Finally done with another day in elementary school, walking the same path I would take everyday to get home. Entering through the door to two unproductive hours that consisted of channel surfing only to zone out, staring at the wall and drowning out all the sound. Well, guess what? There was a familiar man on my couch perfectly replicating my routine. Suddenly, my phone started to ring. It was my mother. Answering it, I heard a faint sigh. She knew what I saw, grown ass man playing with his feet on her couch. Her brother
I sat next to him, the room void of any communication besides whatever the characters on the TV were arguing about.
“Jesse, what the hell are you doing here?”
In our immediate family we all loved each other. However, in moments many of us didn’t like each other. Year after year passed, and time had yet to heal our wounds. It had been about ten years since my Uncle Lorenzo’s life cut short by a bullet to the head; before then many of us were on thin ice with each other, reaching a brink of collapse. Then with this loss our family shattered, sending shards in every direction, nobody the same, all of us at the crossroads looking for a path to continue onward. Relationship we’re fragile and “last straws” moments were common, but somehow our paths came to cross again.
“Oh yeah, your mom said I could stay here for a couple of days,” He responded, food in mouth, in between taking the last sips of his beer, while Pawn Stars played in the background. As a child, I was told to keep a blind eye towards Jesse's actions, but I know that it isn’t normal for a shirtless man in his late 30’s to welcome himself in his sister’s apartment and become our permanent guest. Witnessing, first hand, his bizarre tendencies,, putting his intimate relationships out in the open. It didn’t help that he talked into his phone instead of texting. Talking about “after my thanksgiving dinner, you want to be my dessert”, I’d be surprised that any women would want to associate with Jesse. Buying all my electronics, thinking he'd be able to flip them. Brandishing guns, Jesse gave me an AR-15 poster that my mom quickly tore down. Stealing my gold bracket when I was just a toddler, my mom opened a new credit card just to buy that. This list just scratches the surface.
Jesse never got to experience anything close to a childhood; always running towards the last light of his adolescence, but we both knew that door closed a long time ago. There’s a connection between you were brought up and the person you become; Often it be assumed Jesse was a man drowning in self consumption and shallowness. But if you looked deeper, you’d see someone who was handed a devastating beat down by life. People who lack a strong father figure in their life tend to overcompensate. Jesse and I were both a victim of this trait. So, I can relate to his wanting to keep his emotions to himself. For the most part, He did a good job at hiding his emotions. The only semblance of emotion were the tattoos that covered his body. Those doves on his neck, were able to spread their wings while he was chained down. Fifty-one fifty, temporary insanity, branded on the back of his neck. He late brother Lorenzo forever immortalized with ink on his sleeve. Keeping his memory alive, even if it caused his nights to be plagued with recollections of his passing. Now, Imagine seeing your younger brother being keep alive by machines, the pain of seeing him unplugged. And he packed that pain in a glass pipe, grabbed a lighter and inhaled it through a pipe. Letting the smoke temporarily lift his problems into the air, miles away from where he could feel them. Smoking his demons, praying that one day he’d reunite with who he lost. I didn’t know all of this then, so I just stayed quiet, walked in my room and closed the door.
I've seen addicts my whole life. From close friends and family to someone standing in the street with a sign. Distinguishing the two main kinds gets harder and harder every day. Depending on the person taking them, the drugs effects will differ. There’s functional addicts that can go on with their life without the risk of any obvious symptoms, and then there’s fiends, people who let drugs engulf their entire life till it takes everything from them. My uncle was a fiend. Throughout the years, I’d watch him continuously hit rock bottom, spend a couple weeks sober, only to hit a new low. And as a family we understood that addiction was a real disease, but traumatic event after traumatic event, people get tired of trying to pick up the pieces.
After various incidents and regressions, Jesse made some light homicidal and suicidal threats. Jesse’s never shied away from telling people about his actions, often trying to make himself seem like a “badass”. he once told his ex-girlfriend’s child, an eight year old, about hitting a lick on a liquor store. Him threatening me wasn’t uncommon, so I wasn’t too surprised when he went on drug fueled rant to my mom through text. I remember vividly as the green text boxes, Jesse always owned an Android, from my mom’s iPhone 6 illuminated the car on our ride home. Her screen reflected off the jet black leather car seats of my grandma’s Volkswagen Jetta. What exactly instigated the conversation is still blurry, but his message was clear. He wasn’t going back to jail, and if the cops came he would “die a g”. I knew he had the means to go out guns blazing, I’d found the AR-15s under his bed, what I didn’t know is if his conscience would allow him to pull a trigger, or did drugs fry his brain way past repair. His words regressed him back to earlier time, void of optimism, he cried desperation to reunite with his brother. It wasn’t the threats that worried me, instead Jesse overdosing on his pain. Letting the past drive him to point where he didn’t want to see a future, he didn’t want to spend another second alive.
Jesse and I had our good times. He introduced me to technology, let me drive a car for the first time. We spend hours playing fighting games on his Xbox 360. In my early childhood, he was the only male figure that consistently in my life. Through all of money he stole from my mom and I, I wouldn't put a price on my relationship with my uncle. At the end of the day Jesse was human, bearing the same flesh and blood as me. If anything his problem humanized him. Pouring your soul out to a therapist isn’t always an option. And most of the time our pride prevents us from accepting we have a issues, confining ourselves to our own minds. But by doing that we’re ultimately stuck talking to our own reflections, and do you want to spend your limited time in this world speaking to a mirror. People always say that great pain fades slowly, his pain never faded, mine hasn’t either. My back just grew strong enough to be able to carry it. When I lost my grandpa, he lost his father. When I lost my uncles, he lost his brothers. As much as he tried, it never got better. Continuing to withdraw, seeing the face of who you once buried, Tormenting us till we relapse back to a grieving state. I am not justifying drug use in anyway. Jesse was nowhere near right for his habits, but I understand his decades of dancing with methamphetamine.
After years of ducking the law, Jesse ended up in jail for a month, which is incredible considering that he was originally facing years. They found him asleep in his truck, after a week of his baby momma searching Orange County. Being locked up, whether it's jail or prison, can either be a hell or a place of reflection. An island of solitude, where the world progresses while you’re trapped in time. I never wished jail on Jesse, or anyone for that matter, but maybe it would serve as a wake up call. I spent hours with my grandma trying to set up the collect calls. Finally, we got a call. She didn’t want to talk to him, so she handed me the phone.
“Aye Vincent, you know they gave me three months, I’ll be free September 29th.” He chuckled. It always do confused me how Jesse made light of certain situations. Maybe it was a defense mechanism. Secluding himself from sympathy, because if he didn’t take his situation seriously why would you? But I wasn’t oblivious, his cries for help were obvious even through the phone.
“Bullshit, how do you think I got your inmate number? You’re only locked up for a month. Be happy that they didn’t lock your ass up longer. So, what are you doing?”
“Push ups, I’m outside right now. I see this birds nest. I like the view here, it’s beautiful.” He explained. I could hear the vulnerability in his voice. Part of me knew that he would never get it, all I knew is that he didn’t want to continue living the way he is. I know my uncle, But I will never come close to knowing the burden he holds so close to himself. Just as he can’t understand mine. All I can do is listen so maybe he doesn’t have to crystal for some consolation, so maybe his obstacles can be the patches in my road, so maybe I can find meaning in my lack of a childhood and move past it.
Dedicated to my Uncle Jesse, the only uncle I got left. Stop trying to be the next Paid In Full, you ain’t got juice like that.
R.I.P. Lorenzo & Isaiah