Graduate School

I got accepted

but because

I know what debt is

I don’t respect it

radical leftist

food for thought,

it ought to be ingested

I need a life,

they suggested

so i read and write

like I’m sequestered

when I think

I see a light

like uncle fester

young & impressionable

unprofessional

intestinal diseases

effecting my peoples

unethical quandaries

supporting the armies

ignoring the bombings

more dirty laundry

will these words

come back to haunt me

will these perverts

nonchalantly

murder me

then recant me

Questions that’s on my conscience

Expression

or was it nonsense

My manifesto was a threat

because it’s honest

Presto I let go

but didn’t let them know

Methods unquestionable

A festival for the extraterrestrial

Federal indictment enlightenment

Excitement pent

I write like

my life might end

so I buy pens

bye bye

to all my wifi friends

look in the dictionary

you’ll find them

right beside pretend

but why cry

when I’m just like them?

Irrational Thoughts

Irrationally it still happens to me, retroactively

aggression let in passively

as we see his majesty rap to beats magically –

tragically the masses see their shackles

that’s the faculty

and i’m baffled

because it doesn’t have to be.

taxes, fascists after me

casually mad at me

the pastor was a bastard

when he didn’t have to be

my daddy, well he had to leave

my mom was strong, sporadically

come on

I’m long gone

you’re actually

quite accurately depicting

the conflicting sick things

in my head

I said the dead aren’t listening

visiting at my christening

there’s no such thing as christian king

these are gifts that wisdom brings

if it means

i missed my dreams

just woke up up late

y’all woke but fake

so no bro, hate

I’d rather you did it

and if thats what you call average

I’ll have to forgive

for you

know not what you do

 

What’s Ahead of Me?

The structural integrity

of my destiny

is such,

that I’m stuck in jeopardy.

A loveless recipe.

What’s ahead of me?

A neglected legacy?

Suspected felonies?

Arrested?

— for excessively questioning everything

Let me sing

my song.

When I’m gone

they’ll say:

“A.J.

wasn’t wrong.”

Until then

they’ll act like they don’t feel him

because I’m black and I’m brilliant.

They’re mad I’m resilient,

they’d rather of killed him.

Eventually they’ll finish me,

then I’ll see infinity, divinity.

What did Leonardo DaVinci see?

that made him go insane in his creations

My guess is

she wore dresses,

it’s why he doesn’t paint men.

I’m going through the same thing.

Explaining

while they’re feigning paying attention.

They made me stay in detention,

in school suspensions.

My mentals were different.

I’ve been through some distance

and 10 new prescriptions.

My coping mechanism

for when you don’t listen.

 

 

Chapter 21

When I got to high school I somehow managed to find sanctuary with the smart kids. They accepted me and we began to hangout. I went to see Titanic with them  and partied at their houses. These were my first ever parties where no one drank or smoke. While atttending one of those parties, some older ‘cool’ kids drove over and parked down the street. They were smoking and drinking. All of the girls dropped what they were doing to run over to talk to them. That’s when the devil first seduced me.

Envious, I stood alone looking up at that dark road already plotting how eventually that would be me; with the girls, with the attention. I realized right away what girls liked; danger. I wasn’t good at sports and I wasn’t good at school, but danger I could do. Nothing about my life had been safe up to that point. I had no reason to start now.

The friendship I developed with the smart preppy kids was due in large part to my alliance with them last year in the prep vs. punk war. I had study hall with a lot of them and they thought I was funny. Making people laugh was my first talent. Someone else took a liking to my too, Seven Sonna, the Pablo Escobar of St. Clairsville. At 17 he had already spent a year in juvenile detention for pistol whipping some kid. I remember leaving school one day, seeing the ambulances and hearing some kid got hit with a gun. I wouldn’t connect that my new friend was culprit until much later.

Seven Sonna to me, was the epitome of cool. He wore gold necklaces and gold rings and blue Nike hoodies. He was white but hung around the black kids. After to his incarceration in Cleveland, he literally thought he was black. Crazy in retrospect but in 1997, it somehow made sense. Everyone feared and respected him. It was no secret he sold drugs. I didn’t even know what drugs were, yet.

That study hall was one of those defining moments. It was a crossroad where I would pick my future. Whose blueprint would I follow? My new smart friends who would go on to college and have respectable jobs? Or 7 Sonna who’s currently in prison for the next 10 years? It wasn’t as easy a decision as that. I didn’t have a crystal ball to know all that then. The idea of me going college thn, might as well have been Atlantis. All I wanted was girls. The smart kids had girls but they weren’t necessarily known for dating black guys. I also didn’t love the idea of hanging around nerdy white kids all the time. The black kids were cooler and obviously had girls that liked black guys. Even though he was white, 7 Sonna was the leader of that crew. He had the money and the power. He started bringing me around with him. He cultivated a vibe I knew I could emulate, danger. He didn’t give a fuck about tomorrow. I felt that.

My dad was entirely moved out at this point. He lived in a nearby town called Martins Ferry. It was cool. I made friends in his neighborhood with a kid who was a just like me, a nerdy black kid my age – Preston. Preston introduced me to a girl so pretty I still get chills when I think about her. Matter fact, I’m a go on Instagram right now and like one of her pics, just to shout her out. But Anyway. I met her and was completely blown away. When I got back home something hit me, homecoming! Why don’t I ask her to go? I wasn’t having much luck with the girls in my school. Plus I worried what their parents would think of them taking my black ass to their first homecoming. I might have a shot with Theresa. Her last boyfriend was black and she was a year or two older than me. Historically older women have liked me more. I told Preston my plan.

Few days later I get a call.

Preston: Hey AJ what’s up ummm I talked to Theresa and she said she would go to your dance with you. She said you seemed really nice.

Holy shit I thought. I step into the other room so my mom can’t overhear.

Me: Preston are you fucking serious right now?

Preston: (speaking ridiculously casual as if this isn’t the best news anyone has ever given me.) Yea man – she’s here with me now – hold on.

Oh shit. I wasn’t mentally prepared to talk to her. I can do anything, given enough time to mentally prepare. I can spend eternity in hell, if you let me know a week in advance. But I’m no good off the cuff.

Theresa: Hi! AJ?

Me:

Theresa: Hello?

Me: Uhhhh hi.

Theresa: Preston told me about your dance and I’d be happy to go with you.

Me: Are you serious!? – I mean.. that’s cool.

Theresa: Sure. Here’s my number. Just call me when you have more details and I’ll talk to you soon. Bye!

Cloud 9 evaporated quickly. Then it hit me. How on earth am I going to pay for this? It’s super expensive and I want to make a good impression. This could be my first girlfriend if I play my cards right. She’s prettier than all of the girls at my school! I worried I bit off more than I could chew.

In study hall later that week I told Seven about my predicament. “Man don’t even sweat that, my nigga. I got you. I was gonna ask if you wanted put on anyway.”

“What you mean?”, I asked.

“This dope game” he said. “I can front you some work and you can flip that. You’ll have more than enough money for your little dance, and whatever else you want!”

That would check off two boxes. Danger? Check. Money? Check. Get the girl? Check. Damn that’s three boxes, shit. I told him to give me the weekend to think about it.

I mulled it over all Saturday and Sunday. I had seen the cautionary after school shows about just saying no and how older kids would try to lure you into the lifestyle. I never thought it would actually happen to me. I was wrong. It was just like the warnings.

Monday at school, first period and I still hadn’t made up my mind. Before I get to study hall where I would see Seven, he found me. He’s motioning for my attention in the hallway while I’m in class. He has his arms up like, what’s it gonna be?

I think about all the failed attempts at girls and what it would be like taking such a pretty girl to my first homecoming. It would change my entire perception drastically. If I could align myself with him, all of my enemies would be forced to retreat. I imagine how my smart white friends wouldn’t like my anymore, if they knew who I’d be rolling with. I thought about the study groups I wouldn’t get to be apart of anymore and how my grades would suffer. After weighing the pros and cons, the decision was easy.

I looked at back at Seven Sonna from my desk. The teacher was lecturing something I wasn’t paying attention to. I silently mouthed two words. No one in the class noticed but Seven read what I was saying clearly.

Hell yea.

Chapter 20

Sometimes we’d sneak into and hangout in the church basement to escape the boring services and choir practices. The phone happened to ring on an occasion we were down there. I picked it up knowing I shouldn’t but something told me I needed to. The voice on the line said something strange, “free your mind or they’ll poison it”. I knew right away whose voice it was, Ellicia’s. The only problem was she had been dead for years.

I hung up and my friend Ronnie said, “It looks like you just saw a ghost”.

“Close, I think I heard one”.

Mr. George heard the phone ring and came to ask who called. I couldn’t bare to say. I knew how crazy I’d sound. He became curious, demanding I answer, but I couldn’t. Ellicia was his niece. He turned to Ronnie. I knew right away he’d fold. “Don’t tell him”, I pleaded, but it was in vain. He told Mr. George, who then just looked at me blankly and walked away. I felt terrible but was more intrigued by the caller’s message.


Back in St. C. my best friend Sam and all of his little brothers had moved to California, and Justin and I were dead to each other. With High School fast approaching I was heading straight into a new world, once again friendless.

I had no choice but to form alliances. Perhaps we had taken a collective subconscious influence from the east coast/ west coast war we saw on TV, because at school a war was brewing. It was dubbed the Prep vs. Punk war. The jocks and kids who dressed in Tommy Hilfiger were constantly getting into fights with the grimier kids who listened to Marilyn Manson. Eventually everyone was forced to pick a side. Recess was like a prison yard, with what seemed like hundreds of us split down the middle of the blacktop, ready for an all out brawl at any minute.

Tensions were high and even though I technically didn’t fit into any side of their feud, I was happy to be embraced by the Preps. I mean my clothes were hella-fresh, plus Nick C. was on the side of the Punks. Since he was my mortal enemy, I didn’t have a choice. To be honest it was fun. It gave us something to do and it felt good to be a part of something, even if we were flirting with gang mentality.


I had my first encounter with requited love at the school dance, with a black girl named Eleni. She didn’t attend our school but came to the dance with a friend of her’s. We danced to almost every song together and I kinda liked her. I thought no other girl in school would like me after that because the only girl they ever saw me with was black. I was afraid they would think I only liked black girls.

I’m embarrassed to admit this now but I was looked at with such disgust by the white people, I started to have that same disgust implanted in my own heart. The thing about racist propaganda that unfortunately afflicts so many white people, is that we as Black Americans have to live in the same world, and are therefor not impervious to that same brainwashing. But because we’re the victims of it, we’re forced to examine why, which can often lead to understanding – but not always.

That was the last I would see of Eleni. We made plans to meet up at the next dance but she didn’t show. The last I heard she’s still in St. C, with 4 kids to two guys. I’m tempted to be petty and make a joke, blaming that on her standing me up 20 years ago. But knowing how hard it is to escape the pressure that she must’ve been under then, that I’m still up against now, I think I’ll take the compassionate road. I’d rather save all the slander for the girls who did me wrong in the later chapters anyway..


With the church constantly telling me God was always watching and judging me, I began to develop a sort of OCD. I began hearing a voice in my head or a repetitive thought that said ‘I hate god’. It was the last thing I felt I should be thinking, and that’s why I thought it. For example, try as hard as you can to not think about a baby dancing on a grave…You can’t do it, can you? A baby dancing on a grave just popped in your mind, just because I told you not to. And that’s what would happen to me, off and on for years.

Perhaps it was my subconscious telling me that I should hate the watered down, anthropomorphized, oppressive version of god they invented to control us. Perhaps it was a true source of divinity telling me to break free from the manipulative, exploitative god that was fed to us at church. I mean I was literally getting otherworldly phone calls at churches telling me to free my mind.


With all of these different things swirling around in my head, I was more confused than you probably are reading this chapter.

But things were happening that fast. Religion, racism, girls, grades, gangs – it was almost too much and it really hasn’t even got started yet.

Little did we know then, but would soon find out, the feds were already watching.

All this, and I hadn’t even started High School. That’s when things really get crazy.

Season 3 coming soon.

Chapter 16

Christmas is a weird time. It’s cold, it’s dark. The relationships you have, or the lack of, are reflected back at you during the holidays more than ever. Crime rates go up. With everyone feeling so compelled to consume, it’s no wonder you’re more likely to be robbed. Even the music is kind of sad, Silent Night, White Christmas, those songs don’t exactly make you want to party. But none of these reasons are why my mom gets sad during Christmas.

December 19, 1994

2:31 pm

My Mom: Thanks for calling Healthland. This is Jennifer how may I help you?

Caller: Hello, yes is this Jennifer Johnson I’m speaking with?

My Mom: It is.

Caller: Hello Jennifer there’s something I think you should be made aware of.

My Mom: …

Caller: Your husband and I have a child together. Her name is Monica and she’s 12 years old.

Nuclear fallout came to my family that winter which ultimately lead to my parents’ divorce. But not before the violence. Every time my mother would tell my father she was leaving him, he would react violently. My mom thought she was safe by picking a public place to serve him with divorce papers. She was wrong. Broad daylight in the middle of an empty Hardees my father grabbed my mother by her throat, choking her until her lifeless eyes began to roll to the back of her head. It was only then when my father released his grip, just in time. I know this story because my mother told it to me the very day it happened. I believe this was her way of retaliating. Letting his first born son see what type of monster he was.

The next day my dad gave me a ride on my paper route. It was the first time I saw him cry and only time I’ve seen him weep uncontrollably. Sobbing hysterically, all I could gather was him saying something about how he couldn’t believe he was losing his family. But he had to of known this day was coming, he’d been living with the secret my entire life. My whole life had been a lie. I always thought I was the first born but I had never been an only child. Not only that, I had a sister somewhere that I’d never met, that I still haven’t. That day was worst day of my life, I remember thinking.

My mom feels a way about Christmas from all of this but I have a strange paranoia when I’m in the shower. It was the next morning and I was showering getting ready for school. I hear what at first I think is laughter. Then to my horror I realize the sound I’m hearing is actually screaming, my mother’s.

I rush out naked with soap still lathered on me. In front of my parents fighting, I kneel down and ask God to ‘please help my family’. It’s not that I believed God would hear me, it’s that I knew it would guilt my father into stopping, and it did. So who knows, maybe God did hear because my father finally left and accepted his new fate as a divorcee. I wouldn’t see him again for a long time but my mother was safe.

To this day, if I hear any strange or sudden noises when I’m in the shower I panic. Several times I’ve even rushed out only to find I’d forgotten to turn off the television.

Chapter 18

Chasing having a girlfriend had become my white rabbit. That’s not a pun, but they were almost always white. My parents didn’t hate it but did their best to discourage it. My father ominously told me that liking white girls was the reason I kept getting hurt. He said that one day I would understand why. That was the last piece of advice he ever gave me.

Dating a black girl was next to impossible though. There was only one in my grade, and Latoya was crazy. We made fun of her then but looking back, I understand how tough it must’ve been being the only black girl at that school. It was rough enough being me, and women far too often have it disproportionately harder. As much as I love women, I thank God I’m not one. It would suck having to like dudes, and again, not a pun.

But I didn’t think it was fair. If dating in St. Clairsville was segregated, the separation wasn’t equal. White boys had way more options. I was slowly starting to realize the world of ‘white love’ was a place they were never going to fully let me into.

Alexis being with Craig was an exception that distorted my reality. I thought I could have a white girlfriend, no big deal. I didn’t realize yet that most parents would literally disown their daughters if they were to bring me home. So even when I could pull off finding a girl who liked me back, which wasn’t an easy task – I then had to somehow convince her that being with me was worth losing her entire family. My game was never that good.

The thing about being different than everyone around you is that because you’re looking at the world out of your eyes, you start to forget that you’re different. You think you’re the same as the people you’re looking at. But they like to remind you, when you get too close, you’re not one of them. Deep down, I know they’ll always view me as lesser, even if they’re not aware of this consciously.


If that’s not enough, I sucked at basketball. I tried out for the team my 7th grade year and was promptly cut. I don’t know why any school would cut any kid from any team. Like do y’all really care about winning so bad that instead of letting a kid play games with his friends, you’ll leave him to roam the streets and get in trouble? Well, that’s what they did to me.

Being able to have that camaraderie, not to mention exercise, could’ve vastly improved my life. But instead I was forced to just hangout Uptown, where the drug dealers would kick it by the pay phones and wait for clients to page them. They took a liking to me though and I learned about another type of game, but we’ll get to that.


I would have my revenge on the coach who cut me…

My dad never wanted me to go to the pool because he had a friend that drowned when he was young. He was also disappointed I wasn’t better at sports. Ironically, him keeping me away from water was preventing me from the one sport I would be good at. Luckily I didn’t listen to him, like I never listened to anyone.

I joined the swim team and unsurprisingly was the first black kid to do so. At first I was terrible, just god awful. I could barely swim one lap across the pool. But for some reason I stuck with it. I would go on to win first place in races! Perhaps my crowning competitive athletic achievement. To this day, I’m the fastest of my friends in the water. It’s still the only sport I’m good at.

There were no try outs, and because of this I was able to stay on the team, which allowed me to improve. Now I have a life-long skill that I still utilize as much as I can. Everyone knows swimming is the best exercise.

 

The basketball coach who cut me had a daughter a year older than me that was also on the swim team. She grabbed my ass one day under water. I took that as free reign to touch her back as much as I wanted. That whole summer I felt her up under that cold Allen Pool water. It was my first sexual experience, and it was amazing. So even though they wouldn’t let me into their homes or hearts, I still knew what that ass felt like.

Today, not much has changed.

Chapter 19

Justin found out his crush Amy liked me. I didn’t even know it. All I knew was that my property was being mysteriously vandalized. I should have seen the writing on the wall then, that even when a girl does like you, that’s actually just the beginning of the stress. Come to find out, Justin was slashing holes in my bike tires. The last straw was when he stole my pair of fake Ray Bans.

I told his cousins and everyone we knew, that when I saw him, it was on sight. Even my mom overheard my threats, but I guess no one took me seriously, until I caught him walking home from Dairy Queen. It was the moment I’d been waiting for. I rushed up the hill and without saying a word, shoved him into a fence. To my surprise, he wasn’t shook.

“Just let my set down my slushie and glasses”, he said.

After he did I started swinging. You would think I was trying to kill him. All he could do was whimper in self-defense, and try to mitigate the damage. It was as if I was retaliating for years of being bullied by everyone else. I saw blood gushing out of his face but I didn’t stop. He was crawling on the ground. I was standing. I cocked back to kick him in the face. It was just how I’d been fantasizing. But something in his sad cowardly expression reminded me that he was once my friend, so I stopped. My work was done.

I ran home feeling like Rocky, my clothes covered in his blood. I put my Tupac tape into the cassette deck. I played ‘Ambitionz Az a Ridah’ as loud as it would go, mimicking the lyrics and mannerisms like I was filming the music video. By then my grandmother came over to see what the commotion was. Shocked, she screamed “Are you losing your mind”. For that moment, I had.

Just then the police showed up. They said they wanted to question me. I told them I was doing their job for them, since they couldn’t apprehend this thief and vandal themselves. I told them I was going to protect my property by any means necessary. I told them there was only one criminal involved in this situation and justice had already been served.

As I waited for them to thank and applaud my heroic vigilantism, they got a call from their dispatch saying Justin’s mother did not wish to press charges. Probably because that would also implicate her son criminally. Apparently she was just trying to scare me.

My punishment was that my mother made me spend an entire day with her at her desk job. It was horrible sitting there all day by myself in a cubicle with nothing to do. What’s crazy is that my punishment then is what I have to do for money to survive now. What’s even crazier but not terribly surprising is that last I heard, Justin is a cop now. Let’s pray he never pulls me over. I’ll add that to the list of things I don’t want to think about.

“Fuck peace and the police” -2Pac, ‘Ambitionz Az a Ridah’


I was never allowed to go on any field trip. I had gotten in too much trouble. It broke my heart in the 6th grade when I could’t go to Camp Piedmont. I’d been looking forward to that trip for years. The night before, I begged God that somehow I’d be able to go. But when I went to school the next morning, everyone was gone and I just sat there with the other ‘bad’ kids, doing nothing.

It was the 8th grade now which meant there was one last field trip before High School, the big one to Washington D.C. I actually had a shot at being allowed to go. But a few weeks before the trip Nick C. tried to fight me again. The whole school formed around us. We stood there surrounded by a colleseum of students, him antagonizing me, everyone laughing. I was running out of time, that crowd wanted blood. I didn’t know what to do.

Teachers finally came and broke it up. I wondered what took them so long. The principal took me in his office, called me a trouble maker, and gave me the only thing worst than in-school suspension – the dreaded Saturday School. He said that if I didn’t show up, I could kiss my D.C. trip goodbye.

They had taken so much from me already. I wasn’t going to beg for their mercy. It was the Friday before I was supposed to go to Saturday School. Friday the 13th, September, 1996.

My mind was made up about not going to Saturday school, or DC. I had made my peace with. It was my protest. I didn’t do anything wrong and believed it was important to stand for something. Rebelling against the system was the only time I ever found peace. I felt like I was doing God’s work. I felt like it was ‘Me Against the World’ and I wanted to be like Tupac.

He had just been shot a week before and was still in the hospital. All I could think about was what he said. If you can’t find something to live for you better find something to die for.” The words were resonating with me a lot. I felt like he was going through so much, so we’d know we could also withstand struggle. I was sure he was going to survive, like he always did.

But later than evening while playing my Nintendo 64, my mom came into my room from watching the news, and told me that my hero had died. Tupac has succumb to his violent, rebellious lifestyle.

The look in her eyes said it all. The next morning I went to Saturday school. And then on a field trip to Washington D.C. where I saw the buildings built by slaves, and the people who preached freedom.

Chapter 17

I had only been to Virginia one other time, for a funeral then too. It was when my little cousin died, Amanda, may she rest in peace. In peace; those words are so powerful. May we all be able to find that peace, if not now, then at least when we leave here. Peace from all the turmoil that life brings. She’s free from that now. Amanda was only 15 but she had cancer. I spent time with her when I was too young to remember. I saw her picture on the program at her funeral. She was beautiful. I felt guilty for thinking she was so pretty. I thought you weren’t supposed to look at your cousin like that, especially after they’ve died. But she looked like an angel, and now, that’s what she is.

Over a year had passed since my first southern black funeral experience, and I was busy writing. Mr. Stenger, my English teacher who, and this is no lie, really believed he had psychic powers. He would tell his students this repeatedly. This is what my ‘teachers’ were ’teaching’. I never bought it though because I faked sick one time and it worked. Anyway, he was having a writing contest. Whoever came up with the best story could read it on the morning announcements to the whole school. The theme was to try and fool the school, the way H.G. Wells 1940s radio show accidentally fooled the world into believing aliens were taking over the planet. When Mr. Stenger told us how people went crazy, some even killed themselves, all because of a made up story, and that we would get the chance to do something similar – I was enthralled. This was the first school assignment I actually cared about.

Back in Virginia, my other cousin Alisha, Amanda’s older sister, who was just as beautiful, had just called it quits with her boyfriend. He was begging her to take him back. She knew it was a bad idea. The last year of their relationship had become physically aggressive. Despite this, she missed him, so she decided to go through with meeting him.

I’m not sure what a good or normal relationship is supposed to look like since I’ve never seen or been in one. But I’m starting to get the feeling that when you start to get the feeling you don’t want to be in one anymore, you should take that warning seriously. Relationships are hard to get into. I know because I spent my whole adolescence trying, to no avail. The kicker however, is that they are in fact much harder to get out of. My cousin Alisha was about to find that sometimes it’s impossible.

He looked so unassuming when she pulled up next to him. He was sitting in his car in the parking lot of their favorite restaurant. She detected a look in his eye that she hadn’t seen before. It gave her pause for a moment. Should I be here? she thought. It was a familiar struggle she’d been up against for most of her life, the fear of being alone. She was comfortable with him. They’d been together so long, she was secretly horrified of facing the world alone. At the same time, the mystery of the unknown was intriguing. She never struggled to get attention from men and imagined what else might be out there. That was a huge part of the reason they weren’t together, his insecurities. A couple months ago he found a number in her purse. Truth be told a man slipped the number in her purse without her knowing when she was out with her girlfriends. That’s how pretty she was, she couldn’t escape the adoration.

Upon finding the number, Trevor grabbed her by the hair, put her head in the sink, and turned the hot water on until she couldn’t take it. After the assault she cried for hours. He’d been apologizing ever since. She was starting to be able to forgive him, at least she wanted to.

She got out of her car and walked over to Trevor’s. When she put her hand on the car door handle, something told her not to get in, but she went against her instincts. There’s a fine line between intuition and paranoia. Once she was inside the car they hugged and the familiarity of the embrace felt warm. Their conversation started normal but before long it devolved into an argument. They hadn’t even gotten out of the car and already they couldn’t even agree on their plans afterwards. She could hear the rage in his voice. She was suddenly reminded of why they weren’t together. His rage was contagious. She became furious, it was a deep anger than she hadn’t felt in a while. He was yelling at her and she could feel the spit from his screams on her face. That’s all it took. She tried to escape but he immediately locked the doors. “I’m sorry baby, please don’t go”, he said, conveniently changing his tone from angry to sad the moment he feared she would leave. It was the same-old cyclical nature of their relationship. She knew she had to get out of there. She felt angrier than she had ever been. “Just let me out of the fucking car, Trevor!” When he still refused she knew that it would take more. That’s when she told him. ”I’ve been fucking Anthony, and I think I’m in love with him”. A chilling silence filled the car like a poisonous gas. He eerily unlocked the doors without saying a word. She felt a twinge of regret but knew there was no turning back. She looked at him one last time and saw no emotion on his face. Then she left.

Her heart was heavy as she sat back in her car looking for her keys trying to regain composure. She was just about to start crying when she heard what sounded like a metal clank of a knock on her window. She turned to see it was a Glock 19, held by Trevor. The bullet pierced through her face before she could even hear the window break. Trevor reached in through the broken window, unlocked her doors, and sat down in the passenger side next to his dead ex-girlfriend. He kissed then held her lifeless hand with his left. With his right hand, he put the gun to his own head and pulled the trigger. The detective who first arrived at the crime scene said to his partner in disgust, ”stupid fucking niggers”.

The violence was a wake up call for my family who had also been dealing with domestic violence. So our beefs were temporarily put on hold so that we could all attend the funeral. But at the time I didn’t understand the gravity of this situation. All I knew was that for the first time I would have to miss a day of school that I actually wanted to attend. The funeral was the same week I had to turn in my writing project that I was working so hard to win.

Mr. Stenger said he would give me and extension. So for the whole car ride to the 2nd Virginia funeral that year, I wrote my story on a clipboard with pen and paper. But when I got back, Mr. Stenger had reneged on his extension and selected someone else, even though he knew I was only absent because of a funeral. I was starting to understand that my life was in a different world than my classmates. It was more dangerous and there was less I could trust. It wasn’t entirely a bad thing. This forced me to ask questions while the others remained content and complacent. With questioning comes knowledge and with knowledge comes power.