You could just see the fear in other's eyes. No one could not stop what was coming. We were mesmerized by his ability to glide on and off topic, taking perfect aim and then BOOM! Saying whatever it is he wanted to say, completely unfiltered, and never ever challenged.
Carlton was a stream of consciousness. He was masterfully effective at cutting down others like trees in the forest. Not with fists but with words. A few times I saw tears. Carlton didn't care. He had that look of 'if you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.' We stood by affirming. Validating not with words but with silence. We were all so young then. Each of us learning to navigate the world around us.
Many years later I was sitting in a parking lot waiting for my son to come out of a store. As I sat there I heard what sounded like sobbing nearby. Then I heard loud screaming. A screeching sound and the words "No! Please don't! Stop! Please!" I heard, "Daddy, Stop you are hurting her!" There in the car beside mine, he was pulling her hair, pushing her face into the car window, throbbing his finger into her forehead and getting up really close to her face while screaming a symphony of degradation into her consciousness. It was awful and frightening to watch. I sat frozen in place, unable to move!
But what if? What if I/we had mustered the courage and chutzpah back on the playground? What if we had used the gumption that we were given in our gut starting back then and we said NO STOP IT! This is wrong and I will not standby and allow you to demean others in this way. This is not acceptable. Your behavior is not acceptable around us. I wonder what might have happened?
Perhaps there would be far fewer Carltons in our parking lots, in our homes, in our churches, in our classrooms, on our playgrounds. In our prisons. Perhaps there would be fewer wives wearing sunglasses indoors and daughters buying into the words, "I am sorry baby, it will never happen again." Just maybe. (NOTE: Carlton was a person of fiction, the meaning of this post was not).
NATIONAL DOMESTIC ABUSE PREVENTION MONTH