The Past (Part 2)
Having grown up right beside Philadelphia, I was always surrounded by trouble. So many alleyways my mother told me to avoid. I went down them anyway. I’m a man of curiosity and I like knowing what trouble I can handle and what trouble I can’t.
Philly schools are rough though. I was always a target of bullying because of the last name of Vendetta. I also didn’t have any life skills until high school, when I built a locket for my mom using metal scraps, bolts, and hinges from a junkyard.
Having a dad would have helped too. He left my mom before I was born. He could still be alive out there I’d have no idea.
For whatever reason, my mother still let me take his name, despite never taking it herself. She thought Mike Vendetta was somehow better than Mike Jolie. She couldn’t have been more incorrect.
But this name led me to the 2005 film V For Vendetta, which opened me up to admiring history and conspiracy.
In high school, we were forced to read Leviathan, or at least a snippet of it in my AP European History class. I passed the class with a C, but my curiosity led me to buying Leviathan for myself and realizing the truth of Thomas Hobbes, the idea of civil liberty coming only through the sovereign and authoritative rule of a commonwealth.
I was always into music and history. Those were my world. Rap, hip hop, R&B, I got into some clubs in late high school that really got down and funky.
I was absolutely hopeless. I had no skillsets, not a lot of social skill, no drive whatsoever.
But, at one point, just at the end of middle school, I like to say I found God.
Not in the southern Baptist fall on my knees, bask in the glory type of finding God. Not in the rebirth by baptism, church commissioning type of finding God. Not in the prayer-based evangelical missionary type of finding God. I found God completely unaided, on my own, wondering from hearing of God in entertainment media like books, movies, TV, anything that so much as mentioned this God who I never understood, maybe if I stopped to say a prayer and, on a whim, believe God is real, maybe it could change my hopelessness.
I was half right. The moment I began praying by myself, I felt instantly better about myself and my situation. Nothing about my situation changed, only how I perceived it, and now it was almost as if, by fully accepting the lifestyle of Jesus Christ, I could suddenly see a side of the world that others couldn’t, and even though that’s not the point of Christ’s message, it made me feel special enough that, if for a short while, I stop regarding how others thought of me and it made the world of difference.
A hurricane hit the coastline of Jersey that year, called Irene, and it sharpened my faith to the point I began praying for people I didn’t even know, and that moment was where my heart for missions began.
In middle school we learned how to play the guitar and I wasn’t half bad at it. Told my parents about it, they later got me one for Christmas. I didn’t touch it much and let it dust in my room for a couple years. After “finding God” like I mentioned earlier, I attended a big church a few months later, joined its youth group following an Ash Wednesday service, and the youth band there had an incredible guitar player named Ian which inspired me to pick up that guitar and play worship music.
I got into Bethany Dillon after that, who was the soft, humble, beautifully composed musician I decided I wanted to be at the time.
In the end I followed my father’s convictions and became a politician. I wasn’t a senator, I was only a staff member for a Maryland representative that had about roughly 4,000 constituents. My father wanted me to be a senator though. I told him baby steps.
At the Capitol, I met some friends. Fellow staff members and a senator named Edwin Charmagne.
I hung out with them at the bars in D.C. for a bit to unwind and talk about how pathetic lobbyists were. The nation was in uproar recently because of the 9/11 New York attack and later the 7/7 London bombings. Gaiya wasn’t exactly interested. Ever since hearing of the atrocities committed by America since the days of kicking out the natives to ignoring Jewish Holocaust survivors and raping Japanese women in their homeland, Gaiya had all but enough. He stopped giving shits about the country and unless somehow the Union were to fall and be recreated into a new country altogether, nothing would change.
His fellow peers told him about an organization known as the Anonymous Intelligence Agency, or AIA. Gaiya was particularly interested, since it was the first he had heard of such a group.
Their masks were the most intriguing part, because they were the caricature of Guy Fawkes, the English revolutionary who nearly killed the entirety of the English Parliament in a gunpowder bombing. What a symbolic statement to hide behind.
I turned 14. Grandpa died and I was left all alone with no one else who knew my existence.
There was a massive amount of money with no inheritor as a result of the Wilbur crest having been declared terminated. A group of men in east Appomattox were itching to find a way to make money fast. Kevin Badger, Julian Mills, Carson Hoffman, and Patrick Harpy; they were hungry off of scams such as telemarketing and Ponzi schemes. Mostly inspired off the Bernie Madoff in 2008, they wanted to cheat the system so bad. All of them were employed at an investment company that went belly-up after the crash of 2008.
From Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers were investment banks that faced failure during these times, and international credit was frozen still. The economy declined.
It was a scary time for people to live in, fearing a repeat of 1929 nearly a century earlier, so most would go through method after method to find some way to earn money and live comfortably again, after it hit so many homeowners and business owners hard.
I got a court summons. I was crying almost every day and I was running low on food and the electricity had already gone out a few days ago because I didn’t know how to pay bills nor did I have any money. I didn’t know how to reach out to anyone so I simply decided to just silently wither away with the home my grandpa loved. All I did was garden and take care of his roses in front of the front porch. Everything changed once that fateful trial began.
“Mr. Gaiya, is everything alright? There’s been no alert or order for us to do anything,” Gaiya’s lackeys questioned as they sat back in roller chairs feeling completely useless.
Gaiya simply peered out at the snow falling quietly behind the window of his current hideout, without paying heed to the concerns of his associates. His face was stoic with an ever-so-slight hint of a smile cracking on his face.
“Nah, not today. I think I’ll go outside and enjoy the snow for a bit,” he said, the answer perplexing many of those around him. Even he himself he had surprised.
Anthony, Princess, and I were shoveling snow off everyone’s driveway throughout the morning, free of charge.
Princess had been humming to herself the final bars of “Brave Song” from Angel Beats, since it often got stuck in her head. I remember I introduced her to the anime after my graduation. Anyway, she ended up chucking a shovel-full of snow behind her head without looking, and annihilated Anthony in one swoop.
“COLD!!” Anthony screamed, wiping the snow off of him.
“My bad,” Princess rubbed her head.
“Yeah? How’s some payback?” Anthony jested, preparing his own shovel and aiming at Princess.
“Wait, wait - It was an accident I swear!” Princess tried to defend herself daringly.
I was still shoveling properly and minding my own business. I dozed off staring at the sky like the daydreamer I am. “The white sky...it’s really beautiful, you know, Lord...” I whispered.
After about an hour or so and we started huddling by Anthony's car preparing to go inside somewhere for warmth before our fingers fell off from frostbite.
“So am I driving us down to Philly...? Or what?” asked Anthony. We were walking into the driveway of the studio and he starting pulling his keys out.
“Are we going now? Hang on, we don’t even have a sled,” I mentioned, walking up with Princess.
“We shouldn’t need a sled. You see what they do in those YouTube videos, right Dante?” Princess shifted her eyes to me. “They don’t use sleds, they use, like, boxes and closet doors.”
“I mean this is Philly. It’s going to be ghetto as fuck,” Anthony shrugged.
I sighed, “Just hope we find something that’s stable, not like Tupperware or something...”
We got into Anthony’s car and drove towards the Philadelphia art museum. Several Philadelphians were sleigh-riding down the museum steps on all sorts of things that didn’t belong in the snow: cardboard, closet doors, broken chairs, you name it.
Driving up there was like a dream. Snow white sky, snow white ground, and the Greek-styled museum art decor adding a brilliant neo-classical dimension to the scenery. I couldn’t help but admire it.
A kiosk stood out by Broad Street. Princess happily made her way there first, taking a look at what they were selling. A couple kids pulled out their phones, taking pictures and smiling after recognizing Princess. I keep forgetting we’re technically ‘famous’...
Princess posed with them and gave them some short-lived hugs, and afterwards bought some Marvel comics out of the store.
“What? You don’t like Marvel?” asked Princess, coming up to us and showing whatever miscellaneous items she compulsively bought. Anthony and I weren't that impressed.
“I love Marvel, it’s just...that’s all you buy when we’re by the art museum??” I questioned. Princess rubbed her head.
“Actually, I didn’t even check which edition this is...” Princess said blankly as she opened up the pages. “Oh wait. It’s Aquaman. Fuck.”
“Aquaman?? That’s D.C.! Did you even pick up the right issue??” I asked her.
She flipped a bit more through the book only to pull out a second issue inside of the first one, which spelled ‘D.C.’ over the cover. “Ooooh I got two issues!” Did...did she just rip off that guy at the kiosk??
Some teenagers were riding snowboards over the art museum steps and ended up catching some sort of debit in the ground that catapulted them, and they got completely side-swept. Hilarious shit happens when you’re not expecting it.
“Okayy, so where do we get our makeshift sleds?” I asked. Princess shrugged.
“Hang on, hang on, this was your idea...” I squinted at her.
“Well hey, you’ve always known the Philly tradition of sledding over the art museum steps. Even I knew it and I’m from Virginia. I thought you might’ve already known all this time since you lived around here,” Princess critiqued.
“Well it’s also a Philly tradition to spike cheesesteaks after Eagles’ games! I don’t see why it matters!” I critiqued back.
“Don’t yell at me! I’m a girl and I just wanna have fun!” Princess said, parodying Cyndi Lauper.
“Sheesh, alright,” I looked around, placing my hand over my forehead and squinting over at any place that might give us leisure.
Walking around, we eventually walked over up the steps of the museum and around the sides alleys, where there was some open space. From the corner of my eye, I spotted a boy sitting along the edge, looking like he was clasped in prayer. When Anthony and Princess were farther along in search of hand-me-downs, I took liberty and shuffled backward, and went to sit down beside the kid.
“Hey there,” I greeted.
“Oh, hi mister,” the kid told me, wondering why I was there. From the looks of it, he didn’t recognize who I was. Thank God, I was worried everyone had.
“Were you praying? Before?” I asked him. I made myself comfortable against the edge there. Philly’s art museum had a lot of nature sections surrounding it that were meant for one to observe in leisure. Facing it, I dazed off a bit yet again, thinking about the past.
“I was...I have a lot on my mind,” the boy told me.
“Oh? Are your parents around?” I asked, looking around.
“I’m here with my uncle.”
“Where’s he at?”
“Getting drunk somewhere, I think.”
“What?? Why’d he bring a kid with him if he’s getting drunk? Why’s he getting drunk at an art museum?”
“I don’t know. He got a call from someone and got really upset about it. He ran off with his little booze can and told me I could have fun at the museum on my own if I wanted.”
“What a lousy guardian!” I held my fist up, bitter.
“It’s okay, really. I was just relaxing anyway. I need alone time every so often.”
“Yeah?” I said, scratching my head. This kid is way too much like how I was when I was younger...