Awakened by the River

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I suppose, initially, I created this blog as a platform to get my thoughts out. I didn’t think much about who was going to read it, follow me down my memorial paths, or find some solace in the way I manipulated words. I had only one intention, and that was to catalog my experiences. But something happened along that journey. People opened my posts and felt what I felt, the way I felt it. They dove into the world that they, perhaps, assumed was theirs alone, and found a unique and very anonymous kinship with a stranger who, quite possibly, looked nothing like them. I felt an uncommon connection to my readers from Australia, Brazil, West Africa, Canada, and the United States. They said nothing, provided no sign that they were nestled in my ideas and ramblings, or even if they deemed my thoughts bullshit, but they did leave one thing– an emotional footprint, that defied those characteristics that we probably feared about one another:  gender, language, religion, education, and color. Maybe, they thought I was on to something, or simply liked my sincere bullshit.

When I started this blog, I was light years away from the thousands who had already taken the plunge. My refusal to begin writing in this format, when it was  exceptionally trendy, was that I needed to “build my arsenal of experience .” I soon realized I had a cache already stocked to the gills with information; I just didn’t know it. The one thing I had that others didn’t (it took me a while to realize this) was real, unequivocal, hands-on history.

Many of my posts were not requiring research or someone else’s summation of events and fanciful quotes to make me appear worldly or the story profound. The impression was not mine to create, nor was it the readers. I was simply relaying the facts, man.  I was there, on the streets of Harlem and Paris and Africa and Long Island. I was in that dormitory as the little girls wept for help. I was standing in Washington Square enamored by a woman whose face I will never see again; whose image burned a brand in the shape of a heart into my brain. And I will be there for the upcoming blogs that may or may not matter to anyone but me. And it suddenly enveloped me; something said by James Baldwin, came to life:

“write what you know… your own unique experience, that is something no one can take away. You… are the only one…”

And…

“It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, or who had ever been alive.”  James A. Baldwin

I paraphrase badly, but you understand the point.

The problem was, I did not believe I had any experiences worth writing about; that I could never write a book because I had never been alive. I was spared the trauma that made for exciting storytelling. Neither my early childhood nor adult years were particularly unique. I was sheltered, well fed, void of drama, smiled more than frowned, was a pretty good student, was an athletic and musically inclined nerd, had girlfriends and good friends, knew heartbreak and suicidal ideologies, and I tasted the devil’s spit and the ash from his garden. I was a normal kid, teenager, and adult; huskier than the others, darker than preferred (at the time), in love with books, and art, and music, and the smell of Manhattan air after a storm.

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I do have a story. I am the story. I am the story of Australia, Paris and West Africa. I am the untold tale of the Brazilian man who wonders how he will feed his children, or explain the truth to his wife, or fight off madness. I am that kid in the backseat of the station wagon rolling through a 1970’s Harlem. I am the streets of Baltimore, the lost ivy league heroin addict with exquisitely and painfully deferred dreams.  I am he; I am they, and they have always been here. My story is…

Just like you… just like me… just like our story.

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