Once — Part I

Written in prison, 4/15/2016

Once I was four years old, still doing whatever I was told. Bold as ever, always thinking I was clever, and never quite sold to the fact that I had to grow old. I shed tears over petty fears with my head always near my momma’s chest, telling her my best lies with my loud cries just to get what I thought I always wanted but really just wanting to be held near and dear to her heart. Back then, things were easy, always so breezy, I wasn’t yet crazy or lazy, but yet it was still crazy and zany how time would fly by, but maybe, just maybe, I didn’t have to grow old after all. I can, like Peter Pan, stay small.

But then I turned five and my long days at preschool arrived. I was cast down from momma’s arms, trying to tread head first, not trying to cause no harm. I had a yearning for learning, dove head first with a burning. My teacher thought she was some type of feature, but even she couldn’t stop me from churning. I was as free as I wanted to be, the world was all before me, all I could see, I would accept with open arms, everything save hostility.

You see, I had me a buck-toothed smile, my own personal style, all the while keeping my best friend Kyle right beside me. He moved away though, then, and while I was still in a trance, they moved me up to a cool new branch of school called Foulks Ranch. I started kindergarten, all us little kids running around yelling and farting; a new teacher who was mean as a swamp creature, ordering us kids around before we hit the playground, pounding the pavement hardcore till we was all sore, and we went inside to sit on the floor and cap the day with an afternoon nap. Had me a best friend name Van, always telling me to grow up and be all that I can, but I told her there just ain’t no rush, and soon discovered what it was like to have a crush, but daddy said I had to wait until I was a man. My other friends were Barney and Crew, and a whole other group of cool cartoons. My brother was a whole two years older and bolder, always telling me I was still a baby, but I told him that maybe, just maybe, he better watch out for danger because I could morph into the Red Ranger and that anyways, momma said babies slept in mangers. I would play as Red before I was told it was time for bed; crawl into my bunk even though I still stunk from all the day’s funk. One thing was a fact, then: I was I was only five, but man, I truly felt as if I had arrived, and the world was mine…I’d just take it one step at a time.

— —

Once I was seven years old, but I acted like I was eleven and made of gold. Momma said to get myself right, but I always put up a fight, no longer doing what I was told. I learned the art of defiance, yearned to play the part of self-reliance, but still got pounded and learned quickly to fold when I was grounded. It felt great when I moved on to third grade after I turned eight; met my best friend named Ben who told me when — and that’s a big when — we grew up we would learn to fend for ourselves and tend to what we sow, reap whatever grows our way, and low and behold, we would grow old together. We took a blood brother pact, would never lie to each other and be exact. We watched R-rated movies a lot; before that, I’d only loved the movie The Sandlot. I grew taller and the world felt smaller, but I still felt cool even though I was one of the few black kids in my school.

Times were different then; Elk Grove was still a little cove, not yet a city, not even a tad bit gritty. Got me a beauty of a dog — named her Rudy. I introduced her to the cutie next door, Aly, who had been adopted by the neighbor gal Pat. There we always sat on my lawn with my rover, picking four-leaf clovers, until we both let out a yawn and the day was over, and we headed home with a love hangover. I had known Aly since I was two, but at that time had a couple too few hormones in my bones to takeover and take notice, but by the age of eight I would know this: I would know how great a crush could be and how it would make me blush, but Dad was right, ain’t no rush, there would be time later for experiments and touch. Right then, I had my X-Men, Super Nintendo, and K’nex brands. My love for them crescendoed and the nerd in me never diminuendoed. Playdough, pogs, and Linkin’ Logs had already grown out of style, and all the while, I would skate with my little dog, even in the fog; I’d come home feeling like I could eat me a whole hog. Things were great; I had no hate for being eight. Little did I know, I would grow up, no longer with that clean slate.

— —

Once I was eleven, little did I know I would be wishing that I was back at seven. My sister had stalked off to college when my parents sat me and my brother down, talking like their marriage was abolished. I speak of divorce, of course; the room in which we sat now stank of remorse, and my dad walked off with force to live with my grandmother. I said to him, “Pa, are we still going to Disneyland this year as planned?” He answered me as a tear came from his eye and traveled down to his ear, “Son, one day you’ll understand why, but this year, no, we just cannot go.” I sat up all that night and cried; it seemed that dire days had arrived.

See, back then, denial was my game, and when the finality of the divorce finally came, I acted as if everything was going to be the same. By age twelve, I had changed. I had started to dwell on my life and the future ahead. Momma was sure I would stay an innocent boy, but it seemed that my mind had its own plan instead. Old hobbies folded and new ones were suddenly molded. Puberty made me colder and my actions in life suddenly became bolder. I like to think back at all the weekend breaks that I used to take out at King Skate, rollerblading with my friends Ben and Allen; boy, it always had me smilin’. Skating, watching the older girls bob and sway; everything always seemed okay. Soon, Ben and I found a new game to play down near Arden Way. It was laser tag, and man, I don’t mean to brag, but Ben and I developed some hip swag and were always able to capture that flag. But soon, even that was no longer stylin’. I was still a tad bit nerdy and rogue, consistently loving certain fads like Pokémon, Digimon, and Dragon Ball Z, though. My X-Men posters were soon tossed afar, replaced with South Park, girls, and all types of sports cars.

With my parents divorced, I had two of everything and new rules were enforced. They were both looking for new spouses in their two new houses. I had two birthdays, two Christmases, even two Easter egg hunts, and my parents always seemed to try and outdo each other with holiday or vacation stunts. I even got me a second dog, man, she was a keeper, and I couldn’t believe her, my little golden retriever. She was sweet as a Southern Belle, but we ended up naming her Nel. Things turned out alright and pretty swell when I was twelve.

— —

At thirteen, it seemed that things really picked up some steam. Junior High was not as fly as the grade school teachers had described. I was ahead in grades but felt degraded in the head. I always felt like my parents were against me and on the attack, and my new favorite color soon turned to black; my hormones just churned way out of whack. I suddenly wanted to lie atop any female that walked, but daddy told me not to balk, and that it was normal for teens to talk that talk. But there grew a hatred for the world in my heart and I suddenly felt like I needed to depart; I never wanted to listen, became extremely standoffish and shy, would always lie, and that was only, truly only, the start.

Author: Ryan S.

Born and raised in Elk Grove, CA, I've battled with various addictions throughout my entire life. I've discovered that through writing about my experiences and struggles, along with the other various forms of writing that I do, it gives my addictions, traumas, and worries of the future a little less power within my thoughts. This, to me, is therapy, and a route toward recovery through a little hindsight, which brings me to a happy medium with my struggle within my discovery of self.

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