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.

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