by Mary Johnson
My brother was called Baby Jimmy, but his real name was James Bessix. Jimmy was the second oldest in the family. Baby Jimmy was eleven years older than me. He stood about 6'3" tall and weighed about 220 pounds. My brother was as chocolate as a Hershey Bar. Jimmy had a head full of silk curls. All the girls in the city were crazy about him, and that made him think he was a ladies man.
The name that was given to him Baby Jimmy fit his personality. He was the next to the oldest but he was, more spoiled than the youngest. I remember he would only work once in the while, just enough to buy something he wanted and then he would quit. My brother lived in the mirror combing his hair, and he would say," Dam, I am handsome". My sister Tizzle's friends would always fall for my brother's jive lines. Tizzle used to warn her friends that Jimmy was a player but they wouldn't listen to her. Baby Jimmy wanted women to take care of him because he didn't have a penny in his pocket.
Every Friday Baby Jimmy would get a big mirror and small basin filled with water to begin his weekend ritual. Jimmy would lean the mirror against the window and the basin would be sitting on an oval wood table with his brush and comb. I would sit for hours watching him prepare for his date. He would dump his curly hair into the water basin and bring up his head and shake off the water from his hair. Then he would put cream on his hair and his curls would fall back in a perfect arrangement. Baby Jimmy would try on six outfits before he would choose one. The next thing he would do is get his car ready. Jimmy would wash and polish his car until he could see his face in the reflection. The tires on the car were white wall and he would get on this knees and do each tire individually. Every weekend he would do this was ritual before every date.
My grandparents spoiled Jimmy very much. Every year they would buy him a new car.
Jimmy would always sweet-talk my grandmother out of her money that she kept wrapped up in a rag in her bra. Jimmy was raised from a small boy by grandparents before my mother's death. Baby Jimmy was very protective of his family members. When his friends would come over to visit him he would tell his friends that his sisters were off limited. If he caught one of his friends looking at us he asked them to leave. Many times he made me cry because I was talking to a boy and he would say "take your butt home." Boys in our neighborhood were afraid to talk to Jimmy's sisters. We would run home and tell mom what Jimmy did and she would respond, "he's only looking out for you girls." In our family the older sibling were respected just like a parent.
Jimmy and my oldest brother Charles never got along. There was a lot of jealous between them. Charles felt that our grandparents did more for Jimmy and very little for him. Both of my brothers thought of themselves as a woman lover and they would have a contest to see who could pull the other brother's girls. My brother Charles would only come and visit on holidays. Charles had traveled around the world and he came home and Jimmy, who never left home, was just as debonair. It was Charles that was more jealous of Jimmy than the other way around,
Many nights we would sit around the wooden kitchen table with Baby Jimmy. Some times Jimmy would allow us to press his curl out with a straightening comb. Tizzle would put the metal straightening comb on top of the wood burning stove until the comb got hot. Then, my sister would take each curl and press one after the other until she would cover every curl. Then Baby Jimmy would stand and pour water into a face basin and dip his hair into the water, and just like magic, his head would be covered with curls again. My brother's hair was like my grandmother who was an Indian and my grandfather was black. My grandparents had seven children and half of them have silk hair and other half had wool textured hair.
I remember the day Baby Jimmy when got married. This was a happy day for all of us. We all claimed his bedroom. We thought to ourselves there would be no more being boss around or someone watching our every move. Jimmy's first wife was my oldest sister's best friend. Tizzle used to call her dumb because she had warned her that my brother wasn't marriage material. So, after the wedding there was a big celebration until midnight. Everyone knew that a honeymoon came after the wedding. The next day my grandmother called everyone to breakfast, so my sister Rosie and I hurried to eat so we could move our stuff to our new room. In the middle of eating breakfast we heard footsteps walking up stairs. All of our hope of having our own room was gone when we heard the wooden stairs crackling. Rosie and I looked up and who did we see Baby Jimmy and his new bride. Every other man takes their wife on a honeymoon, but my brother took his honeymoon at his grandmother's house. My grandparents now had an additional mouth to feed and support because my brother had no job. I remember thinking, "what would a woman want with a man who doesn't work and is very abusive?" I guess you would say my sister's friend didn't believe that Baby Jimmy was bad news.
It didn't take long for Jimmy to begin cheating on his new pregnant wife. One day his wife caught him with another woman at the drive-in. My brother turned the event on his wife and came home accusing her on spying on him. He beat her badly and Tizzle told her friend to leave him. His wife would tell us that if a man don't beat you, he don't love you. I remember thinking if that's love, I sure don't want any of it. My grandmother would go upstairs and make my brother leave his wife alone. The next morning they would come down to breakfast all in love. They would be kissing and hugging. She would have on sunglasses because her eyes were blackened. His wife stayed with him for three years and I thought that was too long. She should have moved away the first time he hit her. I guess you can say that the last straw that brought her to divorce him was one day he tied her up in the woods and beat her and left her there to die. She left everything, baby and clothes, to free herself from him.
After Jimmy was divorced from his first wife, he kept his daughter for at least two years. Jimmy would refuse to let his ex-wife see their daughter. My grandmother was against raising her great grandchild because, again, my brother didn't have a job. So my brother jumped up again to get married and this time to a very educated young girl. After the first disappointment, we knew to wait before moving our stuff into Jimmy's room. We were right because the next morning at breakfast there sat Jimmy and his wife at the table. The difference between his first wife and his second wife was that the second wife had a job.
We were so happy after five years that Jimmy told my grandparents they were moving out. My thought at, the time was, "thank you Lord." I still don't think Jimmy's new wife knew she married a woman beater. They moved in a small cottage in Maryland. Jimmy and his second wife only stayed together for another four month until he jumped on her and beat her. It was amazing because his second wife was no fool. She left him when he put his hands on her. So, Jimmy was, again, with out a wife, and with his daughter. So, back to his grandparent's house he goes. I remember after two years he did give his first wife back their child.
I truly believe if my grandparents were still living he would still be living at home. My grandparents gave him the right name Baby, because to me, he never grew up. He always thought that our grandparents would live forever. I guess you can say that we were all spoiled because every one of us wanted to feel loved. We were motherless and fatherless. All our aunts and uncles wanted to do was make it so we didn't want for anything. Somewhere along the line, all of my siblings except, Baby Jimmy grew up into adulthood. I learned many things such as never let a man put his hands on you. He used to tell my sisters and me to always, "have a spare on the side because when your mates leave, move that next one in." "He explained that it doesn't hurt so much that way. Maybe if I had used his advice, my divorce wouldn't have hurt some much. Even though he had some many bad qualities, I still call him my brother, and I love him so much even in death. Yes, I am my brother's keeper.