Charles Evans watched as his father, Charles Evans II held the gun against the other man’s head. The other man’s name was Rick. Rick and Charles Sr. had been friends for a long time according to Sr, “You were like my brother, Rick. We grew up together, roamed the neighborhood together. Hell, we ran this fucking city together…”
Charles Evans looked on, frozen in his stance, listening, watching, waiting as Rick spoke, in between sobs, “Chuck…you know me man…you fucking know me…I wouldn’t do this! Whoever told you I did was lying to you! They was just talkin’ shit! I wouldn’t do this! You know me!”
Charles’ father smirked, pressing the barrel of the gun into Rick’s forehead, before quickly moving it down and forcing it into the man’s mouth, “Have you ever heard the phrase, Rick…that a whore should only open her mouth when she’s giving head?” Rick’s teeth on the steel of the gun, tried to speak, but there weren’t really words, just sounds. Young Charles knew the sounds well. They were sounds of fear, that were only heightened the more his father spoke, “And that is what you are, Rick. You are a whore and you whored yourself out to the fucking cops…That is the dumbest fucking thing you or anyone else could have done. You know that I have those uniformed bastards on the payroll. You know I carry the entire goddamn department in my pocket…Yet you opened your mouth and sucked hard…Just like a good whore should,” And then the air filled with a loud clap, like thunder and lightning off in the distance.
Young Charles remained frozen as Rick’s now lifeless body sank to the ground at his feet. Young Charles stared at the hole where Rick’s head used to be. He saw blood, muscle, tissue, and shattered teeth. Brain matter decorated the green grass.
“Hey…Hey…HEY!!!” Young Charles came back to reality at the sound of his father’s God like voice. He turned and faced the man, who carried a scowl even as he wiped his gun before placing it carefully into Rick’s dead left hand, “Don’t let this sort of shit bother you, son. You will be doing this as you get older. And once you take over, you will know and understand that a lot of people have to die in order for you to get what you want. And if you fully appreciate this Gospel, this truth then you will be fine. If you don’t then you will end up like Rick here. Do you want that?”
Locking eyes with his father, Young Charles shook his head, “No…”
His father smirked, “Good. I had to go through this. I watched a lot of people die when I was your age. My old man, your grandfather, he shed blood like it was fucking Christmas and no one would fuck with him. He commanded respect. He fucking owned power. He was untouchable. Just like me. Just like you will be when I had the reigns over to you. And I will…as long as you don’t prove to me that you’re weak,” His father had placed his hand on Young Charles’ shoulder as he led the young man towards their car. But then they stopped once more and their eyes met, “You’re not weak, are ya?”
Young Charles shook his head no, “No, dad. I’m just like you.”
The alarm rang with the bedroom filling up with the sounds of “Spoonman” by Soundgarden. James Evans’ eyes flew open as his hand fished for his cellphone. A loud crashing sound rang out as his hand grabbed his phone and James’ girlfriend, Victoria, sat up in the bed, her short hair pushed to the side and a scowl on her face, “What in the fucking fuck are you doing, James?”
James turned the alarm off before looking over at his girlfriend, his saving grace, “Trying to wake up, babe. How’d you sleep?”
Victoria didn’t reply. She rolled her brown eyes and brushed her light brown hair before shoving her head into the closest pillow and giving James a one fingered salute. He cracked a grin, “Not so well then. Well, I love you either way,” He said, leaning over and kissing her hand, “I have to get ready for class.”
James removed himself from the twin bed mattress that rested on the floor of his one-bedroom apartment. Victoria had her own place but it was a college dorm, so she felt James’ place was the better option. James wandered into the kitchen that was separated from the bedroom by the bathroom. James started a pot of coffee before heading back into the bathroom.
With both doors closed, all alone with his thoughts, James looked into the mirror and released a heavy sigh as he could not look into the eyes of his reflection. James stared down at the sink, noticing that his fingers clung to the sides of the vanity, his knuckles turning white the longer he gripped the edges.
How much longer are you going to keep doing this? James asked himself as he finally glanced up at his reflection. He hated the person he saw. A person with no true ambition. A full-time student, who couldn’t decide on which path to take when it came to deciding his future. Victoria wanted them to build a life together. It made James sick to know that he couldn’t even build his own life. His life had been nothing short of a roller coaster ride, with so many aspects of his past buried deep in the dirt of his soul.
James knew his ghosts and knew them well. He also knew that he wanted them to stay dead, to haunt someone else, anyone else but James. Victoria knew bits and pieces, but that is the James preferred his past.
James told himself that it would have been easier to follow in his father’s footsteps. That it was more difficult to carve out your own path in this world, but it was the better decision. James to told himself it would be well worth it. He then flipped the shower on, letting the pipes vibrate through the walls before the water shot out and steam filled the bathroom. James hopped into the shower and let the water wash away his never ending stream of doubt and second guessing.
Once dressed in a pair of jeans, a pair of three year old Chucks that still looked brand new, and a long sleeve Carolina blue button down, James returned to the bedroom to find Victoria sitting up in the bed, eating a bowl of cereal. After taking a bite and swallowing, she smirked and said, “Don’t you just look snazzy, babe?”
James looked down, giving himself a thorough look over, before meeting Victoria’s hazel eyed gaze, “It sure beats letting my mom dress me. That’s probably why I didn’t do so well in high school.”
Victoria shook her head, “Oh come on babe, you always looked good even in high school. At least you did in your yearbook photos. I don’t know much else about your high school days.”
James shrugged, “Just lots of pot smoking and sleeping in class. I was anti-social unless drugs were involved. Looking at me now, I guess you could say that things change and people can turn their lives around.”
Victoria nodded taking another bite of cereal, before she snickered, “Yeah they can. Some people just seem to take a little longer to do it than others.”
James cocked an eyebrow, “What are you trying to say?”
Victoria shrugged, “Oh I don’t know. It’s not like I am pointing out the fact that you’re a 23 year old college freshman.”
James gathered his books off of the mahogany dresser then locked eyes once more with Victoria. She was his world, the only diamond in his eye, “See if I had known you back in high school then my life would have turned out differently. I would probably be miles away from here, with you by my side. Meeting you opened my eyes and lit a fire under my tiny white ass.”
Victoria placed her bowl down on the nightstand then got on her knees, pressing her lips to James’, before reaching behind him and grabbing his backside, “You know I love you no matter what…” Then she squeezed, “But don’t you dare talk about your ass. It is perfect just the way it is.”
James grinned then kissed her once more, “Alright, I have to get to class. Got an exam to take. Hopefully I will be able to pass it after all of the studying I didn’t get done last night.”
Victoria leaned back and shrugged, “I don’t know what you’re talking about. You studied just fine if you ask me. I was pleased several times.”
James stood up from the bed, keeping his eyes on Victoria, “I was always an A plus student when it came to knocking boots, babe. I’ve just gotten better over time. And the fact that you have a perfect behind is motivation enough.”
Victoria flashed a seductive grin, “You could skip your class exam for a stay at home practice exam if you’d prefer.”
She nodded, “Oh yeah. Practice. We can practice all day and all night, just to ensure you get everything correct. What do you say?”
James felt the blood rushing from one head to the other, like an avalanche in the snowy mountains, but his fingers gripped his books, “I would love to babe, but if we are ever going to get miles away from here, I need to go kick this exam’s ass. I get to come home once I’m done and then we can practice just like you said.”
“What if I’m not in the mood?”
Halfway out of the door now, James turned and looked at Victoria once more, with a smirk on his face, “We both know that is an easy fix. Love you.”
James jumped into his 2001 steel blue Toyota Solara, scuffed a lot worse than his Chucks, and started the engine. He looked at his reflection in the mirror and muttered, “Miles away…” He then dropped the gear into reverse before quickly placing it into drive as he headed towards the university, his gateway to bigger, brighter, and far better future.
Miles away from here, miles away from his home, miles away from his past. James wanted to get as far away as he possibly could. He didn’t want to return home. Not now, not ever, James would say to himself as well as Victoria and the few friends he had made at school. Too many secrets behind closed doors. Too many secrets that slipped out when those doors were opened. Too many secrets that flooded the streets of his hometown. People knew what went on with James’ family, but those same people knew not to talk about it.
Especially with James’ father around. Charles Evans had eyes and ears everywhere. In every single nook and cranny. On every block and around every single street corner. Charles’ lifestyle haunted James, as well as his mother, Renee. She had separated from Charles, but there was truly no escape.
She knew that.
Charles knew that.
And James knew that.
His mother and Charles’ parents were the only reason James ever returned home. If he did, James did his best to keep his return low-key. He didn’t want any of his hometown friends to know. Nor did he want his father to know. His hometown friends were portions of the secrets James’ father tried to keep, the secrets he spilled, like the buckets of blood James had witnessed his father washing off of his hands.
Hands that remained dirty no matter how much soap and water came into play.
Hands that remained dirty despite the fact that Charles Evans Sr. was dying. James hadn’t been home in months because he felt he couldn’t face the fact that one of the only shining lights in his life was rapidly growing dim.
Reaching the sidewalk, James cupped his books and told himself to get his mind off of home. He switched his mindset to his upcoming exam, trying to remember all of the things that he had managed to study the night before, when his cellphone rang. James sat down on a nearby bench, in front of an old rundown brick building. The bench matched the building’s soul, ready to fall apart at any minute. James looked down at his phone and released a deep breath before placing to the phone to his ear, “Hi, Mom. Long time, no hear.”
“Hi James,” Just by the tone of her voice, James could tell something was wrong.
“Everything alright, Mom? You sound like you’ve been crying,” James said, trying his best to sound comforting.
And then James heard his mother’s sobs. Her gasps of air in between. And it hit James, like a ton of bricks, like the rundown building behind had finally fallen apart, had finally caved, collapsing on top of him, burying him in the rubble. His mother finally replied, “It’s your grandfather. They are not giving him much longer…”
James froze at the sound of the news. He tried to muster words, but just as he did when he attempted football, those words fumbled. His mind screamed however, stating that it was oh so typical that things would take a turn for the worst when James was trying to better himself.
“James…are you there?”
James snapped back to reality, “Yes, Mom. I’m here. How much longer are they saying?”
He listened as his mother drew in another deep breath and quickly exhaled, “Just a few more days. No more than three.”
James sat still. Still frozen, waiting to find himself underneath the rubble.
“James…you need to come home, honey.”
Home was something James didn’t want to exist. He wanted it to be a figment of his imagination. Just like the dimming light that was his grandfather. The light that would soon go completely dark.
James stammered, “I-I-I…I have to go, Mom. I have…I have an exam.”
She replied, “James…”
James hung up. Fucking typical, he thought once again. He forced himself to move off of the bench and he made his way into class. James knew he was going in the wrong direction. He knew that he needed to return to his apartment, tell Victoria the news before returning home. He slowly made his way down the hallway, however, bumping shoulders with overly excited and happy souls, while he wandered, zombie-like.
James sat down at a desk. He received his exam, but his mind was elsewhere. It wasn’t on the material he studied in between sex with Victoria. It was on home. It was on the secrets. It was on the pain that awaited him. James released a sigh and made his way to the front of the class. He placed his blank exam on the teacher’s desk before walking out of the room, telling himself that his bright future would have to be put on hold.