It’s Thursday morning around 7:30 a.m. and we’re running late. We have to be at the airport at no later than 9. We’re running late I feel and I’m rushing everything a feeling that I will carry with me through the rest of the trip. We make it to the airport in time and get on the plane and now my heart sinks. It is only my second trip on air-plane, (the third time on an actual plane) and I’m nervous and scared. A feeling that will stay with me through the entire trip. I’m tired from drinking myself to sleep the night before. My mind is racing with thoughts of seeing my youngest sister graduate high school, seeing my father for the first time in over four years, and how the hell am I going to squeeze in time with my friends who I might not see for a very long time.
I look out the window as the plane makes its way from St. Louis to Chicago. I look down at the tiny houses and swimming pools and see the land from a distance as we rise the trees turn slowly into veins cutting through the “Heart-land”, the farms divided perfectly into squares. The long lonely highways cutting a swath through the land there’s something picturesque and romantic about seeing things from this perspective. Then we disappear into the clouds. Its a rare view for me so far above it all. Normally I’m deep in the thick of it to busy fighting to even look up. When we land in Chicago, I’m dizzy and disoriented, my ears need to pop everything sounds muted and I can’t tell how loud I’m talking. I need food and a smoke. There’s time for both with a nearly three hour lay over. We find some food but it’s pricey and not very fulfilling. I’m still feeling rushed and nervous. We make our way outside to smoke a few, I call my sister (not the one that’s graduating). After some time changes we get on another plane.
The trip to Charlotte is punctuated with periodic cat naps, occasionally during my waking moments I catch glimpses of the ground and see it change from squared off farmland and thin lines of trees to lush rolling green hills covered in deep green pine trees and giant oaks. As we get closer to my homeland I feel the nicotine in my blood rise I can almost smell the smoke and taste the sweet vinegary bar-b-que! When we land my ears are worse and my balance is off but all I need to do is walk out side and light up while Anitra readys the rental car. We drink in the Carolina air as we make our way to the rental and jump with joy when we see the shiny red vehicle. We spinout of the lot and head for an ABC store. Of course we’re too late for any of that, and turns out we’re too late to pickup any Bojangles in Statesville. We do however pick up a twelve pack of Yeungling black and tan. We make it to my sisters by 10. It’s been a long day and we spend and few hours playing with my little nieces until we’re all exhausted and fall out around oh 2 or 3. The talk I share with my sis is great we hadn’t ever gotten to do anything like this in a long while. Then it’s back up first thing in the morning out to the burgeoning metropolis of Mocksville North Carolina. I pick up some flowers for my littlest sis and some for the graves of my Mom and Grandma. And we score some of that coveted Bojangles. Then we head to my little sis’s. she’s getting ready for her big day and looking nervous. I get a little misty eyed thinking about all the time I missed all the special moments I wasn’t around for. All the times when a kid needs a big brother to protect her. Advice I missed out on giving, and lessons I missed out on teaching. Instead I drank and slept around the country, and now I’m heading out even further and I have no idea how long it will be before I’ll get to see her again. We go out to the cemetery where most of the family I was raised around is quickly being buried. I inspect the fresh graves of my grandmother’s brother a sister and drop some fresh roses on them.
We stand in the hot sun and say a silent prayer. Then my sister mentions how our mothers grave hasn’t been kept up. We kneel together and begin to pull the weeds from our mothers plot. Nothing is said, but more is said than we have in years. I think back to after my grandmothers wake, when I stood with both of my sisters out in the front yard. I told them that we were the last ones, that it was up to us to carry on the lessons and legacy that our mother and grandmother had taught us. A few months later I went to prison and now tam has two beautiful babies of her own. Bri is graduating highschool and eight years have gone by. I like I fell short, and I know what you’re going to say; that I have time left to do big things and that it’s not over yet. But that doesn’t change how I feel. Like I’ve lost a lot of time, missed too much. I should have been there, I should have done more, sent more money, spent less time drinking and fighting and been there for my sisters. I like to think about how proud my Nanny and Ma would be at Bri graduating, but I can’t help feel they would be disappointed in me for not calling as much as I could, not writing and not coming home enough. As we head away from the cemetery we stop by and see our cousin Tracy. He’s lost his mother and father in the past year, I offer my condolences and he says simply “you know how it is’. In deed I do. we laugh and crack jokes hugs are shared then we part ways.
Sometimes I think I’m alone and then moments like that happen and I feel connected. I know I have family out there. This whole trip has reconnected me with that feeling. I hope it last but I fear it won’t. The graduation itself comes up quick. the sun is high and it’s nearly a hundred degrees out. I cn’t breathe in my cheap polyester suit. everyone warned me against it, but I’m stuborn and I wanted to treat this as special as it is. Most kids who’ve went through as much trauma and loss as my sister would not have made it. Most would have turned to drugs or alcohol. It’s a wonder she’s not seriously screwed up. she seems well-adjusted and bright, she does great in school and participates in extracurricular activity. She’s not out of control. I wish I had her resolve when I was her age. I think about when I first went to jail for the mall bombing and Tamara came to visit. She couldn’t stop crying and I didn’t know why. I was the one locked up and I was having the time of my life.
Now I can see why. She knew I was leaving them for a life of infamy, and crime. That I wasn’t just sitting downtown, but I was downtown for life. There was no coming back to good ole’ Mocksville after that. Although I did come back for a while for about four months I was on house arrest at my grandmothers. It was the last long stretch I spent with my family after that it was nine months in the half-way house, then I got my apartment and it was over after that. The rugs and alcohol took hold and the good times rolled. Now here we are and time is gone. I hope my siblings can forgive me. Later that night Tam comes out with me for the first time ever and she gets a glimpse of some of what I was up to. she meats some of my crew and hopefully gains some perspective of why I did what I did. Theres a lot of run ins from the pst I wonder how Anitra perceives some of them. The drinks flow and hugs are shared. Names are re-written on the walls. The next morning comes on quick, I feel like I’m running late still. We rush over to brunch with my Pop’s side of the family. The side that hs raised my youngest sister after the death of my grandmother. My mother’s side of the family doesn’t get along with them that great, no reason other than the fact that my dad used to beat on my om, but that’s not what this is about. This is about my sister and her achievement. This is about celebrating the fact that she has made it this far and encouraging her to go further. At first she sits away from us then I call her near. looking at her I can’t help but be reminded of my mother again. She’s the spitting image. everyone is spooked by it, but it’s not spooky it’s fitting and wonderful.
She’s her own woman know. She’ll be eighteen in August, and on Friday she told my dad she wanted a tat and her nose pierced. That makes me smile. Saturday day fades into Saturday night. We head back to the WSNC, and pick up with Pickett and needless to say chaos erupts. a near perfect trip until I drink a half a fifth of Seagram Seven and back the rental into a fire hydrant. Anitra takes it well and the party continues. We hit the Wherehouse, for a W-S Burn show. stars aligned for us to be in town at the same time. But alcohol aligns to make the show slide by too quickly. I do find out hat somewhere out there some kids have made a movie about me. Or about my legend at least.
It’s a fight to the finish to keep my self awake until it’s time to return to the Queen City and back on another set of planes. As quickly as I swooped in I swoop out and the lush green trees of carolina are replace again with square boxes of Midwestern farm land. The thick forest evaporates into thin trails of trees. The blood line of our nation beating below me. Memories of my family and friends many more stories to tell but even more to make. I need this trip so badly. I need another one. But my next journey is Westward to a new land and new friends and hopefully more family. We’ll see.