The burial, putting the final in finality of an American teenager being laid to rest. Years later I’d hear elders chime over their impressionable muses questions when life’s cycle heaped mortality into their own as a friend or family. I’d hear it’s not like you see in the movies. I’d hear the body is not actually buried. I’d hear people don’t place items into the casket. I’d hear there was typically one wake. I’d hear it is what it is. Santo’s passing and series of events were like nothing any of us would experience again.
Finally it was Friday. It had been a long week. I was tired. Today was the burial, Santo’s final act. I’d had a slight incident the night before attending the fourth and final wake. It was nothing. However the Big Guy screamed at me, the one thing I was trying to avoid. “Eh! What the hell are you doing? Your acting like a banana head!” And I wasn’t. I’d simply left. That and laid down on my back on the funeral homes side and watched the stars. It was peaceful. And lasted like any moment of tranquility in my life for a fleeting few seconds. “Yo C. Get up. The Big Guy wants to see you.” Jesus fucking Christ.
Stretch also had an incident already this morning mild in comparison in his Godzilla get away moment at Tuesday nights opening wake. I’d told him, “just be careful buddy, you might end up in a straight jacket.” “I don’t fucking care.” “Yeah me either dawg, but I don’t want the straight jacket.” I was tired of the rituals. The cameras. The curtains. I’d remember Hatty and Monster arguing before Santo’s passing who was poorer. It was emphatic. Rich kids wanting to be poor. It was the single most retarded thing I’d ever heard in my life. “But Brian think of your land and wardrobe. You dads car!” “Dude are you kidding me, two words, Lake House.” Magic and I caught the Bart eyes. By Friday I was becoming negative. Remembering negative things. I wasn’t angry Santo our Young Gun captain was no longer with us. I’d accepted as much that first wake. Was pissed so many others were alive. I had a mountain of unresolved issues that the Big Guy rendered flat in the ACE program over this past year. I grinned to myself laughing at the fact that only I knew how much I didn’t give a fuck, now, and what that might possibly mean.
10AM start. It was another glorious bright sunny day we didn’t have to be in school for. The church service was slated to start at 10 am. I’d already been in the middle of an explosion earlier regarding Magic and Pallbearer selection. Magic justifiably angry left out of the pallbearers. I tried to explain to him that Santo’s dad was never the most inclusive and “you’re an adopted black Jew. Come on.” It didn’t go over well. And I never said that although it was true. It was Magic and because of that I was able to do a mature thing and think how I’d feel. I wouldn’t let that happen. It was clear we were getting rolled all over the place at this point on this thing and enough was enough. “Hold on Mike.” And I walked away.
The church was standing room only. It was a huge show, at that point. At grace chapel and just before 10AM Magic was included with the pallbearers. The body was still at the funeral home. It was now us and the family as the Big Guy and a few aunt’s and uncles had left.
“Boys.” Santo’s dad let us know we could go in and have a last moment. The casket was still opened. It would be the last time I’d see his face. I went first. “OK.” I had my Young Guns uniform like almost every YG pallbearer seemed to be carrying as well. I threw my shorts and #10 tank in their along with an almost three inch herringbone chain I’d bartered with Beef in ACE for a .38 I had laying around Sugar Rays still in the box. If I didn’t like the weed game back in 9th grade, I hated the strap scene on the broker tip this year of 1993. I needed a G for the Nino joint (gold chain) I wanted really wanted downtown on Washington St, and he had it. Beef and I after our fourth lunch detention sitting up in ACE by ourselves worked something out. It was five hundred dollars. The chain I always wanted. Beef was great filling in holes of the inner city gang, crack trade that Spec might have glossed over or suspended talk bored of my always hundreds of questions about this life we’d read about in opinions and obituaries. It was a cup of tea moving heat and the last one I found brought to me from gambling profits, I wanted out of my clubhouse, Sugar Rays. Beef cited the Academies, their Dorchester projects, protections and his own gang that sported Redskin gear, as must have reasons. Done. Chain was mine.
And I was smart enough to not wear it. Knowing myself I was forcing it, body language and the spotlight forever fixated on me built me proficient avoiding its detection. It was stupid regardless how good a 4-inch gold plated herringbone me feel privately in the mirror. After all calling out older rich kids and bullies brought the same emotion. The guns? I didn’t need that. It wasn’t lost on me the irony sprinkled over the fact, I was part of the bigger problem I’d forever try and twist the adults of our famed historic land to try and better understand. I’m the fucken worst
It was true. Santo’s passing had crushed what was left of my self-confidence. The pandering was illusion and that’s why I had so many enemies, after all it was an Ivy League town, they saw. I wasn’t confident. I was a mess. And my sister and my mother were too along with so many of the few that visited our kitchen.
But I had the chain. I had my breath. I had a few soldiers with the same still on tap. I had basketball. I had muffin. I had energy, a dark mass that excited itself in my own circuitry for this shit to end and for me to make those both in novel and scratch. I got the chain. What’s in your locker faggot?
I’d decided the night Santo died I’d throw it in his casket. I’d written my very first poem and found the strap at Sugars the morning after. I was admiring his own attempts at tags and signatures on the idled ply wood left up there many moons ago when my next store neighbors family like my own thought they might be one. #Morris 22 I’d knighted him Morris when the world was ours against it our freshmen year tearing up headlines in the mobility of a new frontier sprinkled with talents, freedom and an admirable sets of colorful lunatics. Morris #22
He was the kid that night. He got so drunk he ate cat food. I laughed thinking about how at least he still got pussy that night. I laughed at the 9th grade. I laughed how different we made it. I laughed that they all followed me. I looked down and discovered the .38. Sugar Ray’s by then had become the Cannabis castle, a refuge for my sister and Porshe’s legendary high school friends. And with our own beckoning into a game as such, it had changed. It was messy. A place to go, smoke and drink. And I found the gun. Not even opened. A whadawhadawhda .38 I needed it unloaded chuckling at my life, Beef was the buyer. I felt awful almost immediately after the actual transfer went through hand to hand. Fuck that shit, I’m tossing it the homies Morris casket, gold for him, clean hands and trail for me on some stupid fucking shit I couldn’t say nah 2. Please Jesus, hear me when I say I’ll never ever do that type of shit again. I’m a toss it in the casket straight Eric Chrichlow.
It was because of a story Magic told me about Eric’s younger brother Eton’s death back in the 3rd grade. His brother the D1 track star at Auburn, a Lexington legend carried the genes of immortality. His brother was part of the sacred 88 class. A legend and division 1scholarship athlete I’d never forget the story the story Magic told me. I hadn’t attended the burial. His brother Eric standing at Eton’s casket had torn off a gold chain indicative of the fastest person in MA. I’d never forget the story. I’d do the same with this chain I loved so much in shallow ineptitude I confused as game.
I also threw my YG shit in the casket. And dye casted figures from our old 5th grade matches of the glorious 80’s game known as electric football.
It was our team. Just a summer league team, on paper. But to us, it was like being artists and the owners of our own label and we were twelve talented rappers from Manhattan. It was everything. And we were so good. Together we were so dam good. And it hurt. I loved hitting leadoff. I put the herringbone in there. I Laid my YG shit and said some corny wanna be gangster shit and kissed my man on his cold deaded lips. After all I was in a thousand dollar Armani suit I borrowed from Enrico. My partner coveting that shade. The Italian. If anyone had a thousand dollr suit. But this was Madison everyone did. Des, Lynx, many kids wearing suits way too expensive.
It was bright and sunny. It was go time. “OK, let’s go.” Someone said. We knew. There were ten of us. It was heavy. We all sulked down once we had to deal with gravity. It was heavy. And no one ever would admit that. This was the most serious days in all of our lives. And it was no trot to Grace Chapel from the funeral home. My arms were already tired. It was my first question of the day. I’d assume even though a mere hundred yards away we’d utilize the hearst. What the fuck kind of shit is that? I voiced only a portion of the never ending reel to reel of thoughts flying in hyper spaced across the vast field of my mental wilderness. I clearly needed Ritalin and was mandated everyday at noon in front of a living witness to do just that. And I hadn’t swallowed one in years.
Entering the church the large crowd instantly fell silent. The delicate organ proceeded as we made our way down the aisle to the front of the mosaic laced, financially laced, Catholic house of the lord towards the father, the son, Santo. The place was mobbed to a degree that broke fire codes and would never be repeated. I loved over flowing crowds. People in the windows. A therapist would conclude it was my mother’s fear of abandonment but back then I’d conclude only no, it’s because I’m live and love history. Be careful what you wish for. It was paralyzing.
It’s what drew me the most to Lexington basketball. The crowds. And I wanted attention. I needed it. But I didn’t hear the Jackson 5. And the crowd only confirmed what I knew, the awful truth about everything that had to do with me. My arms started to burn and my right wrist pained. We were almost there halfway down the aisle and Scully knees starting to give. Abruptly Scully’s fingers slipped, his hand let go of the casket it drooped. I grabbed his hand, whispering in his ear, “pick it up buddy, I got you.” These words seemed for the moment to artificially lift his spirits just long enough for us to reach the front of the church. I whisper to Magic as we were seated adjacent in the front row. “Shh” he snapped back in total seriousness
And so went magic’s fist church service of his life.
What fucking idiots we are Jesus? Take a good fucking look and tell me if this is how you imagined your presidential funeral to be asshole I suck Seated in the box seats for something I’d rather not we observed everyone we ever saw in this small hamlet slowly file through, approach and offer a final prayer to Santo’s now closed casket inside the church. Face after face, and Young Gun parental combo, one after the other I’m tranquil watching the procession, all into I see my dear mother with my sister Dana. I become nervous as her time calls, knowing how hard it was for me, unable to comprehend how hard this would be for my mother. In a life defined by loss and heartache until our success on the hardwood as friends, my friends were all me my mother and my sister had (once her skating career was over). With all eyes focused in the most seriousness of moments I bug as my mother begins to lose it. Her legs wobble, not wanting to be yet another “story” for privileged people to discuss our weaknesses as a family Scully grabs my hand, returns the favor as I had moments earlier done unto him and softly says,
“She’ll be OK.”
Knowing at this point that she wouldn’t I abjectly say nothing, and then I watch when out of the stars my father divorces himself from protocol and advances a few heads beyond his place in line grabbing my mothers hand, hugging her and escorting them both away for the nest people behind to pay their final respects to their boy Santo. My mother had lost it, and my father like a true American compelled to duty was there in a moment when life truly called. You can’t have the good without the bad.
“I just want to see my father danced with my mother again.” Luther Vandross.