Part 1 of what happened to me recently is here. This is Part 2.
We beat the devil in a death game last Tuesday, and on the following the day, I began calling around to see how much I could get for my gun. A hundred bucks. Damn. That's less than I paid for it before some of you were born.
One salesman explained, "So many people are unemployed now that they're selling their firearms to get money."
My mind did a flash back of my son holding my .38 to his head and begging me to dare him to pull the trigger.
Maybe that ain't the only reason why, I thought cynically.
Hours later I was staring at my son and thinking, bitch, bitch, bitch. Putting me through that shit. Being broke and jobless ain't that bad, not yet anyway.
That evening I told my told 14 year old daughter, Cassie, about the incident over dinner.
"He loves drama," she said nonchalantly.
She never has taken his azz seriously, and that's all she had to say about it.
I actually discovered he'd taken my gun that Monday while looking for batteries in a box in my closet. I keep it in a gray suede case. My hand knows it's weight, and the moment I picked it up to move it aside, I knew it was missing.
I entered his room.
"Gimme back my gun."
He immediately handed it over. I checked the chamber.
"Where's the bullets?"
They were in his pocket. He reached in and gave me a handful.
"Why did you take my gun?", I demanded.
"Ma, I think of suicide every day."
"You were fine yesterday! On Valentine's Day. You were so happy. What happened?"
"The happiness never lasts."
"No one walks around on a happy-high 24/7. That's not how life works. Are you suicidal now?"
"Why you got all these bullets in your pocket?"
"I don't know."
I wasn't buying it. Sounded fishy.
Sure ya don't, nigga. You wanna go out in a blaze of glory with the cops, dontcha? Drama queen bitch nigga. My son. Damn.
I thought this but didn't say it, 'cause I wasn't sure. What if this was a lie, and the real deal is that he might be planning to step up his game from a sporadic drug user to a drug dealer, and a dumb one at that?
Hand him a stack of cash and tell him to add it up three times and he'll give you a different amount every time. People like this should avoid drug dealing like the plague. Along with me, even his friends have told him this, at least the real friends.
I left the room. In hindsight, that would have been the perfect moment to sneak away and call the police. I think it was fear that stopped me.
Fear of being paranoid and wrong... what if he's neither suicidal nor dealing, and only had it to show off to his friends, and ended up locked up on a felony over acting like a juvenile show off?
That's one of the problems of having a history of doing bad or crazy shit. You never live it down. People always jump to the conclusion you're back into whatever you used to be about, when it might be something totally different.
My mind was struggling to figure out the truth. Suicidal? Drug dealing? Showing off? Or something else?
Raising this boy has been like keeping a tiger in captivity. I keep training it but it can never be tamed. It is wild and unpredictable, compelling but repelling at the same time.
I hid the gun and retreated to my room, where my cowardly mother's heart would wonder again, what do I do about this stupid man-child?
I did what every coward does: I ignored this new event hoping it wouldn't repeat itself, and did it in the name of love and fear. Sometimes I hate myself, 'cause if that ain't some enabling, codependent, and fear-based shit, I don't know what is.
Since he refuses to take medication, I worry his mood disorder and/or wild side will catch him with him eventually, and the group of heartless crazies who own and run the privatized prisons will solve his problems by putting him in a cage for some trifling reason rather than a damned good one.
What a waste, 'cause he ain't all bad, and on good days he's great, and he does have talent.
It's relationships like these that bring confusion to many people, because if a lover, spouse, parent, child, or friend is all or mostly bad, it's easy to ditch their azz. But when it's more good than bad, then it's harder to totally give up on them even when the bad is really bad.
It was the next day that I became his emotional hostage. Wrote about that in Part 1, where his response to my asking him to look for a job was to hold a gun to his head and dare me, bait me, to just give the word for him to commit suicide.
Thinking about it too much gives me chills.
Have you ever loved a child, parent, sibling, man, or woman, who became lost, and you followed them to their dark place to rescue them, but instead lost your bearings?
And even though you still have a good idea of how to escape, you keep following them deeper into their crazy life to pull them out, only to realize you're too far away from where you need to be?
That's where I've been.
In my mind, I am on a path in a forest with old-growth trees. They are tall and beautiful, and their branches make a canopy. The forest is somewhat dark, but I can see the sunlight peaking through the trees.
I am holding my daughter's hand firmly. She trusts me without reservation, and she's looking up at me for direction. We follow the path, where up ahead we can see the light out of the forest, but I keep looking back, and I'm calling, "Xavier, catch up with us! Please!"
He's so far back that we can't even see him, but I know he's there. I sense the exact place where he is. My eyes adjust to the darkness, and he's crouching under some brambles or bushes, watching us leave, waiting for us to go, believing that he wants to be there and that it's his destiny.
He doesn't know this is a lie told to him by the King of Lies, Satan.
I tried to pull him away so many times, but he won't budge, and instead, pushes me away and runs deeper into the forest. This is why I left and I'm so far up the path.
I know that if I don't leave, whatever he is waiting for has very large jaws and teeth, and will consume me like beast.
I keep moving forward toward the light, slowly, but keep looking back... calling him.
"Xavier, please come."
Cassie always looks up at me when I do, waiting patiently while I pause, waiting for my decision in which direction we'll take. She doesn't know if I'll run back to him and try to save him again, or keep moving on.
Her eyes have the innocence of a child because she is a child, one who without reservation trusts whatever decision I make. I hold her hand tighter, and keep my feet pointed toward the path out of the forest where the sunlight shines. I do this even when I stop and turn my head to look back.
In that visual imagery, she's six years younger, around eight years old and still shorter than I, and Xavier looks to be around 14 or15. He's doing what I've seen him do in real life at that age. He'd sneak off and play war games in the woods all by himself when no friends were available, dressed in military face paint and hiding, crouching in the woods, watching people pass by.
I couldn't put my finger on it, but something about it was disturbing then. I used to tell him not to play this game alone because it scared people taking a walk if they saw him.
It's haunting now because my semi-conscious taps into it, and I intuitively feel that he gets off on the power of making others feel fear.
Fear is a bitch, something I learned at an unfortunately very young age. I wonder if he's haunted in his dreams at night that keep him so unrested during the day, dreams of baby boy days before he became my son, horrors that may have happened to him in two substandard foster homes before he had the language to express them or the ability to understand them.
Can you feel my love for my son?
The King of Lies misled him. He's been warring for Xavier's soul for years. Told him that this power to instill fear was good and would make up for the abilities he doesn't have, like getting a GED and learning a trade, or trying to network with others in the creative field. Satan lies to him daily that he never will succeed at anything.
"Join me in darkness," I imagine the King of Lies whispers in his ears and dreams. "I'll make you rich, the easy way, and if that's too hard, death will bring you peace."
Xavier keeps listening.
It hits me that both of my children in this imagery are the age of what they were when the King of Lies really got a grip on my son, the same evil that made him go bananas in the car one Sunday morning six years ago when I tried to take him to church, or led him to put a gun to his head last week and repeatedly dare me to dare him to pull the trigger.
I won't say who, but one person I know told me I should have dared him and said it would have solved my problems.
They must have forgotten I have a conscience.
They must not have thought about the blood, brains, and bone splattered on the furniture, walls and carpet.
They must not have thought about the impact on me or my daughter had the deed gone down from seeing his body and blood.
They must not have thought that God would no doubt consider this murder.
I thought of it all and said these things. I wasn't angry and said it with compassion. I understand this person's fear for me, and their deep anger that would lead them to say this in the heat of that anger.
I've lived with an angry person so long. If I've learned anything, it's that rage causes more problems than it solves, and eventually destroys the containers that holds it - you and your soul.
Inside your soul is your creativity.
What does the Lord do?
What does the King of Lies do?
I saw Xavier's psychiatrist Saturday morning. Xavier refused to go; no surprise there. I didn't mind. I needed the help myself. The doctor is black, my approximate age, involved in ministry work, and candid in ways that you never see in film or read in books, ways common in black culture. He's also a colleague whom I've referred patients to.
"I hate ungrateful people," he said flatly. "Your son has been a borderline sociopath for a long time. I think he's finally crossed that line."
"I tried so hard."
"You have," he said, nodding his head. "He's suffering from a generational curse that even adoption couldn't eliminate. He was dealt a bad hand, and you were too when you got him. You played it the best the you could. He's 21 now, and if you play any longer, you'll still lose and be a martyr."
I sighed deeply. Martyrdom has never been on my life's to-do list.
"I think the game is over," I said.
I didn't say, but I thought, I think Satan won his soul.
The doctor is spirit-driven and intuitive, and may have felt this too.
Like me, he knows that a woman is in most danger when kicking out or leaving a man with abusive tendencies and on testosterone overload. I truly believe this includes mothers, and sometimes fathers, of sons with these issues. I think a lot of them don't kick their azzes out is because they fear the category 5 hurricane that will ensue, and wonder if they'll survive it. This is why my solution is to move this spring. He won't, so I will.
"Be careful," my friend and colleague said as we parted.
His words made me fearful. I sat in my car a few minutes before driving home, pondering good vs. evil. The latter, when met with apathy or inaction, has a way of destroying good.
What good might my son do if he changes direction?
What good might I do if I overcome my fears and survive this awful time?
What is it, really, that the forces of darkness does not want me to accomplish?
I listened to my favorite gospel radio station. All last week and this one, I've felt the presence of the Holy Spirit swirling around me, protecting me, protecting my family, giving me just enough strength to get through each day. All year, really.
In a burst of energy, I could feel it again. The Holy Spirit was giving me courage.
My brother and his wife drove a very long way to see me that Saturday afternoon. He knows I'm financially living on the edge, and brought household necessities from Costco.
"Thanks," I said smiling. "I was starting to wonder if we'd need to steal toilet paper."
Everyone smiled. He looked like a knight in shining armor to me. The day before, he agreed to have me do some work for him. This saved my ass from being placed in a mandatory 40 hour per week "volunteer" program to get just a little over $400 per month and food stamps.
Not in a million years did I imagine I'd come so close to becoming an Indentured Servant, which is barely a step up from slavery. Until last month, I didn't know this kind of shit was forced on the broke and the poor, and my brother was last person I thought would buy my freedom.
I ain't poor. I'm just broke.
Ha-ha. It's all semantics, just like forced volunteerism and indentured servitude.
I really hadn't said anything to my brother about what had happened except two sentences in an email of how stressed I was that Xavier had found my gun and put it to his head in front of me while having a tantrum. This was mixed in with my efforts about trying to find a job and an interview in a few days.
I never thought my brother cared much about my parenting problems. Many years ago I begged him to step in and help with discipline, but he told me he wasn't interested in playing the daddy role to Xavier or beating his azz. As a result, I stopped telling him the details of how bad shit was.
Before he left, he did the one thing I was going to ask him to do before I asked him to do it.
"Put the gun in this bag," he said, talking to me but looking at Xavier.
In my family, we talk with our eyes.
Xavier got the message.
It's crossed my mind in the past that I might not survive being Xavier's mother. I do have one friend that I'm certain is dead and killed herself from years of stress from parenting a son as difficult as mine. I adopted this child, loved him as my own, and made a commitment that was strong as a rock, as granite, to see him to adulthood.
One day, my son may be in prison, and I hope it's not for murder, mine or anyone elses. Regardless of why he's there, Satan will think he won the final victory for Xavier. Maybe he will have.
Xavier may or may not have born with a generational curse of bipolar illness and a vulnerability to alcoholism and addiction, but I have given him a foundation to fall back on. It is strong but not perfect. He can get this only from trusting in the real rock - God.
The other day, Xavier was preparing to leave for a funeral. His birth mother's mother had passed after a long illness. My slender-built son took my place at the computer when I got up from listening to inspirational music.
I said, "You know that your funeral could have been scheduled for today."
He hugged me tightly.
I took a risk.
"Lemme do something to you," I said.
He waited, and I moved close to him and cupped his face in my hands. He didn't pull away, but looked down, as if in shame.
"Turn your body toward me," I commanded.
I held his face.
"Can you feel it?", I asked.
I think he knew exactly what I was talking about, which I've never done and probably isn't what you might think.
"Look at me," I commanded.
"Can you feel the Holy Spirit?"
His eyes welled up with tears.
"God is here," I said. "Tell Satan that he cannot live in your soul or take your life or use you to harm others."
He was talking to me with his eyes, watery eyes that told me he thinks it's too late.
"Tell him," I said, still holding his face.
"Out loud," I said.
He nodded again, and struggled to say the words that amazingly could not seem to come out of his mouth - and then his damn phone rang, breaking the moment.
Satan wants his azz baaaad.
Later, I couldn't find the perfect writing sample I need for an upcoming job interview. I'd have to write it from scratch. In utter frustration, I drove to the store to get a snack because it would be a long afternoon.
Upon leaving, I drove toward the parking lot exit slowly, and suddenly see a speeding car behind me. The driver recklessly zips around mine at the precise moment a pedestrian stepped from behind a column and into the path of danger. Instead, the driver barely missed him - because my presence slowed him down just enough to avoid hitting him. The timing was eerie.
I looked at this young man, and I don't know why, but he looked like someone who would do something good in life. The thought crossed my mind, God has a job for you too.
It hit me that God used me to save this random guy from harm or death. I'll bet this has happened to you, too. This sort of thing has happened to me before, and likewise, it's a miracle I'm alive because of someone else's timing.
I drove home slowly, thinking that the Lord uses us as His instruments.
I think that God brings us pain and grief and mundane inconveniences like not being able to find a writing sample, because somehow, we are pieces of the puzzle of his Grand Plan. He puts us where he wants us to be, often sacrificing our happiness and lives for a greater cause.
In some ways, I hate thinking like this. I live in the Land of Plenty, but what of the billion or two on this planet who are born, live and die and endure so much suffering during their lives?
I think what we go through gives us, who were born with so much even when it doesn't seem like much, a great responsibility to lift up others from war, poverty, disease, hunger, and being treated as less than human, less than animals.
This is why, I think, we get hit with unexpected problems and tragedies no matter how well we plan or are doing in life. Call it random shit that happens if you want. My darkest experiences gave me the gift to understand how to help others. The unexpected pregnancy and reluctant abortion I had at 19, it's resulting trauma, guilt, and then infertility, guided me into a profession where I dedicated my life to protecting children and families as a social worker and therapist.
It's not all in vain.
Or at least, doesn't have to be. We can share and guide others out of darkness, even though we are imperfect teachers.
No matter what happens to me, I have this unshakeable belief that has allowed me to finally kick fear to the curb:
I am His instrument.
In my mind's eye, I am back in the forest, still firmly holding Cassie's hand. She is looking at me, and I am looking back at Xavier. She's a little older now but still younger than in real life. Xavier is his age in this imagery.
He is no longer crouched under the brambles and bushes. He is standing with his hands in his pockets, looking toward us, but not moving.
My feet are still pointing toward the way out of the forest. I jerk my head toward The Light, the way out, and take another step in that direction, while looking back.
I know without knowing how that bullets are in his pockets. Up ahead, is the rest of my family, waiting for me. My cheeks are wet with tears. Cassie looks up at me.
"This way, Mama," she says, pointing to The Light.
I can feel the waves of uncertainty emanating from Xavier, just as she can feel my uncertainty of leaving him behind.
"I can't come," he yells back. "I have a funeral to go to. My grandmother died."
It crosses my mind that maybe the timing of her death could have been another effort by God to save him; she'd been sick for two years straight and could've checked out awhile back.. but she didn't. It wasn't her time. For all I know, God was saving her to help Xavier, who has courted Death, see what death looks like up close and personal in someone he loved.
God never gives up on us. I know she always wanted to see him freed from the generational curse that hurt her and her family so much, and Xavier knows this too.
Elsewhere, Satan shuffles the deck.
"I got him, and I'll win him for keeps, you just watch," he growls with arrogance.
I don't speak to him. Conversations beyond eff you with the devil are dangerous, because he mixes truth with lies to sucker and seduce us.
I yell to my son, "Coulda been your funeral this week. Remembah that. Come back a better man."
He says nothing, unsure if this is possible.
The devil laughs.
Cassie hates the sound of the Evil One and clutches me around my waist to hide from him.
God gets the last laugh, I whisper to her. Her eyes search mine and she sees the truth. She can hear the determination in my voice and feel the courage in my soul.
We walk toward the Light.