You, may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one. I hope some day you’ll join us. And the world will live as one. – John Lennon, Imagine
I’m different, yeah I’m different. Pull up to the scene with my ceiling missing. Middle finger up to my competition. I’m different, yeah I’m different.- 2 Chainz, I’m Different
There are demons that exist only in the mind. There is beauty that is missed hidden behind. There is doubt that persist, when it should be impossible to fail. There is love everywhere, yet we dwell in despair. I was thirty-years-old the first time depression knocked on my door. Being in a perpetual state of mania, I did not recognize the emotion and once inside, it consumed my soul and attempted to devour my pride.
I grew up the middle child in a close family at the base of the Rocky Mountains. Winters were brutal. Long, cold, and at times the snow would come well passed the knees. But my mother’s love and warm embrace was so comforting, I cannot remember ever being bothered by the cold outside. Our extended family ran deep. My grandmother was not the traditional matriarch, but was head of the family and the center of our world. I adored Colorado, but I was a child and probably would have enjoyed wherever we lived. When my mother made the decision to move, however, I waged a futile protest by running away to my Grandmothers’. I was found instantly. My mother guided me to the car, where I joined the rest of the brood, as we said goodbye to the Rocky Mountains and hello to the wild wild west.
Imagine you are a nine year old little girl, the first time your stepfather knocks on your bedroom door. The knocking is a familiar but odd sound. Although you pretend to be asleep, there was no way you could go without a kiss on the forehead from your parents. But that would be two years ago. Imagine being daddy’s little girl, but the hands of a maniac would take him from you, shattering both yours and your mother’s entire world. You would try to love your stepfather. You would pretend everything was alright. But there something about his presence that caused nightmares to invade your every thought. You would not answer the first knock or even number two. You remember the gentle kisses and how you thought you had them fooled. So you pretend to be asleep, thinking your daddy had returned—as you long for your mother’s kisses and your father’s backrubs with gentle hands. But when the door opens up, and you peer through half closed eyes, it is him, not your father, but the devil in disguise.
Think of the threats that would become a part of your everyday life. The threats were no longer verbalized, for they no longer had to be. After three years of hearing the same thing, they were now drilled into your head, “If you tell anyone, that I touch you, you and your mother are dead.” So the love of your real father would turn to venomous hate. You no longer blamed the gunmen, or the police that sealed your father’s fate. You blamed your mother, for fallen into a drunken stupor. The hate for her would start the first night, when she failed to enter the room. You would learn to understand the meaning of depression and you would feel it too. But how could your mother not stop her husband from molesting you through and through? You would hate your step-dad the most. You would demonize him inside your head. Creating worlds where monsters like him, were hunted and slaughtered till dead.
Imagine being a beautiful woman, with such a pretty smile, that all whom approached were enchanted by the magic in your eyes. Your life would seem normal, as you danced and went out on dates, you were so very cold inside, unable to get passed the all consuming hate. Imagine being a full-grown woman, and never knowing love. The suitors that would come calling, tried everything, but it was never quite enough. Even your girl friends would feel a frosty chill. Out of nowhere, for no reason, you would shut down, allowing no one in. You would grow up pretending to be happy. Graduate from university at the top of your class. Job offers would arrive from all around the globe, your brilliance was well documented as your mind soared high above the doves. But nothing and no one could make you happy, and every night the same routine. You would scrub your skin till raw, often bleeding and bruised from bleach. No matter how hot the water or how intense the scrub, the scent of your step father, would remain and you would cry afraid and alone.
In 1991, the small harbor town in the Pacific Northwest, gained international notoriety when a group of hometown boys made good. Nirvana’s release of its second studio album, Nevermind, would blastoff into the stratosphere where few musicians would ever go. Smells Like Teen Spirit would become an anthem for a combustible generation, known simply as Generation X. The group’s lead singer, Kurt Donald Cobain, would become the front man and voice of millions of young white teenagers across America before taking over the world. He would be credited for starting a movement and developing Seattle’s cold and gloomy sound, appropriately named grunge. Kurt Cobain would marry his sweetheart, who would have him a beautiful baby girl. Young, rich and handsome, he had become one of the world’s biggest stars. He had risen so high and so fast, that few would ever know he was losing a terminal battle with addiction. But it was really depression that brought him down. He was no Lady Gaga who sought and studied the art of fame. Kurt Cobain just wanted to make music, and live quietly in his home by the lake.
On the outside, there was no one happier than this talented musician who seemingly held an entire generation of youth in the palm of his hands, but through the looking glass was an entirely different man. On April 8, 1994 at the age of 27, a man who had everything to live for, under the gray of cloudy skies, Kurt Donald Cobain put a shotgun to his head, pulled the trigger, and ended the turmoil of his life.
There are many who will read this, and wonder if it is all made up. But those of you who know me, not from afar, but all the way close up, know that the words I write are based on truth. I had my share of ups and downs, but just common at whatever the age I was in. My mother protected us from all of life’s ills, assuring we would not see them, for as long as she could.
Sacramento, California became our new home. Some would call it instability, but my brothers, sister and I did not see it that way, although we would all adapt to the change in our own distinct ways. My eldest sister would remain in Colorado, and my youngest brother – bloodline drawn only to my father – I would not meet for years to come. We were not wealthy by any means, and although demographic statistics would label us poor, we lived a good life, taking family vacations, and purchasing all of our toys brand new, not hand me downs or donations from the second hand store. I thrived in high school, attending the perfect one for me. My closest friend still remains, and I had the type of classmates, for the most part, that would be considered ride or die. I lost my only true love there, and although it took longer than it should have, I would finally put that life behind me, knowing it was simply a fond memory and a part of my past. But as I take this brief walk, back down memory lane, it was not the loss of a high school sweetheart, but an illness called depression that nearly took me out of the game.
Imagine that you are alone and decide to take a drive. You are an older woman now, just reached the ripe age of 65. You have never had a husband, not even a man that has gotten close. You would long for them to touch you, but when they did you were filled with rage then overcome with remorse. You were seventeen when you finally had enough. Turning the tables on your stepfather, with his very own hunting gun. Your mother would call you crazy when you told her what he had done. Although she pretended not to believe you, saying you ruined her life, before she walked out on you, she would scream these words, confirming she knew what her husband was doing each and every night “Why couldn’t I have had a son!?”
Your life would become the center of fame, but not from adoring fans, but academics, law enforcement and activists all chanting your name. It was proven in a court of law that you were telling the truth, but the verdict would incense, for it would not affirm that truth would set you free, but you, instead feel raped again, at another man for judging you.
You would move far, far away until, finding a mid-size city where no one knew your name. The move would allow you to live normally, at least on the outside, but you were so damaged inside. Now, years later, you find yourself at the Canyons’ edge. Just you and your sweet little dog named Fluffy, your best friend and the only male you wish were not dead.
Tupac Shakur was simply one of a kind. Even when rap was considered gangsta, he was the king of bad boys, anointed by his throng of fans, who loved the image he portrayed, but longed that he would pull himself together and finally settle down. Although he will be forever known for his music, a vast library of brilliant rhymes so intellectually advanced, the flagship campus of the prestigious University of California system and number one public school in the nation – Berkeley – offered a class in poetry detailing his work, he was also an accomplished actor. He made his motion picture debut in the hauntingly dark Juice, playing one of the most dastardly villains of recent memory. But it was his role in Poetic Justice, playing opposite of Janet Jackson, where hope emerged that he had mentally arrived in stature, where a young man of his great talent and purpose should be. But the movie was disastrous. What should have been a touching love story, became a poorly constructed, cross-country journey of a director’s attempt to recreate the brilliance of his debut film.
Surrounded by sharks, engaged in a mythical – but all too real – battle between the east and the west coasts, 2Pac was caught in the middle, taking five bullets on the Las Vegas Strip, one that would collapse a lung. On Friday, September 13, 1996, Tupac Amuru Shakur was pronounced dead after suffering cardiac arrest.
I remember exactly where I was when the announcement of 2Pac’s shooting hit the airwaves. How could I not. Not only was he and still remains on my list of all time greats – Bob Marley, Teena Marie, Mary J. Blige, Loose Ends & Linkin Park, make it complete – but with immediate and horrific force, brought back to life, the violent death of my own young brother. My mother’s love is so encompassing, at times it overwhelms, but she raised her brood alone, producing a tight family bond. When we lost Claud Junior along the way, it would be the most tragic experience of my life. But as most families do, we pulled together, supported by family, fraternal brothers, close friends and a community that seemed to know just what to do.
I would continue a career with a truly wonderful mid-western based company, before accepting my calling as a writer. I self-published three books, that would lead me on a cross-country odyssey through 27 states, and since the journey crossed the border into Canada, we affectionately call it my first worldwide book tour. I would go on to sell nearly 10,000 copies of my three books, appearing that the author in me was on the way, before returning home, sabotaging my dreams, and for the first time in my whole entire life, collapsing into despair.
Over a decade would pass before I would ever write again. But as my alter ego – thepublicblogger – carries me on his back, on the side of the Canyons’ edge, I start crying first to myself, than aloud for all to hear. I cry not for the challenges that I have created in my life, but in thanks to God, my family, friends and readers whom supported me and so graciously, welcomed me back into their lives.
Imagine staring out the window, while warming you some tea. You are in a small mobile home, parked some distance from the edge. The sun is setting faster now, and there is a dizziness in your head. You think that it is the sun’s sharp rays, or the visions in the sky. You think you have become delusional or perhaps dementia has finally arrived. But you are staring at an old frail man, who has not yet noticed you. There is a certain calmness and serenity about him, and for the first time you feel it too. Your tea is warm and Fluffy is fed, so you sit in the small , but comfortable chair. Since time has been forgotten, you have no idea how long you stare.
There is a sharpness in your heart, followed by a warm and gentle tug. Then a pain grabs hold of it, but releases seconds later, allowing the warmth to return. You feel it every time it changes, pain to warmth and back again. But the man standing at the Canyons’ edge, has your full attention where pain can never tread. You watch as he looks back and forth. From his left then to his right. You see a couple with hunting guns, and fury turns to fright. But to the right there is nothing to see. You had seen the same two squirrels that now menaced the man in your sight. You watched the same two butterflies, flutter by you and out of sight. The eagles you could not see, for they soared higher than your tired eyes could grasp, but you could imagine what was up there when the old man looked high into the sky. But for the first time you saw something new, it was not the sun that was setting, but the same curtains were now closing in on you. Realization set in, and the pain in your heart spread deep within. Your breathing would become labored, and your strength evaporated. You would drop the tea cup that you held in your hand. You dared not to pick it up, for fear of losing sight of the dear sweet old man. The winds begin to howl, and the screen door would fly open. Fluffy would see daylight, making a run for it, before you could stop him.
Imagine seconds before you felt so very old, but now a burst of energy envelops and you chase Fluffy out of the door. The wind is forceful and your legs are weak. Your eyes have always been a problem but lately they are meek. You know the distance between here and there, and that dogs do not disappear. But with all the knowledge you possess, you refuse to believe your dear, sweet little Fluffy has just flown over the edge. So you chase after ghost, even the ones to your left. You had assured years earlier, that your stepdad would never touch you, taking his body from the world, but still lived under his spirit of dread. So as you ran blindly chasing one ghost you finally rid yourself of another, with the burst of a loud gunshot sound, you blew away his memory, all the way to kingdom come.
Imagine you are on the run. Dashing nightmares, chasing spirits, closing curtains, when love finally hits you. It is the old man you feel, closing in, right behind you. Chasing love, bearing down with a smile on his face. You have never met him before, but you know and you feel, that he is your one and only soul mate.
Curtains closing, you both know that you are all out of time. Neither one has been kissed and the unfairness seems way out of line. Canyons’ edge, steps away and you long to be free, but you refuse to die lonely, slowing down, allowing him to reach for your hand. Winds are blowing, sky turns black as the last seconds fade, two more steps, can he catch you before its too late. Heart exploding, lungs collapsing, bones shattering in both hips. One foot off, one foot on, there is no way around this. You close yours eyes, say a prayer, as you accept it is the end, he dives for you, then you feel his warm embrace as the momentum carries you both over the Canyons’ edge. You are falling, total darkness, you feel no grief. Relief takes over lives filled with anger and minds trapped in despair.
The souls of two lonely people, tormented throughout their youth, never found peace, nor serenity, never ever allowed the chance to BREATHE. Imagine living this way for 55 years of your 65 year old life. Yet, fate has a way of correcting mistakes, making winners out of losers in life’s cruel and twisted game. Imagine finally being in the arms of your soul mate, seconds before you seal your fate. Imagine through all the bitterness that was your life, you die with the taste of happiness, from the soft and gentle feel of your first and only kiss.
written & developed by Kendall F. Person, edited by Shauna Marie Pierre-Louis