Apr. 1st, 2017

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Woke up from whatever baroque storyline my dreams had concocted last night thinking, You won’t know what you don’t know. Until you know it.

Really, unconscious mind? I wanted to snort. That’s the best you can do?

It sounded like some old wise hippy-speak platitude. Or a throwaway lyric in a Grateful Dead song.

I continue to be in a Mood.

Still, it’s April. My favorite month. My birthday month.

It didn’t snow yesterday. (It was supposed to.)

The birds are singing.


RTT wrote a 40-page story about Justin’s suicide and sent it to me for editorial reviews.

He detailed everything from his playlist the night he didn’t pick up his phone when Justin called to how difficult it would have been to hang yourself – as Justin did – on a closet bar that’s actually shorter than you are. (The instructions are on the Internet, kidZ, but I don’t recommend that you try this one at home.)

Except for the playlist, none of this info was new.

Ben is like a pitbull when it comes to dragging information out of RTT, and any information he drags out of RTT, he immediately passes on to me.

This allows me to retain my cred as a Mother Who’s Always There (If You Need Her) But Who Does Not Pry.

I liked Justin. I didn’t see what RTT saw in him, but I liked him. Ben, on the other hand, hated Justin while Justin was alive, blamed Justin for all RTT’s miscreant behavior. Now that Justin is safely dead, though, he’s taken his rightful spot in Ben’s host of saints.

“Frankly, I see RTT more as the instigator than Justin,” I told Ben on more than one occasion back in the day. This always enraged Ben.

But from my perspective, Justin’s defining characteristic was his passivity. Which he tooled into a kind of resistance.

Not surprising given his history. His mother who rebelled against her own overachieving parent – first black woman to graduate from Sarah Lawrence! – by sinking back down into Richmond’s crack cocaine culture. Seven kids by many different fathers. All of them boys. All of them J-something.

The grandmother who swooped down on Justin and Jason when they’d just passed into their teens and transported them a continent away to the white liberal republic of Ithaca.

There’s a novel there somewhere.


Well, I can help you edit this, I wrote RTT. But it’s so intensely personal that I want to make sure that’s what you want. Editing involves objectifying and letting go of your attachment to the actual words you wrote. Is that really what you want to do?

RTT assured me yes, yes: It was.

Well, then, first of all, you’re not writing a story, you’re writing an essay, I said. An essay in which you’re using personal experiences to explore some larger frame of reference. You hint at that frame of reference, but I don’t think you actually know what it is yet. Think about this: Suicide is actually much, much rarer in black males than it is in the population at large. Black males are far more likely to put themselves in situations where they know they’ll be killed than they are to kill themselves. Do some reading on the subject. And read these – a bunch of links to David Foster Wallace essays.

We shall see what if anything comes out this as a writing project.

However the writing project turns out, it does represent a personal catharsis for him, and for that I was happy and grateful. It means RTT is finally able to process the tragic events of five years ago so that they no longer throw a shadow over his life that’s psychically paralyzing.

For example: He finally got his learner’s permit and has started driving.


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Every Day Above Ground

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