I hate A Tribe Called Quest’s ‘Beats, Rhymes, and Life.’ I don’t hate it like most other people do. It’s not because this album was a departure from what made Tribe’s first three albums classic and ultimately the beginning of the end for them. I hate it because it reminds me of where I was when I listened to it heavily. Maybe I do hate it because it does remind me of the beginning of the end. November 2011, I listened to this album a lot. I had just moved to Virginia with my family because it was what Timile wanted. The album was dark, and that’s what my life was at the time: dark. Timile’s family had stressed me out to no end. Every conversation with Timile’s mother raised my blood pressure. I’ll never forget the look in her eyes when she told me that I needed to leave if they found out Timile was dying so that the family could pray over her-like I wasn’t Timile’s family when they weren’t acting like it.
‘Stressed Out’ was soothing music to me. Whenever I hear that song, I think of driving on I-64. Sitting in traffic in the tunnel headed back from Norfolk to my apartment in Newport News coming from an interview where the agency loved me and all but guaranteed me placement as an accountant or mortgage consulting as soon as they contacted my references. I think about how every time I drove down Jefferson Ave towards the 7Eleven on J Clyde Morris where I would eat my one meal of the day: two taquitos for $2.22 and a Coke. About a block or two away from my apartment, there was a graveyard on my right when I’d be driving north. Whenever I passed it, I thought about burying Timile; and that in my heart I knew one day I was going to have to do that sooner than later.
I’d done everything I could for my family. I made things happen when we lived in Long Island and Buffalo. None of that mattered in Virginia. I slept on a green leather couch in a silent apartment. If I wasn’t at Startbucks using my computer during the day, I was sitting in the apartment on the same couch I slept on watching movies I had on my hard drive or Netflix from my phone smoking weed that was Timile’s that we used for her to help her eat when we lived in Buffalo. I would be waiting around for the thirty minutes I could see Timile at the hospital since I was in hiding and the hour or two I would spend with Cydney at her Grandparents’ house in Hampton with eyes on me looking at me like that child wasn’t mine. The only other thing I had to do on a daily basis was talk to my mother and be there for her while she was undergoing her first rounds of chemo.
When I think about the time in Virginia, I don’t think about Timile or Cydney much. I think about me. I think about what I went through. Timile wasn’t even fighting for her life there; she was spending her last days as painless as possible hooked up to a morphine drip that she could press for as much medication as needed. Cydney was just being an infant absorbing all that was around her.
Nowadays, it’s all fleeting thoughts. I think about that time as the beginning of my transformation into becoming who I am now. Time heals all wounds and while the scars have disappeared, I still go there from time to time. I liken it to a veteran who has come back home from war and has assimilated back into civilization; but sudden loud noises make them jump and remind them of a bomb going off. The sound can take them right back to a moment when they were on the front lines and something traumatic happened. Once the thoughts come, they take a long time to shake off. PTSD is real. I’ve become suspicious of everyone and their motives that I allow in my life and just about assume the worst from even the smallest of things.
I’m one to keep things lighthearted. I can tell a joke or let off a witty quip no matter the circumstances. Behind the resilient smile, smirk, or laugh is a young man who still has a darkness that is reminded that these thoughts will be with me in some way or another forever. For the most part, when I hear ‘Stressed Out,’ it’s in the car with me driving Cydney and my nephew somewhere. While they may say something funny and I may sing along with a song that I still like a lot; I still see these moments for a couple of seconds.
***Cydney Quotables will be posted on Monday… I had to post this because this is what was on my mind***