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

East Oakland Rain

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Rain speaks to me. Rainfall creates a mood, a train of thought, a release from the cool Northern California monotony. Cars swish by and I don’t want to leave my home. I don’t want to open the curtains. I don’t want to text anyone back. Rain tells me that it’s ok to be antisocial.

I live in my head. I breathe in nostalgia. I spend the majority of these winter days trying to make sense of this confusion. Trying to create solutions for a problem that I have yet to identify. Trying to avoid cliché’s while trying to arrive at inner peace. My bible has fallen to the floor. I haven’t picked it up in weeks. My future is frightening so I disappear into old things. The truth has become so distorted by the lapsing of time that often times I forget how destructive these things were to me. I lose the same race every night. I lose it in my soul.

In between raindrops I smile. While it is pouring, and only while it is pouring, I allow myself to cry. I cry for all of my mistakes. I cry for the dead. I cry for my inability to make things right. I cry to remind myself that beneath all of the masculine ideas that I have learned, I am still a human being.

The rain gives me an excuse to have pity on myself and to analyze the miserable side of being alone. And that being that so many people that I once loved, and even more importantly, that once loved me have moved on to happiness. They’ve moved on to engagements and husbands and children while I continue to move back to nostalgia. The days when I kissed them and left them where they stood. The days when I gave them just enough. The days when I thought they would always be there for me to come back to. The days when I thought that I had it like that. I don’t. I never did. Now all of these thoughts are inappropriate and all of these memories are painful. Just like the childhood memories of playing football at recess, goofing off in class, and getting the phone numbers of cute girls with friends that are no longer living. More dead memories.

I contemplate all of the false steps I have taken to get me to this point. I am astonished at how blind I had to be to have gotten so lost.

-YB

When Manhood was a Myth

 

And then sometimes I want to go back to the days when manhood was just a myth. When we used to sell wolf tickets about the girls we had been with to try to conceal the fact that we were still pure. When we used to pay local drug addicts to buy us cheap liquor from the Arab stores and drink until we threw up. When we used to have cap sessions for hours. I talked about his fat bottom lip because he tried to clown me about my wide nostrils. Then he talked about my old shoes so I got on him about his black ass mama. That’s when he started getting serious which meant that I had won.

 

This was before Sean got shot to death and before he went to San Quentin and even before juvenile hall. This was before H.G. lost his mind and started living on the streets and before his girlfriend had his baby and didn’t let him see his own son. This was before Kamari went to prison for life. Before he violated those women and told us that he didn’t do it but the newspaper down in San Jose said otherwise and so did the jury.

 

This was when we all played junior varsity football and we all wanted to play in the NFL and be millionaires and have all the women and pull up to the club in an old school Mustang or a brand new Lamborghini like Latrell Sprewell, C&H, and The Luniz. When we used to get on the bus all musty after practice and see a girl from school and argue over which one of us should go and try to get her number.

 

This was before I lost touch and shut down. Before my daughter was born. Before I got arrested for the first time but was never charged and started having daily fantasies about killing the police officers who harassed me and sneaking out-of-town never to return again and being a ghetto folk hero like Frank Matthews.

 

These were the days when I used to fall in love everyday with some beautiful girl that I couldn’t have as opposed to this day where I have a beautiful women that I don’t know how to love. When we believed in our future success like we believed in the words of Tupac. When we used to roam the halls of our high schools together acting way harder than we ever were. Before I had to write them letters in prison and before I had to visit them in the cemetery and before they came to my house in unkempt clothes and disheveled hair asking for a dollar, we were all friends.

 

We all wanted to be men. We all wanted to be somebody.

-YB

Lines From the Piedmont Rose Garden

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I sit down at the Piedmont Rose Garden but the roses do not grow; they do not blossom, they do not bloom. My inspiration hath been circumcised, butchered for its own good. It is early February and very few things can grow in the cold. The grass grows more slowly and the soil clings to itself.

Behold for I am lost-

My heart groweth cold but at least it still grows. It bends toward a sun that hasn’t been seen in years. The water in the lake is cold but not frozen. My thoughts create steam. The steam dissipates, and then I have nothing. I have nostalgia like so many baseball cards hidden underneath my bed at night. If it can’t be seen then it can’t be stolen.

The roots of the tree before me plunge downward even further than my soul does. I see cowards in the darkness. I see the weak and I distance myself from them hoping that this will make me strong. My distance disallows me to follow people so it can’t be entirely bad.

I see the ugliest things in the world wrapped in the most beautiful skin imaginable. I touched her lips before I kissed her. I sinned with her long before we lay down. I got up first. With sweat beading on the tip of my nose and soaking my brow I opened the window and allowed the winter chill soothe my flesh.

-YB

Clotheslines

I remember clotheslines. I remember when we had a washing machine but no dryer. We had a basket full of clothespins that used to sit by the back door. My grandmother used to have a clothesline too. I remember her pulling me down the street when I was a little boy. We were rushing back too her duplex so we could hurry and get the clothes off the line because it was beginning to sprinkle.

On sunny days everyone’s laundry would be hanging out to dry; the bed sheets, the bras, the jeans, and the T-shirts. There were very few secrets in the communities of my childhood and there was no such thing as poverty. Nothing felt better than wearing a crisp shirt straight off the line. Sun dried shirts smelled better too. I love to recall my beautiful past. Memories redolent with the sweetest kind of affection. I would have stayed in that place forever had I known.

YB