The Casualties of Masculinity

Of all the things that my masculinity has forced me to suppress I can never get used to losing things. I can’t normalize losing relationships, losing time, and losing what’s pure. I have spent the better part of my adulthood nurturing a little bird and now it’s ready to fly away. It seems too soon but I suppose I would have never been ready. And now that this bird has discovered her own wings I must watch her flutter with great anxiety, trying to motivate her to go higher only with my words. And it all makes me feel very helpless.

I don’t go to Rolling Hills Cemetery anymore. I try not to look at it from the freeway either. There is too much death in that place. There is too much loss for me. If I were to go there and give everyone their due respect then I wouldn’t have enough for me. Some died violently, some of natural causes surrounded by the rest of the family on their death bed but not by me. I wasn’t there. I can’t take the loss of precious things, I never could.

Then there are the ones that float around me like ghosts, clearly out of their minds. They used to be sharp. They used to be hilarious in the cap session and now teenagers point at them and laugh. Indeed, if they could see what they are now when they were 16 then they would laugh too. Some of them speak to me while others don’t. But we used to talk for hours. We used to get turned down by beautiful girls together and fail the same classes and then talk about how it was all a conspiracy. And now, somehow, I am evil. My spirit has been tainted and I no longer know their language. I no longer see what they can see. I’m not down anymore. Not only am I gone but I have to stay gone. We will never be on the same level again. They live on the streets, oblivious to all judgement and free from all of the rules that confine me. When I try to say more than hello to them it sounds fake. For there is nothing to talk about. There are no more connections and I know that but I am a drug addict strung out on nostalgia.

I remember being hurt as a young boy and not having anyone to talk to about it because in my subconscious mind I felt like a man should never allow himself to be hurt and though I wasn’t a man yet I wanted to be one so badly. And then I remember seeing him at school and him listening, like really listening with his eyes and his arms crossed and he—having a far superior physique than mine, though we debated about it all the time—looking down on me with empathy and telling me not to trip and that he had been hurt in the same way. This made me feel like a man. My problems all of a sudden seemed worthy and my emotions had been validated. Then the conversation transitioned into far less pressing topics like an episode of Martin, or a cute girl, or football practice. I never said thank you. I could always come to him and he would never make me feel weak. I never thanked him for it though. Now I lost him. He speaks to himself but he won’t speak to me. Sometimes I try to break into his world with a smile or a question and try to disregard his condition but he never lets me in. Then I stay taking large doses of nostalgia like so many Xanax and like so much lean in my cup, I always drink too much. When I’m high I see that kid who I lost. He was so hopeful and pure. So talented, loving, and incapable of hurting anyone. And then I realize that the day that I lost him was the day that I lost myself. I will never be pure again.

-YB

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Am I A Real Man Now?

.....On Muses

I feel as though my roots have been severed. My voice has been lost. For the most part I feel like I don’t know how I feel. I hide behind my work like a coward, like a sociopath, like a man. My grandmother died in the first part of February and I haven’t cried about it yet.

I’ve put in a lot of hours at my job. I’ve continued to take care of my child. I went to the play at her after school program and I cheered her on at all of her basketball games but no tears for mama.

My sister called me when I was at work to tell me that “Mama was dying.” Silence. “Are y’all at the hospital?” I asked. Then she said yeah and waited for me to say that I was on my way but I never said that. I didn’t leave my job until very late that night. Then I drove slowly, very slowly to my house. I got on Facebook and discovered that mama was dead.

I didn’t want to be around all the drama. All the howling and shouting that accompanies the death of a family member. I was in the room when my uncle was dying of AIDS, along with all of my other family members, until I looked at his face twitching and his body convulsing. My Aunt rubbed his forehead and gently gave him permission to let go and said that it was OK. I left. I went into the waiting room until I heard all of the lord have mercies accompanied by the guttural moans. When I came back in he was still and gone. At the age of 14 I didn’t cry. I remember feeling very proud of myself and ashamed for my family for not letting the man die alone. I told myself that if I should perish in a room full of people then I would use my last breath to say, “Get the fuck out.”

It’s strange because most people believe that is the most honorable way to die but not me. I would never want my family to see me weak. Maybe god won’t forgive me for being so prideful, maybe my family won’t respect my wishes when I tell them to leave or perhaps I’ll die very suddenly and it won’t matter.

My grandmother’s death wasn’t sudden at all. It seemed as though she died steadily for about 10-years straight. She slowly lost everything. At some point I could no longer tolerate it so I ran. I ran to the boxing gym, I ran to my job, I ran 10 miles a day. All the while the powerful lady who bore 12 children and never forgot anyone’s birthday began suffering from senility. She saw things that no one else could see and started to tell secrets that only she knew and I heard about all of this through the gossipers because I was gone; away, inside my own head, hiding from memories of me trying to take care of her and her leaving, saying that we were trying to poison her, she’ll never know how much that hurt, I held my grudge, now she’s in the dirt, what does it matter, it doesn’t matter at all because mama is dead.

I work all day. I run around the Lake and I sweat. I bought my daughter a new pair of shoes. I flirt with the women. I talk shit with the fellas. I forgot how to cry. Does that make me a real man now?

Am I a real man?

-YB