The Assimilation of the Anti-Christ: John Christian
by Tonya Ellis
Over the river and thru the woods past my grandmother's old house we go and too my Dad's new house for the Christmas holidays. I ran into Robert when we stopped by the 7 Eleven for gas. He asked me how I was doing. He tells me my grandmother who lived next door to his mom in their old subdivision off of Braeswood, had told him that I moved to New York some years ago. He says I’m sorry for your loss after I tell him that Grandma passed away last year. I say it's all good- She lived to be a very stable minded & feisty 92 yrs old. Generally- after you turn 40 yrs old you come to realize you really can't ask for more than that. This is very true he says. Even though it's been a few years now since the last time Robert and I ran into each other, I still ask about you? Robert says the same thing he said last time we saw each other which was 5 yrs ago now & once again when I was at home visiting for the holidays. “John Christian? You know, I’m not sure who you’re talking about from back in high school?” he says. Which doesn't make much sense to me? Seeing as you and Robert were best friends all the way thru high school? If he remembers he hides it whenever we meet.
Robert is 44 yrs old now with a tad bit of a midlife rearrangement divorce crises going on. He doesn’t have the 40 year old potbelly yet though. But then he always was on the slim side. Just one kid he tells me. I did note when we ran into each other that Robert also hadn’t gone totally insane with his midlife crises issues. The new girlfriend who is in the passenger seat while he is pumping the gas is in her 30's and not a 20 year old. We speak briefly & as is the case now a days I am always gratefully entertained and humbled by any adult who seems to be witty. Her name is Jennifer and she tells me that she was starting to wonder if Robert even had any friends? But the fact that I've been living in New York for the last 15 yrs explains a lot she says. The conversation goes on between the three of us for maybe 15 minutes.
My divorced sister gives me an impatient look from the front seat of the rental car. The game of punch buggy my niece and nephew are playing in the back seat is starting to get rather loud. Robert and I don't mention to his new lady friend that we are ex-factors from high school. Being 40 now we both know that the past is more trouble than it's worth mentioning when you're just in brief passing lanes near one another. After we both fill up our gas tanks we part company and go our opposite and separate ways up onto the southwest freeway. Joining the holiday string of streaming car lights that are rising in the dusk. The lights seem to go on endlessly twinkling and filling up the night skies of the holiday season. The car lights start to dimly play against the backdrop of my memories of you and all three of us back when we were just teenagers. The movie that plays out in my minds memory hovers around the time period when we all started approaching 20 years of age. You and Robert were both 2 years older and ahead of me in school.
I don’t remember exactly when I became aware of your reputation? But on our white suburban planet down in Houston, TX- Round about the late 80’s the number of alien ethnics was a subconscious if not conscious reality. Call it my ability to spot another spot. The first thing that tickled at the back of my mind and filtered in past my lonely suburban black girl teen drama-Was your name-John Christian. Hence the obvious biblical reference and connotation of Christ. Which in accidental combination with your tendency toward juvenile delinquency made for the fitting nickname/name tag-“The Anti-Christ”. I guess we should have taken that as an omen, which was reinforced by a second, if not minor omen- that being that you were from Corpus Christie, TX. The second accidental connotation of Christ.
First time I saw you, you were with this green-eyed Jewish girl named Sherry. With you being one of her latest black guy of the month boyfriends. Not that the fact that she was Jewish meant anything to my submerged awareness. This fact was brought to light by the hushed gossiping whispers of other white students who could not fathom why a perfectly normal seeming green-eyed white girl would waste her time dating a black guy. “Oh she’s Jewish”- They whispered in gossiping explanation. Cause you see- it's not as if you were an athlete or even a scholar, a credit to your race- or a token so to speak. Oh no, you were just a plain common ordinary black boy. And a black, black boy at that, so they gossiped… And shrouded themselves in their blankets of superiority as they isolated us the outsiders in our alienation.
I don’t quite remember what I actually thought but I’m sure it was something brilliantly simplistic and small minded like- “White Girl” disease. Because even then as is often the case today it was quietly understood that in order for a brotha to be accepted in certain social circles it was much more important to be seen embracing the statues symbol of a “white girl” as opposed to his counterpart a sista- Who was somehow seen as a symbol of lesser status and value at the time. An object of a lesser affection and desirability… But than later that month (teen love being so fleeting by nature) I heard you got suspended for getting into a fist fight with your own best friend over this black girl that you wanted to date. Seems that your good friend Craig was trying to get with her. (Christ? Or Anti-Christ?) I saw her and remember thinking in my overly made-up, too much makeup teenage face and insecure teenage mind- “Well, she’s cute in a kind of average cute way- maybe he’s not so bad after all. Maybe he’s just cool and he likes who he wants to like cause they’re cool and that’s cool- I guess…” Not that I was ever interested in you that way- we were just friends- when we finally did become friends. But interested in the way that all teenagers build the cornerstones of their self-esteem- by the acceptance or rejection of the reflection of their peers.
So we eventually became friends. We became friends through my than boyfriend Robert- whom I started dating my last year of school, which was the year you quit school to go to work full time because you were flunking out anyways from working so much. (Christ? Or Anti-Christ?) But than what else is there? For a black boy who isn’t athletic or academic but draws and paints well and can just as easily recite the lyrics to a Public Enemy song as well as Van Halen all in the same breath. Who lives with his black working class mother in a predominantly white working class neighborhood in Houston TX?
I remember one night while we were hanging-out riding around getting high in Robert’s usually none moveable, broke down, Fiat convertible- us discussing God. You were expounding in detail about why you didn’t believe in him or it- (Anti-Christ?) If so you asked me- Why racism? Why war? Why A.I.D.S? Or for that matter? Why were my Dad & family practicing Islam as Muslims down in a Bible Belt Christian area of the country? Sounds like too much hassle even for the most faithful. (*Yes- yet another story of cross cultural craziness related to myself- Islam transplanted down south with a lot of American twisted race/color issues thrown in). If there is a God? Wouldn't it make more sense if we all worshiped under the same umbrella so to speak? You said too me. It sure would save a lot of strife with all the religious holy wars that have gone on sense probably the beginning of time.
Despite all my self-righteous support of the issue of a higher being. I finally had to admit that you were just as justified in your right to not believe- as I was in my blind need to believe. I didn’t have the answers then as I still don’t now. It’s interesting in retrospect the philosophical discussions that went on at 1:00 a.m. in the morning while we were dropping you off at Burger King to cover the night shift. Maybe it was the weed making us high.
White fades to black and shades of gray. The neighborhood we grew up in southwest Houston starts changing becoming more yellowy, brown & black. When this starts to happen the usual takes place- white flight. It’s not quite the quietly tense racist white suburban neighborhood we grew up in anymore. The oil boom bust hits H-town hard with an economic downturn. The time and the place is the late 1980’s to be exact and with the Politricks in place- the Reagan Babies reaction to trickle down politics and money/jobs that never seem to reach them? Pure capitalistic invention. This being the drive that quickly gave birth to the rise of crack dealing and gangsta rap music. Lil tiny crack rocks gave birth to lil tiny crack babies in Hoods all around the nation. With the soundtrack blaring in the background of this movie being supplied by NWA, Dr. Dre, & 2 Pac personally back than. But before that future nightmare became reality there was just you a young black teenager from the burbs trying to find his way? Choose a path any path? How many roads and you must choose one? Because after all Nancy Reagan said just say no too drugs… If I remember correctly you just thought her public anti-drug campaign was really corny.
Last time I saw you- in fact the last few times I saw you- you were high. (Anti-Christ?) Robert says too me- “Yeah, I got into the Air Force. Oh, I haven’t seen John in awhile. I don’t hang with him so much, cause he’s hitting that pipe man- He’s smoking crack.” Which I already knew- cause I took you to go and get your Mom’s v.c.r. from the pawn shop when you were in a state of repentance- crucifying yourself in your own guilt. (Christ?)…
Lately, you’ve been creeping into my conscious. I wonder a lot of the very things that we often discussed well into the night in our skeptical innocence. What causes a person to become solid? Fragmented?- Broken or Whole? Or maybe the truth lies somewhere in between- sometimes it is our time or place to be the broken or fragmented one and other times we are the solidity and the whole of the pieces. These are things that only bother me more these days. Living in these times of Columbine and Twin Tower attacks. Fragmented pieces caught in the aftermath of our fragmented modern day society. I suppose one could theorize that it was being a young, fatherless, black male that created you, or caused you to create your own circumstances. But the truth be known there were no projects in the suburban neighborhood we grew up in. But does being from the suburbs mean that you suffer any less from the seeds of racism and self hatred? The product of the assault of assimilation on the assimilated.
Part of my answer was to move away and submerge myself in ethnocentric and plain old egocentric activities and behavior. Long on questions to pose and ponder and as usual short on answers- Lately I realize that this trait is what bound us together and probably even brought our paths to cross briefly. And this all got me to thinking about the impression that your memory left on me… When I think of you the memory that comes to mind is a Christ-like image of the purity of youth, caught in a self-inflicted crucifixion.