Seven years ago in front of my grandmother’s home I photographed this subject. He was at that time suffering from an unknown ailment — one that would wreak havoc on his life thereafter. Although he looked healthy, and had his wits about him, a painful cloud followed him. Whether it was his illness or his inability to change his circumstances that created this cloud, it remained. He’d tried to soothe his mind, body, and soul with cannabis and it seemed to help. Though in the end he chose to leave his family and friends in an abrupt manner.
This subject wasn’t just a person I had discovered along my travels. He was my relative — my cousin Calvin. My earliest memories are of happy adventures together playing in the streets of Compton, California. From skateboarding, swimming, and wrestling, we shared active and fun childhoods. We would often steal away to the bedroom he shared with his older brother at the back of my aunt’s house where together, we played Sega’s Tecmo Bowl and Sonic The HedgeHog, listened to Gangsta Rap, or looked at nude photos of women.
Once when I slept over my aunt’s house I led my sister and his sister into a sinister plot that ultimately interrupted his and his brother’s sleep. We crept into their bedroom with AJAX cleaning powder, and lipstick in hand and proceeded to pour the powder on their hair as well as mark their faces and bodies with the lipstick. While standing over him, he awoke, and our plan was foiled. He let out a scream.
My sister, his sister, and I ran into the adjoining bedroom hid and pretended to be sleeping. It was to no avail. My aunt, awakened by the commotion proceeded to yell at and whoop us for wasting her cleaning products. We deserved it.
His brother, Curtiss Leigh Johnson, passed away at the age of twenty-four. His passing was one that Calvin hadn’t ever fully gotten over. That is if with time one can fully get over the passing of a loved one. Calvin often visited Curtiss’s grave to talk to him. Curtiss and Calvin, now both deceased, were some of the most valuable parts of my childhood. We shared adventures, laughs, and holidays with family. I cherish those memories now that that is all I have.