I’m sitting here and wondering about my child. Where is he? Has he eaten? Is he drunk? Is he clean? Does he have a decent bed? All these thoughts and more are roaming through my mind and running rampant and long, sprinter and marathoner combined. I can’t believe we, his step-father and I, his sister, his brother. None of us can reach him because he desperately wants a name other than the one I gave him on the day of his birth. He wants the cars, a beautiful woman, wealth, and most importantly he wants a name in the streets. It seems that he runs away from normal life, he shuns us, in pursuit of something which too often concludes in a very finite list of destinations.
My Christian girlfriends tell me that I shouldn’t burn bread on my son and call out what might be his destiny. My Muslim friends are angry on my behalf. They know me to be a good woman. I don’t love churches but I do love God. I seek, in my first thoughts of the day, to please Him and to love my children. That’s the nascent point of my desires in this world. Wanting a successful career as a writer is only important for two reasons and they are to follow my passions and to support my children. For me, men come and go. I don’t get that bent out of shape over romance. Oh, I might cry a few tears here and there and I might even mutter a few ‘mf’s’ under my breath. But that’s about it. My God. My four children.
My son’s behaviours have now surpassed the guilt I felt over the way I haphazardly raised him. I did what I knew with what I knew. But there is one thing I will attest to all the angels in Paradise: he knows that I love him. I know he knows this because he uses it with scalpel like precision whenever it suits his needs. I’m not the parent who won’t accept their children. I understand humanity. So I would not turn away from him for addiction, for mental illness, for anything treatable. What is hardening my heart is the fact that he won’t help himself. He sees his nature as one to be used for his needs. He does not hear our cries or see our suffering when he appears, red-eyed, loud, obnoxious, and it seems that he feels no shame out on the streets asking people for money. My son is not well and what has moved him to the point of insanity is all of the opportunities he has had and how these things have been tainted by life, racism, lies, and inconsistencies. He believes himself to be resilient and I hope he’s correct. I hope to look up, 54 years from now, celebrating my 100th birthday and see him there. Old, grey, fat, and surrounded by his children. That’s what I want more than anything. I just want to see my son grow old in freedom.
We have tried to reach him. We have tried to help him. Stretching out our arms to him has caused us to let parts of our own lives to slip through our fingers. He idolizes those people who populate BET. He listens to what can only loosely be called music. The same young man who would sit through two hours of Korean Ballet. The same young man who would draw you as beautifully as Kodak could take your picture. The same young man who would sit and listen to Sarah Vaughan croon. He refuses to recover, to come back, from his childhood dreams, hurts, pains and disappointments. It seems that his greatest addiction is punishing us. That’s just how it seems.
What hurts more than anything is that he isn’t alone. You have sons too. Your sons are just as precious to you as mine is to me. Tell me, because I don’t think God made me smart enough to figure this one out. What is the value of a name in the streets when it’s placed next to the state versus, or on a tombstone, or on a name tag in the state mental health facility? All this refusal to accept that in life the best we can do is to get up in the morning, go to work, have a good dinner, share a laugh, and drive a slightly used car. But our sons act as if those things are death.
You can’t make a grown person do anything. A task worthy of Hercules and Atlas is to make a child in a grown man’s body do anything. I know this fact to be irrefutable. But I can still pray that it isn’t true. I can still hope that it isn’t true. I can still dream my dreams, if they are all I will ever have, that my son will be there when it’s time for me to say goodbye. The converse is too much for me. It’s just too much for too little. To have strangers cheer for you, yell your street name, and risk having the minister say your name that last time while your mother screams your name in that graveyard. I can’t see the return on that infernal investment.
The streets? A place where paranoia is required. Where women only smile after you show them the money. Where random bullets take the poor and homeless as well as the rich and famous. The streets are the ante-chambers to the death house. The cars they show on the television? Rented! The houses? Rented! The fame? Too fleeting to even call it a good thing. What lasts? A second in time. The cost? The lives of so very many. “Oh what needless pain we bear.” I heard that in church so many times. And the next line, “will there be peace in the valley for me?” This is a song about living after death. There is peace to be found in this life however, none of it is found in the streets.
I sleep with a full belly. I bathed in a clean place. I am wearing clean clothes. I will sleep in a clean bed. For my son and yours I wish the same.