GRIT. GRACE. REDEMPTION.
“Everyone has a past. I have mine, you have yours, and we have ours. No matter what it takes, I will prove to you that our past, no matter how hurtful, didn’t ruin the future we could have.” —Melissa Foster
From Pigtails to Punches
I can still hear it.
Not too many things shake this girl, but that sound haunts me. It plays like a scratched record, skipping ever so routinely on a turntable begging to be replaced, but preserving the sanctity of its sentimental value is so great, you deal with it even if it’s unbearable. Far be it from me to be the first person to not voluntarily torment my psyche reliving painful events, but the sound of this requiem is in remembrance of a piece of me that has kept me from completely selling my soul to the Devil.
Tires on a car sing a much different tune before they take a life. The smell of the tread is so dense, you can almost get high from the fumes of burning rubber. A lot happens within those moments, but the most poignant is one life force trying to save another.
We do everything humanly possible to stop such an event, but we’re human. Sometimes, we win, but in this case, there was a loss.
Frozen—like a deer in headlights—I was trapped in time. The world stopped. It was as if every nerve no longer recalled its neurological function, and what fun I was having evaporated. It became an ill-twisting event of fear and fate as I watched an aluminum grill of a Cadillac come barrelling toward me.
But before I get to that part, let me make this clear.
I was she and she was I.
Let this forever and always be the point of origin from where I get my strength, and where my greatest pain lies. A mother is everything to her daughter She is a reference, and the embodiment of strength and softness; grit and grace; wisdom and wit.
I was she and she was I.
Her eyes, her nose—hell, even my pigtails puffed the same way her’s did when she was my age in the Louisiana heat. She was a woman of great wonder, and a lioness. Oh did that courageous woman protect her cub. From playful trouble to the wandering eyes of older men in the neighborhood and male relatives who thought it permissible to act on certain desires, nothing passed her threshold without its permission first.
But those memories and moments found themselves meeting a sudden end.
I don’t remember what happened. You can pass the blame to shock or blacking out. Perhaps I just choose not to remember. Who knows. But mama had cancer. Breast cancer.
Til this day I’ve yet to accept what’s happened, and this is the part where I make my world perspective public. I can either choose to be infuriated or I can be thankful she didn’t have to suffer a slow death. Ask yourself, which would you prefer for a loved one? Quick and painless, or more moments in time that would gradually decay the very essence of what made them so special in the first place? Life is in a constant state of either or. I learned from that point on things operate in black and white.
Either she survived and died of cancer, or had taken what was meant for me and hurried the inevitable. I saw no gray. I saw no hope. And he, my father. Jesus. That man could name every brand of liquor by the sniff of his nose. But ask him about my birthday and it became a game of Clue. Even at that age, I believed her being gone was enough for him to give it up. She cared for me while his addiction festered, but it was too late.
He choose to continue and I was fostered into the care of an aunt.
Black or white. Either or. This or that. The decision was made.
Instead of this, I was given that.
She died, the alcohol thrived, and my innocence was escorted into demise.
Family or Foe?
I had heard about this aunt in passing.
The association was never positive. I can remember the word “b***h” was thrown around once or twice, but never in front of me. Or so they thought. She was my mother’s sister, and I don’t even think she stuck around for the funeral.
She was there on assignment and I was what marked the assignment complete.
I never did say goodbye to my father who decided it was better to drink himself into his grave. He could never accept what happened to her. He figured the alcohol would numb the pain and make the cancer go away. Men can be incredibly fragile. The dexterity of a woman is far greater, but that’s neither here nor there.
That was the last day I saw the bayous, the swamps and the jubilation of a Second Line ever again. She took me into her care and I was born again. That was the day I stopped seeing color in the world and only saw one. From then on out, all I could see was red.
Fighting for a Second Chance
Telling you what happened between then and now isn’t on the agenda for today. Or tomorrow. So don’t come back looking for it. That’s a different narrative time will tell. I’m here now. My feet have finally found solid ground to stand on, and once this girl finds good footing she doesn’t lose it.
I exist now for a chance at redemption.
One could say my actions were a predictable result from the brainwashing of those I called a sisterhood. That holds some merit, but remember my perspective on life. Things are black and white.
I’ve done things that would make the biblical character, Lucifer, question just how nefarious he is. I’m sure you’ve done things that still weigh heavy on your heart. None of us walk this earth unscathed. But we all have a choice. Good or bad. Right or wrong.
I had a choice.
And given the chance to do the wrong thing, we usually do. That’s human nature if we’re honest with ourselves.
Though my worldly views feel too definite and concrete, I will acknowledge the existence of gray. Its role is that period in time we take to make a decision. You either do or you don’t. You can’t choose both options simultaneously, and while you’re in the midst of that decision, that’s where you operate in the gray. But once the decision has been made, you’ve chosen black or you’ve chosen white.
There is no inbetween.
I’ve made terrible choices in my life—operating in evil rather than good. Now that leaf is turning. I found my gray and pivoted, choosing to walk that of the righteous no matter how much red I leave in my wake.
I fought for my survival. I was trained to be a weapon. Over and over again that was repeated until I was conditioned to believe my entire purpose was to use my body as a means to gain what I was ordered to take.
They say there’s a God and He forgives.
If that’s remotely true, I hope it holds water. My mother use to practice the faith, but I stopped believing when not one, but two things threatened her life and one of them took it. It’s also hard to believe such a being exists when the 5 year old dies of cancer and the serial rapist is treated to 3-square meals a day, a bed and shelter. Then there’s me, somehow still walking the earth. A girl just can’t get into that type of carrying on, but, do you, as they say.
I use to fight under the order of others.
Now I fight under my own for the sake of legacy and raising another human to be something far more than what I ever can be.
We walk the earth with such carelessness. We sit, comfortably, in our mediocrity not paying attention to how our sedentary lives greatly impact those around us. Far be it from me to tell you how to live life, but I’ve chosen to honor the notion of legacy from this day forward. I have caused great bereavement in the world. Many hearts cry out in sorrow, grief, anger and depression because of my actions. This is now my chance to do some right by it.
I’ve been under pretty strong influences in my life before, but nothing has influenced me greater than the unconditional love of a child. I cannot walk this earth and give life to another knowing what I’ve done without correcting my wrongs. I was raised in darkness, but I’ve chosen to walk with him in the light.
So there it is.
Laid out before you as to why I’m here, and more importantly, why I’m still standing.
I am her and she is me. Strength and softness; grit and grace; wisdom and wit. A lioness dedicated to protecting the life of her cub, willing to make the ultimate sacrifice if needed, but until I am called into that time and space, I will fight tooth and nail to raise a son who knows his mother to be a worthy expression of standing in the light.
BRAXTON MINI ISSUE #2
A Fresh Start
Taking place moments before the events in Arclight Comics PRESENTS: Issue #0 – The Passing, Braxton finds herself in a moment of reflection, searching for an opportunity that begins her journey of reclaiming her humanity unaware that opportunity is just moments from her door in a very unexpected way.