Updated: Nov 1, 2022
By Yani McNeil, Virginia State University
First Place Winner, Creative Nonfiction, 2022 VSU English Department Writing Contest
I remember. I remember the very first time I genuinely feared you. You didn’t normally act like this. It was only when he was around. I remember the screaming and the yelling. I remember my arm being imprisoned in your ironclad grip, aching from the roughness of hands that once touched me so gently. I remember Nae clawing at your arms, pleading for freedom. Pleading to get away from that monster. Pleading to get away from you. But you let him control your thoughts, instead of thinking for yourself. I should have been angry. I should have never wanted to see you again. I should have hated you. But I didn’t.
I remember waiting at Johnny D’s so that I could finally see you. I woke up early that morning. I hadn’t seen you in a while because you had been so busy with him. It was finally my turn, I finally had your attention. I put on the nicest clothes that I had, grabbed all the money I had saved up, I even walked to the shop all by myself. I should have known he would show up. I should have expected the waiting. The phone call. The excuses. I should have expected to be the runner-up in this race for affection. But I didn’t.
I remember that night. September 5, 2015. Worst day of my life. I remember going to the football game at the Joker’s Field. Even before I heard the news, I knew something wasn’t right. I was paranoid the entire time. Scared of the slightest movement, shuffle. I knew my life was about to change in a drastic fashion, and I had no control over it. That night. The night he took you away from us. The night that Grandma sat behind the computer screen, not expecting to receive that call that would tear her family apart. The night you took a leap of faith across that highway only to be called home to the Lord seconds later. The night that I lost my best friend, my homie, my roll-dawg, the woman that had my back no matter what I did.
I waited for you to come back, still do. The hardest part of every day is looking down the driveway and knowing that you will never come visit again. I’ll never get to hear those melodious vocals ringing throughout the house on Sunday mornings while we get ready for
church. I’ll never be able to run to your room at night when I wake up from a horrible nightmare. Never get to see those beautiful pearly white teeth stretch for miles upon miles as you watch me walk across the stage and collect my diploma, beaming at the fact that you produced such a wonderful young lady.
I've been waiting for you to come back to me. Waiting for this terrible nightmare that I call
reality to spit you back out into my universe so that I can finally feel like my life makes sense
and has some purpose to it once again. Waiting to be able to feel the contact of your smooth skin and hear the rhythmic drum of your heart as you hold me close and promise me that better days will come. But I can’t.
And yet as I sit here and reflect on your life, it makes me realize that you were so much more than your addiction. You were a friend, daughter, leader, businesswoman, crybaby, mother, poet. You protected those who you loved. You fought for everything that you wanted, never taking a handout from anyone. You went out of your way to help people even when you weren’t in the best situations yourself.
You were simply trapped. Trapped under the temptations of an evil spirit who was created to kill, steal, and destroy. Trapped in the body of a naïve eleven-year-old girl who was looking for someone to protect her when her father wouldn’t. Trapped in the mindset that you were never going to be good enough. Alcohol was your bully. He came to you, like the two-faced Gemini that he is, clouding your vision and numbing your body so that you could forget all the suffering and neglect you were truly going through. He made you believe he could heal the pains of your wound when he was really applying pain to an already healing wound.
So, yes. I remember. I remember having you hold me all night long while I nursed a 106° temperature, in hopes that you could “take the sickness away” from me. I remember staying up until five in the morning on the weekends with you while we watched reruns of Law and Order Special Victims Unit, devouring all the snacks that we could find in the house. I remember you being my attorney in situations where I was simply too young to handle things on my own. But most of all, I remember a beautiful soul that left a piece of herself with every person she encountered on this earth. I love you Mom and I can’t wait to meet the new you in the next life.
Sincerely, Your First Born
About the Author
Yani McNeil, Virginia State University