Meet Osbun…

I was blind to the harm my actions caused, blind to the criminal foulness that I constantly enforced on others. By the time I got my first gun, I had already become a human monster.

Osbun, 73
Incarcerated: 28 years
Housed: San Quentin State Prison

My Tears are Constant

My mother Emma and my grandmother Texanna raised me to the best of their abilities. At seven, I knew nothing of their struggles of surviving on welfare and I  had struggles of my own. We lived in a run down apartment house. It was so old, it was probably the first home built in the neighborhood. Unlike most of the other houses, it had no green grass and or flowers. My mother worked cleaning white folks’ homes, which she did undercover so no one would know. She was given all kinds of household items, but a television set never blessed our dwelling, although we did get an old radio. My mother enrolled me in Longfellow Elementary School. I felt she had abandoned me there because attending school was the beginning of my childhood traumas. School for me was a maze of physical brutality. No matter which way I turned, I got beat down. Besides the bullies at school, the neighborhood bullies also made my life a living hell. It quickly got to the point that I feared going outside to play. Neighborhood bully #1 was older, taller, and weighed about three times as much as me. He was cross-eyed with an offensive odor and none of his clothes fit properly, making him look like a homeless clown. Neighborhood bully #2 was about my age and height, but weighed even less than me. He used a shoestring for a belt and looked like a human skeleton made into a puppet, which made me want to laugh. But he was no laughing matter. They threatened me constantly and were always teaming up to attack me. My family didn’t seem to understand or care what I was going through.

“Fighting is a part of life,” my grandmother said. “Sooner or later you have to stand up and fight your damnedest, win or lose. “But I’m getting beat up by two people at a time” I protested. “Well, do the best you can,” she replied.

I stayed silent, but it didn’t feel fair. “I’m the one getting beat up and robbed every day,” I thought. “ It’s my face and body that’s getting hit so much that I’m getting used to the pain.” I swore that someday I would get my revenge. One day after school, my bullies beat me up in front of their friends and some cute girls. They all seem to think my pain and shame were funny. Somehow, I managed not to cry. When I made it back to my house, my grandmother heard my sniffles and thought I was catching a cold. She made me a Hot Toddy, it consisted of tea, a little sugar, and whiskey. By the time I finished her Toddy, I felt extremely different. In fact, I felt fearless. 

I started coughing so my grandmother would make me another. She did and then told me to lie down on my bed and not go outside. But at this particular time I didn’t feel like being in bed. I felt powerful like Superman and I wanted revenge. I crawled out my bedroom windows and went in search of my neighborhood bullies. I found neighborhood bully #2 and attacked him with all of my pent up rage. He screamed and cried for someone to help him, and in that moment, I experienced a strange power over him that made me feel greater than I ever had before.

Standing over him, I asked, “How does it feel to be me, helpless and alone?” As I grew into adulthood, my mind became fixated on my childhood traumas, which held me back from moving forward. I was stuck knowing only one way to deal with people who were not my family. I became trapped in my past, deceived by my false beliefs. I was blind to the harm my actions caused, blind to the criminal foulness that I constantly enforced on others. By the time I got my first gun, I had already become a human monster. I was a victim who had turned into a victimizer. My 38 Special gave me a feeling of power greater than any alcohol. I  had the ultimate power over another person, the power of life and death. I feared nothing and no one, not even losing my own life. Sadly, having a gun in my posession eventually led me to take the life of another human being. Now, after sitting in prison for countless years, I am being given a second chance. Yet I have lost so much. 

Yes, my tears are constant…

1 Comment

  1. kathleen

    Hopefully, some of those tears are ones of joy, the joy of being released and the joy of knowing you are no longer the ‘monster’ you once saw yourself to be. Rather you are a wonderful human being. Your writing moved me; I could visualize you and the the bullies, as well as you grandmother. Nice work.


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