Ups and Downs: Rebuilding My Life After a Near Fatal Nervous Breakdown
It was an extremely hot morning in July when trouble arrived. When I opened the door of my apartment dwelling to greet the trouble, it manifested itself as three uniformed police officers. They were standing together, and a few feet away in an area of the adjoining parking lot, all of them aiming their loaded weapons at me. Fear flooded my bloodstream, freezing me where I stood. The lead cop, a menacing and confident blond man wearing signature shades, took an authoritative step forward. “Show me your hands,” he said.
I very slowly raised both of my hands into the air. I was deathly afraid that something accidental would give the cops a reason to shoot me into a permanent oblivion. So I made sure to maintain a solid grip on the beige grocery bag that I was carrying in my right hand. The blond police officer instructed me to step down the stairs. Again, I did what he asked. With his gun still trained on me, he stepped forward until he was only a dozen or so feet away.
“What’s in the bag sir?” he asked.
“Just some toothpaste and a toothbrush officer,” I said tremulously. “I just bought a toothbrush and a tube of toothpaste from the Safeway grocery store. That is it. I swear that it is all that I’ve got on me.”
He took one hand off his pistol, and with his free hand motioned for me to remain still. “I’m going to come and see,” he said.
“Okay. But I live here sir.”
“Just stand where you are and I’ll come to you.”
The blond policeman was on me in a few seconds time. I’d done as he said, refusing any inclination to flinch one millimeter in any direction for fear of raising the ire of the pack of officers. He moved to snatch the plastic bag from me with his free hand, deftly untwisted the handles, and bent his head forward to inspect the bag’s contents. He shook his head in disbelief before looking up at me and smiling derisively. He mumbled something underneath his breath which I inferred as “a guy like me shouldn’t be in possession of such things.” He turned to face the rest of his pack. “It’s a toothbrush and a tube of toothpaste,” he said sounding perturbed. Finally assured that I wasn’t in possession a weapon, all three officers lowered their weapons in unison.
I was handcuffed and then shuffled into the back of the blond officer’s black and white squad car. Once I was secured I would inhale a deep breath and then follow it with an audible sigh as I exhaled. Up until yesterday I’d been confident that two years ago in Portland was going to be the last time that I was going to have to sit opposite of a cage. But here I was again, staring through the open spaces of a crisscrossed black metal.
The back of an officer’s cruiser was becoming all too familiar. Just like it was two years ago in Portland, I was sweltering in the back of the cruiser. A few minutes into the drive I felt as if I was going to melt into a pool of skin, bones, and organs. As the police car meandered west along Colfax Avenue, I turned to face the left car door window. When the red light stopped us at the Monaco/Colfax intersection, the nattily dressed black man at the bus station stopped what he was doing to stare at me. Our eyes briefly met. He proceeded to hang his head, and then shook it in disappointment at the young man who was being dragged away from his home in disgrace. I hastily turned away, hunching over when I was finally overcome by my shame. And then the light turned green.
We arrived at a local hospital some fifteen minutes later. I was quickly deposited into the hospital’s psychiatric ward, where I was once again amongst the company of the seriously disturbed. I performed a quick accounting of my surroundings. It wasn’t as foreboding as the ward in New York City, but the walls were here were still white and unyielding. And it had its own unique smell. A dreariness hung over the whole place. It was familiar.
After the cops exited I was immediately escorted by the hospital staff to a small room. The room was drab and virtually bare except for a few haphazardly arranged chairs. I was left there with a white haired and wizened clinician and her much younger assistant. After a short question and answer session designed to gauge the severity of my volatility, the clinician ultimately decided against committing me for the next seventy-two hours. She prescribed more medication for me instead — Seroquel and Zyprexa — and recommended that I see a psychiatrist as an outpatient. I was somewhat relieved, for it seemed as if I was getting better at managing the attacks. It was progress.
The absolute worst part of this horrid day would be ushered in by the arrival my mother and father, who were shown to the room where I was being held. Once they stepped beyond the threshold my shame and disappointment were magnified by a factor of three-hundred.
We were arranged in a semicircle. Mom and dad were sitting to the left of me, both at a loss for words to describe this latest setback. Momma’s reaction to my confinement cut me the deepest. She was clutching her purse against her midsection, her eyes made wide and magnified by the horror, incredulity, and mistrust that she was in the midst of processing. Her first born son had once again been interred in another hospital, one that serves those patients with the least means, the indigent individuals, the ones just released from the prison house and such. Never in her wildest dreams did she think that she would have to visit her son in a place like this.
I know that I have once again caused my mom so much unwanted aggravation and stress. I wouldn’t blame her if she threw up her hands and walked out of my life forever. But she and dad stay with me despite the grief that I’d caused, and their devotion for me still outweighed their outrage at my betrayal — they’d surmised that I was in the hospital because I stopped taking my medication. I watched her face. Her worry lines seemed to get more pronounced as the seconds tick by.
“Do you think that you can apologize to the young woman?” asked the elderly clinician, eyeing my cautiously.
Her question pulled me out of my reverie. “Apologize to a young woman?” I asked.
“Yes. Don’t you remember that you called the woman from your job last night and told her that you felt like hurting yourself? She is the main reason why you are here with us today.”
Oh yeah. I’d forgotten about that small little detail. I’d enmeshed the woman that I had been dating in the storm that had been created. I’d called her last night when in the middle of my breakdown, hoping that a call would precipitate an end to it. That was stupid move. Last week she’d felt safe enough to invite me into her home, but now I would probably be deemed as a danger to her. The breakdown had ended, but it wasn’t because of the call I’d made to my girlfriend. A good night’s sleep, an extended time away from the human contact, and the shock of having three officers point their guns at me had done much to downgrade a unmitigated disaster into something that was more manageable.
“I’ll give her a call,” I said. Do you mind if I left the room?”
“You can do that,” said the clinician. She turned to her young assistant. “Can you show Mr. Ihenetu to the phone?”
I was released into my parents’ custody soon after apologizing to the ex-girlfriend. Almost immediately after I was safely ensconced in the house where I spent my formative years, the losses would quickly compound. In addition to losing the girl on that day, I’d have to give up my apartment, resign form my peer counselor position at the Mental Health Center, and shed some of the respect that I’d earned while working steadily and living in my own apartment during the last year. That said, I at least had a place to call home, a luxury that many people like me were unable to afford, even if I was suffering through a momentous defeat.
September 2007 to August 2010
Upon first glance, The Mental Health Center of Denver doesn’t seem like the kind of place where lives are saved and, in many cases, changed for the better. The fading brick façade is old and unremarkable. The dilapidated parking lot only has enough slots to fit about a dozen cars or so. But scores of vulnerable people, myself included, have been able to embark on productive lives because of the work that is performed by the psychiatrists, therapists, and counselors who work within those walls. They do the thing that most people cannot: devote their lives to the forlorn.
In the waning days of the summer 2007, I went there to visit my assigned counselor, a white haired male who was on the cusp of retirement. Near the end of our session he asked if he could offer me advice. Eager to please him, I accepted.
“It is time for you to get your life back on track again,” he said. You have plenty of time. Do not waste it.”
He was good at his job and he’d furnished me with techniques that I needed to succeed, but he was also the guy who had once told me that my mental illness was caused by something inside of me being “disconnected”. He was basically correct about me having a screw loose, but I still couldn’t stand the guy because he’d actually said it, and accusingly so. He was that kind of clinician, one of those who focused on the diagnosis while forgetting that the person sitting in front of him was more than the disease. Despite my qualms about the man I had to agree with him on the big point. I needed to do something to change my life for the better.
Thinking that I wanted to change the world by teaching its children, I enrolled in the Initial Professional Teacher’s Program at the local University in January 2008, where amongst an assemblage of professional graduate students and encouraging professors who knew nothing of my previous struggles, I was made to feel like a contributing member of society. With so much work available to occupy my thoughts and imagination, the events of the previous summer would quickly fade into the background. While a student at the university, I’d compiled a 3.97 grade point average over the span of eighteen months, and graduated with a degree in elementary education. I secured a position as a full-time teacher with the Aurora Public School System soon after graduating.
The euphoria that I’d experienced at finding a job in the post great recession economy would not last beyond the first days of the school. For an entire school year I was put through the meat grinder by my students, an antagonistic principal, and a few of my fellow teachers. Throughout the year I’d contemplate walking out of the classroom in the middle of the school day without an explanation. But I am unable to quit because I had too much at stake — a mountain of student debt and my viability as a contributing human being — to admit failure. I would eventually limp to the finish line in May, 2009.
To my complete surprise the principal, perhaps thinking that I wanted to remain at the school, opted to renew my contract for the next school year. It was the first time in nine months that I was able to breathe free from unrelenting worries. When I had free time in my classroom I took a few moments to take in the last few years of my life. A year and a half ago I was being transported to the psychiatric ward by three cops. This renewal meant that I would no longer maintain an existence on the fringes of society, and that I was capable and competent. I committed every single word of the principal’s note to my memory: “Congratulations on completing a successful first year as an elementary school teacher. I look forward to seeing you back next year.” What a difference two years can make in one’s life. If only she could have provided me with this reassurance when I was interviewing for other teaching jobs a few months before she placed that note in my mailbox. For I’d already accepted a position as a sixth-grade math teacher with a charter school on the west side of Denver.
I’d hoped that I could set the foundation for the rest of my professional and personal life at the charter school. Once I’d established myself as a teacher I would finally move out of my parents’ house, find a good woman to marry, and then perhaps produce a few children. It was not meant to be though. Three weeks into my tenure as a math teacher at the charter school and one week before the start of the school year, the principal stopped at the threshold of my classroom. She was smiling in a way that made my stomach lurch to one side. It was as if the invisible ventriloquist was controlling her emotions with a hand.
“Are you working on something that you have to finish?” she asked.
I was sitting at my desk putting together my first few lessons for the incoming students when she’d arrived at the doorway. “I’m just putting the last touches on this lessons. You need to speak with me now?” I asked.
“Go ahead and finish what you’re doing and then come by my office to talk.” Still smiling, she turned to walk away.
As I walked slowly down the corridor to the principal’s office I knew in my heart that something terrible was about to happen. I thought about fleeing the scene so that I could avoid the inevitable execution of my career, but a misguided belief in being the bigger person pushed me toward that woman’s office.
Apart from a desk and the two chairs that were facing it, the office was devoid of the paraphernalia that makes it an office. It was understandable. They’d just remodeled the school and were still in the process of building it into what they’d envisioned. Still, the emptiness of it reminded me of that room in the psychiatric wing. The CEO, an acquaintance of my sister, was sitting behind the principal’s desk. The principal was sitting in the chair facing opposite the desk.
The CEO was my about my age (34). He had been described as a genius by everyone in his orbit, or everyone who worked at the school. His wild scraggly hair and bearded lower lip made him look a bit like Einstein. Soon after entering the room, he asked me to take the open seat next to the principal.
“How do you think you’ve been doing?” he said.
Oh no. In my estimation it was one of the most dangerous question in education. How do you think you’re doing? How did you think your lesson went? If you answer the question incorrect, you were likely to be crushed by the rebuttal.
“I think that I’ve been doing pretty well,” I said. “I’m working really hard. Trying to get ready.”
“You are the hardest worker that I’ve ever seen and I greatly admire you,” he said.
“But I’m afraid that you are not going work out here,” he continued. “You’re not a great fit for this place.”
He wouldn’t leave it that. He would go on to question my competence and intelligence, saying that I lacked the necessary skill to teach a sixth grade math class. Really? I’d passed college level accounting while a student at Boston University and passed the Praxis Exam. And now I wasn’t qualified to teach sixth grade math?
As the increasingly red faced CEO frantically listed more reasons for my dismissal, I felt worse than I did while temporarily interred in that psychiatric ward. At least I was treated as an unstable human being in the ward, and someone deserving of a modicum of dignity. These people were treating me like I was god damned disposable.
He pushed the resignation letter across the table. I skimmed it and signed it without hesitation. For I would have done anything to expedite this horrible process. The principal’s face was turned to me and tears were streaming down the front of it. “Would you like to stay a little while so that you can say good-bye to everyone?” she asked, her voice tremulous.
It was that question that fanned the flames. Would I like to stay after so that I can say goodbye to the other employed teachers?!! Did she really have the audacity to ask me that question?! Oh god! I needed to leave that place before I decided to throw my polite mask aside.
“I’m good,” I said. I hastily grabbed the confidentiality agreement from on top of the desk before I stormed out of the office, heartbroken, unemployed, and without any prospects for employment in an unforgiving economic landscape. By the time I’d arrived at my mom and dad’s house it was as if all of my entrails had been excised from my body with a rusty knife. I would be left with another deep and permanent scar encrusted upon the psyche.
June 2013 to November 2013
I secured a job at the hospital in June while my father was battling a very virulent form of multiple myeloma cancer. He died in hospice in November while surrounded by his family, one day after my little sister’s birthday. My plans for moving out of the house had to be put on hold once again, but I didn’t mind that so much.
During the funeral reception, one of my father’s countrymen — my father was raised in Nigeria — walked over to our family’s table and placed a baseball mitt sized hand on my shoulder. He introduced himself as Cassius and as an acquaintance of my father. I stood up to greet this stranger. Cassius looked me directly in the eye as we spoke. He was about my size — I’m 6’2 inches and weighed two-hundred and forty pounds at the time — which meant that I was talking with a pretty large man. He was dressed from head to toe in black, and he spoke with a clarity and honesty that was reminiscent of my father. He went on to say that he knew my father intimately and for a long time. I searched my memories as he spoke. None of them contained any evidence of him ever visiting the house when I was younger, but I still was obliged to take him at his word.
“Your father laid down the foundation for you to build upon,” he said. “Your generation has many more opportunities than we had to succeed. Going forward, you should concentrate your efforts on building upon the foundation and legacy that he has set for you.”
“It is what he would have wanted me to do,” I replied. “Finish what he started, you know. And I’m going to do what I can to cement his legacy.” I made a conspicuous turn to my mother, the reluctant widow, and then back to Cassius. “I’m going to see to my mother now.”
He smiled. “Okay Eze. Do all that you can to make him proud. And also remember Eze, you belong to us and we belong to you. We will all be watching what you do.”
My diminutive mother, also dressed from head to toe in black, was sitting at the table while accepting well wishes from her own train of visitors. Cassius glanced at her for a few seconds and then cut back to me.
“You mother is moving in with you then?”
I already been living with my mother for six years.
“That is good too. You are doing what all men in your position are supposed to do.”
Cassius was expressing the opinion held by almost everyone there. After a father’s passing, culture and duty required that I eschew the ambition of living the life of a bachelor. Living with my mother at age thirty-seven had ceased to be a source of my constant embarrassment. It became culturally appropriate.
It was Sunday night and the weekend was waning like the moon. I’m forty years old and hard at work composing a personal essay while occupying the desk that my dad used to use. Mom is in the kitchen frying up some fish for dinner as the basketball game plays on the new smart television. As I write the essay, I’m basking in the glow of my recent successes as a mentally stable, employed, and just promoted single man.
Six years ago, a love interest said this to me: “You are exactly where you are supposed to be.” I didn’t really want to believe her when she’d said it. But the ensuing six years I have to come to realize that she was speaking an immutable truth. Mom and I are living in the same house as we advance in age because it was simply meant to be so.
Part 2: The Secret
Mom still needled me about things despite my age and my salary, which can be irritating to the sensibilities of a grown man. However, we still get along about ninety-eight percent of the time. Unlike most adult children who are forced to co-habit with their parents, I rarely entertain the thought of leaving her. The two of us live in a four-bedroom, two and one-half bathroom house. We can retreat to a very large corner of the house if we ever need time away from each other.
My mother and I are teammates who feed off one another’s strengths while balancing each other’s weaknesses. Like the application of a certain group of drugs to a microorganism, she and I are able craft a synergistic strategy that is designed to help us thrive in this life. She makes sure that I don’t forget to ingest my medications and I assist her with comprehension of the latest technology. I taxi her to work twice per week and she’ll cook for me when she can. I pay her money for the house, the phones, and cable while she takes care of the utilities. It’s an idyllic co-existence for the both of us, but it is under a consistent and pernicious threat.
I was sitting in front of the laptop that was perched upon my chipped wooden desk one evening, busily engaging in the activity that poses the greatest threat to the peace that my mother and I share. My bedroom door was left ajar when my sister stormed past. Momma was nipping on my baby sister’s heels as she tried to get her point across. It was until my sister closed the bedroom door that my mother gave up on convincing my sister of her point. She wasn’t finished though. I hastily closed my laptop as she stormed into my bedroom all in a huff.
“Did you hear your sister?” she asked peremptorily as she approached.
I turned my head in the direction of her voice. “I think I did hear you,” I said. “You were arguing about whether or not it is wise to tell other people secrets about yourself.”
“Your sister thinks that it is all right to tell her “friends” secrets about herself. I have told her and I have told you, right? Don’t give too much of yourself away to anybody,” she said emphatically. “You don’t want people to know too much about you.”
I sighed and said, “Momma. She’s thirty-three years old and has passed the bar exam. If she wants to reveal a part of herself to her friends, then it’s fine with me.”
Her jaw fell open since I’d obviously said something nonsensical. She stared at me for a few seconds, although it felt like it was a lot longer at that moment in time. When momma was able to pick her jaw off the floor, she bent down until her face was level with mine, her astonished eyes magnified threefold by her glasses.
“Eze, we have talked about his time and time again. You do not want people to know too much about you. Especially in your case. People can use that information against you. You understand that, right?”
“I understand what you are saying,” I said peevishly.
She wasn’t convinced that I did understand. “Please, please, please, Eze.” She punctuated each please with a thrust of her head. “Listen to what I am saying to you, okay? Do not tell anyone what is going on with you. Americans can do that. But we don’t do that. Not ever!”
I was in the midst of sharing a tell-all story about my mental illness right when she’d entered. Publishing would have to wait until another day when I would feel less guilty about going against her wishes. I closed my laptop and turned off the power.
“All right momma. I won’t tell anyone anything about me,” I said, waving my hands in surrender. “I hear what you are saying.”
“Good. Thank you my dear.”
I published my story on a politics-oriented blog a few days later. It was recommended one hundred thirty-five times and I gained about ten followers. Some of those that were most affected by my story put forward their own similar stories, offering me solidarity and renewing my sense that sharing my story was the right thing to do. So intense was the reaction from my readers — my readers! — that I decided to publish over and over again.
As of February, 2018, I’ve published over one-hundred thirty three articles and diaries for public consumption. The majority of these publications have discussed issues of public policy that I care very deeply about, but a significant percentage of them have been retrospectives on my past. My work has been shared over one hundred-thousand times on Facebook and Twitter, and I have been published twice by a literary magazine of great esteem. I’m proud of what I’ve been able to accomplish in such a short time. Momma would be apoplectic if she knew, followed by a sundering of the trust and peace we’d been able to cultivate over the years. So I’ve deliberately kept her in the dark in order to keep the peace. Sometimes it feels as if I’m scrolling thorough triple X porn sites instead of writing essays and diaries about my life.
Why do I write about my experiences? Why do I defy the mother who has always had my best interest at heart?
I became a more prolific writer of political opinion pieces when the recent presidential election entered its final stages. On the night of November 8, 2016, I was sitting at the edge of my bed, my eyes fixed on the television screen and my heart breaking into pieces. The just elected president of the United States, Donald Trump, was strutting onto the stage, accompanied by a coterie of family members, supporters, and advisors. My anger at what was happening before me grew with each step that he took. I had to shut off the television set when my rage at witnessing his ascendancy to the highest office in the land almost became too much for me to handle.
I needed an outlet to vent my frustration and anger. I grabbed my cell phone from the windowsill and furiously texted a message to a like-minded friend. This country is so racist! All this guy talked about throughout his whole campaign was how he would run over marginalized people. He was caught on tape bragging about how he abuses women and they still voted for him. The American people don’t care about people like me. She and I exchanged furious text for the next few minutes, expressing our mutual outrage and contempt for this country and its voters. When we were done venting, I tossed my cell phone to the floor. It was 1:00 am when I’d curled up under my comforter. Sleep would not come easy for me.
It took a few weeks for me to accept what had taken place on that terrible November night. During that time there were calls for recounts in certain states and celebrations of pyrrhic victories (Hillary won the popular vote). But once those challenges to Trump’s legitimacy fell by the wayside I was able to grudgingly accept the reality of the new president. It was harshest of realities, often surreal.
Once he was sworn into office I decided that I was going to perform an individual accounting of who I am. This was hard for me to do correctly since my days and nights were filled with people who were demanding of my time and attention. So after arriving at home one evening I made sure that I had at least a half hour to be alone and relax.
The accounting did not prove as difficult as I thought it would be. But the results of were enough to give me a chill. I was a more than average sized black man who was still relatively young. I’ve struggled for years with mental illness and endured encounters with the police several times as a consequence. I am a first generation American, the first and only son of two African immigrants. All of these factors were sure to work against me in this new regime.
The accounting also told me that I was going to have to expel more of an effort into first resisting and then eventually beating back this new threat to my very existence. I didn’t have the time nor the inclination to join too many protest marches, but I could channel what I was feeling into a written project and then publish it for the entire world to see. The majority of these writing projects would confront those people whose perceptions of me would be colored by my concurrent identities.
Every morning my alarm rouses me before the sun rises. And every morning I am made to feel more bleary-eyed and sluggish than normal by the medications that I reluctantly ingested the night before. And every morning I am forced to enter into a debate with myself about whether or not it would be better for me to sleep for that extra hour. After a few minutes of back and forth between the two competing voices I always end up siding with the voice that screams, “You got a purpose that you need to fulfill. Wake your punk as up! ” I do indeed have a very important purpose, one that I am allowed to pursue during a few precious minutes of each day. So after a few minutes of reorientation I am able to force myself from the bed.
Although it is my most thrilling purpose, writing memoirs are not my only reason for living. I work as a customer service agent at a local hospital, a job that pays salary enough for me to afford food and shelter. For eight hours a day and five days during the week, I am responsible for solving the pressing problems of complete strangers. My work as part of the health services industry goes toward the benefit of people who are often very sick, and this can be rewarding. But in no way does it provide me with the same sense of accomplishment and elation as does writing and publishing a story.
I write in the early morning because it is time when there are the least opportunities for distraction. There are no cars rumbling down the roads; no customers demanding an answer to their exigent problem; no employees asking for help; no supervisor breathing down my neck with demands; and no sweet mother hovering about like a bumble bee asking the question that I have to sneakily evade: What are you writing about?
It is almost immediately after I am able to clear away the fog left by the medications that the ideas for stories start to flow through my stream of consciousness. Once I’m firmly ensconced in the swivel chair I begin to work as furiously as I can, for I only have a certain amount of time before the distractions start to impede my progress. If I’m able to finish a story in the morning, I’ll edit and publish. If not, then of course I’ll leave the story for the next day. By the time I’m ready to enter the shower, I feel like I do after I’ve completed a grueling workout or exited the church after services: cleansed and euphoric.
Some people may think that I’m an egoist, lack range, or that I’m not as hard working as other authors because I continually write stories about my life experiences. To them I say that I’m a relatively young black man in America who is struggling to overcome a mental illness. I choose to write stories that are “self-centered” because my life can be more interesting than the fantasies that some of world’s greatest writers are able to conjure up, and I believe that my story can be a cautionary tale from which the reader can learn. So my stories are just as viable and important as other writers, sometimes even more so because my stories are ones that millions of black and brown people can relate to. Moreover, writing memoirs and autobiographies provide me with opportunities to reflect on a life that has been replete with mistakes. They serve as reminders of where I came from and how far I’ve come from where I was. I never want to revert back to those bad times of living life skirting along the ledge, always one or two steps away from falling over. And for those who think that a man who lives with his mother is not capable of growing and changing, I’d tell them that I’ve accumulated some hard earned wisdom, symbolized by the permanent scars on my body and the gray hairs that are sprouting from my head and chin.
I was twenty-two years old when I’d returned to my childhood home after graduating from the university in June of ninety-nine. It took me a whole three months to find my first job at a non-profit health center. Although happily employed, I was basically living day to day then, with no definitive plan for the future. My dad, who was fifty-six and unsatisfied with his position in life, was thinking about retirement. Dad had plans that would call for us to work together. During a contentious argument at the dinner table he made those plans clear to me.
“You have never offered to help me with the stock trading business that I am trying to start!” he exclaimed.
I recoiled back in my chair after being hit with an accusation that was made out of the blue. “I didn’t know that you were thinking about trading stocks from home right now,” I said. “I thought that you were going to work a couple more years first.”
“Well I want to start with it very soon,” he said. “Are you interested in helping me with it, or not?”
I felt cornered now and I swiped right back at him. “I’m sorry dad, but I am not interested. There are some things that I want to do before I can even think about committing myself to something like that.”
“And what are you doing?” he said, scoffing. “What do you want to do?”
“A lot of things dad! I’m interested in so many things.” I paused so that I could gain control. “You used to be like me,” I said nudging him. “You were a soldier, a teacher, almost became a priest. You moved to America with barely any possessions to your name, and you were able to make a life for yourself.”
“How about when I get my master’s degree? I’ll be able to help you then.”
“Hmm. You’re going get a master’s degree?”
“Yes,” I said, offended. “You don’t think I can do it?”
“It’s just that you haven’t seemed to express any interest.”
“Well, I am…..interested.”
I secured my master’s degree thirteen years after that dinner conversation. My father remained alive long enough to drive me to graduation, but the incurable cancer took his life before we were able leverage my master’s degree to our advantage. In the five years that have passed since his death I’ve become as restless as he was at age fifty-six. I’ve grow tired of having to use my talents to enrich the pockets of men that I will never come to know; tired of having to accede to the capricious whims of managers and co-workers; tired of having my destiny being delayed by my own worries, anxieties, and fears. I am ready to take ownership of my life and ready to live the dream that my father was fostering for the both of us. I know that I have a chance to live this dream through my writing. Hopefully, the time will come when I’ll be able to sire a child of my own. And then once the business and the child have matured, I could proudly hand down a fully cultivated business enterprise to my heir apparent.
My reasons for writing about my own experiences are exigent. They are made more cogent once I’ve had the time and space to think about, reflect, and synthesize them on the page. I want to publish this story and then gauge the reaction of some of the readers. And then perhaps I can show my mother the story that all of these perfect strangers are reading. I’d preface the reading of this piece with a statement: “Momma, look at all that we’d overcome. And we are still surviving. We’re on the cusp of thriving!” I’d likely have to brace myself for an explosive reaction since she’d know that I’d broken the promise that I made to her. It might permanently destroy the peace that we spent so many years of our lives maintaining. But at least she’d know the truth and I wouldn’t have skulk about the confines of my own house like some creature. What do you all think?