Sunday, April 29, 2012

Utah & The Mormons (Ch. 18)

My mother and I bounced around staying with whatever men would have her.  Sometimes we would stay in motels, and sometimes we would go to the trucker gas station and stay in the back of one of the trucker's cabs.  We would hitch hike to get around, and once a man in an RV stopped to pick us up and we stayed with him for two weeks. The RV had a small bedroom that was just a mattress above the cab covered with a curtain.  From behind the curtain I would watch my mother get naked from the waist down and bend over for the man.  Then the man would go back upfront and drive us to the next stop.  We made it all the way to Utah like this.

My mother's half sister lived in Utah with her husband and 4 kids.  My aunt had dark hair with pale skin and rosy cheeks.  Her husband was blond and tall and all her kids had blond hair and blue eyes.  They were Mormons.  My mother stayed for 3 days before deciding that the Church of Latter Day Saints wasn't for her.  My mother not smoke or drink?  What a joke!  She got in an argument with my aunt one day and rushed into our room and threw her stuff in a bag.  She gave me a kiss and said, "I'm going to go and get a cup of coffee...I want you to listen to your aunt and be a good girl OK... I love you."  She was crying and I knew right away that she wasn't going to get a cup of coffee.

She walked out the door and didn't come back.  She left me...  I wasn't upset, but I was worried.  I was afraid my mother wouldn't come back for me.  I was afraid my mother would hitch hike across the country, spread her legs for truckers, and lose herself in her hallucinations and I'd never be able to find her again.  

After a few days she finally called and told me that I was going to stay with my aunt for a little while and she would come back for me in a few months.  She promised she was getting us a house and wanted everything to be ready before she came for me.  "A house?!  Will I have my own room?  Why didn't you tell me?!"  I wanted to believe her, and I let myself get excited!  She laughed and told me how wonderful it was going to be.  

After I got off the phone I told my aunt all about our secret house, and how my mom was getting it all ready!  She turned the corners of her lips up, but I could tell it wasn't a real smile.  She seemed sad.  I patted her on the arm and in a soft voice I tried to assure her, "Don't worry, you'll see..."

I was enrolled in school and tried adjust to my new life as a Mormon.  We all had dinner together at the table every night and went to church twice a week.  I tried to be like my cousins.  I pretended I didn't know anything about sex, or drugs... or smoking cigarettes and stealing.  I learned quickly those were sinful things, and I wanted to be good so my aunt would love me.    

My cousins had the type of mother who did their hair for them in bows and barrettes and I had the type of mother who would pawn her kid's barbie's for drug money.  I envied them.  I use to wake up as early as I could and rush through my shower so I could be the first one to get my hair done.  I would spend 20 minutes laying out all of the barrettes and combs she would need and when she came in I'd be sitting on the stool waiting for her.  I loved the way her finger felt in my wet hair and I loved the jealous look in my cousin's eyes, as she had to sit and wait her turn.  Being the first one to get your hair done in the morning became a sort of competition... and I always won.

My aunt also made me an allowance jar and added my name to her chore chart.  Each chore on the chart was worth a certain amount of money.  Once the chore was done, the money would be dropped in your jar and at the end of the week you got to get your money out.  Cleaning the bathroom was worth the most at a whole quarter a cleaning, followed by moping the floor, which was worth a dime.  After school I would ride my bike home as fast as I could so I could clean all the bathrooms before my cousins even got home.  I'd make my way down the list doing the mopping next.  By the end of the week I was rich!

I'd take my money and invest in pogs and slammers, which were used to play a game similar to marbles.  I'd take my pogs to school and play for "keepsies". I was a pog shark!  I doubled my collection and sold half of it for $8 and used that money to buy candy at 1 cent a piece.  I had bags and bags of candy and used it to barter with at school for what ever I wanted.  Candy was worth more than gold and I had a very prosperous business booming.  

The teachers at school got concerned and called my aunt and my aunt sat me down to have a talk about it one night.  She asked me why I sold my pogs and why I was trading candy at school.  "Don't you have everything you need?  If you want anything you know you can just ask me right?" I shook my head yes, but I wanted to tell her she was wrong.  "Just asking" maybe works for Mormons, but not for kids like me, not with mothers like mine.

Friday, April 27, 2012

The Battered Women's Shelter (Ch. 17)

A couple months after living in the lap of luxury ...with no electricity we went back to Fred's house.  We were only there for about a week before all hell broke lose again.  This time my mother called the police herself.  Fred was arrested, but my mother later dropped the charges.  The police had been called to Fred's house so many times for domestic disturbance that they finally decided to do more than just drop the charges this time though.  They arranged for me and my mother to meet with a counselor and this counselor somehow talked my mother into going to a battered woman's shelter.  The counselor even helped us to "escape". 

I felt like I was playing a part in a movie... I ran around the house throwing things in suitcases, being very dramatic about it all.  I knew Fred would never try to stop us from leaving... but this counselor seemed like a nice lady and I didn't want to disappoint her.  She reminded me of the social worker at school that tried to save me... only she was going to save me and my mother!  I wanted to make her feel as sorry as possible for us, so she wouldn't change her mind.  We need saving!  So I cried and cowered and played the roll of a helpless, scared, and naive child.  Only I didn't feel so helpless, and I definitely wasn't naive.  At age 9 I had seen more ugliness in the world than beauty, more evil than good... no... I don't think you could have described me as naive.

The shelter offered women and their children a safe place to get their lives back together, or a place to hide from abusive husbands till divorces were final and alimony could be collected.  We all slept in a room with about fifty bunk beds in it.  At night more women would be crying themselves to sleep than children.  My mother cried too.  There was a common room and cafeteria that offered three meals a day.  Things like caffeine and candy bars were put on strict lock down and only given out as special treats and rewards.  Counselors were provided to help the women with their mental health... although I was fairly certain my mother needed more than a counselor at that point.  There was a school too and I was put in a class with about 10 other children ranging in ages from 7-12.

I wanted to live at the shelter for the rest of my life.  I had friends at school and looked forward to meal times with the other children.  When school let out, I went to a craft room and activity center for the rest of the day where I played games and made things for my mom.  I had my own counselor too.  Her name was Ms. Kitty; she was really tall with long black hair and dark skin.  She wore long skirts that made swishy sounds when she walked and lots of beaded jewelry that clinked together as she moved.  I loved her noises.  She had me use art to express my feelings.  I presented her with lots of drawings using only black and brown crayon.  I thought this would make it look like I was depressed.  I wasn't depressed, but I was afraid if she knew how happy I was she wouldn't care about me anymore, and I loved her attention.  After every drawing I would get rewarded with a candy bar.  :)

 I rarely saw my mom.  When I did she seemed to always be crying, or arguing with someone.  My mother wasn't as happy as I was at the battered woman's shelter.  She went around accusing the other woman of taking her things or talking about her behind her back.  She was reprimanded for not following rules and it was rare for her to be rewarded with any candy bars at all.  The candy bars seemed to be the source of all her unhappiness to me, so I gave her mine. 

I did what I could to make her happier.  I drew her pictures, picked her flowers and read to her before bed.  Nothing made her happy.  If I gave her my candy bar she would look at me with hate and say, "I bet you already ate two today didn't you!" If I drew her a picture, it was always, "Why don't my pictures come out as nice as your hero Ms. Kitty's?"  Her voice was always drenched in contempt. 

Things reached a climax after my mother got in an argument with her counselor about not giving her the meds she needed.  My mother stormed out of the office fuming and said, "we are getting the fuck out of here!  I can't live here anymore!  I can't even get a damn candy bar when I want one!"

I cried and begged her to let us stay.  I got down on my knees and hugged her feet and cried... "Please... I don't want to leave... please... please."  My counselor came and asked my mother's permission to say good-bye to me and my mother ignored her while she packed our things.  Ms. Kitty knelt down and hugged me and told me to be brave.  "God never gives us more than we can handle... and God made you really really strong... I just know it."  I told her I didn't want to be strong.... and I begged her not to let us leave. 

They had to prey me off Ms. Kitty and I wouldn't let my mother put one finger on me.  "Leave me alone!  I hate you!  I hate you!"  In that moment I did hate her, but I still wouldn't have let her leave with out me.  Two hours later a car came for us and I followed my mother out the door.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Rainbow & Gilbert (Ch. 16)

After all of Fred's tearful apologies my mother always forgave him... and so did I.  After he locked me in the house for three days with my psychotic mother and no water, I went back to school like nothing had happened.  I felt so relieved to be at the one safe place I had.  I loved school.  It didn't matter that I didn't have any friends.  What mattered to me there were the adults.  They showed me that there was another way to live besides the way Fred and my mother did.  The difference between them was so obvious to me, but I didn't know that the difference between my classmates and me was just as obvious.  A couple mornings after I started back at school I was called into the principal's office.  He said there was a lady there who wanted to ask me some questions and was there to help me in case I needed it.  I knew exactly what was happening because Fred use to threaten my mother with calling Child Services himself all the time.  I put on my best face and put on a show my mother would have been proud of.

The lady introduced herself as Mrs. Ashton.  She was in a skirt suit and looked just like Mrs. Honey from Matilda.  I shook her hand like Fred taught me and told her it was nice to meet her.  "So, have you eaten breakfast yet?" she asked.  I answered her with over the top enthusiasm, "yes, I did!!!  I had pancakes and eggs and a glass of milk with a banana."  I rubbed my tummy for effect.  She looked at me skeptically and I think at that moment she knew I wasn't going to confide in her.  She went on to tell me that she could help me if I let her... but all I could think about was, who is going to help my mom?  I finished the rest of our conversation with a big fat smile on my face... see I'm happy!  Then she dismissed me and I walked back to class.  I didn't want to be taken away from my mother... who would protect her then?

Both Fred and my mother picked me up from school that day and I didn't say anything about the social worker.  As we were driving down the road my mom pointed out the window to Fred's left and said, "Oh my God!  Fred look!  It's a rainbow... look look look!"  I scrambled in the back seat to get a view, "where? where? I wanna see!  where?"  Then she kissed Fred and said "Oh sorry baby!  See, it's right there."  I still couldn't see it, but didn't ask again because she said, "How sad am I!  I see a rainbow and think of showing you first before my own kid!  See how much I love you!"

Those words have stuck with me my entire life.  That single memory hurts me more than any of the times I went hungry, or was scared or was molested.  She was my world... and I wasn't hers.  This memory lives in my heart.  I carry it around with me and sometimes it's so heavy that I can physically feel it there.  It feels like I swallowed something too large and it's stuck in my windpipe.  I can't breathe and the only relief I have is to cry.

It wasn't long after that before I was sent to the backyard again, only this time my mother packed up all of our stuff and we left.   We went to a place called The Power's Mansion.  It was the biggest house I had ever seen!  It was white with three stories.  The basement was a game room and had an indoor pool.  There was also a slide going from the first floor down to the basement... A house with a slide inside!  I was impressed.  There were dozens of bedrooms and it seemed like the kitchen was as big as Fred's whole house.  It was beautifully furnished with all leather couches and cherry wood tabletops.  I had never seen anything so luxurious.  We lived there for three months... with no electricity.   John Powers was a man that had come into some money quickly and quickly became a drug addict and quickly lost his money.  So he had his mansion and a pile of unpaid bills and sat around waiting for the repo man.   He had dirty blond hair with lots of grey in it, a pot belly and hairy hands.  He pretty much ignored me for the most part, so only his house stands out in my memory. 

Gilbert stands out in my memory though.  Gilbert had short curly black hair and a mustache.  He was thin and tall and liked to wear baggy blue jeans.  He was always around The Power's Mansion when the sun went down and it got dark.  He liked to give me back rubs and have me sit in his lap.  My mother would comment on this approvingly, "awww!  You are so good with kids Gilbert."  I had a sick feeling in my stomach when he touched me.  I felt this feeling before.  I avoided Gilbert as much as I could, knowing what would most likely happen if he got me alone.

One night I was having a sleep over with my friend Raven.  Raven's mother and my mother put us to bed and we could hear them in the next room partying with Gilbert and John and a few other people.  We whispered and giggled and talked for a while and then the door opened. We thought it was our moms and flung ourselves down and closed our eyes to pretend we were asleep.  It wasn't our moms.  It was Gilbert.  I stopped breathing.  

He came to my side of the bed and put his arm under my stomach.  Then he flipped me over and pulled my pants down... I still pretended to be asleep.  I wanted to be asleep so bad; I wanted to be anywhere, but there.  I kept my eyes closed and tried to turn over, but he flipped me back again.  He started touching me and I moaned hoping that maybe he would think I was waking up and stop.  He didn't.  I tried to roll over again... and again he flipped me back.  He used one hand to touch me and one was down his pants.  I started whining and whimpering something pitiful and pathetic sounding, but inside my head I was screaming!  I pulled the blanket over me and when I did, it came off Raven.  Then Raven pulled the blanket back... and he stopped. 

When he left I called out to Raven.  "Raven, are you awake?... Raven, Please be awake.  I need help..... Raven....."  But she didn't answer me.  I heard Raven's mom in the next room ask him what he was doing... she said, "What are you fucked up?  You're sweating and your cigarette is in your mouth the wrong way."  I couldn't hear what he said back, but I listened closely for signs that he might be leaving.  When I finally heard him go I laid there for a couple minutes decided whether to get up and tell or not.  I don't know where I got the courage, but I got up and went into the living room crying.  I went up to my mom and told her, "Gilbert put his hands in my panties."  Raven's mother didn't hesitate, she ran in the bedroom as fast as she could screaming... "NOOOOO, God please NO!"  I heard her in there with Raven, asking her over and over if he touched her. 

My mom looked at me in disbelief for a few seconds and then snapped to.  She grabbed me by the shoulders roughly and asked me, "What did you say...Tell me!  What did you say?!"  I mumbled what happened again and started to cry uncontrollably.  I felt ashamed.  She put her hands over her mouth and stepped back away from me appalled.  She was shaking her head no over and over and started pulling at her hair.  Then she let out a wounded cry and fell to the ground.  John went and tried to console her while I stood alone in the kitchen crying and trying to console myself.  Raven's mom ran out the door to confront Gilbert.

The police were never called on Gilbert, and I"m not sure what happened to him, but I never saw him again.  Later that night my mother came to me and gathered me in her arms.  She told me over and over that she was sorry.  Her grief over shadowed mine.  She laid down with me face to face and put her hands on either side of my head and kissed every inch of my face.  Every time a tear fell from her eyes I wiped it away.  "Everything is going to be OK mom... Don't worry." I comforted her.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Nailed In & Thirsty (Ch. 15)

I was sitting in a chair in Fred's kitchen and my mother was cutting my hair. She was high as a kite and had that manic look in her eyes.  Her pupils were dilated making her eyes black bottomless pits.  It looked like she had no soul, like she was a demon.  She cut a piece of my hair and then stood back and mumbled to herself, unhappy with it.  Then she nipped off another piece on the other side. 

My back started to ache and I became restless.  She snapped at me every time I started to slouch and would dig her knuckle into my spine.  "Sit up!"  Three hours later what meant to be trim turned into 6 inches of hair scattered across the floor.  Fred laughed at me and said, "Christ Sue!  What did you do to the kid?  You crack head!"  That was the wrong thing to say, and just like that she was off....

I was sent to the backyard as usual and listened carefully in case the situation called for intervention.  As usual, it did.  I ran in and found Fred with a belt in his hand and my mother cowering on the floor.  I stayed where I was and didn't say a word.  I didn't cry, I didn't shout.  I was paralyzed.  It was like all of the nerves in my brain were firing at once... causing the image before me to scar into my minds eye forever. 

He was wearing blue jeans and his grey T-shirt was half way ripped off.  She was in blue jeans too, only hers were pulled down to her ankles and red welts were forming on her thighs.   She had on a white tank top... and no underwear.  Fred was red faced and breathing heavily.  He stopped and flipped his head back to move his hair out of his eyes.  When he did spit flew out of his mouth and dribbled down his chin.  Then he got up and walked out of the room.

I helped my mother up and heard banging coming from the kitchen.  The banging went all the way around the house, bang bang bang...... bang bang bang........bang bang bang.  I looked at my mother with my eyebrows drawn together, expecting her to get up and see what the sound was. "Mom??? What is Fred doing?" 

Then I saw her eyes grow big and she jumped up out of her seat like the house was on fire and ran to the side door.  "SHIT! shit shit shit shit!  You son of a bitch!"  Fred had nailed us in the house.  He went around and nailed all the windows and all the doors... and then he drove off. 

We had no telephone, so there was nothing to do but sit and wait.  My mother went to turn the TV on, but it wouldn't work.  He had cut off the electricity.  It was still daylight, so I wasn't concerned.  Later though, we found out that he had cut off the water too.  The first night wasn't so bad.  I had cold creamed corn from a can for dinner and my mom lit candles and we had a kind of camping party. 

The next morning I went in search of something to drink and came up with canned pineapple juice.   My mother slept.  I read, looked for something to drink again and read some more.  For dinner I ate a can of spam.  My mother slept.  The next morning I felt really sick and went to wake my mom up in case she had any ideas about where I might find some water.  When I found her she was curled up in a ball on the bathroom floor laying in her own vomit.  She was going through withdrawals.

I spent another three terrifying hours walking back and forth between the bathroom and the front room to look out the window in case Fred came back.  If I keep looking, he'll show up.  Fred wouldn't hurt me.  Fred pulled into the drive way around noon and I saw him through the side window next to the door.  I yelled at him, "SHE'S LAYING IN THE BATHROOM, LET ME OUT!.. LET ME OUT!.... Let me out..." I started to cry.  He stood there with a blank face.  Maybe he can't hear me, I thought.  I was so afraid that he was going to leave me there. 

I grabbed an old coca cola bottle off a shelf and threw it at the window, but it just bounced off.  He saw what I tried to do and came right up to the window with his hand held up telling me to stop, but I couldn't stop.  It felt like the rope that held things together inside of me came loose.  I ran and grabbed one of the small wooden stools in the kitchen and pointed it's legs at the window and rammed into it.  The glass shattered.

Fred walked up, looked in the window and had tears in his eyes.  He said, "I'm going to let you out.. I need to go find a hammer OK?"  I shook my head no.  It's not OK!  I cried and I yelled at him.  "YOU LEFT ME HERE!  Why did you do that!  Why did you do that?"  I tried to take a breath, but it hurt too much to breathe.  It felt like all the tears that were falling down my face were coming from my chest... and there was no room in there for any air anymore.   Fred got down on a knee by the window and started crying.  He said, "I didn't mean to leave you here baby, I was really mad... I wanted to hurt your mom.... I'm so sorry." 

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Stephanie's Top Ramen Noodles (Ch. 14)

Near the end of summer my mother came and got me from Uncle Steve's.  There were tearful goodbyes.  Uncle Steve wiped his eyes with the back of his hand and I broke down in sobs.  My mother dragged me by the hand to the car and I looked behind me at my uncle the entire time crying, not sure when I would get to see him again.  

When I got back to Fred's house I spent the rest of the summer with Little Joe.  We met a girl named Stephanie, who lived down the street and we became a trio instead of a duo.  She was a short, chubby girl with brown eyes and pasty white skin.  Every time we were at her house we ate Top Ramen Noodles she made for us in the microwave, and sometimes we ate them raw like chips and dipped them in ketchup.   Her parents were drug addicts too. We were three peas in a pod, or so I thought.

Stephanie and I were enrolled in the same school and I was very excited to finally have a friend.  When recess came I could hardly wait to get outside.  I had someone to play with!   No more staying inside with the teacher like I usually did.  When the bell rang I ran outside and started searching, squinting in the sun closing my weaker eye, becoming a Cyclops.  When I found her she was standing around a group of girls already and I was too shy to say anything.  So I just followed them around.  I finally got in a position to where I was in ear shot of her and I shouted, "Stephanie!" but she ignored me.  So, I yelled again thinking maybe she didn't hear me. "Stephanie!... Stephanie!..." Then she turned around and in front of everyone she yelled, "Stop following me you weirdo!"  

I was stuck in place, not sure if I had the courage to walk away while they all laughed.  It felt like if I could just stay still and not say anything that maybe I would become invisible.  I went and sat down next to the water fountain and tried not to cry, but I couldn't help it.  Later on the way home Stephanie put her hand on my shoulder and said in a very sweet voice, "Things are different at school, I can be your friend at home, but not at school, K?" I nodded my head OK.  

The other children at school thought I was gross and weird.  Even though both Stephanie and me had similar home lives, she had somehow given off the impression that she was better cared for.  Her thrift store clothes matched and fit her properly.  She did her hair in a braid and sometimes she even wore makeup.  I had lots of Lisa Frank school supplies and that was about it.  I had to worry about my mother getting beat up, her friends molesting me and bad guys breaking down the door.  There was no time left to worry about clothes or hair... or clean socks.  Stephanie only had to worry about making Top Ramen Noodles, and I envied her.

Me: age 8

After school Little Joe would meet us at McDonald's and we would use the trays the food came on like little sleds to race down the slide.  When it was Stephanie's turn to slide down Joe would wait for her at the bottom with his butt lined up so that she'd hit it face first.  Joe showed a slight preference towards me and got in the habit of calling Stephanie a midget.  I would look at Stephanie with a huge grin on my face, pointing my nose in the air every time he insulted her.  See, he likes me! Not mean girls like you!  

Stephanie and I were both in love with Little Joe, and I was on top of the world every time he picked me over her. He reached over and held my hand while we were sitting in the plastic tunnels one day and Stephanie started to tease us by sticking her tongue out like she was gagging. She said, "Ewww, why are you holding her hand?!" Joe answered her, "better than holding hands with a midget!"  Inside, I was doing a happy dance...Ha Ha!  he called you a midget!

After McDonald's we all went our separate ways.  Joe went home to his mother, Stephanie went home to eat Top Ramen Noodles, and I went home to the pirate ship where we were having squash for dinner.  The vegetable garden came in handy come the fall.  Money was tight, stolen credit cards were hard to come by, and the food stamps were traded in for cash at the Seven Eleven to pay for my mother's habits.  We had squash for dinner almost every night, boiled squash, fried squash, grilled squash, and once my mom tried to make squash soup... but I wouldn't eat it.  Thankfully, I had free breakfast and lunch at school everyday or I might have starved.

Monday, April 23, 2012

The Summer with Uncle Steve (Ch. 13)

The summer after my mother's fascination with gardening I was taken to see my Uncle Steve.  He lived about 3 hours from us in his own apartment.  Uncle Steve was my dad's brother and he had been in a wheelchair since he was 16.  He jumped out a second floor window after a bad trip on PCP one morning and broke his neck, leaving him a quadriplegic.  His hair was long past his shoulders and his skin was a deep red from sitting outside in the sun for hours and hours everyday.  He loved to smoke a big joint and then bask in the sun with a beer in his hand.  My uncle was a hippie.  He loved me, and I loved him back.

The first thing my mother asked him when we got there was, "any word from you know who?"  I assumed she meant my father and Uncle Steve shook his head with a tight-lipped frown.  She stayed long enough to smoke some dope with him and then left.  That summer I took care of Uncle Steve and Uncle Steve took care of me. 

He told me stories from our heritage and stories about my father.  He told me about the River Man who went around on the reservation and took naughty children and drowned them.  He told me about how my dad used to be a kickboxer and could knock two people out at one time.  His stories were endless.  I told him stories too.  I read to him every night, sometimes from The Boxcar Children books I had brought and sometimes from the sports pages in the local newspaper. 

I was in a phase where bathing didn't interest me.  I refused to wash my hair and didn't understand why I had to bathe because I went swimming everyday.  I smelled like a load of white laundry, bleached and stain free!  One day Uncle Steve decided he would run the bath water himself and force me.  The problem was that because he was a quadriplegic he had very little use of his hands and they were also numb to touch and temperature.  So the bath water was scalding! 

He had me put on a bathing suit so he could keep the door opened and make sure I washed my hair.  He said, "you better get all those rat's nest out of your hair too!  Or the River Man is gonna come get you!"  I put in one toe and then snatched it out.  I tried to explain to him that it was too hot, but he just shrugged his shoulders and said, "feels fine to me!"  I looked at him with a scowl and folded my arms over my chest.  "It's too hot Uncle Steve and my hair doesn't have any rat's nests!" I said.  He yelled at me then, "YOU BETTER GET IN THERE RIGHT NOW!"  He had never yelled at me before and I thought it was funny!  I laughed at him.  He grinned at me and told me, "just get in the damn tub you crazy girl!"  I eased my way in and came out looking like a boiled hot dog, but I was rat nest free!

We went grocery shopping together.  I would ride on the back of his motorized wheelchair and he would hold our bags in his lap.  I use to go to bed in a sleeping bag on the floor next to his bed because I was too afraid to sleep by myself.  We did puzzles together, he would find where the pieces went and I would put them together under his direction.  We made a great team.  I also had pet snails and a pet mouse named Whitey.  Uncle Steve had pet snakes.  It was my job to feed them.  Every couple of weeks we would go to the pet store and buy a few feeder mice and then go home and put them in the freezer alive.  I would open it every few minutes watching them with a morbid fascination till they stopped moving. When it was feeding time he would have me thaw the mice out in warm water.  It was hard getting them to come undone from the other frozen mice in the bag.  Sometimes I would have to bang it on the counter like you would to break up a bag of ice.  Once the mice were warm I'd drop them in and we would wait and watch the show.  He had 12 snakes.  Whitey was a feeder mouse I rescued from the freezer.

Uncle Steve was also a comedian and jokester.  He could never just say "bye", he always said something like, "see you later alligator", or "don't come back jack!"  He used to complain about having a really bad itch on his leg and would ask for my help to scratch it.  I would go over and try to help him out.  "Here?... here?.. there?"  His answers would come out desperate, "ohh no.. a little over.. no the other way! oh no, down."  He would keep this up for as long as it would take me to realize that he didn't have an itch, because he couldn't even feel his legs!

One day I was bored and Uncle Steve told me that if I wanted to go hunting he was in the mood for flies. I looked at him and asked, "so you want me to catch a fly and you'll eat it?!"  He nodded and said, "but only a fly from inside, the outside flies are shit flies."  Well, I couldn't find any flies inside.  So, I got one from outside and figured he wouldn't know the difference anyway.  I delivered the fly on the fly swatter proudly.  He asked me to get out the ketchup and mustard.  I put a dab of each on the top of his hand and placed the fly on top of the condiments.  He looked at me, licked his lips and ate it!  I laughed and laughed.  Then I told him I got the fly from outside and he got mad at me!  I thought he was being ridiculous.  What does it matter that the fly was inside or outside?   I figured he must just be grumpy and need to smoke.  So, I went and got his pipe for him and used the lighter to help him get stoned.  He couldn't use a lighter and needed me to spark the flame for him. 

Sunday, April 22, 2012

The Drug Raid (Ch. 12)

Whenever my mother made dinner at Fred's and we had potatoes, I had to peel them.  One time I cut my finger purposely so I wouldn't have to finish.  "Ouch!  Shoot! I cut myself!" I said, and then I walked to the living room with a satisfied smile on my face. Before I turned the corner there was a loud BANG!  Then another... BANG!  I stood frozen in the walkway.  The door flew open and a flood of  bad guys with guns ran in.  They had helmets on and big army boots.  I panicked and looked toward the kitchen at my mother and she was running out the side door.  She was leaving me!  

I ran after her, screaming at her not to leave me!  "Mommy!  Mommy!"  I screamed it as loud as I could, but she didn't come back for me.  My fear was so intense that when my tears started to fall my sobs were silent.  My mouth was wide open, but no noise would come out.  I turned to run and one of the men grabbed me and threw me to the ground.  I struggled.  He took both of my arms and held them behind my back.  He was hurting me.  I peed my pants.

The bad guys were police officers.  Eventually a woman officer came and talked to me and tried to console me.  The police ransacked the house and turned everything inside out.  I knew they were looking for drugs.  I had no idea what would happen when they found them... so I helped them look.  I thought the sooner they get what they want, the sooner they will be gone.  I showed them the secret crawl space under the loft, and the extra closet space in the guest bedroom.

The officers never found anything.  Fred had some kind of tip-off before it happened and had gotten rid of everything.  My mother resisted arrest though and when they finally subdued her they found out she had some outstanding warrants for her arrest..  I watched them handcuff her and she started crying.  "Please let me say goodbye to my daughter," she begged. "Don't worry, Fred will take care of you, I'll be back real soon," she said.  Back?  Back from where?  

Then I realized she was going to go to jail and I ran to her!  The police stopped me and I attacked them.  I tried to bite and scratch and kick and I screamed and cried!....  Then she was out the door and I was left on the floor in a puddle of snot and tears.  Fred picked me up and rocked me, "I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm so sorry," he said.

My mother got out of jail after a few days and things went on like it never happened.   I hated the police for most of my life after that, and I never dialed 911 again.  Spring arrived and Fred and my mother started a vegetable garden in the backyard.  Like most things my mother took an interest in, she became obsessive about it.  

She spent hours out there weeding and plowing and seeding.  She made little signs identifying what each plant was.  Instead of making just one sign for each row of squash she planted, she made a sign for each squash.  She made dozens of little paper signs.  It looked like she was trying to grow paper.  After she was done I snuck back out and maliciously rearranged all the signs so nothing had the right name.  She went out there the next day and threw a fit.  I lied and said I didn't do it. "You're just trippin out again mom," I said and I rolled my eyes.....I was still mad at her for getting arrested and for leaving me to fend for myself when the bad guys came.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Christmas Time (Ch. 11)

During the time we were at the trailer Fred and my mother continued their relationship and in a short time we moved back in with him. Life improved for me considerably, I had clean socks for one and I had Little Joe back. Yippee!  My mother's kite flying days were behind us and I fell into my new job as my mother's bodyguard.  Fred and my mother were constantly fighting. It was exhausting.  I was always running around trying to control my mother and shut her up before Fred lost his patience.  My mother couldn't keep her mouth shut for more than five minutes at a time.  She was constantly complaining, accusing, blaming, berating and attacking with her words.  Sometimes I felt like just walking up to Fred myself and saying, "I give up.... I'm going to the backyard what you must, just please make her shut up!"  Of course, I never did this.  I protected her always; I did everything I could to keep her safe.  It was a very stressful job.

Christmas came and thanks to Fred's stolen credit cards I made out like a bandit.  Christmas morning I was awakened at the crack of dawn by one of those battery operated Santa's that walked and moved it's arm up and down ringing a bell.  Behind the Santa, peeking out from the hallway was Fred.  He grabbed his belly and said, "Ho Ho Ho... Merry Christmas!"  His eyes were bright and when he smiled I could see both his bottom and lower teeth.  I jumped out of bed and threw the covers off.... Wow, this is going to be just like a real Christmas!

I ran to the Christmas tree and there were mountains of presents!  They were all for me!!!!  I even got a pet hamster!  Fred would laugh every time I opened a gift because I'd proclaim, "this is exactly what I asked Santa for!" I didn't really believe in Santa Claus, but I wanted him to know I was grateful.  When your mother is insane and tells you the streetlights are UFO's, it makes it hard to believe her when she tells you stories about Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny.  I pretended to believe in Santa Claus so I would get presents though.  I was no dummy!...... "This is the best day of my life!" I announced.

While Fred and my mother tweaked out on drugs, I would play with my hamster and build obstacle courses for him.  One time Fred joined me and using clear piping that was for some kind of plumbing construction, we made a giant tube slide for him.  We shoved him in one end and then Fred would blow really hard and he would fly out the other!  It was my job to catch him, but I missed lots of times.  I would kiss his boo boo's and then hand him back to Fred for another ride.  I can remember Fred's loud laugh, "HA HA HA! Make sure you catch him you little Turd Knocker!"  He made me laugh!

The next morning my hamster was cold and stiff.  I cried and tried to wrap him in blankets so he would get warm and wake back up.  Fred helped me bury him in the backyard later that day.  I was angry with him and blamed him for killing my hamster.  He was supposed to be the adult!  He was suppose to know better...... Deep down I even knew better, and I felt guilty.  I had killed my hamster. :(

Friday, April 20, 2012

The Lonely Trailer (Ch. 10)

One afternoon when I was in 2nd grade Fred had found out about my mother running around on him with another man.  I was watching Captain American on TV.  Earth, Wind, Fire, Water, and Heart!!!   I wanted to be Wind.  I had a candy ring on my finger and jumped up on my sofa extending my arm out like the characters on the show.  "Wiiiiiiinnnnd!"  Fred came up to me interrupting my show and said, "Do NOT let your mother in this house when she gets here."  I felt terror run through my body like goosebumps spreading from my arms down to my legs.  This was going to bad.

I heard my mother at the door.  She rang the bell over and over.  She pounded on the door and screamed at Fred, "Give me my daughter you son of a bitch!"  She sounded like she had lost her mind.  Her voice was high and she shrieked each word out like a war cry.  Fred looked at me and asked, "Do you want to go out there with her? " I shook my head no.  I must have looked terrified because Fred started laughing and said, "I don't blame you kid."

There use to be a giant white shell on Fred's front porch that to me looked the size of a small car.  I'm sure that's the exaggerated memory of a small child though... but that's how I remember it.  My mother's ranting stopped and this made us wonder what she was doing.  We both looked at each other and shrugged our shoulders.  Then the giant white shell came crashing through the front window!  Fred was stunned and I was scared to death.

After a couple seconds she was standing in the living room with shattered glass around her.  Fred grabbed her by her hair and slammed her on the ground.  She cried out in agony.  I screamed for them to stop!  With my face scrunched together so I could see through my tears I ran in the house and got a knife. I held it out towards Fred in an attempt to protect my mother.  Laughing at me, he looked at the ground and shook his head, "You're a little traitor," he said.... then he left. 

I wanted to run after him and tell him not to leave me with her!  I wasn't a traitor!  What was I supposed to do?  I cried because I knew what would happen next.  My mother got up and told me to get my things together.  She hobbled around gathering as much as she could and then called for a ride.  Our ride took us to the emergency room where my mother found out she had a broken tailbone.  Hours later we were on our way to our new home, my mother sitting on her donut and me stuffed in the back seat with all of our belongings. 

We moved in to a trailer that sat in the front yard of an old dilapidated house infested with cockroaches.  It was a two story white house and the front yard had lots of trees in it.  I started at another new school.  Living in the trailer I felt like I was some kind of lowly commoner from one of the princess movies I loved to watch.  I yearned to go in the big house and be with all the "royalty" there, cockroaches and all.  My mother got to go up to the house regularly, while I was left in the trailer with 6 channels on a 12 inch old TV.  I felt so suffocated in there and cramped.  I was lonely and bored.  It was so hot in there too and for some reason I wasn't allowed to go out side and play.  I hated my mom for leaving me in there and my resentment would build and build all night.  Instead of giving her the cold shoulder when she finally came back, I would be excited!... like a puppy that's been left alone all day.  I wanted to punish her for leaving me there by withholding my love, but I never could.

 School was a great escape for me.  I got to school an hour early wearing the same pair of crusty old socks everyday.  The other children teased me because of my dirty clothes and unkempt appearance.  I had no friends, but it was still better than being shut up in the trailer.  At recess I would sit against the wall by the water fountain and read books the teacher let me take outside. Eventually she allowed me to just stay inside with her during breaks and Ms. Belle became my best friend. 

When Easter came around I got to go up to the big house.  I was so excited!  There was an Easter basket in there for me! I got a kite that Easter and a walk man with a "Silly Songs" tape in it.  For about two weeks after that my mom would take me after school to an office parking lot and we would fly kites.  I lost interest in the kite after about 10 minutes, but my mom would fly it for what seemed like hours.  I would skate and strap on my walk man and sing at the top of my lungs, "Do your ears hang low? Do they wobble to and fro... can you flip'em over your shoulder like a continental solider?  Do your ears hang loooooow?"  I loved it, but my mother seemed too obsessive about the kite and after awhile she started to frighten me.   She was acting weird... it was just a dumb kite.  She would get so upset if the kite wouldn't stay up long enough, or there wasn't enough wind.  With her eyes opened wide and her pupils black and large she would mumble bad words under her breath like she was casting an evil spell or something.  She would cry sometimes, scream and stomp her feet or pull out her hair.  I skated farther and farther away from her each day, afraid that her madness might some how be contagious.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Little Joe & The Backyard (Ch. 9)

We moved back in with my mother's boyfriend, Fred for the second time right after I turned 8.  I changed schools again.  I was happy to be back at Fred's house and this time I got my own room!  We did homework, went diggin, my mother cooked dinner, Fred sold drugs and about every two weeks a fight would erupt.  Life was good for me.  Fred was strict, and would always tell me... "I'll tan your ass!"  But he never hit me... not once.  I stopped smoking cigarettes (which I didn't really like anyway) and I stopped stealing food and instead went on shopping sprees with Fred using stolen credit cards. 

The first time he took me "shopping" it was for back to school things.  I told him I forgot the list my teacher gave me of the supplies I needed.  He just laughed and said that we didn't need a list because we were going to buy everything!  He explained to me that I needed to hurry and at checkout I wasn't to say anything.  We went to Walmart and at first I took a while to pick out the perfect folder and Fred went up to the shelf and grabbed one of every kind and threw them in the basket!  I thought it was hilarious!  I grinned at him and he smiled back and told me.... "Well get on with it!"  I ran down the aisle throwing in as much as I could!  I raced to the clothes and threw in anything remotely close to my size.  It was exhilarating.  I felt like I was on a game show. 


I went back to school with $400 worth of Lisa Frank folders, Trapper Keepers and push pencils.  We went grocery shopping like this too.  The way we shopped compared to everyone else was 10 times more fun!  Everyone should shop like that I thought.... but somewhere in the back of mind I knew that what we were doing was wrong.   I didn't think too much about it though, I was just happy to have a Trapper Keeper.

 One of Fred's "frequent visitors" was a woman named Suzanne.  She had a son named Joe who was a year older than me and we became best friends.  Our mother's were very similar, in both appearance and parenting styles.  While his mother was off doing who knows what, Fred allowed him to hang around and play with me.  We were partners in crime.  My best childhood memories were made with Joe.  We all called him Little Joe.  He was tall and lanky with dirty blond hair and hazel eyes.  He was into bb guns and GI Joe figurines.  We made forts in the back yard and set up shooting ranges.  We were in our own little world and for the most part the adults seemed to leave us to our own devices.

We weren't your normal kids next door; our games were more like something you would see on an episode of Ren and Stimpy.  One day Fred decided that what the backyard needed was an old porcelain bathtub.  He said we could turn it into a bird feeder.  Joe and I had other ideas.  We gathered all the change we could find in the house and put what little money we had together to buy about 35 Gold fish.  I think they were actually feeder fish, but that didn't matter to us.  The pet store was roughly 2 miles away, I walked and Joe rode his skateboard.  We ended up with 6 bags of fish and were presented with the problem of getting them back home.  Joe tried to skateboard and hold two bags in each hand but couldn't manage.   In the end it was decided that I would sit on the skateboard Indian style and set two bags in my lap and hold two in each hand and then Joe would push me.  It took us a while to get home because Joe thought it was funny every time I fell off and I was bad at leaning into turns.

When we finally got home we filled the tub up with water from the hose and emptied our 6 bags of fish into their new home.  Both of us were very proud....  The next morning they were all dead.  This lead to another fun day of digging fish graves and having fish funerals.  A couple of years later we dug the fish bones up playing archaeologist.  Those fish provided many hours of entertainment.

Fred's backyard

The backyard wasn't nearly as fun without Joe.  It was sometimes even a place I hated.   When I got sent to the backyard to play it usually meant something bad was going to happen.  I always tried to be extremely quiet and listen as closely as I could in case my mother needed my help.  I got in trouble every time I called 911, but this was the only way I knew I could stop them.  My mother's screams would start and I would run in and make my threats with tears running down my face, "Stop it!  Please... Stop!  I'm calling 911 right now!"  One time I ran in and Fred had his hands around my mother's throat and hit her head against the wall.  My mother fell limp on the floor and started convulsing violently.  Her eyes rolled back and drool was coming out of her mouth.  Fred panicked and dropped to his knees crying saying, "Oh shit, oh shit, baby... please, no no no."  My worst fear was happening before my eyes.  He had killed her.  I couldn't breath, tears were coming down and soaking my shirt, and I didn't know what to do.  I just started walking around in circles with my little body hunched over curling in on itself.  Fred ran in the kitchen to call 911.  Then my mother opened her eyes and put her finger over her lips telling me to be quiet.  She mouthed the words, "I'm OK" to me.  I just stared at her with an open mouth. ...............She's faking?!!! 

I was furious.  I wiped the tears off my face and ran out the front door.  I hid behind a bush in the front yard for hours.  I heard Fred walking down the street yelling my name over and over.  I didn't come out.  I stayed there on the ground behind the bush making a roly poly town in the dirt.  I cried.  I didn't know what to feel.  My whole world had crashed down.... but it was all pretend.  I replayed the moment of when my mother's head first hit the wall over and over in my memory and I cried.  I felt so much relief that she was OK and this made me cry even more.  I hated her.  I hated her... I hated her.  I wished Little Joe were there.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Barbie Town, USA (Ch. 8)

After first grade I switched schools and me and my mother moved in with her boyfriend, Fred.  I didn't get my own room, but I claimed the loft in the living room as my territory.  I had moved on from baby dolls to Barbies.   I made furniture for my dolls out of toilet paper rolls, shoe boxes and anything I could find.  Fred's loft became Barbie Town, USA.  I had dozens of Barbies and boxes of accessories.  I had collected all of my Barbies as bribe payments.  My mother was not faithful to Fred and I watched her like a hawk.... eager for an opportunity for entrapment.  I would threaten to rat her out unless she paid me off.  "I want a Malibu Barbie and two out fits.... and five dollars."  I would announce my demands with squinted eyes and my hands on my hips.  Her other "boyfriends" would gladly pay me off, afraid of Fred's reputation I guess.  I think my mother was proud of me in these moments, she would look at me with smiling eyes and give me a wink. My mother was a master manipulator and she had taught me well.  I was my mother's daughter.

The move lasted about 6 months before her and Fred broke up and then she yanked me out of school, enrolled me in another and we moved in with Gary. With my giant duffel bag of Barbies in tow, we settled into our new room sharing another twin bed.  Gary was a balding white man with a comb over and medium build... He doesn't really stand out in my memory.....There were just so many men.  Men were always willing to help my mother out in exchange for her "affections".  Sometimes I was part of the package, and sometimes I wasn't.  My mother was so beautiful I don't think it mattered to the men that she had to drag a 7 year old around with her.  If I was in the way, I was given cough syrup to knock me out.  Problem solved.  One time she put shampoo in an empty bottle of NyQuil and forgot.  She poured me a giant spoonful and made me swallow it.  At first I just held the soap in my mouth afraid that it might poison me if I swallowed it.  She grew impatient though and grabbed my chin digging her finger nails into my skin and forced my head back.  I swallowed it and started choking........ and she left the room, "Go to bed," She said. 

I was so scared and didn't know what to do.  I had no idea if swallowing soap was something I needed to go to the doctor for or not.  I tried to make myself throw up, but I couldn't.  I thought about calling 911 for help, but I didn't want to get in trouble... or tell anyone that my mother had poisoned me.  I felt sick and I had this really thick saliva in my mouth that I didn't think was normal.... All I could do was cry and eventually I cried myself to sleep.  My mother didn't love me ... she wanted to hurt me.  I was devastated and horrified. The next day she realized she gave me soap and said she was sorry.  She hugged me and took a giant spoonful of soap herself and swallowed it right in front of me.  I was comforted, Oh, you really didn't mean to poison me!  You love me!...... She only wanted to drug me so I would be out of her hair ... what a relief.

My mother

I fell away into the background at Gary's and this suited me just fine.  The neighborhood he lived in had a lot of kids and it felt like I lived in a world where adults didn't exist.  We went around setting fires to empty lots, smoking cigarettes (or pretending to) and stealing what ever we could.  Shoplifting proved to be a very useful skill. I was becoming a regular little con-artist.  If I couldn't negotiate for the things I needed, I stole them.  I could now feed myself.  I had my Barbies, my cigarettes and enjoyed about 6 stolen candy bars a day.  What a life!

At almost 8 years old I felt like I was getting too old for my Barbies, so I only played with them when I was alone.  By this time I had collected a Barbie RV, house and boat.... Barbie Town, USA was doing well.  I spent a lot of time rearranging my handmade furniture and dressing and redressing my Barbies.  I escaped through my Barbies.  I made them beautiful homes and put together make believe families.  I never pretended that I was Barbie.... I was always Barbie's baby.  Barbie was a good mother.

One day I came home from school and my mother was packing away all my Barbie stuff in my duffel bag.  I was mad because the house I had set up took a lot of time!  "What are you doing!  I made that!" She ignored my question and said, "Gary is in the car, go get in the back seat and wait for me."  We drove to a pawn shop.  I watched her get out with my duffel bag full of barbies and walk in the shop.  I screamed.  I tried to open the door, but the child locks were on.  In a panic I tried to roll down the window so I could climb out, but Gary made me stop.  After a while my mother came back out of the shop ......... and she didn't have my duffel bag with her. 

I didn't cry then... I didn't do anything.  I was afraid to do anything.  I wanted to pretend it didn't happen.  My mother pawned my Barbie dolls... not for bill money.. not for food... but for drugs.  I couldn't believe she had done that... I made myself numb so I wouldn't have to feel the hurt.  I wasn't hurt because my toys were gone, I was hurt because my mommy was the kind of mother who would sell her kids toys for drugs....  I had to pretend it didn't happen, it was too scary to think about what she might do next.  Making a scene about it only felt like I would be letting everyone know that my mother didn't love me... and I loved her so much and wanted her to love me back.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Diggin' For Treasure (Ch. 7)

Not long after we moved in at Cypress Street my mother entered into a very abusive relationship with a man named Fred that went on for about five years.   He lived in a pirate ship.  It was a one story house with wooden beams covering a walk way to the front porch.  On top of these beams he had placed old glass bottles, nailed rusted pieces of machinery to the sides and glued old coins.  Near the front door there was also a giant white sea shell about the size of a small sofa.  The inside of the house was filled with treasures.  
Fred's house

The front room was lined with shelves of beautiful china and glass vases.  Every room had hardwood floors and walls covered with things like old Coca Cola signs, license plates and old movie posters from the 1960's.  The living room had a loft like area that was carpeted and you could climb up there like it was a giant bed.  The walls and ceiling in this room were covered in old toys, coins, and Small appliances.  There was an old metal fan glued on the ceiling, next to it there was a large figurine of a T-Rex and next to that a Stretch Arm Strong doll.  They were all glued upside down and looked like they were defying gravity.  Fred looked just like Hulk Hogan, he was an antique collector, a credit card fraud and a drug dealer.  He was the closest thing I had to a father in the time my mother had me in California and I loved him. 

We use to go on these excursions together that Fred called "goin diggin".  He would break out his metal detector and we would set out to an open field.  We would dig these massive excavation sites that were sometimes up to 8 feet deep.  I was always in charge of the shifter, which was a large screen he had nailed to four posters of wood.  I would shift through piles and piles of dirt looking for pieces of glass, pottery, jewelry and old coins.   We were treasure hunters.

Fred use to help me with my spelling words and math homework.  From him, I learned that getting good grades in school was important.  I learned to have good manners.. "Yes, please" and "No, thank you."  He called me "Turd Knocker." :)  That was me.... Turd Knocker.  When we would ride in the car somewhere I would have to battle "The Claw!"  If the music was on, his arm would start twitching and he would say, "Oh no!!!  It's The Claw!!  I can't stop it!!!  The Claaawww!"  Then he would clamp his hand on my knee tickling me.  I would reach over frantic and shut the radio off and "The Claw" would die and go limp.  He would smile at me and say, "Well, that was a close one!"  We couldn't drive around anywhere with the radio on!  "The Claw" was always lurking.

Mixed in with these good memories are darker ones.  Memories of Fred telling me to go outside and play while him and my mother fought.  Most fights got physical and afterwards my mother would be covered in bruises and every so often she would have a broken arm.  Once he broke both of her legs... although I'm not sure how it happened.  I was always caught up in the middle, running around to all the neighbors houses to call the police, sure that he was going to kill my mother.  Tears streaming down my face, "PLEASE! Call 911!  He's killing her, he's killing her!"  

My mother would be so angry at me every time I called 911 and when the police got there she would lie and say it must have been someone else.  She made me lie too.  Fred would cry and get on his knees and beg forgiveness and say he was sorry.  I believe he was always sorry.  I don't think what he did was right, but sometimes I felt like beating the crap out of my mother too.  In a sick way, I understood.  My mother was beautiful, but insane.  If she suffered physical abuse from Fred, Fred suffered verbal abuse from her. 

Despite all the violence, I felt safe at Fred's.  I was never ever hit or abused there.  Mentally I'm not sure I can say it was the healthiest place to be though.  Most nights my mother even made dinner for Fred.  I don't think she would have made dinner if it were just for me.  But Fred made sure I ate.  If I didn't clear my plate I was punished... actually it was the dog that got punished. 

My mother always seemed to put too much food on my plate and I would whine, "I'm fullll."  I used a high pitched baby voice hoping to get some sympathy.  Fred would look at me and tell me in a clipped voice to, "EAT OR ELSE," and I would start to cry.  Then he would get up and tell me that he was going to go outside and beat the dog till I ate all my food. "You don't want the dog to suffer because of you do you?  Eat!  All of it.... hurry up."  When he said "hurry up" it was in a sing song voice and the first time he threatened this I wasn't sure if he was serious or not.   The door slammed behind him and soon, sure enough I heard the dog cry.  Her wailing would continue till I shoved every last bite of food as fast as I could in my mouth.  An empty plate was a happy plate, for me and the dog. 

 Fred and my mother also had a bad habit of thinking I was asleep and having sex with me in the same bed as them.  I remember thinking that it wasn't normal for them to be doing that...  but at 7, I decided that life in the pirate ship wasn't that bad compared to having to go back over the child molester's house or live with all the lunatics on Cypress Street.  I wanted to stay.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Don't be a Baby (Ch. 6)

Note to reader:
Note: On reading this back I wanted to delete some parts of this memory, but then I realized that this is not something I should be ashamed of.  Child molestation shouldn't be a disgusting secret kept hidden in the hearts of it's victims.  The idea that this is so horrible it shouldn't be talked about is the reason so many kids don't speak out about it.  So even though it's makes me very uncomfortable, I'm leaving the details there for you to read.

I have no witty words for you, or appropriate pictures to include in this chapter.  All I have are these ugly words and memories, some so ugly I've had to black them out.

Buffalo Springfield's "For What It's Worth" makes me sick to my stomach every time I hear it.  I use to sing karaoke to that song back when I was in first grade for a man named Frank.  Frank was a fat white man, with red chubby cheeks and bad body odor.  His shirts were always wet with perspiration and his face shinny and greasy.  He was a heavy breather.  He was friends with my mother.... he had a karaoke machine.... and a water bed.  

This is a hard for me to write about. 

I can't remember where my mother was the first time it happened.  I was alone with him and he was letting me play with his karaoke machine.  I knew all the words to "For What It's Worth", so I sang that for him over and over.  He told me to pretend I was a real singer and dance while I performed.  I danced.  He asked me to come and sit next to him.  He picked me up and put me on his lap. Then he molested me.  I squirmed under his grip and tried to roll away from him.  He used his other arm to wrap around my waist and hold me there.  He was breathing heavy and his sweat was soaking through his shirt and I could feel it wet behind my back.  I knew this was bad.  I knew he was a bad bad man.  I felt helpless and terrified.  I was praying to God....the Holy Spirit, even the Spirits in my father's stories, and to anyone... for anyone.. to come so it would end.  

I don't remember how long it went on for, but I remember afterwards I felt like I had done something "bad".  I felt ashamed.  I didn't tell anyone.  I felt like this horrible thing had happened to me... and now it made me ... bad.  I felt like some how his disgusting sweat had rubbed off on me and I couldn't wash it off.  I was disgusting now too.  I couldn't let anyone know.

Every time we went over Frank's house after that I did everything in  my power not to be left alone with him.  He tried to get me to sing on his karaoke machine and I just shook my head like I was embarrassed.  My mom teased me and told me things like.. "You are not embarrassed!  Stop acting like a baby!  You always sing at home."  I never sang over there again.  I could feel his eyes watching me.  His fat fingers were always finding their way to my skin.  He would put his hand up the back of my shirt when my mother made me hug him hello, rest his hand on my leg if I were forced to sit next to him, and caress my arm if I walked by him.

One night they were planning on having a BBQ.  My mother got there early to help do the cooking.  It was just me, my mom and Frank.  I suddenly developed an interest in learning how to BBQ.  My mother realized as we were setting up that she didn't have enough meat and decided to run across the street to the grocery store.  She wanted me to stay with Frank while she went.  I shook my head at her in horror and started to whine, "Please mom, let me go?...  Pretty please with a cherry on top?"  Inside my head my pleads were much more desperate. Please NO, don't leave me here, don't leave me here with him, nooo nooo nooo  nooo nooo."  I started to cry.  She rolled her eyes and told me to stop.  "Why are you being such a baby?" ..... Because I'm only 7....

 When she left I stood there staring at the closed door for a few seconds with my back to Frank, afraid to turn around.  I was so terrified I couldn't breath, goosebumps spread all over my arms and my heart started to beat too fast.  He called me to him.  He made me stand between his legs and grabbed my hand and it put it down his pants.  It was disgustingly hot and damp.  I pulled out my hand immediately.  He put it back.  I pulled it out again and he put it back... again and again and more forcibly every time.  Then he picked me up in frustration, sat me next to him and started to touch me.  His breath came out in a struggle and his sweat dripped off his head onto the skin on my thighs.  He took his hand out of my panties and rubbed it all over his sweaty face and  and then shoved his fingers in my mouth.

I wish I could forgive this man.  As a Christian I know I should forgive him.  But I cannot. 

There are kids out there that are living with a disgusting secret.  A secret they think makes them "bad". Please, please listen to your children...... and please find out why they are crying ............... before you call them a "baby.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Living With Lunatics (Ch. 5)

The same year I started school my mother started spending a lot of time with a man named Dudley.  He was a large, pale, white man with black greasy hair and a goofy disposition.  I liked him.  He was kind to me and never hurt me.  My mother met him through Rudy.  We went back and forth between living with Dudley and staying at Rudy's.  I liked it over at Dudley's because he had a huge movie collection and an entire room devoted to a Star Wars collection.  I thought it was awesome.  He had the figurines, the ships, costumes, masks, and these cool props they used in the movies.  Dudley use to let me go in his room and watch all the movies I wanted.  His bed sheets hadn't been washed in who knows how long, it was always damp with his sweat from the night before and was covered in crumbs, but I didn't mind about things like that when I was 7.  I preferred the Twilight Zone shows, but I also enjoyed Invasion of The Body Snatchers and The Blob.  He had lots of old classic Sci-Fi stuff.  (I still have a fondness for anything Sci-Fi to this day.) 

 Dudley also lived with this mysterious thin black woman, she was neat and always very grumpy.  I was afraid of her because whenever she was around my mother would say, "Shhh! She's here, don't say anything!"  Dudley's lady friend was never home and when she was she always stayed in her room.  I don't think she was supposed to know we were staying there.  I was a curious child.  I wanted to know about this lady.  My mother described her to a few of her friends as "straight and narrow minded."  She seemed normal to me.  Normal was something I wanted.  So, I use to spy on her.  I would follow her around with my eyes when she was in the room.  If she was in the kitchen, I made sure I had something to do in there.  She wouldn't speak to me, but sometimes I thought I saw a small smile on her face when she caught me looking at her.  Then she would go in her room and close the door.  I wanted desperately to go into her room with her.  It seemed so safe in there.  She always closed the door and left me standing outside of it with the crazies though.  Normal wasn't for me I guess.

Dudley was crazy.  I'm not sure if it was because he was on drugs, or because he had some kind of mental disorder. He use to say strange things to me like... "What did you just say???? You just said angels had 11 toes instead of 10!  Why did you say that??"  His eyes would get really big and he would look at me like I was a magical fairy revealing how to find the gold at the end of the rainbow.  He spoke too quickly and his words would mumble together.  He smiled a lot too.  He made me laugh..."Crazy Dudley!"  Sometimes he would scare me though.  He would talk about demons and "dark entities".  Once we were driving down the road at night and he jerked the car around in a U-turn and pointed down the road. "See that???  What is that?  That dark cloud we just went through.  It had eyes!"...  I wouldn't know what to say when he said things like that, so I just didn't say anything.  I was afraid the air between us was hidden with mines and if I spoke the words might trigger him to actually lose his mind.

Dudley took it upon himself once to take me to church.  We went to a black gospel church.  It was my first experience with religion.  I LOVED it.... at first.  The music was the most spectacular thing I had ever heard and the pastor spoke every word out of his mouth like it was the last sentence he would ever utter.  I was fascinated!  At the end of the service people were going up and getting a dot of oil on their head. I watched as each person went up, received the smear of oil from the pastor and then fell down shaking on the floor.  Dudley said it was the Holy Spirit in them.  I thought, "Scary, I hope the Holy Spirit isn't in me!"  Dudley wanted me to go and get oil on my head when it was our turn.  I didn't want to go, but he made me. 

I got up to the pulpit and the pastor dotted my head and took both of his hands and pushed my head back... hard.  I stumbled and then stood back up and just stared at him.  "Why did he push me like that!?"  I was in shock I think.  Then out from the side pews two ladies grabbed me and started saying prayers over me to get the evil out.  "We command you to leave this child demon! Let the Holy Spirit into her heart!"..... I was a smart kid and I gathered that they wanted that "Holy Spirit" Dudley was talking about to be in me like all the other people... So I decided the best thing to do was pretend.  Lights, Camera, Action!  I started shaking.....  I shook my little body like I was being electrocuted! I fell back on the floor and I rolled my eyes in the back of my head.  I even wiggled my tongue all around in my mouth and mumbled like some of others I saw were doing. (I was a very thorough child :).....  They were very pleased with themselves when it was all over.  I was too...    I felt like I was in an episode of one of the Twilight Zones... I was just missing the narrator......  I decided after that I didn't like church.

Dudley let me turn his Star Wars room into my baby doll nursery.  I had a "Baby So Real".  It ate real food and even peed and pooped!  I was very serious about taking care of my baby. In the mornings after I got myself ready for school I would wake my mom up before I left and tell her, "make sure you take care of my baby, don't let anyone get her."  I would worry about her all day, afraid that one of my mother's crack head friends would steal her.  That baby was the most important thing in my life.  I always came home to find her right where I left her.  I would be so relieved!  Then one day I came home and opened the door to the Star Wars room and knew right away that something horrible had happened. 

I felt my stomach drop and couldn't breath.  My baby wasn't in there.  Panic rose in my chest till it was an apple in my throat  causing my eyes to water.  I felt like collapsing right there on the floor and sobbing.  I knew my mom wasn't a normal mom, and I knew that meant I didn't get to be a normal kid.  So I was set on making sure my baby doll was going to have what I didn't.  I showed it love and attention, I fed it and cleaned it and kept it safe..... as safe as I could.  So I lost more than a baby doll when I couldn't find it. 

I ran looking for my mom and halted in my tracks when I got to the living room.  There on the sofa was my baby!  She was set up against a pillow with a coloring book on her lap and a crayon leaning on her hand.  I looked at my mom is disbelief.  You are playing with my baby? I went over and looked at the coloring book and at the top there was a heart with the word "Mommy" inside.  My baby had drawn me a picture!  My mother laughed when she saw the joy in my face and gave me a hug.  She said, "your baby just really missed you so I thought I would play with her till you got back."  I was speechless.  She continued... "Well, now your home and we could all play together if you want... unless you think it's time for a nap."... A nap!!  I thought that was hilarious!  I felt like jumping up and down, I wanted to clap my hands and rub them together and get down to business!  It was time to be 7 years old.  I can't remember being more happy in my entire life.  This is my single most treasured memory of my mother.

Most of my memories at Dudley's were of trying to convince my mom that she was hallucinating.  I was her "reality check".  She'd take a shower and hop out soaking wet saying, "Who is here!  What are they saying to you?"  I'd take a deep breath and explain to her for the third time that there weren't any people here at all...... There are no UFO's outside.  No, you are the only one who can see the man's face in the fire hydrant.  The room isn't any smaller than it was yesterday.  No, I can't hear the ringing.  There's no one outside.  She was captivated by mirrors and windows and could spend hours peeking outside.  She was worried about someone coming for some reason, so I was constantly being called to take a quick look and see if ..."the white car outside was the same one there five minutes ago, or if it was a new one."  Or something along those lines.   Sometimes I would get tired of her madness and  I would play cruel tricks on her.  "MOM!  Look, there's a man outside the window..... he said the man in the fire hydrant is talking about you!".....  A 7 year old only has so much patience when it comes to dealing with lunatics.  Night time was the worst.  I had monsters in my closet, and my mother was the only one who could see them.  I peed my pants a lot because I was too afraid to get up to go to the bathroom.... I always had a rash because of it.