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around my way


By Maddy A -

February 2005

For the first few years of my life I was happy. In the beginning, it was just me and Mom. I never knew my birth father and to be honest, I never felt the need to. My mother was full of love and she did her best to care for me. She came from a small town in South Carolina were she was the only child to a Baptist Minister and a Nurse. Her parents were strict, especially her father. He didn't approve of his only daughter dating an older man. My bastard of a father and her ran away to New York when she discovered she was pregnant with me. She was sixteen and he was twenty.

The first few months in New York, times were hard but they managed to scrape by with the help of my father's family. The loving, responsible man my mother once knew from home started to change. He began hanging out in the streets with his friends instead of working. Being more concerned with "drinking with the boys" than trying to earn a decent living. In the spring I was born, April 14th to be exact. My Mom told me I was a miniature version of my father. I had his shade of hazel - green eyes and the same golden bronze hue to my skin. She use to call me her little honey boy. My Mom's complexion was a medium brown so she didn't expect my skin to be so light but like I said, I was the spitting image of my ass hole father. She claims that he was happy when I was born and ran around the neighborhood screaming "I have a boy! I have a boy!".

Despite my birth, my father still didn't clean up his act. If anything his drinking became more of a problem and the fighting between my parents grew worse as the months past. One day she awoke with a note on the dresser along with one hundred dollars. The note read "I am sorry..." and that was that. My bastard father walked out on us, leaving a shitty hundred bucks to survive with.

That left us alone with my father's uncle John whom we were living with. My mother never felt completely comfortable around him but she could never understand why. Sometimes he would make subtle advances towards her but she would dismiss them as simple paranoia on her part. Just a simple comment or a touch here or there that seemed slightly inappropriate but never offensive. She never mentioned any of this to my father, afraid of what might happen if she did. With my father gone, John's advances towards her became more and more blatant until one day things came to a stand still. She was breast feeding me when he came out of no where and grabbed her free breast. Startled, she almost dropped me in an attempt to get away. He told her that he had been patient with her for far too long. He had let her stay in his house rent free and took care of her and her illegitimate son and now he wanted what was owed to him. She pleaded with him to leave her alone but my mother was a tiny woman and he was twice her size. Her fear turned to anger and she slapped him as she told him to get away from her. He hit her back and the blow was so severe that she dropped me and I fell to the floor. He pushed her on the bed and pulled her clothes off. She tried to bargain with him, saying that she would do whatever he wanted if he would let her check on her screaming child. He ignored her plea's and preceded to rape her, my cries and hers intertwined into a symphony of our agonies. After the rape, she gathered her humiliation, our few belongings and the money my father left for us and we were gone by that night. I don't remember any of this.

One of my earliest memories are of us sharing an apartment with a Dominican woman named Marie and her three kids. I had to be around four or five. My Mom and Marie were never home at night so her eldest son would watch us. Hector was fourteen and his brother and sister were younger than me. I was always a quiet shy person even at that age. On one of these nights when Mom and Marie were gone, I was running around the apartment playing with the other two kids. I guess we were making too much noise because Hector yelled for me to come in his room. If I knew what was about to happen, I would have never went in there.

Hector was always nice to me, in fact he treated me better than he did his own brother and sister. He would take me out with him no matter where he went. He would buy me candy and play games with me. I felt like he was my brother. He was the only male I had in my life and I looked up to him. I can remember everything about that night as hard as I try not to. From the faint smell of mildew that filled his room to the chipping dingy white paint of the walls. I even remember the coldness of the apartment on that January's night. The numbness in my toes as I ran across the dank wood floors. I went into his room, just curious to see what he wanted. He told me to close the door behind me and motioned for me to come over and sit next to him on the lumpy mattress that was placed on the floor as his bed. He asked me if I wanted to play a game. Hector was a lot of fun at playing games so I excitedly agreed. He told me we were going to play horse and he was the horse and I was to sit on his lap and bounce. I did as he asked and it was fun at first. I bounced up and down laughing at the grunting sounds that he made. Then he stopped moving and pulled my body close to his. He held onto me so tight that it hurt. I told him he was hurting me but he said for me to keep quiet and it was just a part of the game.

He told me that I was really special to him and how nice I smelled. He told me that he loved my eyes. I was staring to feel uncomfortable and tried to get off of him but he wouldn't let me go. He ran his hand roughly through my curly black hair as if he was possessed. My mother rarely cut it so it was long and hung down in shaggy curls across my face. I knew something wasn't right. I panicked and started to cry. He told me to stop and he loved me and just wanted to show me how much. He asked me to sleep in his bed that night. I don't know why I agreed but I was only five and hector was almost fifteen. He just seemed so cool and I did look up to him, hell I loved him. So I dried my eyes and started to get in with him. He told me to take off my clothes and put on one of his shirts to sleep in. I wasn't nervous getting undressed in front of him because he was the one that usual bathed me. His shirt hung like a dress on my small body. At first things were fine. He just stared at me which it thought was weird. He asked if I could kiss him good night and I leaned up to kiss his cheek but he asked me to kiss him on the mouth. I did, but he held my head to his and put is tongue in my mouth. His breath tasted bitter and had this awful taste to it that made me nauseous.

This didn't feel right so I moved away and turned my back towards him. He started to rub me in places that no one ever told me were bad but somehow I knew they were. I started to cry again only this time he ignored me and kept touching me. I asked him to stop but he wouldn't. The comforting word stopped. He pinned me to the mattress and kissed me again. He was so much larger than me. His weight was crushing my small body. I could barely breathe, I was so afraid. No one had ever done what he was doing to me before. His touches hurt me so bad. The pain was so severe that eventually my tears stopped and I just laid there in shock unable to move as my "brother", my hero took away my innocence...

This went on almost nightly for two years and each time it happened, another piece of me would die. My mother would ask me constantly what was wrong with me but Hector told me if I ever told, people would come and take me away from Mommy. So I told her nothing. I was always a quiet child but after that first night, I almost never spoke. One night Mommy and Marie came home early and found out what Hector was doing to me. They both were obviously drunk and couldn't comprehend what they were seeing. Marie spoke and said "How cute Wendy, Chris is asleep in Hector's lap." They both laughed and went into the living room to entertain the men that they brought home. I knew what I was doing felt bad but Mommy didn't stop it so was it really wrong? Maybe I was wrong in thinking that it was. Mommy laughed like it was funny, so maybe it wasn't as bad as I felt that it was. I was left in confusion.

The next morning Mom sobered up and questioned me as to what she saw the previous night. She wouldn't let up until I confessed all the things that Hector made me do to him. She was furious and went into his room and attacked him. She was screaming all sorts of swear words at him as her fist repeatedly collided with his face. Maria ran out her room to find out why Hector was screaming bloody murder. She asked what was going on and my Mom screamed "Your fucking sick pervert son has been fucking my little boy for two years!". I just stood in the door way looking at Hector. He tried to deny everything but his little brother Carlos came in and said that it was true because he saw me rubbing on Hector's privates. Marie was disgusted with her son and the cops were called. The police took Hector away and that was the last I ever saw of him.

About a month later when I was beginning to feel safe again, God decided to "smile" down on me once again. My mother apparently got arrested during one of her and Marie's late night outings. She was charged with prostitution and possession of crack cocaine. She was sentenced to fifteen years. Maria wouldn't let me live with her, I think mostly because she blamed me for her son being sent away. Hector was sentenced to a year in a Juvenile detention center. My grand parents on either side could not be found and no one would take me in. So there I was, a seven year old black boy in the foster care system. My chances for finding a home were not good. No one wanted to take in a black kid let alone someone as old as me. So the state sent me to live in a youth home in Newark, New Jersey. That place was a shit hole. The city was filled with drug addicts and run down houses. There was no where to feel safe. The cold environment of that city didn't provide adequate living conditions for a child to thrive in, only for them to survive.....barley. The only good thing about living there was it allowed me to be closer to my mother because she was sent to the New Jersey State Penitentiary. Once a month, I was taken to visit her. She would tell me she loved me as we would hug and tell me promises of getting out soon to take me home. I never believed her.

I became more and more reserved during my stay there. This made the other guys pick one me. I was a small, quiet boy. Add my light skin and hazel - green eyes and I became an easy target. The other boys were vicious to me, unrelenting. I was beat up on several different occasions for no reasons other than standing. I focused on reading books to escape my torment. Learning helped me escape all the pain and suffering that I went through. As silly as it sounds, the times I would spend working out a math equation or reading allowed my mind to focus on that and not the situation that I was in. The rapes that I had to endure for the better part of my adolescence were pushed to the back of my mind to distant memories. I was allowed to forget about the pain for a while. My high intelligence granted me a youth scholarship to a private catholic school. This only made the teasing and abuse the other boys inflicted on me become worse because they didn't like that I was receiving special attention. They had to go to public schools, were as I and two other boys got to attend one of the top private schools in New Jersey. ST. Andrew's Academy was where I was to meet the man who would change my life.

Mr. Richardson was a middle aged white man with sandy blonde hair. He taught English at my school and I instantly took a liking to him. He knew about my situation and would often engage me in conversations about what was going on in my life. I found solace in our talks. Sometimes he and his wife Jamie would come to the youth house and take me to lunch or to the park just to spend time with me. They were really nice and made me feel special, loved even. They had no children of their own and I would sometimes pretend that I was their son when we were out. Mr. Richardson or Dan as I was allowed to call him outside of school, had the same shade of eyes that I did so this helped in my fantasy. I loved them both. As the year was ending I was saddened by the fact that I wouldn't be in Mr. Richardson class any more but the best was yet to come. During one of their Saturday visits they asked me if I would like to come and live with them. I was beyond happy and tears of joy danced down my face. Dan and Jamie lived in a very upscale town. Upper Montclair was the most beautiful town that I ever saw. Unlike the mostly black and occasional Hispanic person that I would see in the ghettos of Newark, Montclair had people of just about every race.

Over that summer, I was enrolled in day camp where I met kids of diverse backgrounds and everyone was so friendly. I met Andrew on the first day. He was a chubby, dark skin, black boy with the biggest hugs and warmest smiles. I was a little put off by his massive body and dark skin. His presence reminded me of the boys who used to pick on me in the youth house. My fear of him quickly faded as he walked over to me with a smile and said, "Hi I'm Andy what's your name?" We became best friends after that. I started third grade that fall and my quiet persona remained but I was beginning to open up. Andy and I were complete opposites as to my shyness was his brashness. School for me was easy and I excelled. They wanted to skip me to fourth grade but Dan and Jamie didn't want me to be the youngest in my class. I still remained shy all through out elementary school. By the time I got to middle school I barley talked to any one besides Andy and Wesley but I still had come a long way from how I was before I had met them. Wesley was a brown haired Polish boy that no one talked to because of his thick accent. His family had moved to America from Poland when he was nine. His English was good but his accent remained thick until high school. He had bright green eyes that lit up when he laughed. I thought he was nice and we became friends. Andy loved everybody and they took a liking to each other almost immediately. Sometimes I would get jealous of how close they seemed to be with each other but they never made me feel excluded. So it was the three of us. We called ourselves "the WAC pack". W.A.C. were the first letters of our names, I know how cool. We were only twelve so what did you expect. They became popular, much due to the fact they started to play football and became a part of that whole jock scene, but they never forgot about me.

Life at home was wonderful. Dan and Jamie were loving parents. I asked if I could call them Mom and Dad and they tearfully told me yes. My real Mom was still locked up and it hurt me to keep seeing her every week. With every visit, the worse she grew to look until one day I asked them to stop taking me to see her. It hurt me to watch her waste away the way that she was. We still wrote to each other and in one of her letters when I was fourteen, she told me the story of how she got caught up in the life that eventually led to her imprisonment. Her story was a sad one and it helped me understand her better. She blamed herself for what happened to me and as much as I would tell her that I didn't blame her, a large part of me did. I held small resentment towards her. She was my Mom and I loved her but if she would have been around more, then who knows how better off I could have been. I believe that there are reasons for everything that happens in your life, good or bad and I try to remember that philosophy everyday. Even if sometimes those reason's are painful.

The years progressed and I was finally happy. My parents tried to make me see a counselor to help deal with the abuse that Hector inflicted. I felt uncomfortable around him. He was always asking me embarrassing questions and had these stupid dolls that he would make me touch to show him how Hector would touch me. I hated going to see him and I pleaded with them not to make be go back. So finally after the third visit, they told me I didn't have to. I dealt with the pain the best way I knew how, by swallowing it down. The times with Hector were just distant memories pushed to the back of my mind. A part of my past that I didn't have to go back to. I had a great family and wonderful friends. Even my grades were great. Not to toot my own horn but...toot toot. Like was perfect for me.

Dan and Jamie had a vast collection of music C.D.'s and records. Mostly rock and roll albums of the late seventies and early eighties. From Pat Benatar, The Gap Band, Journey, The New York Dolls, The Smiths, Earth Wind and Fire, the list went on and on in an eclectic mix. I remember fondly dancing to Duran Duran's,"Wild Boys," with my Mom Jamie as I would help clean the house. I picked up an instant love of The Smiths. I really related to their music. Whenever I was feeling down their songs helped me connect and know that someone else was feeling the same way that I was. Morissey's soothing crooning voice eased my mind. I must have listened to " Heaven knows I'm miserable now" a thousand times and when I was feeling extremely lonely, "This Joke isn't funny anymore" helped me ease the pain a little. In my neighborhood everyone listened to just about everything. It wasn't uncommon for a black kid to like punk rock. Now you still had some that wouldn't listen to "white peoples" music but for me in wasn't about that. Music to me is about connection. No matter what type of music it is, if I connect with it then I listen to it. For me, my connection with "The Smiths", ran deep. I also loved current bands like Linkin Park and My Chemical Romance.

Life for me was about as perfect as I thought it could be. I had great parents and two awesome best friends. The summer I turned fifteen God decided to "smile" down on me once again. Mom and Dad decided that they wanted to vacation in Brazil for two weeks. They wanted me to go along with them but I had a job tutoring kids that summer and to be honest I thought that they were owed some time alone. They both worked so hard and spent so much time raising me that I felt they deserved it. Against my many protests, my Mom's sister, my Aunt Mickey, came to stay with me while they were gone. My Aunt Mickey is a real character. Her real name is Michelle but she prefers Mickey, like the mouse. She looks nothing like my Mom. While Mom had short dark brown wavy hair, Mickey has dyed dark red curly hair that hangs long down her back. Mom was a soft spoken person while Aunt Mickey is as loud a gorilla, raunchy and vulgar. It amazes me how she can still can seem so delicate and feminine while acting so unfeminine.

Mom and Dad left on a Monday and by the next Thursday we received a visit from what at all appearances, looked to be a business man. From the look on his face I knew that something bad had happened. I don't remember much of the days that followed. I was in a daze. Everything went in slow motion for me. I didn't want to eat or talk to any one. Apparently my parents were on a bus touring Porto Alegre when the bus and its twenty passengers were taken hostage by a group of political rebels. These rebels were known for their extreme violence due to political unrest in their country and everyone was presumed dead since no demands were made. I couldn't believe it, I was use to being happy. I was so secure with the life I was living. My parents were so loving. They were the kind of beautiful people that are rarely found on this earth. They took me in when I had no one. They loved me and asked for nothing in return and now they had left me and were gone, just like everybody else that I loved in my life. So my life that was filled with safety and love was now over and my new life was about to begin....

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