Innocence is Bliss…

I found a dead body once…

When I was around 4 years old, I was jumping on a bed when my mother caught me in mid jump, sat me down on the edge of the bed and begin to put shoes on my feet. She told me we were going to see my grandfather, my father’s father, and as I remember, I was fairly excited.

My existence started at that moment. Which is to say,  it is the earliest memory I have had for as long as I can remember. Fours years of age, jumping up and down on my mother’s bed in our little government assisted housing unit in the projects, my sentient mind came into being. I have no recollection of life before that particular point in time.

After that first event, my memory is more of a medley of random happenings that I sometimes get confused with really good episodes of my favorite television shows. And then, there are the other things. The unmistakable things that kind of happen to you, around you and within you, all at once. Things that serve as a type of memory buoy system to help you maintain a chronological sense of direction in ocean like mass that is your living memory. Memory markers I’d call them. They are not always tragic or even sad really, they simply are.

For me one such event occurred around the age of 7 or 8. As I recall I was at my aunt’s house. She lived in Preston Taylor, a public housing development on the west side of Nashville. My aunt’s house was only a few buildings from where my mother and I lived a few years earlier. A stone’s throw from the scene of the oldest memory my consciousness could access. It was a warm summer night, and for some reason beyond my knowledge there was a blackout in the neighborhood and everyone in the house was now out on the front porch. Of course, me being an eight year old boy, I picked the perfect time to have to use the bathroom. And of course, me being an eight year old boy the simple solution was for me to go around to the back of the building. Now peeing on the side of a building posed no problem for me, as a matter of fact, I feel no boy can truly become a man until he has taken a whiz in the open air. It’s a rite of passage, common practice in those days for boys my age. I stepped off the porch and walked around to the back, alone and in the dark.

The corpse was lying there, on the ground some 15 feet from the back of the building. There was no blood, no gore, just a human body, limp and lifeless lying still in the grass behind my aunt’s project building. It was a man, black and young, probably 19 or 20 years old. His head was shaved bald and he wore a hooded black sweatshirt. He was on his back, with both his mouth and eyes open wide. His expression even now, is still vivid in my mind, it was like that of a human machine that someone had switched into “off” mode. He stared up past a starless night sky, his face void and emotionless. His eyes bulged, but only slightly, not in a manner that was grotesque or graphic, but simply, in a way that was unnatural and uncommon. His mouth lay open just as wide as his eyes. He looked as if he were choking, but there was no desperate struggle for breath, no panicked gasps for air and oxygen, only silence and stillness. It was dark out and the artificial light from the street lamps and apartment windows was absent, but the moon shone down and illuminated the body with an eerie perfection that allowed me to take in every necessary detail.

My first instinct was not that he was dead. I tried to talk to him, the entire time keeping my distance, speaking in low whisper, then eventually graduating to “Hey!” in a voice much deeper then my own in an attempt to disguise my age and fear, all in an effort to elicit some type of response, but to no avail. Yet, regardless of the morbid situation, I had to ‘go’, and with a corpse a few feet away, I did. I turned my back to the body so that I was facing the building as I relieved myself. The entire time peering back over my shoulder at the deceased, praying that he didn’t jump up and grab my leg. I only had to pee, but if someone had even said “Boo” I would have instantly shit my pants. I was terrified, but not for the reasons you would expect. It wasn’t the body that scared me. It was not the lingering presence of fresh death that made me uneasy but rather, it was the anticipation of being frightened by some unimagined surprise element while in the midst of emptying my bladder, that made me nervous. I finished my business as quick as I could and rushed back around to the front of the building.

Back on the front porch I sat down and proceeded not to utter a single word about what I had just seen. Not only did I not mention seeing a dead body I had some how become completely oblivious to the fact that I had just come from an undiscovered crime scene. As a matter of fact, I came back and resumed whatever conversation I was having before I had to excuse myself. There was no shock, no one in my family thought I was acting strange, I did not look like I had just seen a ghost, which is odd because I should have. I should have peed my pants, instead, I just peed and then went own about my night as if nothing extremely out of the ordinary had just taken place.

Now to be honest with you I am not sure why I didn’t say anything. I just know once I got back around the building I was fine. I was seemingly and completely unaffected by what I had witnessed. In my 8-year-old priorities of concern, stumbling across dead bodies was simply, not a big deal. I can only assume that my mind was too young to truly grasp what I had seen and that I was somehow shielded by both my ignorance and my innocence.

Peace

8 thoughts on “Innocence is Bliss…

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    1. Defnitely one of those things you don’t forget, and this is undoubtedly one of those things that affects you in ways you don’t even really recognize so even though I’m convinced I was just the weird type of kid that was able to shrug it off I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s wrecking some type of unknown havoc in a deep dark Freudian corner of my psyche somewhere. Lol!

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  1. Growing up in public housing prepares you for the unexpected, if there is a such, just so many things happen that you have to adjust to instantly or be swallowed up. Around age 10 a group of us just got thru playing football, while walking to the store for refreshments, a police car pulls in front of one of my friend’s uncle. Words were exchanged, the uncle took out running and the officer shot him in the neck and the ass. Just a day in public housing. This is why you want better for your kids. All experiences shouldn’t be routine. Anyway great descriptive Big Na

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  2. UNCLE TROY!!! Thanks for reading and commenting! Man that’s a crazy story, and one I’ve never heard. It’s not a doubt in my mind that I developed my storytelling prowess and passion from hearing all of the stories you and Big Reggie (my father) use to tell. (A few of those may end up in here). But yes you are 100% correct growing up in the projects/ hood/ inner city/ humble beginnings gives you a sort of extra layer of mental fortitude that allows you to deal with what can often be amazingly chaotic situations. It’s almost a gift and a curse, it’s like when you break a bone and then it grows back together stronger then t was before, now you got strong bones, but it’s at the cost of a whole lot of pain…

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  3. Just another day in our world. Not to mention all the other gruesome things that we were exposed to (crack pipes in the alley, prostitution, domestic violence on a daily, etc…). It will either accustom or evolve you.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thank you for sharing this particular moment in your life. By reading your short story it seems to me you don’t write because you want to say something; you write because you’ve got something to say. To change certain things in life we must all stand up and lead towards that change wether it be in our neighborhoods, cultures, families, and friends.

    One of my favorite quotes
    “I used to believe that prayer changes things, but now I know that prayer changes us, and we change things” Mother Teresa

    Nathan, you are meant for great things. Keep It up🤗

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow thank you, that comment was so much more then I deserve lol. I appreciate you taking the time to read my story as well as taking the time to comment! And I promise to keep writing and hope that you will keep reading!

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