Sunday, August 11, 2013


     Franklin James Stein sat on the curb holding his ice cream to his face. The unopened wrapper clung to his dark skin, and the cool water condensed along the seam between the frozen treat and his overheating cheek. Franklin closed his eyes.

     Donald Batista saw that little bastard Frankie across the street doing something stupid with his Popsicle. He decided that Freaky Frankie needed another beating, so he started closing the distance between them with (what looked to the world like) a rhythmic saunter. In reality, as he was crossing the street, Donald was trying to free his right testicle from the elastic leg opening it had been trapped under for the past few minutes.  It was uncomfortable, but there were too many other kids around to just reach down his pants and do something meaningful about it.

     Franklin sat, cooling his face with his ice cream. He could feel it melting, but he didn’t care. It felt so cold on his skin.

     Donald gave up with his ball. He broke into a half-run, wanting to beat Freaky before he ran away. He balled up his fist and wound up as he got closer. Other kids stood, staring at the impending beat-down with a mixture of morbid fascination and pity. Donald was at least twice the size of Freaky, and in the past had beaten the smaller black kid so badly that he had to stay out of school for a week, unable to see.   Freaky never told who did it, though. Probably would have ended up dead if he had.

     Donald was now close enough to Franklin to say something before hitting him and not worry that he was going to get away if he ran.  “Hot, Freaky?” he yelled as he swung his fist downward towards the exposed right side of Franklin’s face.  The other kids watched the almost comically slow-motioned arc that Donald’s fist made through the air. The trajectory lined up nicely with Franklin’s cheek bone, and would surely crush it down into his upper jaw, breaking it and lining up another extended stay at home.

    Franklin turned on Donald with alarming speed, ducking just as the fist screamed past his face. Donald was off balance and spun wildly out of control. He counted on his momentum driving him onto and through Franklin’s body, his intention to spill the boy and his Popsicle into the gutter.  Instead, it was Donald himself careening into the gutter, littered with hot trash baking in the summer sun. The other kids were horrified at first, then began laughing uncontrollably as Donald tried to stand, covered in hot, damp litter, and now nursing a bloody elbow and knee.  His face was screwed up into something that resembled hate, if a kid his age really understood hate. “You little motherfucker” he spewed from his dirty mouth. There was a used gum wrapper dangling from his lower lip.  “You’re fucking DEAAAAAAAD”

     Franklin stood up and laughed at the larger boy. He grabbed his knees and doubled over for just a second, his laughter making his sides hurt, and tears form in his eyes. Donald turned redder as he realized that he was being laughed at AND the other kids were joining in. He balled up his fists again, bloody knuckles leaking onto the curb. He rushed the smaller boy hard, intending on pummeling him into the sidewalk. Again, Franklin dodged at the last second, sending Donald face-down again. He rolled over; his shirt now torn and hanging open, exposing his soft, white belly. His forehead was bleeding from a scrape, and his eyes were narrowed like a reptile. Franklin stood as tall as he could, flipped Donald off, smiled, winked, and ran easily down the street, waving to the cheering crowd as he did. Donald stood up and leered through welling tears. He took two steps towards Franklin, who was, incredibly, approaching at a jog.  “DONNY DONNY DONNY! Fall-Donny!” he chanted as he approached, his eyes bright and triumphant.

     There was a loud noise and the crowd silenced behind it. Franklin fell in a slump, the crimson stain spreading across his back. He would miss his12th birthday next week.

Donald smiled over the body at his older brother Raymond.

One of the girls in the crowd screamed.

Monday, August 5, 2013

On Gifts

I am here, alone for a bit. I have a chance to write – a gift I often abandon for being entertained by my Facebook feed, or chatting with people I have or have not met. Sometimes I abandon the chance to write in favor of feeling alone. But tonight, I am going to write.

I was recently given a document. It was a thesis written by someone I care for very much, and I am learning to understand and explore. This is not something I accepted lightly, nor without wondering what I would discover of her there.  And discover I did.   I questioned my own process while reading it, I wondered aloud with her about what she would find next. And when I was done, I understand more about her and her struggle in life than she could have ever expressed in any single conversation we could have. This was not written for me, nor for anyone else. It was written for HER, and I admire her courage for sharing it.

I also understood some things about myself in the act of reading about her. She spoke of gifts that she has received, and of not judging others for their station in life. She wrote of her travels on the surface, but when you read between the lines, you realize exactly how much of herself she lay before the reader.   She revealed shame and need, just as much as she revealed joy and contentment.  She is appreciative of her life, and of the struggle others have because of life’s circumstances.  Another reason to love her for whom she is.
I have been given gifts in my life, just as all of you have - just as she has.  Reading about her gifts makes me examine my own ability to be who I am every day. Another of my loves wrote about gratitude and acceptance – about being open to giving AND receiving.  I wonder how long it has been since I came upon that realization in my own life? It feels as though I am naturally giving, and in most cases I am willing to receive.  The place I have the most trouble is accepting that I am worth the love I receive, and I am freely given every day. As understanding as I am, as non-judging as I am, and as open to accepting others as they are, I am still unsure if I am truly worthy of this love.

It falls to insecurities that were gifts at various points in my own life.  My teenage years were filled with doubt of being loved. It wasn't until I was in 10th grade, 1985, when I felt I found peers willing to accept me as I was. There were other friendships before then, some I still kindle, but it was that magic year when I learned to understand friendship and acceptance. I no longer felt as though I needed to be something else to be accepted. I fell in with those who fit poorly with other social groups, yet were not entirely outcasts, either.  I learned about just being me, and that was a crucial lesson.   These people, all of them, were my friends on a level I hadn't been able to grasp until I fell into them. And they were all marvelously THEM as well.  Where then, do the insecurities arise? They are a part of me. There are many places in my childhood I recall where I felt love would not be possible. These places are not for this forum, but perhaps someday, I'll write them down.

It was during this formative time when I met my first girlfriend, She was introduced by a friend, and there is a long story there, one I will not tell here.  But I fell in love with a girl I barely knew, and we learned to be together. I am as responsible for who she is today as she is for who I am.  She is a point in my life I cannot change.  Even then, I felt lucky to be loved, and this led to a part of my life I will not regret, nor say I didn't want. But when that relationship ended, it was 17 years later.  I had other loves, giving and receiving gifts from them as well. I loved them and still carry some of them in my heart, some longer than I really should.  But all those years ago is when  I first noticed my ability to love others and not replace anyone, and it wasn't until an epiphany not very long ago that I realized how that led me to my current life. I found ways to explain it that were different than how I understand it today, but it really meant the same even then : I am not wired like others.  Thus, my current relationship situation seems more understandable.

I have tried to teach my children to not judge others. My son, now 20, demonstrates an ability to live that as a man. He has his own issues in life, gifts that his mother and I gave to him both consciously and unconsciously, but he is a man and I am proud of him.  My daughter is a marvel of acceptance. I am proud of her as well, given the chances she has been given to make her own choices.  I hope that my children will continue to nurture those gifts, and someday realize that allowing the person in front of them to be who they are.

I am grateful for my fluidity; it allows me to move through life with an air of lightness. I am unafraid of new situations and although I sometimes need to process and deal with emotions, I am willing to do the work.  I am grateful for my mechanical aptitude, and my fearlessness of taking things apart. I could apply this to people I meet as well, since I am known to ask deep, probing questions of them. I am grateful for my ability to converse – something a friend gave me advice on all those years ago, and I use still. I am grateful for my ability to love, without expectation, without condition. I believe my mother, most of all, gave me that.  She let me be who I was, even when that fell outside her own ideals and beliefs.  For all the other gifts I am not, or will not, name here, I am ever grateful. I spent a lifetime learning to be me, and I carry with me lessons I've learned from myself, and from others.

I am not what many consider normal. I am not safe. I am not unwilling to take chances or risks. But I am willing to put those I love first, and to try and do what is right. I am willing to learn from my mistakes, own them, and try to make the best of the fallout when it goes badly.

I have been given so many wonderful gifts in life.  I am learning to give myself one right now: I am worthy of the love I receive.

Many times, I've told others, “If you want to know me, read my blog”.   Here, dear readers, is another piece of my soul.