Professor Simeon Richardson
7 July 2015
The Yellow Submarine
Everyone in my neighborhood rode the school bus to elementary school and to high
school. The school bus was a microcosm of the world. Everything went down on the school bus.
I always sat at the back of the bus. I wasn’t trying to disappoint Rosa Parks. I sat at the back of
the bus because I wanted to read my book. I knew if I sat within plain sight while reading a book,
I would be picked on. They would call me a nerd. Tell me I think I’m white. I sit in the back of
the bus every day. The school bus was where I first saw bullying. It was where I first heard kids
cursing with an adult around. It was where many fights happened. I saw a rolled marijuana joint,
for the first time, on the school bus. It was on the school bus that I saw a boy punch his girlfriend
in the face. What did she say? Why was he so mad? His face was so distorted. He looked almost
demonic. What the hell did she say to make him so mad? I think she was trying to break up with
him. But when his stop came, she got off. Her head was down. She was sobbing quietly. She was
obedient. The bus driver watched her walk off the bus. No one said a word. They went to his
house. His mother wasn’t home.
God is amazing! My two grandmothers were proof of this. My maternal grandmother was
very mean to me. I never felt the love. Discipline can be interpreted as love, but I never
interpreted her discipline as love. I just thought she was mean. She would hit me if I moved the
magnets on her refrigerator. She hit me if I didn’t say Good Evening fast enough. She hit me if I
flopped down on the couch or if I changed her television channel. If I didn’t eat all of my lima
beans, I had to sit at the table until I finished. I don’t remember her telling me she loved me.
Maybe she did. I only remember the bad stuff. I remember the beatings. I remember going
downstairs to pick a switch off the tree for her to beat me with. She never beat my sister. Just me
and my little brother. We rarely made it through the week without a beating. I didn’t cry when
she died in 1987.
My paternal grandmother was the closest representation of God that I ever experienced.
She hugged me and told me she loved me. She gave me a flower one day and told me to take it to
my teacher. My teacher loved it. I loved her. She loved me. It was obvious. She didn’t care if I
came into the house to get water on a hot day. When she died in 2012, I cried and cried… and
cried. I still cry when I think about her. I get angry when I think about my mother’s mom. I
believe God knew how difficult my Nana was, so He blessed me with Grandma Bessie.
When Angela told me she was pregnant, I was horrified. We weren’t married, but that
wasn’t the issue. The issue was that neither of us were sure we wanted to stay together. We had
discussed breaking up and going our separate ways several times. I thought she was trying to trap
me. The thought was fleeting because I didn’t think she really wanted to stay with me either. I
thought she was just as upset as I was. Neither of us were excited. In fact, we were both
depressed. It was obvious. Our dispositions were very similar. We didn’t go to the obstetrician
together. We were dealing with it but not happy about it.
After about three months, we realized that it wasn’t going to be so bad to have a baby.
We realized that we did love each other, but we were just having trouble getting along. I started
being nicer. I started showing her that I cared. Going through the motions actually began to
affect my emotions. I began to get excited about having a daughter. Angela was working a lot.
We were still working together at the juvenile prison. I started fussing at her if she worked too
long. One day, she said she was feeling bad. I took her to the hospital. We called the doctor
while we were on the way, and she said there was no way we were in labor. We believed her, but
we went to the emergency room anyway. We found out that she was going into labor- at only
five months. They took us right up to a room and a flurry of nurses and doctors came in. It was
surreal. I watched Angela’s face the whole time. She looked befuddled. I was befuddled. Her
mother and sister came in. My mother came in. Everyone stood back and watched. The head
nurse said, “We’re going to save this baby.” That statement confused me even more. What did
she mean by “save” this baby? Our obstetrician, Dr. Palaez, entered and looked at the chart.
I’m sorry but it’s just too early.
What does that mean, Dr. Palaez?
Her lungs just aren’t developed enough to breathe.
And.. what does that mean, Dr. Palaez?
She’s not going to make it.
I’m a pretty smart guy most of the time, but I had no idea that there was a possibility that
my daughter would not be going home with us. Maybe she would have to stay in the hospital for
a while because she would be premature, but never did I realize that she would be stillborn.
Hot tears of confusion- of realization- of GUILT began to flow. Somehow, not wanting
my daughter at the onset of the pregnancy had caused my baby to die. It was my fault. It was all
my fault. Somehow.
Two months later, we were pregnant again. I made fruit smoothies every morning. I attended
every doctor’s visit. I cooked breakfast and dinner, and cleaned and did laundry and prayed, and
rubbed Angela’s swollen feet and made and disposed of spit cups.
I named my daughter Simya. She’s eleven now. She’s healthy and she’s gifted and I love
her. I love her… Twice as much.