When 11-year-old Vernon Turner caught Mom in the bathroom about to shoot up heroin one day after coming home from school, she calmly told him sit down and watch.
“I want you to see me do this because I don’t ever want you to do this,” she said, “because this is going to kill me.”
The stupefied boy responded: “If you know it’s gonna kill you, why do you keep doing it?”
As she tied the thin rubber band around her arm and inserted the syringe into her vein, she explained how she had been gang-raped at 18. She took heroin, she said, “to not remember, to take away the pain.”
As a teen, mom lit up a room with her smile. She was a track star, a flag girl and a baton twirler.
But her youthful innocence died one afternoon in Brooklyn on her way home when two men grabbed her, violently hauled her to a rooftop, where they covered her mouth and took turns on her with another man. They only spared her life because they heard someone coming and scattered quickly, Vernon explains in a 2016 online “letter to his younger self.”
Overcome by fear, shame and confusion, Mom never reported the rape. When a few weeks later she found out she was pregnant, she decided against abortion.
The baby boy — product of that murderous aggression — was Vernon.
“Mom loves you, Vernon. But you remind her,” she told him. “No matter what she does to forget about what those men did to her. There you are, in her own home, every day … reminding her.”
Mom slurred on about how she had turned to prostitution to feed her dope habit. Eventually, she had met an Italian New Yorker who took her in to his home on Staten Island and gave her four more children but mistreated her.
Vernon was stunned by these revelations. He had known about the drug use, but he hadn’t known about the other harsh realities.
Four years later, his mother was dying, and Vernon actually prayed that she would die — so he could get on with his life and salvage some semblance of a childhood.
Because mom was always “sick,” he had to cook dinner, braid hair and change the diapers. mom and dad always argued. All the time, she was either on drugs, out searching for her next fix or stuck in an unconscious lull between highs. When she looked at Vernon, it was as if she looked right through him, as if he were invisible.
So he bent down at his bedside and prayed that the nightmare could be over.
Then she died.
After a life of drugged-out and drugged-starved “sickness,” she caught a real sickness, pneumonia, which swiped away what was left of her life within three days. Read the rest of Vernon Turner Christian.