“In my life everything was temporary. Love came the least, pain came the most and happiness sometimes didn’t come at all. Rage was my only unconditional friend. It moved with me, and slept with me; everywhere I went it was their walking with me as if it did not want to let go of the hold it had over me.”
On to the book The Life of Me. If you are a reader that is put off by an in your face venture into the seedy underbelly of homelessness, foster care, and everlasting turmoil with few rays of sunshine then I advise you to go back to your thousand thread count blanket your Vetti Cafe Latte and look elsewhere. Forget intelligence for once, embrace the troubling aspects of life and lets raise our emotional quotient by submitting to sadness and wishing for hope. From the start of the book you are provided residence to the inner space of six year old Anthony Wilson. Where I grew up in the suburbs, your watershed moments happen around sixteen, but for Anthony his coming of age started earlier than most. At six I was figuring out what sport to play, where I was going to go for play dates, and what types of food ketchup doesn’t complement well. For Anthony he was forced to figure out the “right” way to caress a woman, how not to get whipped by a wire clothes hanger by a foster parent, distinguishing the differences between the tastes of Brandy and Sherry, and how long it would take before you could seamlessly blend into the walls of a crack house. After being rescued from his broken life by a young woman named Lisa, Anthony is given a full day of utter disbelief; a period of time without worry for the first time in his life. As surely as the sun will rise again, the presence of darkness is all too quick to follow. The next morning, Anthony bears witness to something no person, let alone a six year old boy should ever experience and unfortunately will never escape for as long as he lives.
Throughout Anthony’s young life his poetry book was his second best friend, after the unconditional love found in his feelings of anger and hate. At sixteen Anthony is living with his loving and caring grandma and he is a straight A student, but his rage is still ridin’ shotgun throughout his everyday life with his poetry book in the backseat. He meets a girl named Ashley who he views simply as a potential hook-up, but something about her makes him look at things a little differently. Anthony is a protector in nature, he protects his family, the women in his life, and his homeboys. Things seem to be changing for the better for Anthony, but will it last or will past demons rear their ugly heads?
The tender age of six and the long-lasting affects of being horrifyingly mistreated by presumed authority figures or other roles indicating trust is a common thread among the characters in this story. How does one understand the power of love when the ones you trust the most are the ones that inflicts the most damage? Your left a shell of your former self with no heart, no morals, no respect, and not understanding that it was not your fault. You live your life where nobody was safe or trustworthy, where on Earth do you turn?
Ashley and I shared a common like in the Pusha T punch line from Kanye West’s song Mercy. When I first heard that song that part stuck with me for a while afterwards, more than anything else, well that and the awesome sample. Seeing that we are on the topic of hip hop, while reading this story I was constantly reminded of Tupac’s song changes and one verse in particular:
“And as long as I stay black, I gotta stay strapped and I never get to lay back. ‘Cause I always got to worry ’bout the payback. Some buck that I roughed up way back… comin’ back after all these years. Rat-a-tat-tat-tat-tat. That’s the way it is. Some things will never change”
Alright, I liked the story, but ultimately could not get past the long winded poetry excerpts and the overused sexual exploits. From a psychological perspective I understand the need to have it as a major part of the story, but way too much with little variation. When a child is sexually battered they tend to take advantage of the situation and use sex as a means to obtain love from others while they experience it on autopilot, they become abstinent from sexual activity, they gravitate to the sex opposite the offending party, or they embrace a promiscuity that otherwise may not have been realized. With Anthony and Ashley I couldn’t put my finger on their motivation, or understand why they weren’t more hesitant in their relationship. In the real world some things you don’t need to completely understand, but when being privy to the character’s innermost thoughts I just couldn’t get my head around their reasoning. I would recommend the book The Life of Me to people that enjoy a hybrid poetry/non-fiction type experience and are not put off by the airing of family secrets, life of the unheard and the art of in your face storytelling.
” ‘I know a preach a lot to you Anthony but let me just say this and I’m done. A hurt woman is always a vulnerable woman. Sometimes the more they get hurt, the more they lose themselves, and the more they are open to fill the void. So if you’re going to be with her, be with her and cherish her because I’ve taught you well. You understand?’
‘Yes ma’am.’ “