If my father fell in the forest, with no one around, would the sound he made include his only son’s name?
Mom loves the sound of me reading. I do not know what it is about hearing my voice reciting the words of another, but it soothes her. Maybe it is just the idea of my returning the favor from my time spent in her womb. The warmest place I have ever laid my head. My sensory memory is one of my greatest strengths, as I sift through daily reminders of a past my young mind can often forget. I am not meant to remember, and yet still, I do.
I lay my head on her stomach as I feel her falling asleep underneath. Her breaths lift my head ever so slightly, rhythmic in nature. I am where I belong. I drift back and forth in the consciousness of my younger self, for now, I reside within murky waters. I am neither child nor adult. But the choice to be one or the other needs to occur at some point. I actually prefer the vacillation between the two. It suits my propensity to go from James Baldwin’s protégé to needy adolescent. Oh, you didn’t think I realized I was needy, huh? But are my needs really all that difficult to ascertain? I don’t think so. I never will.
I never will…
I will never leave her bosom. I will rest my head here for eternity. This place is where I belong. I belong here, with her, just not in this place. This place is dark, dreary, ugly. It pisses me off that I cannot use my immense vocabulary to describe it. That portion of the words at my disposal are surrounded in beauty.
Surrounded in her.
But this place erases all of those intellectual options. Its simplicity is its strength. Each room filled with its own insecurities. Too many people entering. Too much commotion. But commotion connotes life. So as annoying as it can be, it is ever so necessary. Knowing and understanding that life is prominent within these walls keep tears from falling down weathered cheeks.
Tamir Rice’s family was not given a chance to sit with him within similar walls. Amadou Diallo’s family was not given a chance to sit with him within similar walls. Sean Bell’s family was not given a chance to sit with him within similar walls. Oscar Grant’s family was not given a chance to sit with him within similar walls. Sandra Bland’s family was not given a chance to sit with her within similar walls.
Never got a chance to say goodbye to a loved one. Never got to properly choose their final words. Never got to leave a legacy not drowned in anger. Their families walk around with memories of them with smiles on their faces. Rice played with toys. Diallo worked hard to find a suitable life for him in the States. Bell was prime to marry his best friend, a woman prepared to share her life with him forever. Grant cherished his fatherhood. Bland’s voice rose above the tragic state of her people with her activism – until her voice was quieted against her will.
All this death. All of this life in the past tense. Just breathe, mom.
Still wish you would have told me earlier so you did not have to go through this by yourself. I, your son, would have provided you with my underused shoulder to rest on, cry on, scream on. I know you sat in your bedroom, alone, time and again, and even on days when my father was there, he was unaware of your internal struggle. How do you love so loyally without it being returned in earnest?
It is ugly between these walls. It is painful between these walls. It is unfortunate between these walls. It is… inevitable between these walls. To be naïve of such things would damage my ability to handle it even more. The images, tears falling down the cheeks of people of all ages, screams raging through the hallways, knees buckling at the news. The news is rarely positive. This is not a place of survival. This is the place you go to come to grips with your mortality. The flesh is a depressing realization. To many, it is a slow grind towards the end. To others, it is a sprint, smacking right into a wall with no room to maneuver around it. It would be there no matter what.
I read too much.
When you consider yourself to be a connoisseur of Octavia Butler, Toni Morrison, Junot Diaz, Tim O’Brien, Langston Hughes and, of course, Baldwin, the mind becomes a place of rapid development, almost out of control growth. If this were a freeway, I would be arrested for speeding. Fourteen years is plenty of time to slap together an immaculate intellect, just have to spend the time cultivating it.
My father is not here. He is elsewhere, probably gaining financial stability, or something else that matters not. His presence is not necessary here anyway.
I wish he was here.
My head has not left her bosom. Her breaths are steady. But these walls continue to strangle, second by second, minute by minute, reminding us of the fleeting nature of this location. If my father were here, he would be able to tell you his final words. I do not think he would have anything profound to say. Something along the lines of him doing everything he could to provide for you and me.
“Mom? Mom? Mom?! Mom?! Mom??!! Mom??!!...”
Her bosom, no longer a safe haven for my resting head. Its ability to lift me up removed forever.
“Mom??!! Somebody! Anybody! Help!”
My father just fell in the forest, and his final words did not include his only son’s name…
I hate hospitals.