“Daddy,” he said, in a timid whisper.
“What?” I answered, in annoyance.
“I’m sorry. I know what I did was wrong,” he said, in a tone of fearful remorse.
“You have no idea how worried you had us. I don’t get you, son. What could you possibly be looking for out there in them streets? There are only two choices; right and wrong. You seem to only be interested in wrong. A gun? And then your flagrant disobedience. You violated trust, and without trust we have nothing.” I said, without editing my tone. I was so angry I wanted to spit acid. I wanted to beat his ass.
“You can trust me,” he said, in a wimpy tone.
“You must be kidding. Harlem, go to sleep, I’m done talking to you for the night.” was my unamused response.
I watched him lower his head in silence, walk away, and disappear down the hall in silence. The breach of faith weighed on optimism like a lifeless body. I wanted to believe in my son, but he had left me with nothing but doubt. I couldn’t detect a bit of sincerity in his apology. He spoke the words, but the emptiness behind them were transparent and frail. The pulse of the street ran through his veins like a wayward train off it’s track.
Even though I wasn’t part of the element, I was familiar with the vile smell of its stench. Harlem’s spirit had been infected with the spirit of manipulation and monetary ambition. His mother’s influence still had a tight grasp on his soul, even from the grave. How was I going to alter the path she had placed him on sixteen years ago? His desires mimicked a hustler’s. The intense craving he had for fast living and quick money presented me with challenges that exceeded my tolerance.
When I closed the door to my room, I was alone with my reservations and thoughts. I had no idea how I was going to be able to influence my seed facing so many incredible odds. How could I compete with the allure of easy cash and the excitement of the life he had been introduced at such an early age? My blood ran through his body, but that cold mentality he possessed was born outside the walls of my home. He was my son, but his mind had been tampered with, and it was up to me to undo what had been done. Damn you Natalie! Damn you for what you did to our son.
The sanctity of slumber was no escape from worry. My dreams were plagued with the possibility of what failure would cost me. If I didn’t win, the life of my son is what I would lose. I never wanted to win any battle like the one facing me. I held his fate in my hands, and I didn’t want to fuck it up. I was some place way beyond my comfort zone, and it felt like I was suffocating. I knew ambition, but it never involved another’s. Everything I aspired to be had been comprised of what I wanted and hoped for.
The night following my restless sleep offered no solace. By the time I awakened, Harlem had already left for school. My mother informed me that I had missed him by thirty minutes. In a way, I was relieved because I didn’t know what I would’ve said after last night’s interaction. Outside of saying good morning, I chose silence over discussion, but I knew my mother wouldn’t allow me to stay in retreat too long.
“So, what’s on your mind son?” she asked, never turning around from her position in front of the kitchen sink.
Reluctantly, I answered. “Nothing,” I said. Short and sweet was best, but I knew she would pry. That was her way. She was a big advocate of communication.
“Nothing? Jackson, don’t you dare sit there and tell me nothing when you know I know you better than that. I had a chance to speak with Harlem before he left for school,” she said, in a matter of fact tone, wiping down the stove.
“You mean he actually spoke to you?” I asked ,sarcastically.
“Yes, he did. And he would speak to you too if you didn’t treat him like a burden or a project,” she said, setting me up for one of her scoldings.
“A burden or or a project? What are talking about,” I asked, thoroughly pissed by her insinuation.
“Yes, that’s what I said. You talk to him like he’s stupid. Have you ever asked him how he feels?” she asked, catching me off guard.
“How he feels? What kind of question is that? I know how he feels,” I shot back.
“How do you know how someone else feels? Son, that is the most foolish, simple minded thing I’ve ever heard. Just like adults, children have feelings too. He’s hurting, and he’s confused. Being here is new to him. He’s not used to all of your rules, but you would never know this because you’re too busy trying to be an adult,” she said, tossing the dish towel into the sink.
“Being an adult? Mom, please don’t try to blame me for his actions. All he wants to do is run the streets, and I’m not having it.” I said, keeping my volume at a respectable level.
“Who’s blaming you? That’s your problem,” she said shooting me a disapproving glare. “It isn’t all about you anymore, son. You have a teenager now who’s looking to you for comfort and guidance. He was in a tug of war all his life. Not by his choice. You have the opportunity you’ve been waiting for ever since he was born, and you act like you don’t know what to do with it.”
“Can’t you see I’m trying? I’ve been trying ever since he was born, but the courts gave him to them!” I said, in a tone slightly disrespectful.
“So, that’s what this is all about? Your disappointment and anger with the judicial system? That wasn’t his fault. You can’t take it out on him. Natalie used him, and so did you. He has been an escape boat for the both of you. Neither of you ever dealt with the breakup. All you did was lash out at each other and you put him in the middle.” She said, crossing her legs lady-like.
Her accusation caused me to get defensive. “That’s not true! I never put him in the middle. It was her, not me,” I told her.
“Denial isn’t just a river in Egypt. Being an outsider looking in you get to see a lot. You worshipped her, but she never loved you, Jackson. Natalie accepted your proposal to get away from her parents, and you knew that. You used her just as much as she used you. Now, tell me I’m lying?” she said, with a warm grin.
Was she lying? As much as I’d like to stay in the safety of my own reality I could not. Everything she said was exact and on point, like an arrow hitting it’s target dead center. She was perfection in her role as archer, and I was a spectator watching from the sidelines. Had she been any straighter she would have been an interstate without curves.
My instincts were dull and listless without direction. I was in the bowels of confusing trying to feel my way through a foreign darkness, unfamiliar with my next move. I had offended the one person who was in the same predicament as I was unintentionally, and I needed to make contact with him and get him to understand that I was not trying to pass judgement about his lifestyle. My inquiry was merely an attempt to identify a root cause for both our son’s behavior. I thought Ricardo might have been reacting to his father’s homosexuality. To me, it was pretty blatant, but what did I know? He sure did sound pissed?
“Jackson, are you trying to avoid this discussion,” she asked, interrupting my concentration. I did not want to agree with what she suggested even though I knew it was the truth.
“Don’t you dare ignore me. It’s the truth whether you want to admit it or not, and I told you this before you trotted down the isle into what you prayed would be marital bliss. You knew it was all a lie. When you told me she would learn to love you, my hands were tied. You didn’t want to face the truth because you were to infatuated with an idea of how things were supposed to be.” she said, in an insistent, no-nonsense tone.
“That’s not true!” was my stubborn, unbelievable response. Sincerity might have been in it, but there was nothing sound about it.
“A lie will always be a lie no matter how perfect it gets presented. That girl was chasing money, and had no interest in starting a family. Then you got her pregnant!” she said, sticking the knife deeper into the wound.
“Shut up! I don’t have to listen to this! I won’t listen! She did live me, and I don’t care what you say! We had a life together, and dreams! Nobody understood our relationship! None of you wanted to see us together! You sabotaged it! All of you!” I shouted.
“It was doomed from the beginning because it was built on a lie,” she screamed back.
“I’m leaving,” I yelled, grabbing my coat off the back of the chair.
“Yeah, that’s right, run away! You were always good doing that, son,” she said, relentless in her badgering.
Once the door was closed, relief swept over me like a mighty wave. I was suffocating in that house. Every word she spoke tightened the noose around my neck. She was my mother, how could she say those hateful things? I hated her at that very moment, she was as distant to me as a night’s star. I was angry at everybody, including my rebelliousson. I wanted to run far away from everything and everyone I knew. Nobody understood what I was going through, and nobody ever could.
Before stepping off the porch, I looked up and down the street observing the neighborhood where I lived. How could she have not wanted this life I was building for she and I? Nobody knew about the intimate discussions we shared behind closed doors. She had confessed to everything my mother was saying, but then she told me how content and at peace she was being my wife. Her original reason might have been to get away from her father’s rule, but my love had won her over.
My mother was wrong. I wasn’t challenging her wisdom but, contrary to what I had been taught, elders aren’t always right. Age does not make you an expert on life. Some older people get set in their ways and dismiss the opinions of younger people just because they are young, but that philosophy was as outdated as plastic covering on living room furniture. As a child I always remained in my place and rarely disobeyed my parents, but as a man I had to trust my own intuitions. Harlem’s mentality was a direct result of what he had learned living in excess with Natalie and Jensen. His values, his ambition, and his inconsiderate behaviors are characteristics he learned being raised in an environment that glorified materialism. Money was God, and life’s simplicities were ideologies embraced by the poor and weak.
Natalie’s attitude change wasn’t an instantaneous event, it occurred within the passage. I knew she craved the finer things in life, so I worked overtime whenever I could, and tried to give her all the things she desired, but my meager salary was not enough to meet the demands of a mortgage, utility bills, life’s everyday expenses, and my wife’s expensive taste. If there wasn’t a designer name associated with it, it never made it out the store. Whenever I brought home a gift for her, it was grounds for an argument. In her eyes I became a cheap, penny-pinching weakling incapable of making her happy.
“I cannot even believe you brought this tacky ass shit home. Jackson, when God handed out good taste, you were standing in the wrong line. What the hell is your problem,” is what she said numerous times.
I eventually became someone she despised, and the harder I tried to meet her exquisite expectations, the more I failed. The life I gave her wasn’t enough, and as she slipped further and further away, I felt my heart breaking bit by bit. She met Jensen one night at an industry party thrown by one of her childhood friends who worked at a well-known PR company in San Francisco. Both of us were invited, but after working 12 hours, I was too exhausted to attend.
“But I want to go! We never do anything fun! We are young adults, but you act like an old man, Jackson. You always talk about being hip, but you wouldn’t know cool if it bit you aon the ass! I left one prison and wound up in another one. I don’t give a damn what you say, I’m going,” she screamed. It was the beginning of the end.
Everything I cherished started falling to pieces. All of my dreams included her, and without her I was the perfect example of nothing. Her absences started slowly; a day here and a day there. We’d argue, and she’d stay gone for a week. She was my wife, but she was no longer loyal to my needs or the marriage. The pregnancy slowed her pace, but it didn’t stop her.
After three months I had had enough. The climax arrived when she came home after being gone for two weeks. I was drunk with rage. She was not conducting herself like a pregnant woman, and I was infuriated. How could a woman carrying a child be so reckless and careless. She was conducting herself like a common tramp and there was no way I would allow her to jeopardize the well being of my child. I wanted to strangle her, but I wasn’t a killer. Mending a broken heart took time, and being that it had just occurred I was in confines of the beginnings with pure, raw emotions. I couldn’t feel anything except betrayal and deceit. Whoever she was before was far from who she was at that moment. The only thing we had in common was the child she was carriage in her womb.
Those memories. Those unforgettable instances that placed all odds against me tested my endurance and faith. My spirituality had always fueled my courage with optimism, but my belief in living life had been rattled. My mother always told me to keep the faith, but it was as foreign as the mysteries of space. All I saw was blackness without the stars, and there wasn’t a hint of beauty. Without her how was I going to proceed forward? The look of detest she had in her eyes singed the rest of everything I had left.
Incredible and vivid as those memories were, they were only reminders of the unrelenting pain that lingered on long after she was gone. So, now I still had a part of her that would forever remind me of her. Every time I looked at Harlem I saw Natalie’s face. He had some of my features, but he looked more like his mother. He even had her chocolate skin color, and he even had some of her mannerisms. I couldn’t help wondering if I had an animosity towards him because he favored her so much.
Figuring it all out was going to require some in depth thought. I also needed to straighten out things between Eternal and I. I had hurt his feelings unintentionally, and I needed to redeem myself, but I had no idea how I was going to do it. His sexuality was confusing to me, but I didn’t want my insecurity about it to interfere with our friendship. I wondered if he would even take my call, because he sounded so angry when he hung up on me. His friendship was important to me, but how was I going to fix it?
Fix it. It. What is it? A friendship with a broken connection? Something without a definitive description at this early stage? Gay or straight. Does it really matter? Aren’t we all deserving of love? All of us? None of us have sole ownership over judgement, so why do so many claim to have it? In the eyes of God we all fall short, and in my soul I believe goodness is shown in the actions of another. Eternal is a kind, caring, loving human being, and I had hurt him deeply. I violated a trust we had established earlier, and I needed to find a way to repair what my mindless insinuation had severed. I could only pray he’d give me the opportunity to prove to him that I wasn’t a homophobe.
When I stepped off the porch I entered into a new realm of existence. Behind me were old thoughts about life. I realized I faced insurmountable odds raising a sixteen year old in this era, but I needed clarity as an adversity to be an effective force in reshaping his life. Undoing what had been done. Reprogramming what had been programmed. Giving him enough reasons why an honest life is a better way of existing. Proving to him that fast money isn’t the key to happiness, but how was I going to get him to see this?
I couldn’t relate to their music. I didn’t understand their style of dress, nor their concept of the world. I was several generations behind them and, although we shared some similarities, none of them were tangible enough to even matter. To him I was an outdated relic that had no relevance in their culture. I was as useless as an umbrella after the rain. I looked at life on a simplistic level, and he viewed it as an opportunity to be acquired and conquered. The vulnerable and weak were agile targets to mind fuck and control.
Reprogramming his mind would require methodical strategy. Getting him to embrace morals opposite of those that had been planted at the beginning of his life was a difficult assignment. The weight of the world rested on my shoulders in the form of a sixteen year old son I barely knew. Our one communality was the bloodline we shared, but outside of it we had nothing. Understanding seemed as distant as that first lone star that appeared in the sky just after dusk. It shinned brighter than all the rest, and I always wondered why. It’s unique hue was as mysterious as it had been since its first sighting. A father’s intuition wasn’t instantly amassed the moment a child arrived. No. It evolved as the years passed, and mine was void of depth because of the little time we had spent together. Quality and quantity were spared thanks to a court order that granted her custody. I was a court appointed mainstay for sixteen years. I knew very little about him, and he knew even less about me. I was the catalyst that participated in the conception, but beyond that I was a stranger to him. I was a father figure in title only. The bond formed between father and son from infancy to teenager was lost after his mother yanked him from me when he was an infant…
(This bonus excerpt is to assure readers that a release is imminent)
Between ICON and “Daddy” I’ve been at this crazy crossroads trying to figure out which to release, and until the release I sure won’t know which one, but many of you readers have been so patient with me, anticipating this release. Some have even been asking for the next installment of my “Ripped & Ready” series. I promise to get with the program sooner than later. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy this excerpt. I just wanted you to know that I am still working at hit.
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Author G. D. Grace reserves all rights and reproduction without written permission is not permitted. If found, legal action will be taken against the person(s) or company(s) that have cut or pasted (Plagiarized) any portion of this written document. Author, G. D. Grace; Published © 2012 December