, we’ll fly away, like there is no, no tomorrow
If I can go, contigo, I’ll tell my friends, nothing at all…The neighborhood would not be familiar to me, I could not tell anyone of the shelter. Leaving the shelter in so much silence made me feel like the time I spent there never happened. I made my way to the highway, speeding past roads that once led to the place that truly never was “home”. I looked forward, towards the twinkling lights on the horizon of skyscrapers, leading home. My hair flew like a wayward cloud, whipping over my shoulders. Somehow I had lost my dreams, lost my voice. I didn’t want to follow those old roads, leading into the shadows. There was something ahead for me–possibility, hope, and a future.
I smiled to myself at the irony–the number of new apartment is the same number as my room in the shelter. The silver key felt so light in my hand. I squeezed it hard to assure I was not dreaming. Click, click the door opens. My new shelter had empty rooms, perfect for dancing across: “And a seat, know why? The window cause I like to see. And seein as to how I’m so fly me and the clouds can speak.” That night I camped out on the floor, like a kid at a slumber party. My bag made a nice pillow.
The next night I warmed the apartment by cooking in my new oven–sweet and sour ribs with onion and green pepper, a concoction based on a family recipe with my own twist. Macaroni and cheese bubbled in a pan next to the ribs; my first home cooked meal felt like a miracle.
For almost a month I would have no furniture, save a cast off office chair. That was fine with me. I zoomed across my house on the black, plastic wheels. I would take many trips in the Scion, filling it from top to bottom like an overstuffed piñata, bringing my stuff home:
Ok, that little place it’s a great move
But ain’t no problems, unless the water don’t stay blue…
It was funny how much I collected–shopping at the free store for the homeless, anticipating this moment. I liked to think that the best memories followed those donated items to their new homes–times of closeness, of love; that a sense of family would be imparted to me.
When I was a child, I felt such a purpose in caring for those who didn’t have anybody else, those who felt misunderstood or unpopular or different. I adopted my brother’s GI Joes into my “Barbie orphanage”. It was a cool orphanage because we shared a Michael Jackson record player, and I spun disco 45s for the orphanage. Billy Ocean, a Taste of Honey, Stevie Wonder–the place was rockin’. My brother was so patient with me, even when he wanted to rough house like a boy, he made time for me. When I was a teenager I stood up for causes, speaking out when no one else would. I read books preparing for the day I would be able to make a difference for others in the world–everything from history to psychology to spirituality. I volunteered. I danced, and dreamed. Even later, when we were grown, when his life veered off into other directions, my brother would never be too far away. Though I knew this, I hid my life from him…projecting a smile so big, I believed it myself: I was happy while my life was falling apart. To be a warrior, first you must bleed.
More than anything, I have learned the most from the love given unconditionally given to me. My brother could have borrowed me a bus token, and not a car, and it would have meant just as much because his intention was out of love.
My Mom wanted a second child to be a support to me but just the same she wanted me to be a support, a strength as “big sister”. Though life has brought me to some difficult places, I did not “loose” my dreams nor did I “loose” myself. Rather I chose to let go of that which does not serve me so I may be able to become empowered, and truly give to others from a level of love, true love that endures after testing and challenges–not fear. In that way, my role of “big sister” has grown, to be a source of family for others in need. Grin* Though I must say what comes may include embarrassing stories, and from time to time may require tolerance for the spirited antics that I have not quite outgrown!
“If I Could Go”, Angie Martinez: Animal House. Released, 2002. Elektra/Wea.
“Soldier”, Destiny’s Child: #1’s. Released 2005, Sony/Sony Urban.
Silas (b. 1833) m. Margarett Green
The father of Silas Green is from North Carolina, his mother is from Virginia. Silas Green was a farmer who lived in Dallas County.
b. 1864 Mary
b. 1866 Johnie
b. 1868 Jimie
b. 1870 Charity
b. 1872 Mary Lettie
b. 1878 Silas
b. 1876 Sol