Universal Stories is a new part of The Hidden South project in which anyone can submit their story or secret from anywhere. If you have anything that weighs heavy on you, I encourage you to leave it below.
Last night, I was watching a Richard Pryor performance film from the late-70s. In one bit, he ponders whether he’d give mouth-to-mouth resuscitation in an emergency. He’s walking down the street and comes across “some motherfucker all laid out, slobber and shit dripping from his mouth. And he ain’t gonna make it. I don’t know, man….”
About 20 years ago, I was driving to work on an already sticky summer morning. To the left, I saw an older black man mowing the grass along the sidewalk in front of a house. Suddenly, he let go of the mower, staggered a few steps and collapsed in a heap on the sidewalk. Another driver was also passing and we stopped. I immediately called 911, though the man appeared to be dead, and EMT were there in 6-8 minutes.
But I didn't attempt CPR. After the man was pronounced dead by the paramedics, I went on to work, deeply shaken.
And deeply ashamed. The incident has been on my mind lately, but I had never told anyone of it until I told my wife tonight. At the time I rationalized that I was in business attire, I’d get all sweaty and stuff. In hindsight I fear that base prejudice - homophobia and racism – were the latent reasons for my inaction.
Last night, bad angel Richard Pryor taps me on the other shoulder and says he wouldn’t do it either. “What if you’re giving mouth-to-mouth and they die on you? And death eases on down your lungs? Death don’t give a fuck. That’s two for the price of one!”
The joke was funny but all too real. I have made the real-life decision Pryor only contemplated. Would I do the same now, 20 years later?
I just recently came clean to my family about being addicted to pain medication. I have a new therapist and am supposed to start group therapy next week. Truth is, I am not sure I am ready for the help. I came clean because for a moment, I thought I was ready to start my journey to getting sober. I am a very high functioning addict and have a 7.5 month old daughter to take care of. As badly as I should take this as an 'out' because I have a strong support system, I have no idea what to do now because not wanting to get clean has become my new secret.
They embezzled my innocence. By age 4 my delicate rose was picked from the rose bush by my older cousin (17-20 yrs old). No consequences for his actions but somehow I was beat for it. I did not understand what was going on and what did I do. Now I am left standing with my rose torn from the bush. When I was 7 with my rose petals still intact, which I wanted to be pure and sacred, was no more. He was my mom's "Friend". He would bathe me but spent extra attention on my delicate rose. As time went on he began to rip the petals from my rose. I thought in order to save my rose I must tell my mom. My mom heard me but did not listen. I was now a liar. Her "Friend" continued to rip my precious petals until there was no rose, only a stem with many thorns. When I thought there may still be hope, I pleaded to my mom again when I was 12. I was led to believe that the storm was over and maybe my rose will grow back. I was a fool. The storm was only resting and came back. With only thorns left, I ran away into the fields in hopes of finding someone who could save my rose. There was no one. Now there is no stem, no thorns, no petals, no delicate rose.
I fell in love with my best friend's husband. We carried on a short but beautiful relationship before agreeing to stop. I have suffered so much shame over this that I still haven't allowed myself to grieve the loss. What we had felt like magic. I have never felt so seen, heard, understood, and loved just as I am. We stopped because we couldn't continue, we knew it could only end badly. We did not want to wreck his home. He was unhappy but still loved her, and I did not want to hurt her either. As far as we know she has no idea, and he and I are back to being friends. I feel sad to have fucked up like that, I feel like a sick monster. I am also scared I will never find another partner like him.
Back in 1963, on a Sunday afternoon, we stopped at a gas station (no self service then). There were two lanes waiting for service and several vehicles in each lane. In the right lane, a black family (with young children) pulled forward for service. They were dressed in their Sunday church finery. The waited and waited, while car after car was serviced in our lane. Just as we pulled up in our lane, the black family left, without gas. The manager/owner said to my husband (through the open window), "Good, we don't need their kind here!" In one of the proudest times during my life, my husband said "You don't need our kind either!" And we left without gas. Just one incident, among many, that young innocent"northerners" saw racism at its finest!
My ex-husband was released from prison about a year and a half ago. He has no family and no support. I've been sending money and supplies, paying his rent and medical expenses. My husband doesn't know and would not understand. He would be furious. The only reason I'm able to help is because I had help when I was released 13 years ago. I have to do be there for him the way others were there for me. I wish I could share this with my husband.