M. is a 17-year-old ward of the court in Los Angeles’ Central Juvenile Hall.
How can I forgive you and not myself?
I can’t forgive myself, yet I can forgive everybody else.
I forgive you for never being there.
I forgive you for never acting like you cared,
when you would leave for days on end.
I was all alone with no friends.
The drugs took over your life.
You couldn’t even walk or think right.
I would brush your hair and it would come out in chunks.
I always stayed quiet never cried much.
Although when I was alone I would cry my eyes out.
Cursing at God, in Him I had so many doubts.
When you opened the door
I would dry my tears, trying to show you that you could talk to me and that I was mature. You would brush me off and say you’re too tired to talk.
Yell at me, and tell me to go outside and play with my chalk.
Not understanding I was 12 and I didn’t play with chalk anymore.
I would go outside and try to hide what happened behind closed doors.
People would ask me why I looked so sad or what was wrong with me.
I would lie and say I just watched a sad movie.
I know my excuses they did not believe.
As I grew older I started to rebel.
Going out all night, drugs I would sell.
I thought you would notice but you never did,
never even cared that you had a kid.
Things only got worse with the thugs I would hang
and a little after that I started to bang.
I thought I was cool and that I was the shhh.
I was robbing houses, cars, and hitting licks.
When I would get arrested you would come and pick me up.
I was yearning for your attention but you never gave a tuck.
Then you disappeared left me to rot in jail.
I spent 11 months sitting in that cell.
It had been almost two years since I had seen or heard from you.
In August 2014 all hell broke loose.
They came to my room and unlocked the door
and told me I was going to the hospital, I didn’t have to stay anymore.
As we were driving to the hospital I was asking why,
but nobody would look me in the eyes.
The doctor came in and asked questions about you.
I told him I hadn’t seen or heard from you for one and a half almost two.
He told me had some very bad news.
I heard his words but I didn’t believe they were true.
They asked me to go inside the room and identify the body.
He just kept saying how he was so sorry.
When I walked in the room I thought it was a joke.
He told me this was the long-term effect of heroin, meth, and coke.
You didn’t look anything like you used to.
They told me you only weighed 102.
At 5”11 that’s as small as a stick,
you looked like a starving African kid.
At that point I fell to my knees,
screaming and crying how I was sorry.
I was sorry for everything I said to you, Mom.
I was sorry for all the things I did wrong,
maybe if I just behaved
you wouldn’t have left. You might have stayed.
I wanted to tell you, Mom, I forgive you.
But forgiving myself is something I could never do.
This column appeared in The Beat Within, a publication of writing and art from incarcerated youth. David Inocencio founded The Beat Within in San Francisco in 1996. Weekly writing and conversation workshops are held in California, six other states and Washington, D.C. Submissions and new partners are welcomed. Write to him at email@example.com.
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