Bradley serves as a father figure to his two younger brothers. Their mother Judith gave birth to at least nine children with ages ranging from five to forty-something. And there are several fathers involved. Bradley tells me so little about the members of his family. I only know his little brothers who come over on the weekend. He tells me to forget about him ever coming out and taking me to meet his mother.
Judith must have had her hands full raising Bradley, not to mention the other eight kids. Surely she was tired of taking care of kids by the time Arden and Ray came along. Bradley changed their diapers and babysat them while studying for his degree in mortuary school when Judith went to work. I get so mad when the school calls Bradley to come into the principal’s office when Arden and Ray get into trouble for bullying in public schools.
“They are your brothers, not your kids. Stop worrying so much about them. Kids will be kids,” I advise. “Almost every kid gets into trouble at least one time in school. I know I did. What do you expect? They are Brooklyn kids. That little girl had no business having her mother’s cell phone at school and I doubt very much that it was Arden who broke it. It was probably one of those phones with a video game on it. I bet some other kid broke it and the little girl blamed it on poor little Arden.”
Bradley got an evil look in his eyes and replied, “Stop defending him. He’s not an angel. You don’t understand. You’re white.”
I quickly opened a bottle of red wine to sooth Bradley’s nerves and poured him a heavy handful in his favorite coffee cup.
“They are growing up so fast,” he said with ruby red lips, dripping in relief from an Australian merlot. “They were good kids. Arden always smiled when he was a baby. You’d walk up to his crib and he’d just smile at you. He never cried. They always say when a baby is good they grow up to be bad. Now look at him,” Bradley sobbed.
“Then you must have been a good baby too.”
“Oh no. I was bad, mom said. All I did was cry. I’d cry all the time, Mom said. She took me back to the hospital when I was a month old, scarred to death. She begged the doctor to do something to make me stop crying. She had all us kids and she never saw one cry like me– just crying all the time.”
“Was it really that serious?” I asked.
“You don’t know. They kept a Bible in my crib when I was a baby. That’s how bad it was.”
Suddenly, Bradley’s hate of religion made sense. When we became lovers and he moved in, he made me put away my Holy Bible that was on my coffee table. He said it creeped him out. I never asked why. I wanted him to stay.