The Day I Became A Man

Before my 13th birthday arrived

my parents were as separated as church and state in hidden conversations.

Their marriage had died,

the screams and debates had drained the love from their veins.

My father had left us high and dry, so my older brother took

the challenge of keeping us safe. 

 

He let me drown his pillows with my tears,

I was something broken and couldn't be fixed. 

The cracking of the hardwood floors told old stories of

laughter, use to be family dinners and the last fight mom and dad had.

The sounds of the house woke me at night,

and I'd get out of the bed and walk in the dark with my hands by my side.

I remembered my way.

 

By the fall of my 14th birthday

my innocence disappeared, I became two people.

I became one removed from daylight finding refuge in the dark. 

My shoulders broaden, air began to build courage in my chest,

my ribs filled with excitement and anger.

My mother asked once if I was ok

and I never replied because I didn't know. 

 

I was introduced to the man who ran the block.

He told me that I didn't need my father and introduced me

to another way of life, a life with a family, a life with friends

but no future. I didn't know that at the time but soon found out. 

O was his name.

He wore a beanie with a half smoked cigarette hanging from his lips, 

he never wore anything more than a tank-top, dickie pants

and slide-in sandals. His hands were as slick as his voice,

he kept  a pocket knife on deck and a Doberman by his side.

 

He explained to me the game, the do's and dont's 

he made what use to be soft edges rough. He created

an alter ego inside my head. On my first day of "work"

he asked, "Do you want the stuff that crumbles or the stuff

that breaks?" I had no idea what to say in return so I chose

what was supposedly the lesser of two evils. 

This was the day I became a man.