The Masks of Life

By Delbert H. Rhodes

Born to the North west coast of La Florida, and for reasons not his own, to some people he is different, dislikable and unwelcomed. Necessarily, these prejudgments are not by strangers, but often by people he knows; many of whom he encounters, everyday. In childhood, a woman acquainted with his Mother, calls him small; in jr. high school, a jealous boy tauntingly says, “The girls like that baby face of yours.” Later, in high school, his younger sister’s boyfriend notes, “When you were a little boy, we use to see you pulling your wagon up the street. We said, ‘Look at him, he’s not like us, let’s git him.’”

Why hurt him because of his differences; and is he responsible for what merely are accidents of birth?

As he ages, the art of deception becomes his sword and shield, he develops and expands his abilities of control, and regardless of the teasing and taunting that he sometimes receives, he permits no one to push him over the edge.

Infrequently, however, he cares to severely injure someone, nevertheless, this, he knows, is wrong, and would cause him much trouble and especially with the police. He is careful to neither embarrass, nor cause his Mother financial difficulties. His family is poor, and his Mom does all that she can to care for his siblings and him. For his entire life, these realizations, these truths, remain as his focal points.

Often: At his Aunt’s house Carlton spends private time in the front bedroom. The first time that he sees his image, the boy is in First Grade. He likes his looks, and customarily returns to the mirror. Staring at his face thrills him; and soon, he notices the big rotten tooth, in the bottom of his mouth.

One day, his Aunt tells him that he is to join his Mom, up north. Saddened: Carlton feels ripped from the people he loves most, and his home. At the age of nine years old, and living in a distant state, he attends school for the first time with White kids; and quickly develops a new behavior; Carlton, now, compares himself to them; and then, once more, he feels small.

Emphatically, after she reads his pocket Birth Certificate, a White classmate says, “Oooo, you’re a ‘Ne-e-gro-o!’” The word printed next to the word “Race” is not totally new to the boy; and somehow, he knew that it referred to his color. One time, in his hometown, a White man called him Black boy. The boy knew that he was different from White people, this was a matter of fact, but the word Negro seems to lessen him, reduce him.

“Negro.” He feels injured, stabbed in the heart by something that causes no visible damages, by something that delivers him distress, a word that he learns to strongly dislike; and yet, without actually hating it.

Years later and as an adult, he thinks of the comment, and then searches the facts in his original Birth Certificate. The document indicates nothing for him in the racial category; however, for his Mother the letter ‘C’ is inscribed.

His Mom is of mixed heritages, including White, Creek, and Black. Perhaps the Cee stands for Creek; however, and most likely, he thinks, because of her genetic mixtures, the Cee is for “Colored.” A word that feels somewhat although not totally better.

The Spanish noun Negro, and its variants are derivatives of the Latin neuter adjective niger, meaning black. Respectively, interpretation of the word is determined by the particular Language within which it is hosted; i.e., the term may translate to dark, or night, and even partner, or friend, in different localities, or regions of the world.

Over time, the Latin neuter form evolved to one of psychological and emotional corruption; and then used inhumanely, to ultimate measures of internal, and then later, external dysfunction; achieving social reduction, rejection and then destruction.

Black, and whenever generally applied as racial identifiers, is a misnomer, and is based in (so called) White standard. For, historically, and while searching for trade routes into India, the Portuguese, and Spaniards used the word to identify sub-Saharan Bantu People. Is it probable that these indigenous people used tribal rather than names of colors, for purposes of identification? Actually, and considering both continental African, and American Blacks, an array of hues exists, black, merely, represents one category.

Carlton wishes to express that he is neither black skinned, Bantu nor sub-Saharan African. Additionally, many years ago, and in-passing, a White man provided invaluable, nevertheless unsolicited information to the Lad. While walking by, and peering over his shoulder, the man offered, “You’re from Mauritania West Africa.” This comment, and as strange as it may seem, could ancestrally be more correct than not; for, the plausible truth is demonstrated in our astonished man’s physiognomy.

Yes, Negro, the word follows Carlton for the rest of his natural life; a life, he feels, better lived inside another skin. Later, the word loses its sting; however, its relative negative terms, like “nigger,” he despises. Into his sixties, the man recalls that White people never directly slapped him with the hateful term, nonetheless, one southern born Black friend, did so, and often. To Carlton: A nigger is a dead thing; and currently, he is very much alive. After about thirty years the “friendship,” ended.

Is it not ironic that (some) Blacks feel/claim ownership of, and casually use the term nigger; and decry usage to others, and especially White people; when, and of course and to the well informed, this behavior is nonsensical, for, is not the word, created, and used by White plantation owners and other Whites during and since Slavery, thereby the property of its creators?

Nigger, and no matter its forms: is a virulent, psycho-social and economical tool, used to emotionally degrade, control, and dehumanize Black African Slaves. Why would their Black ancestors care to claim, casually use, or desire relationship, of any kind, to the word? Why?

Moreover, another oddity is that the anagram of such an egregious perversion is well regarded; for its additive medicinal properties, to foods, and various human systemic symptoms, respectively. The spice enhances and offers delicious tasty morsels to the tummy; and corrects various systemic imbalances, such as upset stomachs and dizziness.

Oh, but please, beware: Although the positive effects of Ginger are absolutely welcomed by many, the provisions of its tasteless twin are not delicacies, they cannot medicinally assist, and with the precision of a razor’s edge, the targeted application of ‘this’ word achieves but one end, and the prognoses, the generational tragedies are nationally, culturally and humanly irreversible.

A White classmate occasionally rubs Carlton’s hair, “Cool,” says Alex, “I wish I had hair like that.” Sometimes the boy gathers another White boy to discuss their Black classmate’s differences; but, and no matter the smiles, the attention causes him discomfort and displeasure.

Similar to his Mother, Carlton has light brown skin, curly dark hair, dark brown eyes, and thin lips. He dislikes that his differences place him on display, and even infrequently. In junior high school, the boy begins to dislike his nose, it seems too fat at its end. The rest is okay.

At home and often, the young teen makes trips to the bathroom, to resume his private time. Staring into the glass, Carlton likens his nose to a potato, something better left to the garden and not his face. Also, and since elementary school, in order to appear more like his White classmates, he applies cosmetic grease to his hair; and then meticulously combs and brushes it, until it flattens.

While sleeping, and to hold his hair neatly in place, Carlton wears upon his head one of his Mom’s stockings. Curiously, a Black friend says, “Your hair don’t look real.” Somewhere along the way, Carlton’s nose no longer displeases him; and happily, it has lost its negative appeal.

Things are changing, and he even thinks less about his race; life offers other distractions, such as girls; a distraction demanding more exploration, and a pretty redhead in another school has captured Carlton’s attention.

The late sixties to early seventies, high school and friends, the lapsing Hippy generation, racial difficulties; although he never takes part in issues of race, a last minute decision against the Marine Corp., the redhead is gone, Lisa J., and then the question of what-actually-comes after graduation. Academically, Carlton performs poorly in both jr. high and high schools. These things and more fill his youthful mind.

During these years, his Mother spends much time in the hospital, and with two younger brothers to help raise, Carlton has much to think about. He never seems quite satisfied with himself, he never seems quite satisfied with his family. Still, and although consumed by uncertainties, and before him, the path is poorly lit, somehow, the older teen moves forward; and one step at a time.

Newly attending the local jr. college and because he furthers his education, some guys from his childhood resent Carlton. Historically, Black Slaves secretly learned to read and write; education that later, cost many their lives. Strange that some present day Blacks seem to prefer ignorance to knowledge. Viewing educated Blacks as sellouts to “their” people. “Trying to be like the ‘White man.’”

‘Their’ is a possessive pronoun, bestowing ownership; and Carlton strongly advises that he owns no one; and further, any people caring more of ignorance than knowledge is a people to which he cares never to belong; additionally, a mere accident of birth avails neither his allegiances nor obligations, to said people.

“I owe you nothing!” He protests.

Carlton’s years in jr. college provide him instructive distractions. His studies are exciting and he does well; and then graduates with good grades; however, at senior college things are different. In some ways, he is academically unprepared. During earlier school years, the young man shied Mathematics, and attended only three classes; courses hosting higher degrees of the subject become difficulties for him.

In 1976, and during his Junior year, Carlton has a car accident; from which he suffers the loss of the cap to his right incisor, a bump to the left knee, and loss of hair. These were the obvious injuries. Not as obvious were the inabilities to attentively focus and to speak completed sentences. Additionally, issues of esteem and minor depression hinder him, slow him. Never asking for help, the student tells no one of his troubles, and not even a best friend.

Daily, and even while in class, he fakes it; and unremarkably, gets by. His grades, however, do not; subsequently, his academic cum terribly drops, and he is close to expulsion. Fortunately, he slowly increases his cum, and then receives an academic award for the fourth quarter. The summer permits him time to heal, however, he decides not to return to school for the following term.

The year off, he works, earns money, and then buys another car; he lost the first one in the accident. Eventually, Carlton neither  suffers lack of focus nor degraded speech; and then, once more, he feels whole. The fall semester approaches and returning to school excites him.

The loss of his first car was reason, or possibly, an excuse to exit a long distance relationship, but then the loss of one girlfriend becomes the gain of another. An auburn beauty from town enters the young man’s life. Although the lady is lovely, and she deliciously deserves his attention, even she cannot distract him from his thoughts; often, Carlton wonders whether anyone would remember him after he perishes.

Frequently, Hollywood types, Pro-ball players, Musicians, Educators, Scientists, The Rich for one reason, or another are splashed across the Media; and especially to mourn death. Everyone sharing like, or dislike becomes imprinted with memory. “When I die,” Carlton thinks, “whom would remember me, or, care to, and would death make me a better person?”

Truly, the man thinks of various reasons to ponder death, and its aftermath; and In Memoriam, he agrees with and understands anyone scorning him. After all, everyone has a right to his, or her opinions; still, in his lifetime, he has harmed no one; he is not criminal and although a loner, is hugely, and nevertheless, privately, compassionate.

Now in his sixties, memories of his youth, and his personally hidden pains preoccupy the man. He feels and believes that he is a good person, but sometimes suffers from his negatively internalized emotions. Generally: People are unforgiving; and for lifetimes, certain memories linger. Surely, upon his death he would, by some, be remembered; however, in what way and why?

In the norm: Carlton cares little of how others think of him. Why, then, and considerably before his death, would their thoughts cause him pause? He lives in solitude, and even family cannot selfishly control him, imbue him with guilt. Yet, daily, privately, and as he constantly returns to the mirrors, the man reconstructs the masks of his life.

Copyright (c) 2017 Delbert H. Rhodes

The Wonder of It

English: Electron microscope image of sperm.

By Delbert H. Rhodes

My eyes open, it is something after four in the morning; somehow, I feel the bathroom listening to my stirs, and mentally I call out, “I will be there soon.” The radio’s voice pours into my ears, it is too loud; it is strange how the volume operates independently of my preset levels. I must reduce the volume, though my desire to remain still makes turning in bed difficult.

Quietly, the soothing tones of classical melodies drift me away. I love and enjoy listening to delicate musical manuscripts, and this I could do all day. Even so waking instills responsibilities, thus, the day begins and it matters not of the time.

The constant ringing in my ears disturbs the pleasantry of the music; I wish that I could rid the noise in my head. For many years this malady has held me. In my youth, I sought a specialist for help, and he said, “Maybe we will take something out.” After my second visit to his office, the specialist left for vacation.

I wonder about people whom listen to loud audio; what occurs inside their brains? Whatever it is, doubtless, it is different from my own. Strange, people who prefer LOUD seem to act without consideration of loss of hearing, and by ignoring other people.

I am happy to note that some people actually learn. While sitting outside in his vehicle, a young man awaited my neighbor. The man’s car radio volume was extremely loud. Fanciful as it may seem, the noise could have interrupted orbiting stars. Simultaneously, my neighbor, and her Mom walked outside and  quickly, Mom indicated displeasure to the loud noise. Immediately, the person turned the volume down. Now, each time he returns to the property, his music cannot be heard.

Some people fail to learn. About two weeks ago, the neighbor in the house next door, that house is also owned by my property owner, played his music even louder than did the previous person. Taking out the garbage, I strolled over to see whether the music came from indoors, or outdoors. While cleaning his cars, the neighbor wore earplugs while listening to his very loud music. Are You Kidding!

That is correct; he protected is ears from his severely disturbing music, while the melodies pelted and melted  the neighborhood and me. After a brief encounter, the person immediately turned the volume down. Well, within less than one week, it was…I’M BACK! Would it be disrespectful of me to pray for a HAUNTING!

The morning sky is dark; the forecast is rain and snow; maybe the snow would find somewhere else to fall. A pleasurable thought. I am not a winter activist; therefore, for what needs have I of snow, or winter. Already, the city feels the impending storm; heavy rain falls on the stonework of NYC and Long Island.

Outside: the wind howls loudly; seemingly, its ferocity swells inside my bedroom. Rhythmically, water-logged trees and vegetation flex swashing back and forth. What must life be as a plant, a tree, a flower, and anything subject to nature’s wrath? Unlike trees and other vegetation, most-times man demonstrates capabilities to protect himself from inclement weather. Romantically speaking, the dichotomies in nature may be similar to those of (some) women, they are beautiful, but at times caustic.

A neighbor’s dog barks; lately it seems to crave attention. Alternatively, perhaps it sees a rabbit or squirrel scampering about. Often, barking dogs are alerting to intruders; but many times, barking minimizes and negates the focus of intended alerts. Here, unwanted and intrusive barking has zero affects against possible intrusions. Owners quickly quiet their pets; frustrated neighbors disdain the unwanted noises, and especially during hours of sleep.

Remember: dogs are protectors, not playthings, and deserve all provisions of dignity. All too often, and unfortunately, plaything is the order of the day; as a result, properties could fall prey to predation.

My feathered friends add voice to the day; mornings are never the same without the trill of birdsong. Occasionally, I have the pleasure of enjoying the songs of Nightbirds. Dearly, I love birdsong, for if I did not, then surely, other unwanted insufferable noises (would) intrude upon my world. Fortunately, this is not the case.

Last night on the News, I learned that Valerie Harper, AKA, Rhoda, has brain cancer. Why is it that some people inherently borne certain diseases, while others do not? High blood pressure and Diabetes populate my family. Most, if not all, of my mother’s paternal line, (the old ones) have perished because of Diabetes, or some form of cancer.

My Mom and I suffer with high blood pressure, albeit neither her children nor she suffers with Diabetes. Well, no one lives forever; the great misfortune is, and for some, ‘forever’ is a short-term.

The bedside lamp has an interesting configuration; it appears as a sperm cell. The head of the lamp imitates the head of a sperm cell. The lamp’s body is thin and long, similar to that of a sperm cell’s tail. One cannot help, but wonder whether suggestive shapes overrun the minds of crafters. Bottles of perfumes and colognes are curvaceous, sensual, and pleasing to the eyes. Previously observed is one company whose name commingles letters colloquially to misspell the act of making love.

Somehow, absent are considerations of impropriety whenever concerning some products. Are not children and minors moving about in the public, and do they never view T.V. or videos? Whose responsibility is it; I wonder, to protect children and minors from influences, which fall into the void of IMPROPER, the commercial industry, stores, or parents?

Some products clearly are sexual in design, or use sex as the primary tool of selling. Cars, furniture, perfumes, colognes, exercise equipment, name it, and probably, sexual innuendos or directed sexual interfaces share and sell the products. Victoria’s Secret certainly is highly marketed; do children and minors see those commercials? What is ‘your’ answer?

With and without parental peeping could the Internet and technologies including television, videos, and music render children and minors less innocent? I Wonder.

About four years ago, a long-term ex-girlfriend, regarding a Post I made to a social network, publicly attacked me. The Post was an excerpt from a short story of mine, whose main character, a female, is a pole dancer. In the script, the dancer describes her first time dance experiences in detail. The language though not acutely graphic, is suggestive.

The ex-girlfriend indicated that her “girls” had received the Post, and this fact disturbed her. I responded by requesting the “girls” to remove me from their “Friend” list. This, the ex-girlfriend also complained about; she did not desire that I disconnect from her granddaughters. Well, eventually, I disconnected from the ex-girlfriend, permanently.

Now here is the skinny: I sent my Post only to individuals in my “Friend” list, and none was underage. My ex-girlfriend’s granddaughters, underage, were NOT in my “Friend” list, and I was not in theirs. Therefore, and though the EX accused me of “Sending” the Post to her “girls,” it was not I who sent the girls the Post, but my EX and her daughter, the girls’ mother.

Configuring the Page Preferences of my EX, her daughter, or anyone else whom might have had the “girls” in their “Friend” list, was not my responsibility. Apparently, and these assertions I gained while communicating with the ex-girlfriend, the EX was not well versed in the mechanics of controlling her page, and it was not my duty to inform her.

We must ever be mindful of not only the things that disturb us, or cause us rage; but of the facts surrounding our disturbances. Misdirected accusations and blame serve to only diminish the assertions they raise.

Staring out the window I am mindful of beauty, and though the day is bleak, overcast, and dreary it is no less beautiful. I think of the many things that afford me pleasures, and feel thankful for my blessings. Life is ever wonderful and it is ours for just a moment; the moment is as beautiful as we make it.

Beneath the umbrella of repetition, each morning my day begins the same, or so it seems; and I know at least one person who (fervently) complains of repetition, as witnessed in other people. Is any human afforded life or lifestyle without the syndrome? I say NO.

In my opinion, repetitiveness naturally occurs in human behaviors. We hear it speech, and observe it in the things we do as individuals or in groups and like it or not verbally iterations “reiterate.” Of course, if our speech or behaviors are too overt, then we suffer labels and then sometimes end in “A Better Place”; however, this place may not be better…indeed.

The rituals to which I commit each day relax me; they make me happy. Naturally, I commit only to things I like; the wonder of it is why I disfavor certain commitments. Answer: Seemingly, something occurred at my birth. (I must think more about this.)

Snow litters the morning sky; and since first observing them, the falling flakes increased in volume. Yes, I absolutely have zero needs of the stuff, yet if snow is pristine then it is lovely, and I enjoy its presence.

Today, I watch as snow whitens the world. Tomorrow, I prefer to see not one “floating flake.”

Copyright © 2013-2014 Delbert H. Rhodes