I remember when my life changed.
I donâ€™t know if everybody experiences life changing moments or goes through events that cause them to really consider life and all of its possibilities or not, but it happened to me.
The problem for me is that the very experience that changed my life is one where somebody elseâ€™s life came to an end. And that is something Iâ€™ve been dealing with for 12 years now. I only have one real regret in life. But over time, I realize that had I done something different that night, and thereby erasing my regret, I might have ended the lives of two other people. Not just the one person whoâ€™s life did end that night.
April is the birthday month of my cousin. Or would be if he was still alive. April 21. Itâ€™s a day that for years has pained me, since for the past 12 years, Iâ€™ve never been able to get to Atlanta to celebrate his birthday with my family. Every time I do make it back to Atlanta, one of the first stops I always make is to the cemetery to visit the grave of my cousin, and now my grandmother as well, who is buried right next to him. Just as God intended them to be.
One night, in July 2000, my younger cousin and I went to the movies. We saw Scary Movie . I donâ€™t even remember if it was funny or not. I do remember a conversation my cousin and I had about religion and our upbrining in the church and how we felt at the time. I was 21 and she was 19. The movie was over at about 1135pm. We lived on the Westside of Atlanta, Adamsville to be exact, and we were at Magic Johnsonâ€™s in Greenbriar. It takes about 10 minutes to get from Greenbriar to my grandmotherâ€™s house. We got there are about 1147pm.
My grandmotherâ€™s house has a split driveway. You can either pull into the left side or the right side. I pulled into the right side. Parked. And walked into the basement door. As I was walking in, my cousin, T, was walking out. He would go to our grandmotherâ€™s house every day at least once to check on his mother and my grandmother, who would cook dinner for him everyday. You get things like that when you are grandmaâ€™s right-hand man. I hadnâ€™t seen him in about a week, maybe. Which wasnâ€™t normal. Not that anything was up, he would either stop by my spot to see me or weâ€™d meet up at my grandmotherâ€™s house to say whatâ€™s up a few times a week. We have a pretty tightknit family like that.
T: Whatâ€™s up folk, I ainâ€™t seen you like a week, cuz. Whatâ€™s up, you ainâ€™t got love for your cuz no more?
Me: Whatâ€™s up T, you know good and well I love you man. Iâ€™ll give you a call in a day or two.
*dapping up in black man handshake hug*
T: Alright, folk. Iâ€™ll holla at you later. Bye mommaâ€¦
He walked outside.
I started to walk towards the stairs. At this point there is about 10 feet between us. Heâ€™s outside, Iâ€™m inside.
My other cousin, who is his little sister, is between the two of us. And then it happened. He yelled, â€œdonâ€™t hit me folk!!!â€
He was gone.
Shot once in the heart. Died instantly.
I honestly never heard the gunshot. And to this day that bothers me. Everybody else heard it but I didnâ€™t hear it so for a second I was confused at what I was seeing. I didnâ€™t see anybody elseâ€™s face. I just saw T laid out on the ground, his car door openâ€¦
A total of 30 seconds at most passed between the time I got to the driveway and he was killed. At my grandmotherâ€™s house.
Which means that whoever did it, was there when I pulled up and must have been hiding in the shadows of my grandmotherâ€™s carport, which is literally right next to the door we walked into.
Do you remember the scene in Menace II Society where Stacey is trying to revive Kaine after he was shot? That was us. We were shaking him and trying to wake him up, refusing to believe he was gone. Little did we know he was already dead. One of the paramedics told me that later that he died instantly. At least there wasnâ€™t any pain. I had to make all of the phone calls to the family because I was the only person who could hold the phone. There were four other people in the house when it happened. My aunt (his mother), my grandmother, and his two sisters, one of which went to the movies with me. One of his sisters ran into the street and collapsed. His mother lost it as well. My grandmother and other cousin, both of who have the strongest relationships with God of anybody Iâ€™ve ever met, both cried, and then prayed.
It took about 10 minutes for it to dawn on me.
The person who killed my cousin had every opportunity to kill me. He had to have seen my face and my other cousinâ€™s as well. For all we knew, he KNEW us. I was afraid to go to my grandmotherâ€™s house, or anywhere else for that matter for a week.
I could have died that night. Had I made the decision that would have erased my regret, and parked on the other side of the driveway, I would have seen him, and he might have killed me and my cousin in order to get away. He was clearly going to kill somebody that night. He came there to complete a job. He succeeded.
And that changed my life. I donâ€™t really remember my demeanor before it all happened. I know I was still a happy person and that I wasnâ€™t very negative in nature. But nowâ€¦
â€¦itâ€™s hard for me to get upset or really depressed. I have my moments like everybody else. But losing my cousin like that, and being so close to the situation and realizing it could have been me, well, everyday Iâ€™m alive Iâ€™m happy to be here. I have quite a few friends who have asked me how I seem to be so happy or jovial so often and why not much gets me down. I nearly always respond: because Iâ€™m alive. Life has been good to me. And it took that day to make me realize just how lucky I am.
My family was scared for me for quite a few days. My father in particular. I was leaving for a summer program in DC a week later so it was a very tense week in my neighborhood for me. I was scared. But somehow, I was just thankful to be alive. I feel that way lots of times. I have a weird peace in my life nowadays. Some things suck, but it takes me very little time to get over certain stuff. I realized how much I love and value my family.
I love life and living. I appreciate every day that I get. Even the people that drive me crazy are appreciated. Not being afraid to live is one of the best feelings ever. Sure I slack at times, but I know that life is grand and that my cousin is looking down on us while he and my grandmother play backgammon in heaven, something I could never play on Earth.
For a good year, I got really nervous at my grandmotherâ€™s house. Even today, every time I walk by the spot it happened, I have to look over and stare for a while. I canâ€™t get the vivid imagery out of my head, and Iâ€™m not sure I ever will. Itâ€™s part of me now.
I miss my cousin a lot. At least I got a chance to tell him that I loved him. Anytime we have a family function, everybody always makes sure to mention T and make sure we remember him. And because my family is tres ghetto, somebody always shows up with their RIP t-shirt. I myself have two of them.
So every April 21, on his birthday, I make sure to give thanks for his life and remember his death. My life is what it is now because of him.
Always missed, always loved. When they reminisce over you…
One thing that experience taught me is that we’ve all got stories. And that you’d be amazed what people have been through if you just listen. If you’ve got something to share, feel free. If not, that’s all good.
I know it’s heavy for a Friday, but I’ve been hesitant to write about this for years on this site. And today I felt like sharing.
Welcome to Panama’s City.
Â PS: For your reading pleasure, check out Champ’s latest article at Ebony, “5 Reasons Kim and Kanye are a Match Made in Heaven”. And for those looking for more philosophical fodder, check out Panama’s latest at Guyspeak, “What’s Worse: The Pr0n Star or The Ex?”