I learned early that I wasn’t worth much. The sounds I remember hearing the most were feet running down the steps and the slamming of the front door. I used to be in daycare but my mom stopped paying them. The daycare’s story: the checks kept bouncing. So I got kicked out. My mom would get anybody to watch me, cashing in a favor here and there when money was short. If money was so short, why was she wearing designer clothes and shoes? Why was her hair and makeup never out of place? The rare times she and I were out together, she would claim that I was one of the underprivileged kids she would occasionally look after. She looked like royalty; I looked like a reject. She prayed no one would connect us being mother and daughter.
Current day: Abigayle has a son and daughter. She learned to love high fashion even if it came at a high cost. Her kids are lucky if they see a meal. The kids recycle their clothing until they are full of holes, yet she never replaces them.
Why spend money on a gym and use their equipment when he could use me anytime he got ready? When he would put his hands on me, he’d cry and apologize. I thought he meant it. I mean, how could my old man intend to hurt me this way? He loved me, didn't he? Yet, it continued. At first, the tears stopped. Then, the apologies stopped. It became commonplace for me to go to school with a black eye here, swollen eye there. I made myself out to be the clumsiest boy in the world. I guess the old man went too far when he broke my rib; I couldn’t come up with a good story for that one. The authorities stepped in, and from the age of twelve until I was an adult, I was in and out of group homes and foster care.
Current day: Brad has a son of his own. He tried to drown his pain and sorrow in the bottom of a bottle. Some days, it works fine. More times than not, the alcohol gets the best of him. So does his anger. He sees that he’s inflicting the same pain on his son as he endured many years back. He feels remorse and does well for a while, but the call of the bottle is a hard one to silence.
I began to hate my name at the age of nine. The girls at school had made up a line about me: “Chazene, Chazene, when you gonna get lean?” I was fat, and I was constantly reminded of it, not just at school, but at home. My mother’s way of trying to assist me in losing weight was purposely buying me clothes a size too small as an incentive for me to try and fit in them. The clothes weren't even my style to begin with. One day, all of my other jeans were dirty, and I started to put on a pair of jogging pants to go with my t-shirt. She said, “Chazene, I paid too much money for these jeans. You’re gonna wear them today.” When I refused, she grabbed me, tied my wrists to the bed, slathered my belly and legs with Vaseline and forced the jeans onto my body. I could barely breathe. Soon, I had enough and decided to run away. I was sixteen at that point. My mom never even searched for me. I think she was glad that I was gone.
Current day: Chazene has changed her name to Mercedes. She was able to get surgery to alter her appearance but she paid a hefty price to achieve this. She turns tricks to repay him for his services. At times, she wants to leave the game, but it’s easy money. Plus, guys can’t take their eyes off of her. She’s seen as beautiful and popular. Also, if it wasn’t for “Big Ricky” she would still be on the street.
All of these people are Casualties of War: From the Battlefield of Human Soil. Who is to blame? For the most part, it starts at home, and all is summarized in the last stanza:
Really, we are just
Younger versions of you,
And all the habits we pick up
Are going to come from you.
So just take your time, be safe
And use protection sometime
Or you’ll have casualties like us
Blaming you for our f’d up lives.
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