Akio creates a problem for me. He was born fucked. Two addict parents self-medicating to cope with a buzzing swarm of mental issues. Generations of living on the dole. Akio is an addict. Depending on his mood, he feels either schizophrenic, anxious or depressed. He is homeless, in his first year out of jail, and surviving by being a hobosexual for a string of women.
The survival technique is a bastard instance of the Oedipus complex. He wants a woman who will mother him, marry him, not trouble him too much, and sympathize when the voices in his head say he needs to piss on the statue of Robert E Lee. I count seven attempts at being Oedipus. The current bae is pregnant and both of them say they are staying together. She says she can rescue him from his troubled past. I dunno.
The bae called a shelter program home until a well meaning Churchianitan woman rescued her. The brand is familiar: non-denominational, strong on virtue signal and evangelism, weak on missions and follow-through. Things were good when it was one Churchianitan woman doing a solid for the bae.
Add Akio and things went south. The woman is captive in her own home. Let me explain before you go calling the cops. Churchianitan is wheelchair bound and needs help getting up and down the stairs of her two story condominium. The bae is a sometimes nursing student when she isn’t stoned. Churchianitan is on prescription Oxycodone. Add Akio and the occupation of the house is feeding monkeys. I’m waiting for the phone call telling me that one or more of the three is hospitalized, incarcerated or toe-tagged.
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Last week Akio and the bae fought. She blames him. He blames her. The apology was underwhelming. At least one wall has holes in it. The flat-screen TV exploded after Akio punched it. One corner of the kitchen floor has scorch marks and smoke damage from a phone thrown in anger. There is no food in the house. Everything that could be stolen and sold is gone. A good deed thoroughly punished.
Your miseries cease being an excuse somewhere mid-twenties. Akio had it bad. I get that. He is one of many who ate an abundance of bitterness. The bitterness eaten by him does not excuse away his continuance of the life in spite of escalating negative consequences. Nor are we obligated to him because his portion was so large. His day when his blues justified his behavior have passed. It is no longer his fate at the wheel of his life, it is him.
Akio answered his fate by achieving early success as a drug dealer. We teach young black men that the only acceptable roles for them are sports, entertainment, crime or indentured servitude to crackers. Akio is tall enough to be dominant on the basketball court. Like many his age he believes himself to be a rap singer. The only trope he didn’t take up is indentured servitude. His greatest success was selling crack cocaine.
Five and six. The other approved path is college, a white collar career, a woman, kids, a mortgage, and so on for the next sixty years. It is the path well traveled Frost and I did not take. Akio is too messed up to make it work. Six is some low rent blue collar jobs and one more plebian tragedy.
Failure to Thrive
Behind Akio is a trail of well-meaning Churchianitans who tried to turn the course of his life. All have failed. Akio still gets high, still sells weed and cocaine, still finds willing women who help him try again to marry his mother and murder his father. He has not changed.
This is the problem Akio creates. All the usual racist tropes about why young black men self-limit don’t explain Akio. Everything usual that can be done to get him to change his ways has been done. He remains the same. It is easy to yell at the snowflakes on campus who have privilege and abuse it by trashing the school and enforcing an orthodoxy of resentment. Their crayons, blankets, low-lighting, soft music, and strict rules about what can and cannot be spoken within safe-spaces are easy targets. Yelling at Akio? About what? Many have yelled at him. He is still doing himself.
I wish it were that easy. A strong fatherly lecture about the deadly course of his life would bring about the epiphany we all want for him. It isn’t so easy. Addicts have to die to their old life before they can live the new one. Said death hurts. If the addiction is deep enough the death is sometimes actual.
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Addicts are not flawed nor stupid nor weak. To be an addict requires tremendous strength and intelligence. Addicts consume taboo habits they buy on the black market under threat of arrest or violence. Drug dealers are remarkable business people because they cannot write down anything they do. It all has to be remembered even while being stoned or drunk. You can’t have a permanent location selling something illegal. The business must thrive in spite of a lack of place. A good drug dealer is a remarkable and perishable thing. Addicts survive things that would kill someone weaker.
Maybe I could explain Akio in terms of his past–addict parents then foster care then adoption late in childhood, an ancestral legacy of criminal life, all the tropes about living on welfare in public housing. All of that is a cliche so common you wonder if it isn’t just lies. Is the sorry story just a hustle to get more? Maybe. Only Akio really knows.
Maybe the cause is us. Boomers did such an awesome job insulating our kids from the slings and arrows of outrageous first world life that they never learned how to cope with misery. We are able to ingest drugs to shut down our lives and sustain the bubble we believe is a right. We don’t have to suffer in this place and time. Every whim is available to anyone that seeks it. Pursuing the seven deadly sins as a bucket list is possible and perhaps, worthwhile.
His past does not explain him. Nor does his residence in a first world city and time. Yes, he was born fucked. Yes, his single score of life featured a cornucopia of bitterness. No one taught him how to be resilient because it isn’t necessary when cocaine, heroin, codeine and much more can protect you. That is the hand life dealt to him. It is not, ipso facto, his fate. He is old enough to have his fate in his hands. His monkey can be starved out of Akio’s life.
Akio’s monkey would eat me if it could. It ate the Churchianitan. He recurs in my life, eats a piece of me, then gets angry because I am not enough. Which . . . actually . . . is a good thing.
I don’t like strays or damsels in distress. There is an alley cat living under my shed. Were I someone else that cat would join me in my house. I am not someone else. The neighbor adopted the cat and got him to a vet who got him healthy. Once healthy the cat tore up a couch because it made such a nice scratching post. I saw the couch on the curb last month. I’m not unsympathetic to the fate of the alley cat. He is staying outside. Akio wants more of me and disappears when I won’t give it. Fine.
The Tao 道教 of Akio
Nothing in my past prepares me for him. Therapy? He does that. Social Services? They signed him up for a crazy check and a SNAP card. Section 8? He got public housing and used it to consume bae #6. #6 put him out of his own public housing apartment. All that I know for getting one’s shit together doesn’t move the needle for Akio.
I love introspective conversations about why I am a hot mess. I’ll wrestle the great questions with you: what is my purpose? Why was I born? Is God a Loving God? Why do bad things happen to good people. Akio is occupied with finding his next meal. A daily goal is to get through it without bullet holes. The merits of Socrates compared to Gampopa? He ain’t got time for that. Mercy is a dollar menu cheeseburger.
I have books in me. My gift to him is words. He can’t eat words nor get high with them. They are useful as tools for getting sex. Words as an end unto themselves are foreign to him. He asks me how to spend the night inside and I answer him with Emily Dickinson. We are from completely different worlds.
The True Road 真道
He aged out of the window where blame can be assigned and a responsible party held accountable. It’s on him. All I can do is watch him die through repetitions of new bae, a honeymoon spate, promises to make it stick this time, a period of calm then escalating negative consequences and predictable jail or hospital time.
There are thousands like him in the inner city. They are the intractable metastatic cancer treated with Uncle Sam’s money for a century. I wish I had a solution for the problem he represents. The only thing I have is that his disease has to run its course. Whether it kills him and along the way takes out others with him is something only time will tell. Churchianitan is learning that rescuing him only feeds his monkey with her soul. I hope she puts him out soon. The boy is bad news.