Family and addiction
My sister was a crack addict for a period after her daughter was born, not exactly sure when, but it was there—the worst outcome of stereotypes she was already becoming—white trash, trying to prove her blackness. In the parking lot of Fayette Mall, she opened her legs and pulled out her tampon as she was sliding out of the car, threw it on the ground. I'm sure my reaction was, "What the fuck?" Then we went inside to shop. She seemed herself in pockets, but I was probably too numbed out just trying to survive her newfound addiction. When she brought me to the apartment she was sharing with another (or several) other addicts, it hit me then. Black soot everywhere, a girl 80 pounds at most sitting in the living room. My sister took my high school yearbooks there. This angered me—how dare she subject MY things to these drugs and filth. Never mind that my things were not in New York with me, so what difference did it really make? There is no logical reaction for being shown your sister's crack den in Kentucky. In for holiday visits only, where we all made nice briefly and then I was back home in no time to becoming more myself in an often roundabout fashion. No dealing with the crack Tasha consumed and the alcohol my mother used to not feel so deeply. The periodic blackouts mom experienced with accompanying black eyes, "At least I wasn't driving," she says with a shrug and a smile.
Dad has referred to himself as Jesus—signs of schizophrenia, perhaps or just a symptom of angel dust use. I don't think before I was born in the late 60's, early 70's he was using dust but he was high and drunk all the time—New Orleans where anything goes and every bad habit is romanticized. Plus being a hippie and crossing social norms were a wildfire of consciousness. He just happened to be in his twenties while it unfolded. His addictions and strangeness could be attributed to Vietnam and the times and being a musician. Nothing strange about it. When I watch A Love Song for Bobby Long, I imagine living in the slums, like when we lived in Algiers, drinking until the blood comes up and talking pretty words and dying that tragic romantic death laced with fear and beauty. That's my family—fear and art, the most tragic of all tragic.
The last time I saw dad awake, he wouldn't look at me. Wouldn't talk. Said he couldn't talk to me. He could talk to Tasha. Addiction and being lost their secret language. Guess I've always appeared more together than them. Didn't they know I could silently fall apart without using? Chronic disease destroying, slowly disintegrating to keep me with them. I just wanted you all to love me. Dad was high and distraught. His dad, my paw paw just died. His rock. Couldn't bring himself to leave the house to go to the funeral. My paw paw, well respected and a pillar of the black community in Opelousas. A Kappa man who attended Southern University was an honored principal at an elementary school in a neighboring parish. Son stuck, addicted. Wife who died of cirrhosis of the liver, but instead of admitting that, the entire family thought she'd died of breast cancer. Shame all around. No wonder dad couldn't live. Just ashamed of everything he never could be forever confined in an aching brain.