This entry was most likely written on July 23rd 2006. It is not very long, but tough… So, I guess it’s hard to introduce this person who was a huge part of my life without any context, so I will take some time to explain about my Step Father Steve and at the same time shed some light on my early childhood. I think this will be useful and relevant to some of the themes that play out and even still are playing out through my life.
I never really knew my real father. [Story for a whole ‘nother time.] My mom left him while she was pregnant with me because he was selling drugs and involved in all kinds of illegal shenanigans. We moved around A LOT from ages 0 to 6, living in motels sometimes and even out of my mom’s little gray station wagon. She ended up getting a job as a cleaning lady at an apartment complex where Steve had been doing some work as a handy man. I remember the first time I saw him. He looked like a super hero to me. I rode with my mom to the apartment complex while she went to go pick up her check and she just happened to leave me in the car. [I was in the front seat. Maybe laws weren’t so strict then?] That’s when I saw him walking away from the office. He was bald, tanned skin with a white sleeveless shirt. He instantly noticed me gawking at him and smirked and saluted me before carrying on to the tool shed behind the office. I thought that he was the coolest guy in the whole world!
I don’t know how it happened, but apparently he started dating my mom. I just remember that one day I was sitting in the living room of this little duplex that we rented in the ghetto and mom bringing him home as I was trying to build a house with Legos. Steve knelt down next to me and asked if I needed help. I told him something along the lines of, “I know that you’re only being nice to me so that you can date my mom”, wow, the insight of 5 year old me, hmm… Anyhow, I remember him trying to help me figure out how to make a roof for my little house. I never did figure out how to do it. Oh well.
It wasn’t long until my mom and Steve got an apartment together at the same complex that she worked in, so now Andrew [older brother] and I finally got to experience what it was like being part of a whole family unit. Andrew had been the closest thing that I had to a father figure and he was by no means a good influence on me. He was always teaching me cuss words and things that I should have never heard… in fact, things that he should have never heard! At first, Steve was great. He played video games with us. Cooked dinner. Bought us toys. He even built us a bunk bed from scratch. [He was quite the carpenter.]
On my brother’s 13th birthday, I remember my brother coming home from hanging out with a friend. Then Steve went into his room and I heard him say to Andrew “What? You’re 13 now! You think you’re a man?” and then I heard a thud and Andrew screaming. I grabbed the phone and started to threaten to call 911, and then Steve and Andrew both came out and told me not to. Andrew had blood streaming down his face from his nose. I was horrified. I couldn’t believe what he had done. Steve tried to make up for it by giving Andrew a $100 bill, which looking back on it seemed more like a bribe. And this was only the beginning. It became a pattern. Steve had a drinking problem and would become violent when he had too much to drink, which he usually took out on Andrew, to the point where Andrew moved out all together because Steve was so mean to him. Andrew was a little chubby at the time and Steve used to call him “Fat fuckin’ ass” and things of this nature. Not very nice at all.
Well, after Andrew moved out, then I became the new lucky target. My little brother, Adam had just been born, and it seemed like once Steve had a son of his own, Andrew and I were just garbage in his eyes. The first time Steve hurt me was when I was 9 years old. Andrew was only just visiting us [He had been living with my grandparents, just like I ended up doing a few years later] and Steve was being mean to him. He slapped the back of his head while he was eating because he “sat down before him” as if Steve was some kind of king or something. By this time, I was starting to get pretty ballsy, and I yelled at Steve and told him not to put his hands on my brother. The next thing I knew Steve grabbed me and slammed me into the door to the garage that had a wall mounted mirror on it. I only remember it being painful. From what I remember, the police were called and Steve was taken to jail that night in his underwear.
Moving forward. [Yea, this is a long one and I haven’t even shared the journal entry yet. In that case, why am I even using commentary brackets? Oh well. Why stop while I am ahead?] I got kicked out of my mom’s at age 12. [Story for another time. It involved being charged with Arson.] I learned how to fight once I got sent to live with my grandparents because I had been so severely disliked and bullied at my previous school that I was resolved never to endure such treatment ever again and that if anyone was going to bully anyone, it was going to be me. Not that I became a bully necessarily, but I was not afraid to pick or start any fights. By the time I was 14, I had won so many fights [A lot of them were luck] that my confidence in my own skill was unwavering. I was not afraid of anyone, regardless of size, age, stature, reputation, you name it. I was DTF – down to fight! [Don’t say it.] That year when we went to visit my aunt out of state for our annual Easter vacation. [Steve usually came with us even though at this point he and my mom were separated. He was abusive towards her as well and she finally got the courage to leave him.] This is when the game Runescape was fairly popular in my circle of friends and the computer that I had at home was sooooo crappy that I could hardly play it all. My aunt’s computer on the other hand ran it smoothly, so needless to say, I was pretty much on her computer as much as I could be to play Runescape. Steve came in one day, because he had been doing some remodeling to my grandmothers house which was located above my aunts garage. At first he said something along the lines of “Are you just gonna sit there and play games the whole time?” and I was like “Uh, yea, duh. What else am I supposed to do?” and he was like “Why don’t you come help me?”.
Now, as mean as he was to me and my brother and my mother for most of my life, it did not change the fact that I was still desperate for a father figure. So I obliged. To make a long story short, Steve had a jacked up knee. [Which ultimately ended up contributing to his death. I will explain more later on.] According to him, he was trying to catch a bus, was running, caught his foot on something and completely twisted his knee. He also had no health insurance from what I can guess. So needless to say, he could not get up and down a ladder and needed me to paint the upper wall towards the ceiling. Now mind you. I was 14. Never painted anything except watercolors [and I was not even good at that]. Steve explicitly said, “Do not get any paint on the ceiling” and I assured him that I would do my best, but reiterated that I was brand new to this. So what happened? I ended getting a little paint on the ceiling. Nothing significant. But Steve just starts going off. “You fuckin’ idiot! I told you not to get any on the ceiling!” Blah blah blah. I tried to explain again and he just kept going. It came down to the point where I said “You wanna just step outside and handle this like men?” and he laughs “Oh? A little 14 year old punk wants to fight me? I’ve been kickin’ your ass since you were little!” to which I responded, “Try me now. I’m not afraid of you. I’ll beat your ass”. And that is exactly what I did.
He met me outside of the garage and we both put up our set [fighting stance, hands, however you people call it]. I jab a couple times, wait for him to swing. He lunges for me. I side step and take out his bad knee [really wish I had not done this, because I did not fully understand the amount of pain this must have caused him and possibly complicated his injury further]. He hit the ground like a sack of potatoes. I quickly mounted him, used my left arm as a bar against his throat and proceeded to pummel his rib cage as hard as I could until he begged me to stop. So I jumped off of him as quickly as possible and put my guard back up. Steve could not get back up on his own and asked me to help him up. I warned him that if he even thought about pulling me down that I would hit him in the face this time [I viewed hitting someone in the face as a huge form of disrespect, and as mean as he ever was to me, I still respected him and did not want to hurt his face]. He did not pull any monkey business. I helped him up, took him to the store to get some liquor and cigarettes and that night, Steve and I sat outside smoking cigarettes together and talking about all sorts of deep things until about 3am. The last subject we were talking about was God, and I’m pretty sure I was trying to evangelize him with what I believed to be the Gospel. Before he went back to the main house to turn in for the night, he turned around to me, with a big grin and said, “Keep the faith, brotha!”. This was the beginning of a genuine and healthy relationship with Steve.
After that, he actually started going to Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and taking my little brother to Karate once a week. He was really trying to be a good dad. While I was visiting, I would constantly spend time with him. He was not TOO much of a talker, but I know he enjoyed my company. I remember going over there one night and watched the Ghost in the Shell T.V. show with him. He and I just sat on the edge of his futon, smoking cigarettes and watching anime on Adult Swim late into the night. It was pretty cool. [Oof, it’s getting late. Gonna try my best to wrap this up.] Around this time I told Steve about my interest in forming a gang. Well not really a gang, but a group of guys dedicated to protecting each other and the city that we lived in. I even mentioned going on patrols and trying to keep drugs and stuff out of neighborhoods. Right away Steve asked me if I had ever heard of the Guardian Angels who guard the subways in New York. I had not. He proceeded to tell me about these guys and said that if I started something like that, that he wanted to be in on it. I was SOOO super excited that I had his support. One night while he and I were driving together and we were fleshing out idea for my little vigilante group, Steve asked me what he would have to do to join. I looked at my right arm, where I had a small burn scar that I acquired from a torch lighter while lighting action figures on fire with my friend Mike and showed Steve, telling him that he would have to take “the burn” to join. He held out his right arm, right while he was driving and told me to use my cigarette to do the deed. And I did. Steve was the first official member.
I went back up to my grandparents only for a week or so, and then came back down to my mom’s. While I was back home, I got together with my two buddies [gonna use nicknames here] Vampyre and Shady and pitched the idea to them. They were in. We decided on “Swamp Angels” for the name. The Swamp Angels were a real gang of river pirates that existed in New York. They are even mentioned in the movie “Gangs of New York”. Yes, that is where I got the name. However, I used it because of 1. The Guardian Angels and 2. the place that we lived was associated with swamps, hence Swamp Angels. Made sense to me anyway.
I picked out my black leather “Members Only” jacket and stuck a little silver pin of a sword with wings on it that I had shop lifted from an army surplus store a couple years before. This was going to be the uniform of the Swamp Angels. I couldn’t wait to show Steve and tell him all about it! And now, finally, I will share my journal entry with you all [and then take my behind to bed].
Man, Rob, ya know how I wrote about Steve? Not Nixon, but my step father? Well, yesterday, he died. It really sucks… I loved that son of a gun. He was a good man. I was his best friend. We would talk like every day for hours. He was a good friend. I think he was saved, but if he wasn’t then it was his fault. I still loved him.”
All of that for such a short entry. This one always makes me a little teary eyed. I found him dead in his car the day before I wrote that entry. I was on my way to bring him his mail and show him the leather jacket that would be [my] Swamp Angel uniform, but it was too late. After the ambulance came and put him in a body bag on the stretcher my mom asked if I wanted to say any last words to him. I went over and the paramedic stepped away to give me some privacy. I unzipped the bag more and looked at his arm where I had burned him just a couple weeks prior and right there swore that I would form the Swamp Angels and make them grow to be protectors of the city. This was my farewell, to Steve. God rest his soul.