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GSC accepts a wide variety of submissions. We welcome critical writing and creative, fiction and non-fiction. We would like to thank Chris for sharing this moving personal short story with us today.
I spent every day of every summer growing up in my aunt’s one bedroom apartment in Harlem on 145th Street. I’ve never really thought about the amount of memories I built up there, including taking my first steps when my mother was at work. We all grew up under my aunt. She raised all of my older cousins at her house. These are the closest people I have to siblings. In this village, my aunt was also my mother. I remember growing up without my oldest cousin knowing that he was in jail, but not fully understanding that concept. I also have a very faint memory of taking a long trip and meeting him for the first time in jail, feeling nervous and a bit scared. I got to meet him again when he came home in the summer of 2006. He came straight off the train back to the hood, to his mother’s house.
Suddenly, there was a restoration of wholeness within that house. I imagine my aunt, who had felt the gratification of taking care of so many other children, finally being able to have her own child back in the home we replaced him must have felt serene. My cousin’s son got to have his father back. There’s a lot of ramifications for taking a father away from his children. A few summers after being back, my cousin and his son got into an argument. For what it’s worth, they’re the same person. Today I heard his voice over the phone from Gouverneur Correctional Facility. His voice and phrasing mimics his father’s perfectly. But that day, they were in another conflict. Two people with bad tempers who act off emotion and place their anger beyond fear. The kind of anger that makes you a danger to yourself. The kind of anger that grows and bounces off the walls after being buried deep down and repressed. An anger that stems from sadness and resentment. They begin to physically fight. On one side there’s a manic child and on the other a displaced father accustomed to the order and respect of grown men in prison.
My cousin punches the ribs, stomach, arms, and legs of his son. He is tossing him from the hallway to the bedroom, restraining him, h him, and trying to use force so he calms down. Enough to restore “balance” between parent and child. The painful love we never wanted, but were assured we needed. But when you have pain in resentment and love in need for affection in your father, feeling those hits only fuels the fire. He runs out of the house down the stairs, screaming raged through tears, “I’m calling the cops”. Me and my cousin watch from the apartment window while he runs to the train station where there’s a police precinct. He apparently told the officers that his father punched him and broke his ribs. My cousin waiting in the apartment turns to me, “This nigga really talking to the cops, I’mma just sit here and wait for them to come because if I go outside I don’t know what’s going to happen.”
Minutes later at least ten officers are at the door, off-loading the 4 person elevator in multiples on the 6th floor. They walk in and start talking with him. “I had to hit him, because he was being disrespectful. He’s telling me he’s going to kill me and he’s going to get a knife,” he pleads. “I’m trying to get him to calm down and he’s fighting me, so I told him if he hits me again I’m going to break his fucking ribs. He’s my son. I can’t have him telling me he’s going to use a knife on me,” he stammered. The officers, continuing to walk in and out of the apartment filling each other in on the story, close the door to the apartment. I take out my Samsung flip phone, and start recording their conversation with him. I’ve never seen him as mad as he was only less than ten minutes ago and now there are a dozen officers in a small apartment with just me and him. He sat despondent as if to retrace what just happened so quickly. The officer walks toward my cousin and says, “I know he’s your son. And I don’t think you’re lying to me because you stayed in here and waited for us to come. You have a right to discipline your son, and you have the right to defend yourself if someone is threatening you with a weapon. But he’s a minor and he came to us saying that you punched him. That’s different from spanking; it can be considered abuse. And I know you say he threatened you, but we have to place you under arrest under his complaint and the fact you were honest with us in saying you did hit him.”
My cousin looks at the officer, “I understand, this nigga really putting me through all of this shit today.” “Have you ever been arrested before?” the officer asks. “I was locked up for 13 years, I just got home two summers ago”. The front door opens again, and my aunt walks in through a sea of police. I stopped recording, now that I had someone else with me. The officers stand my cousin up, and place the handcuffs on him. He immediately falls. The entire room of police reacts to how fast he moves and pushes towards him. The officer looks at the others approaching, “He just came home after more than a decade. Give him a second to get himself together.” They lead him out the front door with his hands bound together. “Turn that game off and put your shoes on, we have to go see where they’re taking him”, my aunt says.
As I picked up the controller, one of the officers heard the sirens from Grand Theft Auto IV. I noticed their interest, “This is that game where you can kill people right?” “Yeah.” I say as I demonstrate for them. The sirens from the police driving by become sirens from cars heading towards me. I immediately pause the game again, realizing there are police behind me and in order to escape I might have to kill a policeman in the game. “That’s pretty cool, can you kill the police too,” he asks as if to read my mind. But the way he asked the question was more inquisitive than the first. I responded, “Yeah” as their eyes redirected from me to the TV. Unpause. AK-47. Aim. Fire. I turn back to the officers behind me for their reactions. Smiles, and delight. I pause the game again, as they walk out the door. “I told you we got to go, put your other shoe on and turn that game off” my aunt snaps. “But they wanted to see me play.”