[PREMIER] 7 Yeer presents: Backwards

It came to me at age 17: My world is in a revolving state of disorder. Now when I say disorder, don’t confuse it with chaos. Although around here, chaos breathes heavy and warm – like the breath of a dying man. In my world, chronicles don’t exist, because there is only convenience, coincidence and possibility. There is no such thing as 1,2,3 because sequence don’t exist here. If 3 comes first then 4 comes second. We’ll deal with 1 and 2 later, if at all: (3,4,2,1).

Even though things are backwards here, we rarely look back. Even though there’s a high chance that 1 and 2 will come back like debt from unpaid taxes - we don’t look back!  Yeah, and they’ll come back. Coincidentally, the most recurring circumstances come back at their own convenience, but they will consistently come back at your inconvenience, like a bill. But sometimes there may be a pleasant coincidence, and it’s convenient, like a refund check. But it’s overlooked, because there’s always a catch here, like a service fee. As far as possibilities, well possibilities are hard to calculate because life is backwards in a chaotic world with infinite possibilities. It’s so confusing. And it came to me at age 17. No, it came to me like a dream.

The man’s eyes pierced through my skin like a fine edge from a razor blade. If not for those eyes…

He laid there on the ground, bleeding like a pig cut from the wound of the beast. His slaughter was from a thunderstorm, but all I could think about is this man’s lifestyle.

His leather onyx-wingtip shoes were blue with cream bottoms. He wore silk, cream-colored Italian slacks that were matched by his flat cream-colored blazer. Underneath the blazer was a blue button up shirt. On top of the shirt was a medallion with a golden king’s chess piece. Cuffed on his wrist was a Rolex that made me double take. The diamonds tinkered off the pearls of its white bezel. Above his eye brows were a pair of imported shades, they were flipped over his well waxed bald head. He laid there handsomely in his own fate. His outer wear told the story of a boss, but those eyes told a deeper story that I could not figure out yet.  

*******

I left my house this morning filled with mixed emotions. On one hand, I was happy to meet the man that played a part in my earthly creation. On the other hand, I was quivered with discomfort. It’s my 17th birthday and it’ll be the first time I meet this man. Not to mention today was the first time my momma truly spoke on his name.

I’ve gotten vague information from the scraps of a dying breed. Washed up pimps, old pushers, worn out prostitutes, stanking junkies, wine o’s and so on; the litter in my neighborhood. And I’ve only heard these whispers while walking from point A to point B. They didn’t know who I was, nor did I care about who they were.  Even the woman who at one point loved him most, my mom, skillfully managed to never speak about this man.

When her friends came over they would be inebriated, time traveling through memorials, playing cards. While they were most vulnerable, I would be in my room, eavesdropping, waiting to hear something about this man – but all they would do is laugh and yell, “She loved that man!” The Man was like an urban legend. Did I mention his street name was The Man? That’s the only definitive fact I can get about this man. I don’t even know his government name.

After talking to my mom I was zeal, but I pretended to be very aloof about it all. Whenever I would share my bastardly position people assume I hate him for not being in my life but I never did. My mom’s talk made it harder to hate him. Instead I became more interested.

Stepping out in the world, I remain withdrawn to blend in with the culture. We wear masks out here to survive – mine carries a permanent scowl, but when I saw Ms. Brown I took the mask off and smiled as I spoke, “Hey Miss Brown.” 

She’s watering her grass fairly late compared to the other elderly people on the block, but she wasn’t scared of the youth like them. She spoke back to me. “Hey. You looking real handsome. Who’s the lucky girl?” 

“The day is young it could be any beauty of my choice.” I said with a devilish grin. 

*******

As I sat at the bus stop I thought about the conversation my mother had with me. The first conversation she had with me about my father. 

She came to my room door, stood there without entering and said, “Alright Eldric, come on.”

I was reading the notes from my great grandfather’s diary. I closed the book and brought it with me as I left my room, followed her to the front and sat down after she took a seat. 

“Sit down boy.”

“I am sitting down, momma.” She looked at me.

“Sit down right here,” pointing in front of her so that we can face each other. I was nervous, but showed no facial expression. She was nervous too. I could sense it radiating from her soft braided hair.

“Your father,” she began. “Your father was good at math, but wasn’t the best in school.” Then she stopped herself. She simultaneously shook her head and waved her left hand in the air as though to say, “erase everything I just said.” I guess that was a bad introduction for him. 

She started over. “Your father was a complex man. He was great at math, excellent actually, but horrible in school,” she repeated, shaking her overworked brain all the while before moving on. “He was a great leader but made the wrong choices in life. Your father was a tall man with a permanent scowl on his face, but he was a kind man, and a respectful man. The old people loved him because he spoke formally and was well mannered. He was a giving man, had no problem giving to the vagabonds. He would volunteer at the local daycares, serving as a protector for the good, vulnerable kids, who weren’t involved in the streets. He was an odd man though because he had a temper – an old man’s temper. He had the body of a star athlete that was intimidating first glance. More so, he never feared conflict. I guess it was that perfect blend of kindness and intimidation that made him influential.”

As I listened I was thinking about the missing variable in her description, but as if she read my mind she giggled and said. “Your father was an accountant.”

It was a quarter past noon and the bus was pulling up. My Uncle Lewis is calling my phone. I call him Uncle Lou. He’s my momma’s younger brother by two years. He did his best to fill in for my father over the years – keeping in contact with me, taking me to my football and basketball practices and coming to games every now and then. “Waddup E. How you feeling?”

“I’m feeling fine thank you.”

He mocked me with a higher pitched voice. “’I’m feeling fine thank you!’ Boy you always talked funny always talked with mannerism and shit. Just like your father.” It was an awkward silence as I scanned my bus card.

“Boy you there? Why you get so quiet? You scared?” 

“Naw, I was looking for my bus card."

But, "just like your father,” that was awkward. I would hear that line every red moon and it already happened twice today. Neither time did I have a response for those comments. But in my head I had questions for them. I just didn't know which one to begin with so I refrained altogether. How can I do things like a man that I never been around a day in my life is a mystery to me. It had to be a coincidence.

“Your father was an accountant.” Pissed by what I thought was a sarcastic remark I stared at her with a glare.

She giggled a little bit louder. “You look just like your father, so serious,” she laughed. “But seriously though, he was an accountant. I mean, he wasn’t certified. He was just a young boy that was good at math so he would do other people’s taxes. He was the hookup. He did everybody’s taxes, and I mean everybody, including the drug dealers’.” That was the missing variable. “It’s funny, when I first found out, found out he was doing taxes for drug dealers, I gave him the same face you giving me, and he gave me the same damn face back, even stricter like he was saying, ‘Girl, I ain’t playing.’” 

So my father was good at math and a lot of people counted on him – a man of hospitality and wrath. I was particularly eager to know more about this man the longer I sat there…

There was a somewhat festive vibe in the air before I got on the bus. As I walked down the street, my alienated peers were yelling Mondo. “On Mondo,” this, “On Mondo,” that. It was that time of year when the infamous leaders were being released from prison. They are treated like political prisoners: old drug dealers; legendary cancers of the community who are praised by my generation.

This week you heard the name Mondo. Every week was a trending name, hashtagged on your phone, whispered on the bus, yelled in the classroom or mentioned on the news. It reminds me of the number of the day from Sesame Street, or a marathon of my favorite throwback sitcom. Their celebrated release was the rainbow after their reign. Seen by everyone, stretched as far as the eyes could see but easily forgotten once the bow unravels.

Nobody around my way is going to say, “ay you remember that rainbow we seen last week,” and very few people next week are going to say “ay you remember Mondo got out last week.” It’s because their time was over. In a twisted era that abandoned structured customs and rules, these young boys will kill one of these “leaders” quick for the clout.

Backwards isn’t it? The apprentice killing the predecessor, the seed attacking the tree. On the bus a pretty dark-skinned girl was smiling at me. But I was too focused on what my mom had said to pay her any mind.  

I text my uncle, “I’m pulling up at my stop.” I returned my thoughts to my mother and I’s conversation.

“Your father was already handsome but his aura was the winning aphrodisiac,” she looked away and began smiling flirtatiously as if he was in the room.  “When I would go to his house I would smell his colognes. One day, I opened one of the boxes of my least favorite colognes and I found a wad of money. It was a band of hundreds. I quickly put it in the box like a kid. Then he walked in and saw in my face that something was wrong.

He didn’t speak much and didn’t have to. I started yelling. Asking him where he got the money and that’s when he told me that he had started doing taxes for drug dealers to help them avoid tax evasion. During that time he did Mane-Mane’s taxes. We knew him as Mane-Mane before he got that stupid name Mondo.”

DING! I pulled the wire to the bus for my stop and as the bell sounded off I realized something. Despite the season nobody paid attention to my father’s release. I guess it made sense. After all, people may know about Fred Hampton but not too many people know about his right-hand man, Mark Clark, who died in his apartment with him. I’m happy my father is overlooked. I don’t want senseless attention on him, and based off the things my mother told me, he don’t want it neither.

My uncle texts back, “You no I don’t use this textin’ shit.”

“Your father was crazy,” she said this smiling, showing her pretty white teeth, practically blushing. “He was a trip actually. He never cared for history – even black history – but he reminded me of W.E.B. Du Bois, and that’s what attracted me to him. He had a theory about math. He called the evolution of math incessant and eternal. Never pausing, never ending, and to master math take generations but it take one person to start the process.” She widened her eyes, as if amazed by what she had said, or rather, what he said.

She continued, “He said there are countless methods on figuring out a math problem but like colors there are primary methods. Throughout a lifespan and generations you combine those ideas to make new methods, or as he would say, colors – building a hybrid method for each problem. Passing down these methods throughout the generation will make math easier for the black man and his children. It’ll make the life of the black man and his family simpler. He believed the life of the black man was one big math problem.”

She repositioned herself on the couch and folded her hands. “You’ll think he was “pro-black” because of his vernacular.” She unfolded her hands to create quotes with her fingers, and then refolded them. “But he hated being called that. He thought the term pro-black was stupid and unnecessary. ‘If I was born black then why wouldn’t I be for black people? Would you call a dog that embraces being a dog pro-dog?’ That’s what he would say.” She gave a quick chuckle and continued.

“He spoke from the only perspective he felt like he knew and that was the perspective of a black man. This made your father advance for his time. Despite his unique thinking he still made the cliché decision to drop out of school,” she said while rolling her eyes, “and as I said before he hated history. He believed black men are born with problems and these problems are the foundation of their life, or rather the foundation of the math problem. If they aren’t solved correctly and timely then the problems will consume them. These primary problems were being poor, trapped and in debt.” She unfolded her hand and put them on her lap, looked in the air with a raised eyebrow thinking, making sure she was correct. 

“Yeah in debt,” she continued, “in debt with all of the mistakes, mishaps and misfortunes that were passed down from our ancestors. That’s why he didn’t like history. He wanted to start anew. He furthered believed solving those primary problems will manifest the primary methods needed to survive and those methods will be handed down throughout the generations. The primary colors” 

“They say you don't know where you going until you know where you been.  ‘To hell with that,’ he would say. ‘The baggage of the past will slow you up if you try carrying it with you.’”  She said this with a deep voice like she was mimicking the man’s voice in a satire way.

*******

One block down and two houses from the right of the corner is my uncle’s house. The house I will meet my father in.

When I walk down any street I’m observant. A fear of mine is being the good kid that didn’t deserve to die. An extreme way of thinking but that very thinking made me evade the street life, well the streets. I’m always indoors, in the house, in school, in the library or in the store and when I step outside I view the environment like a word problem trying to figure it out. I always wondered why I maneuvered this way but I guess it’s what my mother or uncle would say. I was just like my father.

“Your father soon figured out how stupid it was for him to drop out once I was pregnant with you. Unable to get a decent job with no papers to prove his competence it made it hard for him to be a provider. He figured it was another problem to solve and the best way to solve it was to offer his services to people who could pay him more,” she paused.

“Now he didn’t think you and I were a problem but looked at the circumstances as being a puzzle that needed to be solved, like a math problem.” She said that as if to validate his thinking or to cushion her words, but it didn’t hurt me. I was taking it all in, trying to truly analyze this man like a complicated word problem, the man I was supposed to be like.

“Are you okay?” She asked. “Do you have any questions?”

“No,” I responded. But I did as I held tight to my great grandpa’s diary. A lot of what my mother was saying about my father sounded like the notes taken by my great grandpa.

“Did he know your grandfather?,” I asked.    

“No,” she said. “Well at least not that well.”

She saw my grip on the diary tighten and she looked worried. She gave out a simple sigh, and moved on. “Your father was a calculated thinker, searching for patterns and trying to (reverse) (detour)(reroute) them. Trying so hard to find a solution, he became a product of his own theory.”

Now that was something for me to think on…

I’m focus as I walk down the block watching everybody carefully. I see a man with a gold medallion on his chest. He was a young man with long braided hair, wearing matching jogging pants and a hoodie while standing in front of the store, most likely selling drugs.

“Buy a 3.5 get a dub lil’ bro I got that pack,” he said making his pitch to a young looking boy not too much older than me, as he passed by.

“Damn Jay, I wish you would had picked up your phone 30 minutes ago I was trying to put this money in yo pocket. And what you doing out here in the day? You usually a night owl.”

Jay pulled out his phone, “You know how it is out here man, new phone every month. I can’t be taking no chances. And what you mean? It’s a nice day out. I wanna enjoy the weather too.”

An employee from the store walks out, its the store’s owner a matter of fact. He has on a pearly white button up with a tank-top underneath. He completely ignored the young dealer, Jay, but told some children that were playing in front of the store to leave. “Get off my property! Go home!” he said.

An all-black Mercedes pulls up, shiny and glistening, like a polished leather shoe. The back door opens and a man comes out like show-and-tell. He’s wearing blue leather boots with a white bottom. As they touch the ground the rest of his body is revealed and it is an older man, with slick hair - he’s a prestigious man. He looks both ways like he was crossing the street and walks forward to the store. I cross his path and the scent of his cologne that followed him hit me like a gust of wind. It made me look back for a quick second, and I saw the driver door open.

The driver gets out the car and circle around to post in front of the door the prestigious man exited from. The driver has on shades that are pitch black, completely censoring his eyes, he is bald wearing an all black suit. He is in front of the car like a body-guard. I turn my head forward and see a man walking towards me. Like a ghost.

I didn’t notice him walking down the street earlier. He must’ve crossed. Before I could look across the street to check I stole a glance at him. He is on the phone and all I hear him say is, “I can’t wait to see him.” He’s got a devilish grin on his face as he hangs up. It instantly shifts to a scowl like a reflex. I look across the street and oddly didn’t see a soul. Where did this invisible man come from?

Now I’m walking pass a car. A short man with a serious look on his face leaves the passenger seat. He says, “I’m just going to get change from them.”  I notice his watch when he closes the door because it complements the sun’s rays. He walks past me…

…my focus is quickly interrupted when my phone rings. It was my uncle. He always call at awkward moments.

He called me while my mother was talking to me. I pulled my phone out and told her it was him. She said, “Cool, I’m wrapping it up.”

“At the end your father got caught in a jam. All of his clients were either getting hooked on drugs, moving out of town, getting killed or going to jail. Mane was next in line. He was facing fed time and like many of them other goofies in the street he was sold out by a rat, and inconveniently your father was a target for the feds. Now your father’s name was known by too many people so the cops knew he was The Man and they thought he sold drugs.  But when they found out he did the drug dealers’ taxes, they thought he was a greater asset. He had the financial records and history of so many people they were after. It was either tell and walk out a free man or keep his mouth shut and be charged for conspiracy. Level X conspiracy. That’s at least 15 years, hands down.”

“Out on bail for a short time ... your father,” she whimpered while fiddling with her hand. “He told me his plan.” Then she looked into my eyes with a piercing stare that grabbed my attention, and she spoke:

If you make the wrong move early in the equation you’ll get the wrong answer. Even worse if you’re oblivious of your mistake you will think you have the correct answer, until somebody show you different. The feds showed me my move was wrong when I dropped out of high-school. Matter of fact, my move was wrong when I was born, thinking I could handle the world without help. It’s not my fault I was born a bastard and adopted by an old lady that couldn’t keep up with the kids she took in… dam…now I’m just rambling. I guess I’m a little emotional you know? Anyway, we both know I can’t tell on these men I worked for, so this is a failed equation. It’s time to start over. 

Starting over from the beginning means starting from birth, but obviously I can’t do that shit, my son can though. All I have for him are my notes and theories in my diary. That’s more than what my father gave me. Give these to him but don’t mention me. Tell him this diary belonged to your grandfather. If he asks about me tell him you don’t know where I am. Tell him you never knew much about me. He don’t need to know about my past or my involvement out here. He doesn’t need to be interested or admired by actions. He need to look at me as a mistake that can’t be made again.

When I get out of this hell hole I’ll do the work to rebuild with him. I know my chances of getting out are high. Yeah, they pretty damn high. The country can only hold so many people and with the incarceration rate rising they are not going to harbor helpless old harmless black men with the taxpayers’ money. I hold tight to that theory, I won’t be serving life in here. Until then be the best mother you can be. If you have any questions, write. I’ll write back. I will do my absolute best to be there for you and him despite my limitations. It should be easy for him to dodge my past since I didn’t have any friends, besides you, and all of my affiliates are either dead, in jail, moved on or enslaved to narcotics. You are my only friend and I love you. I’ll be writing you until you decide to stop.”

“He didn’t know you was a boy. He just spoke it into existence. When I was pregnant, all he thought of were boy names. That man heavily believed in the power of the tongue.”

I looked at my mother. “I never did stop writing him.” She sniffled, with a tear trembling in her eye. She spoke to me as if she was reading a script or reciting a speech by him. No, she spoke as if she was possessed, and when it was all over the touch of his spirit leaving her body left her speechless. It felt as if I heard his voice for the first time.

I reached over to give her a hug but she raised her hand in the air with the gesture saying “stop.” Covering her mouth with her other hand she squeezed a single tear as she coughed. She took a deep breath and looked at me as if her eyes weren’t watery with nostalgia, and said.

“I kept writing your father. He surprisingly helped me so much. He said you the only math problem he been doing, he gotta get it right.” she smirked. “He got more into history being in prison. He is so weird. He a trip, anyway I’m not going with you to your uncle house to see him. I love your father, even in jail he led the way, like a boss, and even though I miss him so much this day isn’t for me. It’s for you and him.” She looked at me with her warm cheeks, wet from her tears.

“Boy why you always look so serious.” She laughed at me and rubbed her hands on my face, caressing it, and kissed my forehead. “You better than me emotionally. I would say you just like him, logical, straight thinker, and disciplined. You keep your emotions under control and understand the circumstances, but you’re not like him. You are a better man than him.” I never heard those words before.  Those words echoed ten times over. Then my phone rang again.

*******

I answer the phone. “Hello Uncle Lou.”

He didn’t greet me. “You on your way boy?”

“Yes,” I reply. 

“Yes? Dam you respectful, and as dry as camel pussy. Where you at?”

“I’m a block away.”

“Did you pass the corner store?” 

“Yes.”

“Damn.” It’s a slight pause, I wait. “Well go back and get some pop, Wildwood Strawberry if they have it. Your Auntie Carla trying to count my calories again. But how I’m supposed to enjoy these pork chops with some dry ass water? I don’t know what happen to these women once they hit 40 but I’m still in my prime,” he ranted. “But anyway you got that boy?”

“Okay Unc, I understand.” We hang up.

I hate going to these stores, the owners and employees don’t live around here and have the audacity to be disrespectful. They belittle us, and as I think this I begin to feel heavy. The type of heaviness you feel when you know something is going to go wrong. I can feel the chaos breathing heavily in the air. Disorder was building as the following events fall apart:

  1. The prestigious man walks out the store and is fronted by Jay with glee. “Daaaaamn it’s you!? You back on these streets we missed ya man!”
  2. As I hear Jay say the prestigious man’s name I think to myself. “If I was about 5 inches taller I’d back hand yo ass.”
  3. As the young drug dealer, Jay, and the prestigious man clap hands the bodyguard with shades, who is still by the car, is standing on his toes, to look over the two of them.
  4. Because behind them the man with the nice watch storms out the store and he slightly bumps into the prestigious man. 
  5. A car double parks and put their emergency lights on behind the Mercedes.
  6. The store owner comes back outside and yells at the man with the nice watch.
  7. A group of boys get out the car that the man with the nice watch came out from to confront the store owner, because he was yelling at their partner.

Another math problem on life’s test: Which one of these events will be the climax of someone’s demise? It happened like a dream. 3,4,2,1. 

As I walk closer to the store I see a man get out the car that is double parked. The double-parked car slowly drives up. I assume it’s going to take the parking spot that’s in front of the Mercedes guarded by the man with the shades. The argument between the store owner and the other group of men soon ends when Jay pulls up his shirt and flashes a pistol. I first pause, and like a cartoon the boys took off running past me. I look behind me to witness them hop in their car and drive off just as quickly. We were a flock of birds on a telephone wire, watching, moving our heads but not our bodies. Them boys were scared.

The obvious and correct answers were revealed: Pause.

The body-guard finally spoke and said, “It’s hot.” His eyebrows raise. He’s serious, seriously concerned.

The prestigious man is more leisure and says, “It’s my first day out man and the community loving me.” He says this with a prideful smile while pointing at Jay. “Ain’t nothing finna happen.”

Jay shakes his head in agreement. His feet are perpendicular. He’s standing straight up with a calm confidence. He grabs his belt buckle with his left hand and with his right hand reaches out to the store owner. Fingers pointing at him, slightly tilted, with low eye lids, a serious stare and simply tells him, “Chill.”

The store owner stays outside and lights a cigarette, seemingly relaxed. As I walk closer to the door I make eye contact with the man that got out the double-parked car. The eye contact lasts for three long seconds before he gives me a devilish smile. But it isn’t toward me, he then bites his bottom lip. Two steps from the store I stop and look behind me and see a group of men running towards the store. I think to myself, “Oh shit!” and the voice in my head speaks at the same time with the store owner’s, Jay’s, and the bodyguard’s voice.

“Oh shit!”

“Oh shit!”

“Oh shit!”

The process of elimination just took place. Press play.

The bodyguard pulls out the tool, drawn and ready, but before I can see anything I feel a ghost-like force grab my arm with a mighty grip and I’m thrown to the ground. I fall helplessly and as soon as I hit the concrete like a bad drop I hear gunshots firing. I ball up and cover my ears, but it was a thunderstorm.

As rounds continue to fire, I hear two sets of showers. One that is in sync like rain and another that sounds out of place like lightning. I hear the explosion of a double barrel, the barrage from a lemon squeezer, and the consistency of a glock all let off without failure - they are in sync. The couple gunshots outside the symphony are the unsuccessful attempts of self-defense fired by the prey. They don’t stand a chance. After hearing the last few shells fall on the ground like coins there was a silence. Not silence, but stability.

A commercial break that is sounded by footsteps, an obnoxious victory laugh, soft yells of “come on come on” all traveling in the direction of the double-parked car. They slam the doors and their tires are screeching the concrete as they drive off hastily leaving behind a honk from the horn. 

I’m on the ground planning on staying there forever, until a phone rings. I hear whispers from a crowd that is gathering. I see their feet around me as I hear “oh my god,” “oh my goodness,” and sudden burst of cries, but there is no help. I am on the ground paralyzed with fear and with uncertainty, but I am certain no one is willing to help. Until someone grabs me by the shoulder and he yells “somebody help me get this brother up.” Another man rushes to my left side and aids me to my feet.

“Are you okay,” the men ask. I didn’t notice the phone stopped ringing until it started again, and suddenly I snap out of it. I say yes, but the words are shaky coming out my mouth with my chattering teeth. A lady screams, “he’s still alive.” I think they are talking about me but they are talking about another man lying on the ground shaking his hand muttering sounds, trying to speak. He’s the the invisible man with the devilish grin.

The city gave birth to chaos. He’s lying there dressed to death, struggling in the puddle of his own fate. His blue leather onyx-wingtip shoes are twitching, left right, left right, left right, like a metronome. His knees are bouncing up and down; small specks of blood stain his Italian silk pants. His cream blazer is ruined by the color red as it bleeds to his undershirt, coloring the blue button-up purple. A messy purple that puddled on his belly with every breath. His king chess piece medallion remains gold but the chain that holds it is vandalized to rubies. His Rolex is an emblem for blood diamonds, the gleam from his bezel is blinking as his hand continue to shake uncontrollably. His well-waxed head glistens from his sweat looking like a melting candle. His foreign glasses that are flipped over start to fall off his head. His eyelashes glisten from tears that define his terror. Those eyes, looking dead at me, practically stabbing me, as though he was seeing his entire life through me.

The phone kept ringing. It’s on the ground beneath his hand and rings time and again, vibrating while he shakes and seizes on the ground. The eyes of the well-dressed invisible man roll over like a slot machine. Somebody wanted to get in contact with him real bad. I’m leaning forward trying to see who it is; but why? Before I could answer that question the phone quits ringing and reads, “3 missed calls,” and goes dark. The man that helped me up asks me if I knew him. I said no.                       

My legs feel weak, my entire body feel numb. Looking out into the street I see Uncle Lou. He hops out his car and yells “E!”

Behind him Auntie Carla is screaming “Oh God El, El, El. Oh my God. Eldric got hit!” 

El? I begin panicking. I got hit? The thought of me dying can murder me. I begin feeling weak, breathing heavily, and fall out. As the world muted around me I hit the ground and my eyes snap shut. 

*******

“Good-morning ladies and gentlemen. Today we celebrate the life of a man. A fairly young man. Today we celebrate the life of Eldric Glenn Cookes.”

Did I mention how fast life moves around here? One minute you going to meet your father, next minute you in the crossfire of a shoot-out.

“This man was an exceptional man. He tried his best to be his best and do his best and while we may think the community got the best of him we must remember, God is always in control!!”

Sad is an understatement, but I started thinking about it all. It was destined to end this way. I was in the middle of debt.

“He was a smart man. A mathematician some would say, and he beat the odds with all the numbers against him.”

The prestigious man was Mondo, the superstar that was freed from jail. The man that guarded the car was the snitch, and he goes by Big Ben. This man didn’t snitch on Mondo though, he snitched for Mondo. He told the cops everything they needed to know layered with a few lies to undermine Mondo’s criminal activity. Ultimately, that man was the cause of my father’s incarceration.

“Now this man, unfortunately like many of our young brothers and sisters, was at the wrong place at the wrong time.”

Jay was later discovered to be a career drug dealer, he served P’s. It was odd for him to even been seen but more than likely he was making his monthly meet-up with the store owner Jameison Rudpar. 

“This man wanted to make a change, some would say he wanted make history, but he just wanted to do the right thing and provide for his love ones.”

The men that were arguing with the store owner are part of a support group in the community trying to shut down Jameison’s store, not only for bad service and poor products, but also for his affiliation with aiding the dope dealers in the community. 

“This man tried his best to be the best man he could be for his love ones and he did this without knowing his father.”

What’s so backwards was the role of the shootout boys. Those boys were aiming for Jay because he was responsible for the death of one of their brothers, but in an act of fate, like an anti-hero, they ended up killing not only him, but Big Ben the snitch, Mondo the worshipped drug dealer, and Jameison the crooked store owner. Everybody paid their taxes that day...

“At the age of 17, this man became a father.”

...even my father, the enabler.

“Eldric Glenn Cooke became Eldric Glenn Cooke Sr. when Alice gave birth to a beautiful son.” 

It was starting to hit me. I was getting a little jealous. There were very few people in here, but they can probably recall at least one page from their book of memories about him. Everyone had at least one moment they shared with him - everyone except me. I can’t feel those tears. I need a breather so I step out. Immediately following me is Uncle Lou, like he was waiting for me to finally show some emotion. He meets me outside and stands about 10 feet behind me.

“Nephew. I’m.. I’m sorry. I feel like I’m at fault for this,” he says stammering. It interrupts my blank stare towards the world in front of me.

“How can you blame yourself?” Now he’s standing 7 feet away from me.

“For years and years, I looked at you as my own. I can tell you appreciated me but even I still knew I don’t compare to what it would be like to have your old man around. I grew up the same way. I knew your father was a good man and I knew he would be out of jail before you finished high school.” He pauses for a minute as to gather the words he would utter next, now he’s 5 feet away.

“For a long time, I thought ‘How can I make this moment real for him? How can I get this boy a memorable moment with his father he deserves?’ Then just last week it came to me.” Now he made his way in front me to look me eye to eye. I can feel that he was trembling as he places his hand on my shoulder with a firm grip.

“So what did you do?” I ask with certainty.

“Well, I... I…. So look. You were coming to my house expecting to meet your father. That was the plan as far as you knew, but on your way I asked you to turn around and go to the store and… I sent you back to the store because I wanted you to meet your father there. I wanted to catch you off guard and I wanted you to share that moment on your own. But things went all wrong.”

Complete silence.

All I could do was replay the details of the moment at the store. “I can’t wait to see him,” I remember him saying. He was talking about me.

*******

What are the possibilities of a bastard being saved by his father? I wonder if he knew I was his son when he saved my life or was it a coincidence. How convenient? His last action on this earth was saving his son’s life. Almost like an act of atonement before facing God for retribution.

Thinking deeper about it all everything went as planned. He didn’t want me to know him, and I never will. He didn't want me to repeat history and I never will. I don’t look at him as a mistake though. Although I do think he was mistaken with his actions.

I will finish school. I'm going to ensure my ambitions and movements are antonymous to his own. He left me with a blank coloring book and the primary colors that he filled in were out of place. However, his diary is a great study guide to master this art. His views on history were outdated. I will learn from history and his story so that his debt won’t be repeated. Yes, his debt.

My father’s debt to this generation is as heavy as the chaos he helped give breath to. He aided the drug activity in my area. By aiding the longevity of the drug handlers he helped spawn the clucks that loiter the pathways that students walk through to get home. It conceived a generation of youth that looks up to and follows the dopeman, an entity he helped make legendary. His aid served as a catalyst in the destruction of a community that has been vulnerable, making it easy for outsiders to exploit and make a profit from us – sucking us dry.

I’ll help clear my father’s debt by destroying it all. Facing conflict like fire and burning down the impact his story helped create, so we can begin a new book of life. I will be my own boss a true boss, a true leader. I will not depend on no one else’s affluences to survive.           

He was right about one thing. In our world a black man is born trapped, poor and owing dues, because of his predecessors. I will use my education to escape this world. My children will be aliens to this world.

Viewing his body in the casket I was thinking about his eyes. Now that they are closed I know what story they were telling when they were opened. Piercing through my spirit, his life was flashing before my eyes. The life he never lived, the life he wished he had:           

Those eyes showed the origin of a man who was me 17 years ago. Just 17 years old trying to find answers, but the cheat sheet provided by a father was nowhere in sight. His eyes told the story of a farmer separated from his crop seasons before harvest. Barely planted and snatched away from it before being able to protect them from the elements of the outside world and the damage it brings. Regretfully he looked at me saying through those eyes, “I wanted to be there for you, my son. Your first steps, I read about them… The first ‘A’ you got on your alphabet test, I congratulated you. You played football for the park district right? Yeah, your Uncle Lou told me how your mother and aunt tried to run on the field the moment you got hit. We didn’t tell your mother about those magazines under your bed. That’s our secret but make sure you wear a raincoat before you test them waters, hear me?” It’s a shame I must say, to never get that closure to make this mess come full circle. But to look in those eyes and see his story end when you didn’t even see mine begin make me feel like we lived our lives all out of sequence, and that became the new order…Backwards.


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