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.