My dear friend Laura is going through some heavy stuff with her son. I feel very deeply about this and my emotions are in no way conflicted. I feel really awful that someone I love is being tortured by her own flesh and blood.
And I know right where he stands.
Sure, my white siblings are older, rather than younger. I am a girl rather than a boy. I actually had a black stepfather and not a white one. But in the end, these are negligible differences. You see, I know what it is like to be different and to stand out. I know what it is like when you stand out because of something completely beyond your control.
I hated my mother for years, though no one could figure out why. The truth is, she spent a lot of trying to assuage my sisters poor little shattered souls (dear god, we have another sibling) and fending off her mother (dear god, I have a black grandchild) and fighting strangers (where did you get that black baby?!)
Somewhere along the line I began to feel like an incidental. I was told so many times that my being born (black) had ruined my mother's life and reputation. And everywhere I looked I was different. It wasn't bad enough I was a different color, but I was really small. Then I hit my growth spurt and suddenly I was really tall. I had kinky hair. My dad was old. My sister has kids my age.
There were days when my life felt like a damn nightmare that would never end.
There are a lot of people who have hurt me over the years, because they didn't think before they spoke. So many jokes that weren't funny, but I had to laugh (no, I am NOT a chocolate vanilla swirl, thank you very much) or be labeled "sensitive." And then everyone wants you to forgive and forget. It is so much easier to forgive than it is to forget. And the part you cannot forget is that part that won't allow that into your life anymore.
Watching Laura, I now know how truly hard those days were for my mother. How she must have felt equally helpless and alone as people judged me for skin color and her for having me. I felt lost and alone, but I never even imagined that my mother did. This has been a powerful experience of understanding: I am able to share my troubles with Laura in the hopes that it helps, even as I learn from being on observing other side of the equation.
I get Hero, I really do. The anger, the pain, the rage, the fear, the feeling that no matter where you go or what you do you will never, never fit in because dammit all you are different and different is so bad. I still feel that way sometimes. Then I take a deep breath and realize that for the most part, no one is judging me anymore and if they are, they aren't who I want to be around anyway.
Letting go of the anger and the fear is hard when you feel unloved and unlovable. It takes people standing in your path and practically shouting in your face that they love you and will not leave, your words be damned. And no matter how much love a parent has to give, the scars from the outside world just build until it feels like that is all you are.
It doesn't end this way. I have no idea just how this story is going to play out, though I know what I believe. I believe that Hero's heart will just crack open one day. I've seen his little brothers and I imagine that they miss him. I know his mother and I imagine that he misses her (I know I do!). I don't know if Hero will ever see this, or if he would even listen to a complete stranger. What I do know is that we are never as alone as we feel, and that there is always something better coming on the other side.
I'm glad that I have both of these individuals in my life because I have at long last learned a secret my mother never told me: even when I thought she wasn't, in her heart she was always there, holding my hand and wishing my life would always be the happiest and the best.