Nailah Muhammad

Starting Again

Southeast · Mt. Pleasant · Essay

On May 26, 2017, I relocated back to a place that with every fiber in my being, I did not want to be. Initially, I fought it, while at the same time knowing that it was something that I was supposed to do. That day, the life that I had built in Atlanta, Georgia, ended. A friend of mine and I packed up the trunk of my small silver Toyota Yaris. Each of us having half of the trunk respectively for our belongings, and we left with our sons. While not quite sure what our next steps would be, we were filled with a guided peace that still resonates within us to this day. I drove away from my home, my husband, the business I had built, and acquaintances that could not understand why the life that I was living was no longer serving me. They couldn’t see that in my beautiful home, with beautiful family pictures that lined the walls, there was an energy that was suffocating me. In between the tufts of smoke from the incense that burned and lingered in the air until it disappeared was the painful stench of emotional abuse. A stench that no incense could ever cover up. In between the fibers of the carpet was the residue of tears, and if you listened close enough, you could hear the walls cry.

Upon returning to the Cleveland area, slowly but surely things began fall into place. While returning to Cleveland was not in my plan, I couldn’t deny the peace that came over me as I made my way up and down Kinsman Road, my old stomping grounds. Even in the midst of my rapidly shifting life, I found comfort in what most would consider common places, the Two Cousins Beauty Supply Store, the Car Wash, Henry’s Dry Cleaning. It was a good feeling that no matter what had changed in my life, those places were still there after all these years.
While getting adjusted, I knew I had unfinished business that I had to attend to. I thought Atlanta, Georgia, would be my last stop, but I was wrong. I had lived so many of my formidable years in Cleveland. Years that brought events that caused me so much confusion, disappointment, and pain, but I knew deep down inside there was a deeper reason for my return that was much bigger than me.

During the years I originally lived in Cleveland, my family fell apart. Both of my brothers mysteriously vanished. They had become two of the many victims plagued by mental illness. Upon my return, I was determined to find them. I found one of my brothers in a group home, struggling with the disease of alcohol addiction. I found the other, on the brink of homelessness, not taking his medication and extremely ill. I spent many days, weeks, and months working to ensure they had the care that they needed. At times, I would reflect on the past and smile. They were so close it was as if they could think each other’s thoughts, but their individual illnesses destroyed that bond. They had not seen each other in over fifteen years. As the months passed, they were reunited. They began to talk and spend time together again . . . we all did. It was something I never thought I would ever experience again in my life. My sister even traveled to Cleveland to be with us, to experience family. Something many people take for granted, but for us it was a miracle.

In March 2018, my oldest brother so bravely began his battle with the disease of alcohol addiction. We attended meetings almost daily. He began to see a light and taste the sweet nectar of recovery. I saw a glimmer of hope in his eyes that I had not seen since childhood. For the first time in a long time, he began to understand that he was not powerless. We began to make plans for his future, something that he had stopped believing in. On May 18, 2018, while in the midst of his recovery, he experienced a pulmonary embolism and he died. Just like that, he was gone.

Initially, truth be told, I almost lost my mind. However, after a while, I forced myself to use clear vision. I realized that I could have stayed in my beautiful home in Atlanta with the crying walls and tear stained carpet. Instead, I chose to follow my intuition, and I spared myself the dull ache of regret that would have plagued me had I not been here to experience my brother’s final years on this planet. My siblings would have never been reunited, and I would have missed his final smiles and laughs and hearing him say the words “I love you”. My leap afforded me a sense of peace that is priceless, and, if I had the chance, I would leap just as high all over again.

Nailah Muhammad

Nailah Muhammad has lived in the Cleveland area for almost fifteen years. She has a degree in Human Services and is currently pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Journalism. She is a playwright, storyteller and slam poet and has performed on many stages across the country. She is currently in the process of publishing a book of poetry that will be completed and released this fall.


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