Guilty by Association
One Christmas, I had gotten a SEGA Genesis and I was happy about it. I got to play my Sonic and Tails games. My brother Kyle and I loved playing the games when he came to visit and that was pretty often. Until one day when I came in from school to find that my game wasn’t there anymore. There were no explanations, it was just gone. My mother and father argued about the Sega and I came to terms with the fact that it was gone. I told myself that my dad got rid of the Sega because he was mad that I played video games and didn’t pay him any attention. I started to feel more guilt than sadness about the game system being gone.
I thought that if I were a good boy, then my dad wouldn’t take things from me. So I tried so hard to be good. I prayed that God would make me a good boy. There were plenty of nights when my dad would be up sick, vomiting his brains out after getting high, or needing a fix. I would be up with him, rubbing his back and making him some tea. By the way, dope fiends going through withdrawal are stinky. My dad was so funky when he was sick and up vomiting all night. It was hard to take at times. From the age of nine to eleven I stayed up with my father just making sure he was okay.
My grades started to suffer. My mother worked nights to take care of us, while my father would be out in the street getting high. I would stay up every night taking care of my drugged hazed father, while my sister was sleeping. Then I would sleep most of the day in school. Most mornings I wouldn’t even go to school. I was often teased in school. The kids made fun of my clothes because I didn’t have any name brand clothes or sneakers. My sneakers either came from Payless, or they were hand downs from relatives. My mother didn’t make a lot of money and the money she made always went to paying rent
My mother doesn’t remember this, but my sister and I had come home to hear my mother and father arguing. My father had stolen the money my mother had put aside for rent. That was the first time I had ever saw my mother cry. Until then, my mother was strong and seemed unbothered by a lot that was going on. But I think that was the first time I had really seen my mother cry. All of my mother’s hard earned work was blown on drugs. Which meant rent wouldn’t get paid and we would soon be evicted. Thanks dad! Yet, I was hopeful that being a good boy would make my father stop doing drugs.
I knew all bets were off when my sister and I were playing in the living room on Monticello and there was a knock at the door. It was my father’s brother Larry. My dad opened the door, there was some yelling and some tussling and finally, my Uncle pulled out a gun and held to my father’s head. I cried and jumped in between my uncle and father.
“No! Don’t hurt my daddy!” My uncle let up on my dad and my dad told me and my sister to go in our room. So Denisha and I ran into our room and closed the door. I remember awaiting a gunshot to fire. It never did.
All of my attempts at being a good boy just so that my dad wouldn’t take from us were ill-fated. He still managed to steal, my radio, our VCR, game systems, etc. We bought it; he traded it in for drugs. I just continued to believe that I wasn’t good enough. The more my dad used drugs, the more guilt I felt. I couldn’t protect my sister from feeling embarrassed or hurt. I was too young to help my mother provide for us. We barely ever had enough food. We never had money to buy clothes or do laundry. Every job my father tried to keep, he would lose over stealing shit to feed his habit.
My family moved to 480 Bramhall Avenue when I was in 5th grade. I attended PS#14 school, now known as the Ollie E. Culbreth Jr. School which is located on Union Street in Jersey City. Let me say that I hated that school. The school had a horrible reputation and I had heard about it way before I started attended. Kids were robbed, beaten up, locked in closets and I was afraid. It wasn’t until Mrs. Gwendolyn Jackson became the Principal, that the school started to get better.
Christmastime came and my sister and I hated it. We hated Christmas; it meant that we would be given gifts. Denisha and I started to hate the thought of getting gifts, because we could never enjoy them for long. Weeks after we had gotten something for Christmas, the gift would disappear. My mother had begged me to tell her what I wanted for Christmas, but I wouldn’t. I knew that I wanted something, but I couldn’t allow myself to want it. One day, my mother took me to the mall and asked me.
“If you could have anything for Christmas, just one small thing; what would it be?” She asked. I finally relented and told my mom that I wanted a Game Com. It was a new game system that was kind of like a Game Boy. I told her that I wanted it, but I knew that dad would end up taking it. I asked my mother not to get it for me. My mother bought the game system anyway. My mom later told me that she got the game because other than my sister, I had no friends. I was tortured by my classmates at school and I went through hell at home.
I took my Game Com everywhere. I refused to leave it at home. Whenever I had to leave my game at home; I hid it in my mother’s closet in a bag of clothes she never wore. At night, after I played with my game, I placed it in its box and slipped it under my bed and hid it under a bunch of dirty clothes.
My dad soon figured out my hiding spot. One day after school, I came home to play with my Game Com and it was gone. I looked in the closet I usually hide it. I emptied out all of the bags in the closet. I looked all over my room. I looked in the kitchen. I looked through all of our closets. I hoped that in case I had actually misplaced it, someone picked it up and put it back in its box. I looked in its box. It wasn’t there. It was nowhere to be found. My father was nowhere to be found. My mother was at work. My sister and I just stood in the middle of the mess I made. I felt tears streaming down my face but I refused to cry.
This was all of my fault. I should not have wanted the Game Com. I should not have told my mother that I wanted it. I should have told her that I wanted notebooks or board games instead. That might have been better than telling my mother I wanted something that I knew I couldn’t really keep. I blamed myself. Finally around mid-night my father walked into the door. I guess he’d hoped that we were all sleeping. My mother sent Denisha and I to bed. I walked past my dad and he tried to hug and kiss me. I pulled away from him.
“You knew that boy loved his game.” I heard my mother say to him. They argued I don’t remember everything they said. I just remember my father finally saying.
“Oh well, it’s gone, Michelle. Shit!” My father yelled. “The fuck am I supposed to do? Go get it back? It’s gone.” With that, my father ran into the bathroom to get high.