I don't know why it just dawn on me now that I should post excerpts from MEMOIRS OF A FORGOTTEN CHILD on the website. If you don't follow me on social media, you don't know I post excerpts from MEMOIRS OF A FORGOTTEN CHILD often on social media. Here's the Pre-order link on Amazon Kindle: https://www.instagram.com/vieis_me/
For previous excerpts go to my Instagram Page vieis_me,
I became alive in Extended Day compared to the prior year. Mr. Washington, my third-grade after-school teacher embodied what was a strong, smart, assertive, well spoken, secure Black man. He had the smile of Magic Johnson, and the height too but I might be exaggerating. He also had the personality of Shaquille O'Neal and the stance of Malcolm X. Mr. Washington didn't have to yell to get his point across. He gave us choices; you could follow the plan or you could not but with every choice came a consequence. The consequences mostly consisted of not having free time for ALL of us until something got done. We were put together as a team, if one person chose not to follow directions then we all suffered the backlash, hence peer pressure to get it together or the rest who were acting right would get on you. Mr. Washington encouraged us to read for an hour after doing homework. An hour to us third graders was like an eternity but in reality it was only sixty minutes.
Every day we moaned and groaned about it yet every day we had to do it. The complaining didn't bother him because he knew we'd do what he asked like the days before if not he'll wait it out. When fun activities came along, the rebellious children wouldn't be able to participate because of their shenanigans. We had fun times like ice cream day which is self-explanatory. He brought ice cream (chocolate vanilla, and strawberry) with cones and toppings for us to enjoy but the catch was we had to line up in the order of our last names, starting from Z to A . . . oh and we couldn't talk while doing it. Another time is when he taught us how to play Mancala also the time when he brought a new game he created by hand with wooden material. It was a mini hockey stick game built in this wooden box with a puck, with a built octagon in the middle. The goal was to get the puck into the other person's slot Mr. Washington painted it the game gray (of all colors).
Mr. Washington also created the motto/phrase/acronym M.Y.O.B which stands for Mind Your Own Business and as third graders we minded everyone else's about our own. He had to regularly remind us of this that's when he shortened it to M.Y.O.B and each day one of the after-school students got to write it on the board and make a design around it or use the letters to create an image. Mr. Washington as well corrected our grammar, most of us said, “Can I use the bathroom?” Mr. Washington replied “Well can you?” Then immediately we corrected ourselves by saying, “May I.” These tips and tricks Mr. Washington instilled in us shaped us to become selfless where it mattered and self-aware where it did. He didn't baby us or make excuses for us. He commanded better from us, whether we wanted to or not, we gave him better. Mr. Washington wasn't perfect, who is? At times he'd get extremely ticked off where he'd shut down all activities that the class was thoroughly enjoying for him to go full-blown lecture mood on us, putting everyone on the spot or he'll have a military-esque approach to a situation and insist on all of us to act the same regardless of our differences in age or whatever else.
He also had a habit of not listening to the whole story of what happened just to make a decision to be done with the situation. For example, there was a Portuguese White pudgy male named Richard. He always competed with me or tried getting a rise out of me. I hated it! I absolutely couldn't stand that kid. Whenever we happen to be in the same space, I automatically had my defense up because I knew he was going to do or say something to get me to react. Once a week, on Monday evenings I believe was Bingo Night every week a man named Randy would come volunteer to play bingo with us in the cafeteria. All of us got super hyped for bingo, more so for the prizes. Whoever got bingo got a prize and, the non-bingo winners received something just to keep the peace. The prizes were fun frugal toys and small washable tattoos. I won a Pokémon pencil; it wasn't one of the main Pokémon characters like Pikachu. I have no idea which one it was. I won the Pokémon character that looks like a mutated kangaroo with gray/purple skin, Mewtwo. Richard saw my pencil and eyed it ever since. We were in line to go somewhere, I had my pencil in my hand, and Richard snatched it away from me to play keep away. He lied saying it was his though it was not. His lies angered me even more, I snapped back, grabbing the end of the pencil. His stubby fingers were wrapped around it, and we played tug-of-war with the pencil until it caught Mr. Washington's attention. Mr. Washington swooped in like a sergeant not hearing the specifics of the match. He automatically chose to give MY pencil to Richard. To me, I kind of felt like it was King Solomon and the baby, but King Solomon gave the baby to wrong mother. My eyes sunk, my heart fell because Mr. Washington was dead wrong but more than that, he wasn't hearing me and all I ever wanted was to be heard. My judgment of Mr. Washington became conflicted; I started to hold grudges against him. His perfection became flawed in my eyes.
We didn't read much as a class but when we did, we read scary books just to see if they lived up to their hype or if it was a ‘baby book.’ In the book STORIES to Tell in the Dark I read the stories at least a good three times, never in the manner of the table of content instructed the reader to do but I was brave. Mr. Washington seized the opportunity to read, “Where's My Big Toe.” Mr. Washington unlike me read the book in the dark during the afternoon in late fall. The season created a perfect atmosphere for this story to be told. I thought nothing of it. Mr. Washington decided a circle would be the best format to tell the story. Anticipating a good read we obliged quick, fast, and in a hurry to connect our chairs in a circle. We sat clenching at the edge of our chairs, the classroom had no lights on except the street lights that glared at the open window. In his best low animated voice, Mr. Washington began reading.
Knowing the story all too well, I told myself I had nothing to worry about. Maria, Mr. Washington's assistant teacher a caramel brown complexion middle-aged woman with curly medium hair, bifocal glasses, and a Spanish accent was in the room next to the door just in case some of us got scared. If we did she would take those to the well-lit hallway to let the other students finish listening to this story. As Mr. Washington repeated “Where's My Big Toe” in a low hollow spooky tone, a shiver danced down my spine. Intensively I listened reminding myself it's just a story repeating the line internally to keep my composure. Again Mr. Washington said “Where's My toe.” I looked around the dark room to find all the other students fully enthralled in the story. Mr. Washington's cadence and pauses turned the book to a live show, finally the “mysterious” knock on the door sent me over the edge. I couldn't take it. It was too scary! Scarier than watching X-Files at night, peeking from the bed sheets over my head. The theme song I thought was scary, but no, this was scary! Just like the few children prior, I ran out to the hallway with trickles of tears in my eyes. Maria holding me to calm me down. As I came to my senses, I realized the book was just that, a book. The 60 watt light bulb pierced clarity into my fear until they didn't exist anymore. Mr. Washington had that effect, to make a reality disappear and have your imagination run wild.
Every place has its own story; the story tells a newcomer everything they need to know about the town, city, workplace wherever but specifically the people who inhabit the area. Visitors thinking, they know all there is to know about the location, not caring or acknowledging the slum 5 miles north of the area or the political upheavals that plague the land mass. Cambridge had a mask over it like a masquerade ball, never seeing the realness of it all. People perceive Cambridge to be the haven of advanced technology, ignoring the homeless people that squat throughout Harvard Square, where, you know . . . Harvard University is. People aggrandize living in Cambridge, turning a blind eye to the overwhelming non-Whites who live in poverty or those big buildings that are rodent-infested or mold infested, closed off to the beautiful estates in the ‘nice’ sections of Cambridge. Or the fact that no matter where you're at North Cambridge, Coast, East Cambridge, Mid, West Cambridge, the sound of sirens from police cars and smell of feces will haunt you like an unrest spirit. The shadow of fallacies that cast fairy dust of magic made out of anthrax giving illusions of false security. Impervious evils have no grip on our reality, after all we live in Cambridge. Degenerates don't roam our streets; the bridge built to keep out the unfavored, separation from the haves and have-nots. Violence and pain at arms length, behavior only suited for those Bostonians. More precisely the areas like Dorchester, Mattapan, Roxbury, Jamaica Plain, and throw in Hyde Park the less thans. We the fortunates them the peons, but as tragic fate will have it there were peons living and breathing the same toxic air as the rest of the residents in Cambridge. The story of Jeffrey Curley.
I found out about Jeffrey Curley in the third grade coming back from after-school. The night sky suited the ambiance for the details of the story. As I was told Jeffrey Curley was a boy not too much older than I. In fact, we were the same age, he was walking home from school and a guy driving a van followed him and snatched him off the streets. The stranger forced him into the vehicle, took Jeffrey to his home and beat him, killed him, chopped his body up, stuffed it into a box, and threw him over the bridge into the Charles River. The storyteller was an amateur; he told me the details in such a nonchalant manner, but the fear of spookism made me feel as if someone would come up and snatch me while I was walking. The story itself kept on replaying in my mind like a broken record. What was worse was I had to walk to the apartment alone from the bus stop to the apartment. I lived three blocks away but after learning that story it felt like three miles. I sped walked my jiggly self to the apartment as if I were late going somewhere. Falling asleep that night took a miracle. When I did, the morning was approaching. The next day at the bus stop I saw Danielle, a heavyset Portuguese eighth grade girl who I sometimes sat next to on the bus. She told me what I needed to know to get a real feel for Cambridge. She knew everything, so I asked her who Jeffrey Curley was. I rehashed the storyteller's words I learned the previous day. She read the terror in my eyes. She told me this story was a lie, Jeffrey did die but not in the graphic details I was told.
Her version was Jeffrey had been taken by his neighbor then killed. As if her version had given me a sense of peace. Now I perceived my neighbors to be killers along with being dirty, drug users, fornicators, thieves, corrupted, shiftless people that Mommy described them to be. The bus ride to school was the quietest I've ever been; I mostly kept to myself on average but today I was especially mute. When I got to class for the first period after breakfast in the cafeteria, I couldn't focus. We were learning about something, I don't remember. In my mind, everyone and everything were out to get me. At lunch, I asked a few people again about the Jeffrey Curley story. The next story involved the same elements as the first but before he was mutilated to death, the perpetrator sodomized him. My eyes bulged out in panic. I couldn't, no I wouldn't ask anymore about the story. Each version of the story got more sicker and more deranged than the last. My young brain couldn't handle such nefarious acts. I had to harvest whatever was left of my purity. I all together removed myself from discussing the topic ever again. Two weeks later I was walking to the bus stop when I noticed on my right a boy in what I assumed to be a Catholic or Charter school uniform being manhandled against a fence that blocked off a parking space. The man treated the boy very rough. The boy was refusing to enter the grown man's red car. I panicked; thoughts of Jeffrey Curley raced in my mind. The man looked at me, and I stopped in paralysis, I gawked at him then ran my fat behind all the way to the bus stop.
I couldn't process what I just witnessed. I was frozen in fear, not knowing what to do or say. Does this guy now know where I live? Will he come after me? Is he the same guy who kidnapped Jeffrey Curley? I just couldn't! I told to Danielle as soon as I saw her. The words fell out of my mouth. She listened with her iPod blaring music into her right ear. She told me that what I witnessed wasn't an emergency. I don't know if she meant it, or she was trying to console me, either way neither one made me feel any better. The whole day I couldn't stop contemplating on the incident. When I came home from after-school, I rehashed the details I gave to Danielle with Mommy. She acted just like Danielle did, like what I said was no big deal. She said probably it was the boy's father trying to get him in his car. Low key advising me to leave the issue alone. I said no more and let it be. To this day I wonder if I made the right decision or if in fact I overreacted or did I unknowingly Co-signed a Jeffrey Curley part two.
Be Entertained. Be Enlightened. Be Loved. ✌