Since I was seven years old my birthday has always served as a cruel reminder that my father shot and killed my mother, then himself, in front of me, the day before, in our living room. Now that’s some serious irony right there. My parents died in the fucking “living room” on Friday, December 1, 1989. Just looking at that date on my screen now makes me cringe. My life’s been full of irony, though I’ve learned to just gut it out. And if I ain’t got shit else, I got guts! You’ll see.
When I saw my father kneel next to my mother’s lifeless body and turn her MPD service Glock toward his head, I knew what was next. I looked away, but I didn’t run next door until I saw his body, face down, almost on top of my mother. I ran outside, and when I almost got to Benny, our next door neighbor, I looked behind me and saw my sister run back in, but by this time Benny or someone had ushered me into their house. I must’ve passed out, or fell asleep, or something, because I have no recollection of the moments after I got into Benny’s house. When I came to, standing over me, with an almost commandingly gentle presence, was a Detective; my mother’s younger brother, asking me what happened. For some reason, I’ve always vividly remembered reporting their death to him like I was one of his subordinates. I said “he shot her in the head and then he shot himself; they should both have gunshot wounds to their heads.” It was like I already knew that he required me to always address him with deference, even during this tragic moment. I was afraid of him. I’ve known it since that moment. That day.
I’m still not quite sure why though. What had he done to make me fear him before this day? Why did I fear him now? He took us, my sister and me, to his apartment for the night. He’d just gotten married, his wife was pregnant, and it was a one-bedroom apartment uptown D.C.
The next day was my birthday. I was seven. Seven.
After we ate Crunch Berries I was summoned to the bathroom by my mother’s brother. He told me to sit down on the toilet, turn around with my back facing him, and then he told me that “rattails were for sissy’s” and he cut my rattail. The rattail was something my father started growing and I liked it. I’m certain this man knew that even then. But he was in charge now. He was in charge of me and what happened to me. This was his way of letting me know who had the power. He did. Because my father, who’s name I carry (with love), killed his sister (my mother), in cold blood, the day before. My seventh birthday began with my introduction into a new regime, and my mother’s brother, formerly my uncle and godfather (more fucking irony), was its leader and number one terrorist. And he couldn’t fucking stand sissies and faggots. Especially me. I’m the son of the man that killed his sister (my mother). And I’m already gay. And he already know’s it. And hate’s it. And hate’s me.
That birthday was amazing though! We went to Chuck E. Cheese as planned and I got money from everybody. I played as many games as I wanted and everybody made an effort, albeit out of sympathy and pity, to make my 7th birthday special. I got about a hundred dollars too. I still remember. That weewkend, my sister and I moved into my maternal grandmother’s three-bedroom rambler in Capital Heights where she and my teenage aunt already occupied the two largest rooms. Now, after having our own separate rooms in the home our parents owned, we were relegated to the “den” where we slept on a decades old, ROLL out, pissy sofabed, for several months. We ended up getting and “sharing” (sorta) a day bed until 1994 when we moved into a larger home in Temple Hills. We’ll delve into that later though.
My eighth birthday I got a beating from my mother’s brother, in the living room of my grandmother’s house, while EVERYONE watched and laughed. They laughed while I cried. What had I done to get a beating, and on my birthday no less? He said after he finished hitting me that they were birthday licks while I tearfully looked at him with confusion about the unprovoked beating. There was no count though. Those “licks” were strikes. They hurt me. It was a beating. I ran into the bathroom and cried for a little while and then I finally came out and went to bed. Clearly my tears meant nothing to them. I was there for their amusement, treated like an annoying court jester, ridiculed for being sensitive, and terrorized for being gay. And my sister wasn’t even on my side. I remember feeling like she was going along to get along, keeping her head low and not making any waves until she could do her own thing. But I couldn’t. Not yet. My slip was showing. I couldn’t hide who I was yet. I didn’t know how. I just wanted them to feel sorry for me again like they had the year before, when they were nice to me, when they cared about me, and my feelings. That was the first time he beat me though, on my 8th birthday. Licks…
Around that same time, his wife took their baby and moved to New York with her family without any notice. From what I’ve heard, she got tired of the beatings too. She had a way out. I didn’t. I wanted to go too though. I remember wishing she had taken me. She got me roller skates for that birthday. They were my first and only pair, and they were gray. He brought them though.
Somewhere between my eighth and ninth birthday’s was the first time anyone had weaponized my mother’s brother, grandmother’s son, and now my abuser, against me.
It was my oldest aunt. I kept walking around the house after eating too much at dinner saying, “I’m cramping”, or “I feel like I’m about to come on”.
My stomach was hurting. I couldn’t shit, so I knew it wasn’t that. It felt like I had bad fucking cramps. So, I said what I had heard all of the women in the house and in my life say when they had FUCKING cramps. She called her brother, my grandmother’s son, and my abuser on the telephone and he was there within the hour to “straighten me out”. I was terrified. I thought I should have just suffered in silence rather than have him come over to terrorize me yet again. It was bad enough that everything I did or said was used against me. I didn’t know how to act because I was constantly told that how I was acting wasn’t right. By this time I was used to the micro-aggressions from my family, and teachers, and peers, but she was actually calling in reinforcements this time to scold me and “straighten me out”. I turned my feelings inward and went to my (shared) bedroom for solace before my impending doom arrived. He came over and gave me a stern tongue lashing about how little boys shouldn’t say what I said, but he never told me why. He then told me that I would get in trouble if I repeated those things in the future. So, for repeating some harmless statement about cramps that I had taken out of context, I was now being threatened with physical harm. Because I definitely knew “trouble” was code for “ass whooping”. I couldn’t understand why or how my words caused them so much distress that my body was now being threatened. I was eight.
I have no recollection of my ninth birthday. None. Maybe because of my eighth, but who knows.
I think a big part of me has been chasing the high of my 7th birthday, hoping that I could feel seen the way I thought I had then. I realize now that they didn’t see me. Pity isn’t adoration or love. It’s condescending sadness. I don’t want that from anyone. Not anymore.