I’m an American citizen, but I haven’t had the quintessential experience of growing up “Black in America”. Like so many children of mixed cultural heritage, I was called “African booty scratcher” and all manner of pejoratives by people whose skin looked just like me. In response, I shied away from “Black life” and sought refuge in anything that was opposite. Now that my present has brought me into a full on collision with what was essentially a counter-culture as far as my upbringing was concerned, I find that I am often fascinated and confused by it. Although my father had married a Black American, he held (and still does hold) a certain level of contempt for certain aspects of “Black” culture. I’ll get to that in a minute.
I live in Roswell, which is small Southern city with a rich history. Depending on which side of Crossville Rd one lives on, that can indicate whether one is rather well to-do or barely making it. My side of the road is the latter. We have no millionaire neighbors next door, but we are blessed with the only Red Lobster in a 20 mile radius. That makes my side of the tracks special.
My neighbors are hard-working folks. They are airport baggage handlers, teachers, bus drivers and the occasional drug dealer. In fact, I think the guy that moved in the house across the road from me is a pimp (although I have no hard evidence of that, save witnessing the constant stream of vehicles and scantily clad woman in Lucite heels that run in and out of his door). When he pulled up in his jet black late model Jeep Cherokee and stood outside bellowing on his cell phone, I decided that this was exactly the type of individual whom I did NOT want to engage. He was a little too hood for my liking. I didn’t like the looks of him, what with his bald head and full beard so reminiscent of Rick Ross. I made no effort to welcome him and have never asked him his name. However, as fate would have it, Stone forced me into intimate interaction with him.
I was upstairs in my room taking a break when I heard someone pounding on my door. I ignored it. I figured it was the mailman. When the pounding became more insistent I walked down the stairs and noticed my back door was cracked. Rick Ross was standing there.
“Hi?” I said, obviously confused by his presence.
“Hey…did you know your son was outside?” he asked.
“No, I didn’t!”
I looked around frantically for Stone.
“He’s over there,” said Rick, pointing towards the bushes. “He doesn’t have any underwear on.”
I scurried to the path and hollered for Stone to come home. Rick laughed heartily. I was surprised by how intelligently he spoke.
“How old is your boy?”
“He’s 3,” I replied.
His face brightened.
“I have a little boy too. He’s also 3.”
“Does he run around the neighborhood with his dangle hanging out?”
“No,” he laughed. “No he doesn’t.”
That was in late August and was the first and last time I spoke to Rick. He and I now wave and smile politely when we cross paths. The whores and strippers still come and go, but I’ve learned to live with it. After all, men will be men.
Last night however, I saw a side to Rick Ross that has led me to be less lenient in my view of how he conducts his affairs.
Being a Friday night, there was a lot of coming and going in our house. There was a church function, a Girl Scout meeting and shopping to be done. When I returned from my errands, I saw a new car park in front of Rick’s house – a blue Camry. The older grey Lexus with South Carolina plates and the Ichthys (that Jesus fish symbol) plastered on the left corner was parked where it always is…too close to my garage. It belongs to Rick’s more recent piece of booty. I figured that this new car just belonged to one of his thug friends who had dropped in. Suddenly, I heard a female voice screaming.
“Open the door! Jayden has to use the bathroom!!”
The woman’s demands for him to open the door continued until he finally flung it open.
“He can come in, but I don’t want you in here,” he growled.
“Why not?” she screeched.
“’Cause I don’t want you in here!”
“Why? ‘Cause you got that b*tch in there?” she howled, her voice carrying far into the winter darkness.
He muttered something which made her yell louder.
“I don’t give a damn about your neighbors! I’m coming in to get my son!”
I heard him tell her to step away from his door or else he was going to hit her. She dared him to hit her…begged him to do it in fact.
“Look. Don’t do this in front of my son,” he warned.
“Give my baby! You b*tch a** nigga!” she roared. She tried to reach behind him to grab her son whom had just emerged from the bathroom. I couldn’t help it. I put down my bags and sat on my A/C unit to watch.
I heard Rick Ross warning her to leave. He used his body weight to shift her out of his door frame and locked the door on her.
“Really?!?” she yelled at the shut door. “You really gonna do this to your wife? Oh. OH! You got me all f*cked up!”
In the darkness I heard a child crying. He was begging his mother to stop. When he heard his son crying, Rick opened the door, grabbed the little boy up and placed him in the back seat of his wife’s car. He brushed past his wife and slammed his front door.
“Oh hell no!” she screamed.
I saw her muscular silhouette stomp over to her vehicle. A halo of hair pulled back in a massive afro puff trailed behind her. She yanked her son out of the car and kicked on Rick Ross’ door. She kicked his tires and pounded on the glass. He opened to door and put his face in hers.
“I already done told you to get on!” he growled before slamming the door in her face again.
A few profanities were exchanged. The voices of the two enraged adults yelling at each other between glass and wood were hardly loud of enough to drown out the pleas of the little boy who had just graduated from his toddler years.
“Please, Daddy! I want you! I want YOU!”
I stopped watching with keen amusement at that moment. I had never heard anything like it before in the entirety of my days on earth. I have never heard a child plead for his parent in that manner.
It was like listening for someone bed for mercy.
It sounded like he was suffocating.
It was heartbreaking…gut wrenching….sickening.
I want you, Daddy. I want you.
Rick Ross finally opened the door and picked up his son. His wife had already begun her walk back to the car and sped away without looking back.
“And you bet’ not come back!” he yelled at her retreating break lights.
It was over. I put my own children in the car and shuttled them to our planned activities.
For the rest of the night, it was all I could think of. Should I go over there tomorrow and let Rick know that his son was welcome to play with Stone any time he wanted? Should I have tried to intervene between the two of them for the sake of the child? I decided I had done what was best: to just stay out of it. Recent events have shown me that I am not equipped to deal with Black people drama.
Hours passed before I returned home much later that evening. I saw a vehicle driving in front of mine. It was Rick Ross’. He got out of his car and looked over his shoulder. His eyes met mine, but only for a brief moment before he went into his house. There was no child with him. That slimy bastard had dropped the kid off somewhere that same night.
I despised him. Oh, I loathed him.
What a punk.
He wasn’t even man enough to look after his son for one, solitary evening. I thought about his wife, whose story no doubt mirrors so many women in Black America who have been left to raise sons by vile, lowlife men who cannot abandon their own pleasures and whims long enough to see to the well-being of their own children. Men who think their manhood is summed up by how many women they can get in their bed and measure their success by the size of their rims. Men who think offering a few paltry hundred dollars a month (if you’re lucky!) will suffice for their absence. They think that’s “providing.”
This is the image of Black fatherhood that is prevalent in this nation and abroad. It is the phantom image of a father, and the sound of a three year old boy crying:
“I want you, Daddy. Daddy, I want you…”