Saturday, December 18, 2021

Beech

My name is Beech. Uncle tells me I was called that because my dad went to the neighborhood store to get Beechnut tobacco when I was born. As far as the story goes, my dad went to the store and never came back. That was 14 years ago. My mom left too, as soon as she could convince my uncle to keep me for a day. Here I am with my uncle. Some days I wonder if I’d be better running off. But where would I go.

You might not understand why I think of running and running hard, so I’ll give you a story that is just a few minutes in a day with Uncle. And I’ve spent 14 years like this. Don’t forget that there’s 365 days in a year. Multiply this story by just over 5 thousand. Wouldn’t you think of running and running hard? Running anywhere, taking a chance, fighting for something beyond the end of the dirt road. Here it is, a glimpse:

Insides of my jaw sit raw and bloody from my uncle Dan’s last blow. I’m certain each one is designed to crush me, my rebellion, my spirit, my ... me.

Every time I feel his fist connect to some part of me, I can feel all the other parts of me say, “walk above the pain in that place you created. I struggle to understand him . My me-ness is the thing that’s most like him in the world –right down to the crooked smile. His rustic, "poor-man" bony hand forced my jaw and lips into my teeth. I taste that, oh so familiar, bloody metallic juice in my mouth. I swallow it because I'll die from blood swallowing before I show I bleed.

Ok. Three breaths I tell myself. I'm taking three breaths. When I exhale my third breath, I will force my anger, my shoulder, all my might into my fist and force his teeth inside his pmouth - like he does mine. I swallowed my blood, but it made me stronger; “he's going to swallow his teeth”, I tell myself. This thought gives me comfort, gives me strength.

Three breaths: One breath. two breaths. three breaths.

I feel the force of my anger, my strength concentrated in my fist as I pull my body up from the last blow. My fist, my shoulder, my strength are ready - ready to fight.

I am fierce.

A second seems like an hour, and my body is aligning to give him a taste of his teeth. Instantly, my eyes meet his. I see me. I see my eyes. I have cried out of those same glassy blue eyes. He gave his eyes to me. He handed them down to me, and I used them to see my first sunset, my first pond, my first dog (smokey), and I use them every day. In fact, I will use those glassy blue eyes to navigate beyond these days and nights and become the lawyer I know I'm going to be. With these eyes, I will see the world, and I will change it.

How can I become a lawyer and save the poor kids if I don't use these eyes he gave me.

I am taking three more breaths and a better road. I’m swallowing the next mouthful of blood and then standing up to take the next one. It ain't that bad. It really doesn't hurt. It's just that he doesn't know who I am.

Someday I’m going to be a lawyer. I’ll help kids. I’ll fight for them. They won’t live like this. The ones that start out living like this won’t for long. I’ll rescue them, all of them. No matter what it takes. No matter the consequences.

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