, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Literally on this day and date, and at this time twenty-eight years ago, I was at the beginning of a twenty-three hour adventure away from 616, my idiot stepfather (no longer, of course, and recently deceased) Maurice Washington and his abuse, a trek that took me all over Mount Vernon and into both my dreams and fears. As I wrote in Boy @ The Window:

“We got into it over the ‘Dad’ issue again. He told me to do something, and I only said, ‘Okay.’ I didn’t say ‘Okay, Dad,’ and my ‘Okay’ wasn’t exactly enthusiastic. This was the one thing about Maurice that I refused to accept – him as anything other than the leech and bully that he was. He certainly wasn’t my dad, and he gave up the right to be called “stepfather” three years before. Yet he insisted on me calling him “Dad!” I usually walked a fine line between open defiance and acquiescence with him, not referring to him by anything at all. He had no name, no title, no label. Maurice was nothing and meant nothing to me other than the reason I’d eventually have to leave 616. Our incidents had become less frequent only because he worked nights as a security guard and slept during the day. And I stayed home as little as I could when he was around.

“So on the last Sunday of August ’85, we had another round.

“I’m your father, and the Bible says to ‘honor thy father and mother’. . .”

“You’ll never be my father. My father lives at 149 South Tenth Avenue.”

“As long as you live under my roof, you’re gonna call me ‘Dad’.”

“No, I’m not,” I said shaking my head at the same time.

“I’m gonna show you how to respect me, nigga!,” he said as he balled his fists.

“Luckily I had fast feet. He tried to grab me and then hit me at the same time, not a good tactic when you’re significantly overweight and off balance. I slithered past him, got out of his grasp, and dashed down our long hallway to the front door. I ran down the stairs that led to the back dirt courtyard area of 616 and didn’t stop running into I ran into the woods nearby, Wilson Woods. It was a mostly cloudy late summer day, thank God, because I wasn’t in any shape to be bothered with anybody.

“I wound my way through Wilson Woods on its serpentine path toward the southeast side of Mount Vernon. I saw a few folks who recognized me as I walked from the woods toward East Third and South Columbus, but the walk was mostly a blur. I made my way to Jimme’s place on West Third and South Tenth, all the while thinking about the reality of my long-lost childhood and quickly evaporating time as a teenager. Jimme wasn’t home, and I didn’t feel like going on a hunt for him at one of his watering hole after a meandering three-mile walk. So I waited there for a while, maybe an hour or so.

“I made my way past downtown Mount Vernon, up Gramatan Avenue, taking on the hill on which Davis Middle School sits. From there I reached Fleetwood and walked past homes and cars that I thought me and my family deserved but would never own. I likely walked by the homes of some of my classmates without even knowing it. Tudors and townhomes, beamers and Volvos populated this neighborhood. I turned right on Birch Street and headed east, eventually meandering past Pennington-Grimes Elementary. I noted that this was the place where the remaining affluent and most assertive Humanities classmates went to as kids. It made me think for a moment about the reality that when put together, Mom, Maurice and Jimme had no clue about what it was like for me to be in a program like this, with students whose parents owned their own homes or were able to take a vacation overseas. These compadres were more sophisticated than I was, even after four years in the program. Just thinking about it made me clinch my teeth.”

I eventually made my way to Mount Vernon High School, where I spent the night sleeping on the floor in the classroom next to the Humanities coordinator’s office (Joyce Flanagan’s office at the time). I had a morning of meandering, ended up at St. Ursula Catholic Church for three hours of prayer and contemplation about my future. All before going home to my worried (for once) Mom, my dispassionate dipshit of a stepfather, and my uncivilized siblings.

There, around 3 pm that Monday, I just collapsed, in my sometimes bed and bedroom, not knowing I was literally two years away from being on my way to Pitt and Pittsburgh. But I knew for sure that I couldn’t keep running away, either.