Chapter VIII - Mr. Hamilton, Present DayA Chapter by Suze
Testimonial from Anthony's father, Stanley Hamilton.
Stanley Preston Hamilton III - Present Day
I keep two pictures on my desk at work. When my wife died I knew that I wouldn’t be able to handle seeing her pictures everywhere, so I picked an album from our wedding and only a few other pictures to keep. The rest I gave to my son, Anthony and my sisters-in-law, Cassidy and Josephine.
The first picture that I keep on my desk is of my wife, Candace, and her best friend Elizabeth Larm. It was taken in 1968, when Candace and Elizabeth were twenty or so years old. Liz was about two months away from meeting Michael Branch, and I was about one week away from making the final payment on the engagement ring I had had to finance. In this picture, Candace sports an afro and Elizabeth’s blonde hair is so long that you can’t see where it ends. They are seated on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, Candace with one arm around Elizabeth and the other in a black power fist, staring straight into the camera while Elizabeth beams over at Candace instead. Who could have known that day in 1968 that they would both be dead within ten years? Elizabeth from a brain aneurism in ‘75 and Candace the victim of a drunk driver in ‘78. They were so vibrant that day, so alive. We had driven my VW bug to Washington D.C. for some protest or another, something the two of them were fired up about. It was their world, and I was just along for the ride. I had been since the first time I laid eyes on Candace in 1965, outside of a white’s only diner in Georgia. I had traveled to this podunk little town on a horrible blind date and slept on the unfortunate girl’s couch. Waking at 7:00 am as hungry as a horse, I crept out of the girl’s apartment and drove around in my car until I came to a diner. It wasn’t until I walked up and reached my hand out to grasp the door handle that I noticed the protestors. There were only a few, maybe five or six people both black and white, looking scared stiff but holding their signs up defiantly. My eyes locked with a fierce looking black girl’s and I stopped dead in my tracks, stunned. I had always supported the civil rights movement before, but it wasn’t until that day that I became at all involved. I will admit that my initial interest was in the girl only, but Candace set me on fire in more ways than one. Instead of getting my breakfast, I joined the protest. We had rocks, eggs and various other objects hurled at us that day, but all I can remember of it is her smile and the way she believed so passionately in her ability to make a difference. The rest is hippie history I guess you’d say. I ended up following her to Connecticut a year later after growing tired of the long distance courtship that consisted of only letters and phone calls. It was the last I would see of my wealthy family, who couldn’t understand my running off to a black woman who at the time wouldn't even talk marriage, never mind a Yankee. It was a stuffy southern family’s worst nightmare in 1966; that and having to sip coffee in a diner next to black folk.
I believe that my real life started the day I met Candace, and the best part of it ended the day she died. The person I was with her is not one I am capable of being without her; she made me a better man. She stirred something in my soul, lit me up in so many ways. It made me feel proud to be the one that she loved so well. Once my wife died, I put my joy away.
The second picture that sits on my desk was taken in 1987. My son, Anthony, stands with his arm around Micheala Branch, grinning from ear to ear. It was the first day of school, and Micheala was starting at the junior high that year. In the picture she gives a smirk and rolls her eyes, while my son looks at her instead of the camera.
When I realized what was going on between Michaela and Anthony I can’t say I wasn’t afraid. I knew the challenges they faced, I could see that the world wasn’t that much kinder to mixed race relationships than it had been in 1965. Candace and I had been spit on, yelled at and glared at by total strangers, especially after Anthony was born. You’d think a baby would soften hearts, but I suppose some people just love to hate.
I took Anthony aside once I realized they had started "dating", but when I tried to explain my concern he just waved me off. He has his mother’s faith in people, even now. Even after all that happened to tear them apart, he keeps the faith. I see the light in his eyes when he speaks of Michaela, the same one I’m sure was in mine when I met his mother. That girl ran off over six years ago but still he has that light, that beautiful hope. What happened to her was a tragedy plain and simple. For the short time that my son and Michaela Branch were together it was like witnessing the past up close. The phone calls, the secret meetings and love letters. They only lived two streets over from each other, but when they kissed goodbye it was a small tragedy each and every time. I couldn't hug my son without smelling Michaela's dime store perfume. It was teenage love at its finest and I was happy for them, despite my fear. For me, it was a happiness that hurt. Not that everyone was. Happy, I mean. Her brother, Michael, took it badly. But I think it was the thought of anyone with his sister, not just Anthony. I think it went better than it would have if they hadn’t been like brothers themselves, as Anthony came home without a scratch on him. The aunts were afraid for them; Cassidy and Josephine knew better than to say anything, but I know they worried. I’ve never been a big fan of Michael Branch the senior, but that’s one thing I will say for him. He never interfered. Or maybe I give him too much credit. With all of his drinking and messing around he probably didn’t even notice.
When Michaela left I didn’t know what to expect from Anthony. I was sure he would run away to wherever she went as soon as he found out where exactly that was. I don’t know why he’s never gone to her. In all these years he’s never even gone to visit. I worry for for my son. I worry for Michaela Branch, who certainly could not have found anyone that looks at her with the same love in his eyes as Anthony did. I worry for myself, as well.
© 2012 Suze
Coming Around Again
About~Hi, my name is Suze - thanks for stopping by!~ I am a fiction writer mostly but have found that I have a taste for essays lately as well. I'm here to seek the opinions of other writers on my work, .. more..