“I’m crying, can’t stop crying, can’t stop crying.”
I had a dream last night. In it I was being chased and attacked by a Rottweiler, of which I was desperately afraid. In an adjacent room was my grandmother, my sister, and my aunt watching me as I was mauled with every misstep by this Rottweiler. They all sat there as this dog and me destroyed the house. My grandmother said nothing. She made no moves, and didn’t even bother to acknowledge my cries. After it was over, I was lambasted and ordered to leave the house. My grandmother started screaming at me for “destroying” her house. I started screaming back because I had literally just evaded what could have been my death. I screamed “WHAT ABOUT ME!” This dog just tried to kill me and she just let him. She just let him maul me. She watched me in excruciating pain and agony and did nothing to protect me. She did nothing to stop him. Then, in my dream, my aunt jumped up trying to push me out the house and we started fighting.
I woke up, looked at my clock, and started crying. This is why…
“I wish I could believe you, then I’d be alright. But now everything you told me really don’t apply to the way I feel inside.”
I woke up this morning in hysterics, crying bitter, semi-sweet tears. Bitter because of what its taken me over 20 years to figure out, and semi-sweet because I’ve finally figured it all out. I’m told often, almost weekly, and sometimes even daily, that I appear to be very angry and aggressive. My disposition, my voice, and even in my writing seems to convey a sentiment of anger or aggression. It comes out when I’m driving and I have a bit of road rage. It comes out when I have bouts with authority. It’s even expressed through my constant change in mood. I hear it so often that I’ve grown to accept that its what I exude, and although its never been my intent, I AM ANGRY! Before today, I was absolutely unsure of exactly where it came from. Therapists have told me that it’s a direct result of post traumatic stress syndrome stemming from the loss of my parents at such a tender age in my development. I was almost 7. But today, this morning, before the sun came up, when it was still dark outside and only an occasional car could be heard from my bedroom window, at 5:15 a.m. I awoke from my dream, and it hit me like a ton of bricks, rocked me to the core, and now I know why.
“Loving you was easy, once upon a time.”
It started immediately. The day after they died was my seventh birthday. My uncle had taken my sister and me to his house after we were briefly questioned by MPD. He had an apartment uptown on 13th street around the corner from 4D. I can’t remember if his new bride was there that night or the next day or at all. But the next morning; Saturday December 2, 1989 was my birthday. I remember that he gave me Cap’n Crunch (my favorite) cereal for breakfast. Afterwards, he took me into the bathroom in this tiny one-bedroom apartment, sat me on the toilet, pulled out scissors, and cut my rattail. My father started letting me grow a rattail a few months back. I guess now that he was gone, this uncle needed to show me, a seven year-old, on my birthday, the day after my parents died, that HE was in charge now. He told me that only sissy’s wear rattails. Slowly my uncle started weaving his ideals into fabric of who he thought I was going to be. I remember one night after I’d just finished dinner, I was stuffed and my stomach was in knots. and I began to have what I thought felt like a stomach cramp. Now, I was a little boy living in a house full of females, and far too often I remember hearing talk of pads, and tampons, and “periods”. I quickly learned exactly what it was, its symptoms, and its effects. But anyway, I had just finished eating, and I remember my oldest aunt and my cousin being there. I started walking around the house holding my stomach, and like I’d heard the ladies in the house say before, I said, “I got cramps, and I feel like I’m about to come on”, jokingly. My aunt overheard me and said, “little boys don’t say that.” At that very moment I glanced over to my other aunt, the youngest, right as she looked at me with disdain, and mumbled, “faggot” underneath her breath. I quickly looked away from her trying to pretend that I didn’t hear what she said. Then, my older aunt said to me, “you better not say that again or I’m going to call your uncle.” So, with fear in my eyes and heart, I shut down. A short while later, while still feeling the pain in my stomach I walked towards the bathroom and mumbled to myself, “It hurts. I feel like I’m pregnant.” But I didn’t realize at the time, that the other person mumbling in the house was standing nearby and overheard me and announced it. The older female immediately got on the phone and called my uncle. OMG! I’m in trouble now, I thought. But my stomach really did hurt, and I hadn’t said anything that I didn’t learn from the women around me. “Why do I have to get in trouble?” Shortly after, the uncle arrives to have a “Man to Man” talk with me about men and what they should and should not say. After his tedious monologue, I shook my head and let him know that I understood and walked away. I remember thinking “Whhhhew! I’m glad I didn’t get a beating.”
Time went on, and occasionally I’d still, unbeknownst to me, say things that “little boys don’t say”, but there weren’t anymore “Man to Man” talks. The “Man to Man” encounters became “Man beating little boy ” encounters, cause there weren’t gonna be any faggots in this family. But it seemed like every time I got a beating for whatever the surface reason was, I’d think to myself… “Everybody keeps calling me a faggot though, and you’re trying to beat it out of me, while you and the rest of the people around me keep saying it.” I knew I didn’t say it. I hated the word. It was an epithet that rivaled “Nigger” in my eyes, but I couldn’t control people saying it to me. They said when I was at school, and they said it when I was at home too. Everybody in my immediate family, at some point, used this dreadful, pejorative epithet to castigate me, and not one of them ever protected me from the others.
“Why did I deserve to be treated this way?”
No one stood up for me; not even the very person who stood beside me while our parents died in front of us. What had I done, at 7 years old, to be treated this way? I mean… Yeah I was nosey. Yeah I had a smart mouth. Yeah I got into fights in school. Yeah, I talked back to the teachers. Yeah I was running around, and always into something. But then again… Isn’t that what “little boys” are “supposed” to do? I was a FUCKING child! And I’m sitting here typing this shit on the verge of tears yet again because now, I’M A FUCKING ANGRY ADULT! Did they ever stop to think that I was fighting in school and a smart ass because I was being ridiculed? Did they ever stop to think that I was always into something because I needed some attention? Did they ever stop to think that I was nosey because I was all alone, and even amongst my childhood friends I was still called “faggot”? Did they ever stop to think that I needed someone, anyone, to show me the love that I had lost? Nope! Not one of them considered what obstacles in life I faced as a child. All they knew was that I was their faggot nephew, brother, cousin, grandson! When I got in trouble in school for talking back or fighting, there was never a question of who was to blame. It was always me! And how do I say, “well they call me faggot everyday,” or “they pick on me because I’m smaller than everybody else”? I didn’t even want to acknowledge that word because I hated it so much. I didn’t want to be embarrassed even more by allowing myself to dare utter such a word. I didn’t want them to look at me and say “well, you brought it on yourself, because you’re a FAGGOT!” So instead, I took my punishment. I took the beatings, and the television restrictions, and the suspensions, and even an expulsion. I took it all, because I wasn’t gonna let them see me sweat. NO TEARS!
“I know you’re probably thinking, what’s up with” me? I’ve been crying too long. What did you do to me?”
I fought back! That day when we were in New Jersey, walking back from the store, you called me a faggot, and I called you a BITCH, and I meant it! But I wasn’t gonna tell anybody what you said, because I didn’t wanna face it, so I lied. I told them you called me Mother Fucker, and still got my mouth washed out with soap. No one stood up for me. Then when we got back to DC I got a beating too. But who cares… right? That day, around Christmas time when you were washing dishes, and you told me to leave you alone, I got smart, you called me a faggot, and I said Santa Claus was calling you when he said “ho, ho, ho”, I meant it. But I wasn’t gonna tell anybody what you called me, because I didn’t wanna face it, so I lied. I told them I never said it, and still got my mouth washed out with soap again. Then later that week, I got another beating. That day we were fighting after you told me to leave you alone and get out of “our” room, you called me a faggot, and I fought extra hard that day even though you were a little bigger! I wasn’t sad. I was bitter! That day you were taking me to Camp Schmidt and I left something behind and ran back to get it, I got back in the car, and you told I ran like I faggot, I REMEMBER, and I’ll never forget it. The Christmas in the 5th grade that I didn’t get until February of the following year because I talked back to a teacher, I haven’t forgotten. The time I accidentally locked your keys in the trunk of your car, you told me to figure out how to get them out, and then told me that if I scratched your car, you’d kill me, I won’t forget that. That day you dropped your keys on the sidewalk while we were walking back to the house at Fairfax Village, I ran back to get them for you, and you told me in that same teaching voice you used with me before when you said “little boys don’t say that”, you said, this time “stop running like a faggot”, I remember that too! That day I got suspended from school in the 7th grade for fighting, you took me back to your apartment and beat me for hours, trying once again to beat the “faggot” out of me, I haven’t forgotten! That day in the 8th grade after you’d picked me up from school shortly after your son was born, you told me that I better not ever be a faggot, cause you aint no faggot, and my father damn sure wasn’t a faggot, I haven’t forgotten that either! The time, during my junior year of high school when you allowed my therapist to tell you that I needed Paxil for depression and anger management, and then bought it in bulk, I didn’t forget, but I damn sure flushed it all! I didn’t need medication to manage my anger, I needed you to love me. The time in the 6th grade when your husband punched me in my face, blacked my eye, and then threatened to kill me and my sister, I haven’t forgotten. And I’ll never, ever forget how my own uncle went over to talk to him about his attack on me. Huh??What the fuck was there to talk about? My father and even my mother, for that matter, would have killed him. But maybe my uncle and your husband just sat down, talked, and compared notes on beating my ass… huh? The many days I cried myself to sleep, the days I listened to music and sang loud enough to wake the dead because you’d hurt me again, the days I used to change my clothes in the hallway at Karate School so that the other kids wouldn’t see the bruises, and the day I finally showed you all that you couldn’t destroy me. I haven’t forgotten any of them, and I never will.
“I only give you a hard time, cause I can’t go on and pretend like, I haven’t tried to forget this, but I’m much too full of resentment.”
I pressed on through life, making my own way. With a hardened heart is how I dealt with everyone around me. It’s how I deal with people today. My heart has softened in some areas because on the surface I’d moved passed the details of my childhood under your “tutelage”, and the dynamics of some of our relationships have changed. But just as soon as I scratch away at the surface, it comes back, and all of it comes crashing down. I’m grown now! You people can’t do to me what you used to do. These days I don’t let you. I don’t let anyone! I can’t go on pretending like I’ve forgotten about all of it though. It’s just been eating away at me for so long. So now, you’ll have to face it, because I’m tired. I faced all of you, everyday from the time I was 7 years old. I faced the shame, the ridicule, the physical abuse, and more than anything I faced the fact that not one of you were in my corner. Everything someone else said about me, you took as fact. You never fought for me.
“I thought I could forgive you, and I know you’ve changed. As much as I wanna trust you, I know it aint the same.”
I really did think that I had forgiven this, and that I could move on without having to address it with everyone, but there’s no way I’m gonna keep hurting myself and my future by carrying it. We’re cool now; no beefs, no arguments, and we even talk all the time, but this was bound to come out one day. Who knew that it would take two years of these dreams about fighting and arguing with family for me to figure this out. IT WAS YOU! You’re the reason I’m angry. You’re the reason I’m bitter, and guarded. You’re the reason why I push people away. YOU! When you should have been caring for and nurturing me, you abused me. You tarnished my innocence. You beat me down over, and over again. You never protected me, and you knew all along what was being done, but stoic and unaffected, you let it happen to me. YOU! And you never, not one of you, ever apologized.
“I’ll always remember feeling like I was no good… I know you didn’t wanna hurt me, but look what you done-done to me now. “
When I started my first relationship, I remember him telling me, at sixteen, that I was too much to handle sometimes. My doing too much eventually pushed him away. Then came the next one, who dogged me. I guess it was easy because I was sixteen then too, and he was nine years my senior. When number 4 came along, I was still only eighteen, but he was the one who showed me a love that wasn’t easily broken. He was my protector, in a way that none of you ever protected me. He wasn’t comfortable with his sexuality, but he never shunned me. Even if every gesture I made, or word I spoke made him cringe, I never saw shame in his eyes. He protected my physical being, and more importantly, he protected my feelings. He never told me what to say or how to say it. But guess what…? I pushed him away too. I felt like I was no good for this man who showed me love no matter what. I thought he was tired of me, and maybe he was. I knew I was tired of doing everything I could to push him away, so I finally just left him. You see? Look at what you’ve done to me now. I’ve spent the larger part of my adult life single. I never let anyone get too close because my expectations are too high. Since you never loved me the way you were supposed to, I look for it in people who can’t ever measure up, and they shouldn’t have to.
“I may never understand why…”
I may never understand why I’ve had to endure this, but at least now I know where it came from. At least now I can work on fixing what has been broken. For so long I’ve just been doing what had been done to me, but I can no longer continue to perpetuate that cycle. My greatest defense has been my offense. After years of having my family beat me down I turned it around, and I’m angry. I’m angry because I don’t know what to do with what you’ve forced me to become. I only know that I’m done carrying the anger that you gave me. I didn’t deserve it, and shame on you! But now, I know that I’m going to have to save myself from myself, so that I can heal.