throwing shadows on our eyes
He began his short, not uneventful, walk; through what We can call from Our perspective; living as we do; in a time where living beyond one’s means is about as common place; as its always been; a short walk through a fool’s paradise.
Where do we start; or more to the point; where do We pick up Our Young African American Su-bur-banned; lost somewhere between working class Ypsilanti Michigan; and a zip code about as far from blue collar; as black is from white. Forget about the Gray; he was a teenager who thought he was smart enough to learn about life; without first remembering; that life had already taught him how to survive; how to fight with his whole body; how to, in fact, turn his body into a weapon; kind of like drawing or painting a dance in the mind’s eye; just before the act; of actual dancing; long before he even got to Bloomfield Hills Lahser High School.
What more did he want; confirmation perhaps? Someone to level with him; to remind him of what happened to him; what his grandfather had savagely forced him to become; albeit temporarily; the monster; Robbie’s Boy; the deep dark family secret; the tip of the Incest and Abuse Ice Berg; that crept along like an arctic spider; freezing the faith and hope of this part of the Bolden Clan; from generation to generation; crushing dreams and souls; leaving only wreckage in its wake?
That secret had to be kept at all costs!
What was he thinking?
If that is what Our Naive Young Black Youth was looking for; from his mother, his father; anyone who was there; in his world; as he saw it; back then, in 1978; then he was surely mistaken; and headed; inexorably headlong; into a kind of slow motion breakdown; an emotional collapse; fueled by the drugs; the ignored mental illness and the glossed over Autism.
His resulting perceptional slurry; of thinking; behaving; feeling; all started; with him telling himself; and his Aunt Connie; who worried about him; his mother’s sister; whom she called with greater frequency; as the relationship between Mother and Son deteriorated; across the span of his final year as a high school athlete; not to worry about his increasingly erratic behavior; at home mostly; because he was saving it (whatever it was; since “it” was never really discussed; since “it” had never really happened after all); for the football field; a place, as it would soon turn out; from September to October to November; to be more of a source of disappointed frustration; and strength sapping; enervating — loss.
Some very hard lessons that would, in time, shake him to his core and stand in the way; of relationships, friendships, careers; commitments; everything was sacrificed; nothing was saved; as he wrestled with and could never let go of; Apron Strings?
What ever the binding, it was absolutely Self Imposed; most definitely his own (not so unique these days; typing away day after day in a Public Library; in Ann arbor Michigan); almost as if; he saw himself and sees himself still; a prisoner in a cell; sentenced by himself; locked away by himself; forgetting what he had done; with — the key.
From the outside looking in, One would never guess; that Our Young Black Man of 1978, Metropolitan Suburbia; like most youth his age, mainly concerned with their looks; in his particular case; Afro Sheen Blow Out Kits and the right combination of relaxer, neutralizer, no rinse instant conditioner; cream gel, then Afro Sheen’s own; Conditioner Hair Dress; being first and foremost at the top of his list; had anything at all wrong with him. Quite the contrary as a matter of fact.
His coaches, for example, were more than impressed with his grades; but nevertheless, a little confused when they approached his mother, during his sophomore year; calling her up one day after she returned home from work; inquiring about whether or not her son would like to get his customary varsity letter and jacket; for his successful activities, both on the field and in the classroom up to that point; and she told them; that she didn’t think he would be interested in that: “kind of stuff” as she described it; and as Our Young Hapless Friend must have imagined to himself overhearing; or hallucinated; that he overheard; what he couldn’t quite believe; only to finally conclude; that he was indeed Robbie’s Boy; his mother’s son; and maybe a Varsity Letter and Jacket might somehow; get in the way?
It didn’t make much sense to him then. Any more than the fact that the closest he ever let himself get; to a full blown sexual attraction towards anyone; happened one night, September 30th, after the 1977 (his Junior Year) Southfield Lathrup Game; when after returning home; his team having won; and he, enjoying the afterglow of knowing he had gotten some real good playing time; and had taken pretty good advantage of the opportunity; even though he still chose (for some reason) not to take showers with the team after the game; nonetheless, found himself in a room alone; everyone else having long since gone to bed; him sitting on his living room sofa; watching a Midnight Special Televised Concert performance; of Janis Joplin tapping her pretty painted barefoot toes as she sweetly, raspily, crooned her heart out.
It didn’t make sense why he couldn’t find a girl like that. Maybe he didn’t like girls; but damn, Our Young Kid thought to himself; as he watched those slow rhythmically tapping toes; listened to that voice; watched as she cradled the microphone in her serene and simple enough hands; purring into its’ tip; her waist length hair; a stringy curtained cape covering her head and most of her face; leaving her pursed lips, her Peppermint Patti nose and chin and forehead; not quite covered, but not quite exposed; more like shrouded; like a seductive cherub; one with a small freckled grin; a woman in her own Rhythms; Our Young Friend, sitting on that sofa alone; allowed himself to be swept up in; even if briefly; a moment between seconds; when; he came and stayed with her; like they were friends; and she had just showed him her way; the right way; to go.
Still, that was 1977.
In 1978, everything had changed; even though he never let on that he actually really wanted; that Varsity Letter and that Jacket; often picturing in his adolescent mind; how truly cool, that would have been.
By the Autumn of 1978, they; Our Young Black Suburban Kid, his younger sister and his mother; had moved from their old address a three bedroom, two bath apartment at 670 East Fox Hills Drive, to their new one; 725 East Fox Hills Drive; a two bedroom, one bath, smaller rental; near the southern part of the complex.
His mother had bought him a car; to replace the one that his father had got him; ostensibly, at the time, to teach his youngest son how to be responsible; how to manage his affairs; getting the car fixed and kept up; borrowing money, if he needed to; things like that. The apparent lesson, however, never really took; and soon thereafter, his parents had legally separated; with no visitation agreements; since both Our Boy and his Sister were considered old enough to make their own decisions.
Our Guy also had a job by then; weekends pumping gas at a full service station on the corner of Maple and Telegraph; full service in so far that, as customers would pull up; attendants, of which he was one of maybe, five or six, per eight hour shift; would sprint out to meet them; take their order, as it were; what kind of gas and how much; check the oil, sometimes the tire pressure; sometimes the windshield washer fluid; like We said: it was a full service gas station.
So he had a little money for things like: tan colored bell bottom corduroy trousers; double knit bell bottom flares; dark and pin striped in red, blue, green and brown hues; solid colored turtle neck long sleeved sweaters of mostly shades of Maroon, Navy Blue, Black and Off-White; a couple of bell-bottomed Levi Jeans for work and just bumming around; of course his football cleats, which had to be Adidas; his extra padding for his knees, hands and elbows; and to also mention, his mouth guard.
He had two pairs of shoes (three if you count his sneakers; which of course also were Adidas). He had a pair of Dark Brown Plain Toe Ankle High Boots with a zipper on the inner ankle side; another pair of ankle high dark brown boots; but these were waterproof (for his gas station job); a Burgundy Colored Blazer given to him by his mother, who had in turn, been given to her by a friend of hers at the Hospital, where she worked.
Did We mention that everything Our Young Man wore; from his shoes, to his Sears and Roebuck blue cotton solid pattern knit shirts (some long sleeve, some short); to his pants; to the coats he wore in the Fall and Winter; all fit like a second skin. Everything he wore was either snug; or just plain too damn small.
We also failed to mention one; many would argue; important detail; close friends.
Indeed, where were they; and how do we account for such a glaring discrepancy?
From Our perspective, in the here and now, We could include a few family members, maybe; a co-worker here, or a neighbor there; someone who has been following this narrative for some amount of time now; some one who has laughed or cried, or thought about some aspect of their own relationships; with their families, friends, neighbors or, in this particular Writer’s case, a Co worker; whose curiosity initially drew them to read a few installments; especially the last couple or so; where the paycheck had been disastrously low; insufficient to cover the upcoming rent check; and there was no money for food and the two or three bills, already weeks behind.
This particular Co Worker and I don’t see eye to eye on every issue. They are an ardent Trump supporter; whereas I, on the other hand, certainly am not; and yet, they took me aside one day, recently; tearfully hugged me and explained that they had read what I had written; and judging by their expression, were genuinely moved to do whatever they could; offering some information by way of a possible resource; for sudden financial emergencies such as mine; their phone number and maybe also; a prayer; which they understandably (if that was indeed the case) kept to themselves.
I relay this story here and now, at the end of this installment, and the beginning of the next; to draw Our Overall Attention back the point We have been attempting to make all along; since we started this narrative; way back when; as we were finally discharged from the Veteran’s Administration Hospital; after that third major operation; a year or so ago; and that is; We need to underscore Our Original assertion; that the sub-conscious and unconscious mind (s) are just as organized and capable of planning as the conscious mind.
For example, when I recently applied for and received an additional credit card a few weeks ago; a credit card with a limit of eleven hundred dollars; I had no way of knowing at the time that I was indeed going to need that resource. I knew I had an operation coming up; and I knew my monthly cash flow was not only hard to come by; but at its core, erratic as well; to say the least.
As it turned out; given the poor communication practices in my work situation (my own as well as every one concerned); those additional funds have been and still are a God send; but did consciously plan to use that new card for that expressed purpose?
No, how could I have possibly known. I simply did what any one of us would do; and that means I relied on a fundamental generality; one in which one recognizes the nature of one’s environment; and one adapts to the possibility of an occurrence of a probable event; not necessarily an actual one.
I made a guess as to how things “might” develop; not on how they would happen; but how they might happen; given a set of interpretations of what was going on around and within me; at the time.
This is precisely what Our Young African American Suburban Youth did, almost thirty one years ago; a time when he played high school football; for a team with an almost identical record to that of Today’s Detroit Lions; a team who hasn’t won a playoff in ironically enough, almost — Thirty One Years.
(to be continued)