Wednesday, May 30, 2012

A Steep Price To Pay (Ch. 31)

I knew that there would be a price to pay to live at Bills; I just had no idea how steep it would be.  I knew the way my world worked, and I accepted it.  I lived two lives at Bills; one I spent acting like a 12 year old little girl, and the other I spent with a chair wedged under the door handle to my room, in case Bill tried to visit me in the night.

My life was a balancing act.  I had to make sure Bill loved me, but not too much...  I walked a fine line between childhood and adulthood.  If I crossed over too far into one or the other things got dangerous for me.  If I was too childish I was afraid I would annoy him and he would turn me out.  If I was too adult like, I was afraid he might rape me...

That year passed by quickly.  Crystal spent almost everyday at my house and we made memories to last a lifetime.  We went toilet papering around the neighborhood, we had seances, went out with boys, had food fights, and fought like sisters.  It was a happy time.  We made promises to each other about the future.  Crystal had lived a hard life also and she didn't come from a place much better than mine.  We knew we didn't to want grow up to be like our mothers.  We knew one day we would have houses and husbands and careers and we vowed to be apart of each other's lives forever.  I shared almost everything with Crystal, everything but my ugly secret about Bill.

Bill use to like to dress me up and we'd have photo shoots.  He would have me do a catwalk down the living room and would snap the camera away.  He'd tell me I was sexy and call me "baby".  "Ohh Baby!  Ohh Baby!"  I liked feeling beautiful.  Bill would laugh and tell me I was a natural.  I liked being good at something.  If he tried to touch me, even just one little caress on my arm, I'd shy away.  I kept him always at an arms distance.  I knew what he wanted, and I wanted to keep him wanting it.  His "want" was the only thing keeping a roof over my head and I knew it.

Life had made me incredibly bright and resourceful for a 12 year old and like my mother, I was a skilled manipulator.  Not quite as skilled as Bill though.  I got so lost in the way my world worked, that it became normal for me.  I felt a sort of closeness to Bill.  We both shared this dysfunctional life together... and so far he hadn't touched me. 

One night Bill and I had gotten drunk on gin together.  It was my first time drinking liquor.  He kept refilling every glass I finished.  Once I had my first sip, I couldn't get enough!  The more alcohol I filled in myself, the emptier I felt.  All the things I held inside of me felt weightless and they drifted away...  That first drink clicked on a switch inside of me.  It was the same switch that made my mother a drug addict and the same switch that would one day lead me to the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous.

When I woke up the next morning, I was lying on the sofa and my pants were undone and down near my thighs.  The area between my legs was sore.  I felt sicker than I had ever felt in my entire life and I was sure I was dying.  When I sat up the entire room started spinning.  With the spinning room, memories started coming to me from the night before.  Little still frames of images of what happened popped into my minds eye.  "No no no no", I whimpered. 

I made my way to my room and lay down on the cold wood floor near the door.  I fell apart.  I cried like a baby.  I cried for what had happened to me, and because I didn't know what to do next. I cried because I was alone and had no one to go to.  But mostly I cried because I was ashamed.  I got out my mother's old phone book and started dialing feverishly.  Fred's number was out of order; all the numbers were out of order!  I found one number that worked and I let it ring and ring.  I called it back 20, 50, 100 times and let it ring on and on.  I cried and hugged the phone and begged for someone to answer the phone!  No one answered. 

I heard Bill's car pull up the driveway and I froze.  I ran and grabbed my desk chair to shove under the door handle.  Then I sat silent...waiting for him.  I felt pure terror!  He came to my door, knocking gently.  "Are you OK baby?  I know you must be feeling bad.  We both got a little out of hand last night and drank too much!  I can't remember a damn thing!  Can you?"  He was giving me a choice.  I could pretend not to remember.  I thought about it for a couple seconds and realized it was my only option.  What else can I do?...  I have nowhere to go.  I spoke in the voice of a young child, hoping to remind him that I was only 12 years old.  "I have no idea what happened!  And I'm never drinking again!"  Bill laughed, deep and throaty.  He told me to come out when I was feeling better and we'd go get some food.

I dried my tears and shoved my newest ugly secret deep deep inside of me.  I didn't tell Crystal or anyone else.  I couldn't.  I felt partly responsible.  I was bad.  I would pretend that I wasn't bad, I would pretend that Bill wasn't bad.... and if I did this, I could stay.  I could stay and still have Crystal and my room and my school and my sleepovers. 

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Abandoned (Ch. 30)

Staying with Doug in the mountains was a temporary thing, as were most of the places we stayed.  I was tired of living out of a suitcase.  We were now receiving checks from social security from my dad's death.  It wasn't much, but it was something to work with.   I started making calls.  I knew Fred was a no go and decided the safest person for me to call next was Larry.  "I get $300 a month Larry, and I can pay for you to come and get us and let us stay at that house you had."  Larry told me that he didn't think that was a good idea because of what had happened between him and my mother.  I tried to convince him otherwise.  He told me he was sorry.

I went on to the next number.  I had the number for a man named Bill who my mother and I had met through Larry when we lived in the Valley.  He was a gambler and Larry introduced us to him on a trip we took to a casino one time.  He gave my mother his card and with a wink said if she ever needed anything to call him.  I knew what card I had to play and I played it.  I made my mother call him.  "Tell him you broke up with Larry and want to see him."  My mother rolled her eyes at me and said, "What are you my pimp now?" Then she threw her head back and laughed.   I kept my face emotionless.  This was not a joke to me...  I wanted to shove the phone in her face and press it in till her head caved in.  "Call him." I said through gritted teeth.

She did call him, and soon we were on our way back to the Valley.  He agreed to rent us a room in his house for $300 a month.  He was not as well off as Larry and his gambling was part of the reason.  He lived in a one-story house with more than half of it closed off due to water damage.  The front yard was nothing but dirt, dried up brush and wind blown tumble weeds.  A tree was lying across the yard uprooted like it had just fallen; only it had been there for years.  Bill was a short, stout, balding Italian with a big nose and loud mouth.  He had a northern accent and I liked the way he talked.

I had gotten us to Bills, and once we got there it was like my mother had woken up and realized that our roles were reversed.  She immediately went about trying to claim back her motherhood it seemed.  She got a job and did some work around the house too.  I was impressed, but wary.  I didn't believe it would last, but I made the best of it while I could.

I turned 12 and started at a new school for the beginning of 8th grade.  The other children gave me the cold shoulder, but I was use to that.  What I wasn't use to was being befriended.  On my third day of school a girl with blond hair with severely plucked eyebrows came up to me at lunch and asked me if I wanted to sit with her and her friends.  I said yes.  Weeks later I had severely plucked eyebrows too, and I had a best friend, who would one day become as close to me as a sister.  When everyone in my life would abandon me... she stayed.  When I found myself running away from everything... it was her I turned to. She changed my life and she saved my life.  Her name is Crystal. 

That school year Crystal practically lived over at Bills with my mother and me.  My mother got her eyebrows plucked too.  For a little while I forgot about what it was like to be hungry, dirty, homeless, afraid, and hurt.  I could not forget what it was like to have a mother who was insane though.  My mother's mental health deteriorated.  She lost her job.  She did nothing but sleep from morning till night.  When she was awake it was scary.  Sometimes when she spoke to me it would be in the voice of a baby.  I looked at her with my eyes wide opened and unbelieving... like a deer caught in the headlights of a speeding car.  I was terrified of her when she used that voice.  It was like there was someone else that lived inside of her... and who ever they were, they were angry.  

She would pout and stomp her feet and pull out her hair.  I couldn't ever understand what was wrong though.  Sometimes she would wake up and run out of the room in a panic.  She'd frantically search through all the drawers and yell at me in a loud whisper, "find it! You find it right now or I'll give you something to cry about!  She would bend her entire body over and shake her head like she was trying to put all her energy into her scream, "FIND IIIIIITTTT!!!..."I ran around the house crying, flinging open cabinets and looking under couch cushions.  I never had any idea what I was looking for, but I looked for it anyway.

The first time my mother left me with Bill I was relieved.  The house was peaceful and quiet.  She was gone for two weeks.  Bill took care of me.  He got me to school, treated me to dinner and even took me to a movie.  When my mother came back I teamed up with Bill against her and accused her of being high on drugs.  I felt like I finally had someone I could rely on.  He didn't care about whatever my mom had to offer.  He wanted to help ME.  We searched through her bags and told her to come back when she was clean.  She was gone for a month.... When she came back she had found all of her stuff outside in a box.  Bill had moved it out there in case she came back when we weren't home and needed her things.  It had rained and everything was mildewed.  She cried about finding all of her clothes like that and I felt like someone had stabbed me in the chest. 

Love hurts you the most physically in the chest, right below where your neck meets your torso.  Suffering from a broken heart is a beautiful analogy, but it also makes sense physiologically to me too.  It did feel like my heart was broken.  I made my mother cry.  That box was all she had, and I was all she had.  I had helped put the box together and placed it outside with Bill.   I looked at my mother as she stood there shifting her weight back and forth, unable to keep her head still because of all the drugs running through her blood stream.  She took a big drag of her cigarette and yelled at the guy waiting in the car for her, and at that moment my heart hardened.  She doesn't love me.... She only cares about her drugs... I should be the one crying! 

She wanted me to come with her and leave Bills.  I wanted to go to school and have sleepovers and let Crystal pluck my eyebrows.  I cried and begged my heart not to betray me.  God, I loved her so much.  But I wanted to stay.  I thought about where my mother and me might end up next...  I thought about all the places we had been.  I thought that if I stayed maybe she would have another "awakening" and get another job.  Maybe she would stop doing drugs.  Maybe she would miss me decide that she loved me enough to change.  I ran in the house and locked the door behind me.  Bill threatened to call the police and she took off.  My mother left...... and she never came back.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Are You My Mother? (Ch. 29)

My mother and I made our way up to the mountains and stayed with a man named Doug.  The Arrow Head Mountains were beautiful!  Through breaks in the trees you could look down to San Bernardino below and see all the smog everyone lived under.  I felt like I had escaped from somewhere I didn't know I needed escaping from.  Doug worked at the ski resort; he was an average man with brown hair and brown eyes and had a tendency to act childish, which I liked.  He lived in a house with his father who seemed to me to be about 100 years old.  His father sat in the same chair all the time connected to an oxygen machine.  He smelled like pee and something sweet.  It wasn't the kind of sweet smell that made you think of candy or something delicious, it was the sweet smell of death and decay.  A sweet sickening smell.  I hated to be around him.

My mother settled into to her own regular routine of sleeping all day and I spent my time going to work with Doug or riding around doing errands with his neighbor Beth.  Because Doug worked at the ski resort, I got to ski for free.  The first day I followed behind a group of beginners taking a class and learned the basics.  Then I left the bunny hill in search of something more challenging and by the end of the day I thought I was going to be at the next Olympics winning gold!  I felt so free when I was skiing.  It was so easy to pretend I was someone else. 

With the wind whipping though my hair and the trees flying by me at a million miles an hour... I could have even been a bird.  I imagined I was the little lost bird from "Are You My Mother" by P.D. Eastman.  Is the woman at the ski lift my mother?  Is the waitress at the Ice Bar my mother?  Is the lady in the pink snowsuit and matching hat my mother?  No.... My mother is a drug addict who's been asleep for three days straight and talks to imaginary "shadow people" who I cannot hear or see.  My mother is a hitch hiker and a prostitute... a liar and a thief.  Actually, my mother is a child and I am her mother, so that makes me my own mother... or does that make me motherless...?

Doug's neighbor Beth was an interesting woman...  She had a lot of brown curly hair that she teased up all around her head like a big halo.  Beth liked to garden.  She wanted her front yard to look like a field of wild flowers, but she didn't have the money for the flowers.  So she use to drive me around to shopping centers and have me hop out of the car and rip plants up by the roots and throw them in the back of her jeep.  Then we would take off by what Beth called, "Putting the petal to the metal!"  I thought it was exciting.  I felt like I was playing some kind of game like capture the flag.  I was Robin Hood, stealing from the rich and giving to poor! 

Beth didn't arrange the flowers in beds or in any type of design.  She just picked a spot, dug a hole and there it went.  By the end of the summer instead of it looking like a field of wild flowers it looked like the Lawn & Garden Center had thrown up on it.  Parts of the garden resembled a cemetery with the way the flowers were spaced about and other parts looked like maybe the flowers were just a cover up to hide secret landmines and booby traps.  I liked Beth.

Beth was recently divorced and had lost custody of her little boy and told me that I reminded her of him.  She was a drug addict like my mom and I was happy for her little boy.  I hoped his dad wouldn't die like mine.  I asked if I could meet him one day.... Maybe his dad could meet my mom and see that I needed saving too.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Dirty Laundry (Ch. 28)

After couch crashing at a few of my mother's friends we eventually found our way back to Fred's house.  To my horror Bird Bird was not there.  Fred told me that he had given him away to a friend who was going to take good care of him till me and my mom had a place to live.  I suspected he was lying, but it hurt too much to think otherwise.  I had bigger problems than a pet bird to worry about, no matter how much I loved him. 

I was worried about getting to school and I was worried about what we were going to eat.  I didn't know if tomorrow we would end up some place I wouldn't be able to take a bath, or if I would have an opportunity to wash our clothes.  Fred and my mother were no longer together and it was made clear to us that we could not stay there long. 

As Fred and my mother watched T.V., I stared down at my hands and thought about all the things an 11 year old shouldn't have to worry about.  "Mom.... mom!  We should wash our clothes.... hello!  Earth to Susan!"  I let out an exaggerated sigh and walked out to the back yard.  After a while Fred walked out and gave me a good look over.  A few seconds later he said, "You know... you're a good kid.  Don't worry so much though... Things are going to be OK."  I looked at him like he was the biggest idiot I had ever seen.

"How are things going to be OK!?"  I yelled and then I started crying...  The only thing that I could think about right then was our laundry.  I couldn't think past clean clothes.  It was too hard.... It was too much.  "I... want... her... to... clean... our... clothes." I said in between sobs.  My tearful request sounded ridiculous even to me... Who cries over dirty laundry?  My tears weren't over dirty laundry, but I couldn't admit this... I wasn't strong enough.  Miss Kitty was wrong.  I'm not strong... I can't even clean our clothes without crying like a baby!   

Fred knew why I was crying... and he opened his arms to me.  I let him hug me and then we sat down on the back porch.  Fred apologized to me.  "I know I did a lot of wrong things, I hope one day you will understand all this... I'm sorry, you know that don't you?"  I didn't know how to feel about this or what to say.  There was a long silent pause in our conversation and then he took his hand and scuffed up the hair on my head, "OK, go play Turd Knocker."

The clothes did get cleaned and I fell asleep on the loft thinking about Little Joe.  Fred said him and his mom were coming over tomorrow.  I hadn't seen Little Joe for about a year and couldn't wait to see him!  The next day I put on my nicest pair of blue jeans and brushed my hair every 15 minutes while I waited for them. 

When his mom's car pulled up I ran to the bathroom, straightened my clothes and put on my cherry flavored lip-gloss.  When I was satisfied with myself I went to go back out to the front room and I was just about to turn the corner into the living room when I heard Fred say, "Oh she's in the bathroom, she heard you were here Joe and ran in there to brush her hair! Ha Ha Ha"  I was mortified!  I walked out in the living room anyway.  My face felt hot and my heart was beating right in my throat.  Joe took one look at me and smiled.  "Let's go out to the backyard."

I sat on the swing and he told me about how for the past year he wasn't even living with his mom.  He said he lived with his friend and his friend's parents.   He told me about how he was into motor cross now and was going to be a racecar driver.  He had his hair gelled into spikes and had grown about three inches.  He was so tall!  I was infatuated.  He asked me if I wanted to go with him and his sister to the creek that day and I eagerly agreed.

We spent the afternoon holding hands at the creek.  We sat down awkwardly with his hand behind my back in what was supposed to be a comfortable embrace.  He even let me sit on his shirt when we decided to take a break from hiking around so I wouldn't get dirty.  He helped me across the rocky trails and once when I fell, he picked me up and sat me on a log to examine my scratched knee. 

Later that night back at Fred's, Little Joe and me sat together on the loft.  Fred and my mom were arguing in the back bedroom and Little Joe reached over and just held my hand.  I didn't want to let go.  I felt like if Little Joe was with me... that maybe I could do the laundry without crying.  I wasn't alone.  Joe kissed me that night.  It was just an innocent little peck, but it made me feel loved.  I wanted so badly to be loved.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Being My Mother's Mother (Ch. 27)

After my father's death it was discovered that there was money that could be collected for me from Social Security.  The initial payout was around 6 thousand dollars and to me and my mother this was a fortune.  My mother left Larry and moved us into another studio apartment right down the street from Fred's house.  The apartment was only about 400 square feet, with the kitchen, living room and bedroom all fitting in just one room.  It had a fenced in little garden too.  I was enrolled back in the same school I had left a year ago.  The same school where I had no friends and had to spend lunch in the teacher's room so the other kids wouldn't make fun of me. 

I was happy that my mother and me could be on our own though.  Living with Larry was exhausting for me.  I couldn't even enjoy all the activities Larry put me in because I was too worried about my mother doing something to upset him.  I had to constantly watch her and make sure she didn't sneak off with the newest boyfriend offering her a quick high.  I dreaded the nights Larry came over because that meant I had to get my mother up and presentable.  Getting your mother bathed and dressed when you are 10 years old is a very tall order... and one that made it impossible to ignore how messed up my home life really was.  It was depressing.

When we got the money my mother was kind of awakened.  I think she felt some hope.  I did too.  I did not realize that 6 thousand dollars was not enough to live off of for very long.  When we first got the money my mother said, "Baby, this is your daddy's money that he worked for, so that makes it your money, and I'm NOT going to spend one dime of it on me!  We are getting our own place and we can spend it how you want." 

My mother had a lot of confidence in my ability to be responsible.  She believed herself, and I believed her too.  The first week in our new place was spent going on shopping sprees at the grocery store.  I loved buying food.  I got new clothes too and all seemed to be going well.  I also decided that it was a good idea to spend more than $800 on collectible stuffed animals.  "Mom, this one Beanie Baby is only $50 and in a few years it's going to be worth $500!"  I was making investments!.....  A few weeks later the money was gone. 

I had just walked home from school and was singing along to Whitney Houston's "I Will Always Love You" and looking in the fridge when she came in, slamming the front door.  She stomped her foot on the floor and shook her head back and forth violently.  She started crying and sat down on the bed.  I was cautious.  This was not an abnormal occurrence.  My mother was insane and she often went through manic episode of distress.  Most of the time she would just cry and mumble curses to herself, like she was trying to hex the world for doing wrong to her or something.  The times she hit herself or pulled out her hair concerned me though.

"I lost all the money.. it's gone, I'm so sorry!"  My mother wailed.  "I only wanted to give us a better life.... I'm sorry!  I'm sorry!"  I let what she said sink in.....  We have no money?... there will be no food... we will get evicted.  I started to tear up, not from sadness, but from anger.  I was overflowing with anger and it spilled out in my tears.  "You spent our money!  You lost it at the casino didn't you!  It's all gone?!"  Then I started to cry... What would we do?  My mother tried to hug me and I reached out to hit her!  She stood there stunned and just looked at me.  I was stunned too.

I ran out the front gate and went to Fred's house.  I told him what happened and told him not to let her in, no matter what.  He smirked at me and nodded his head in understanding.  I cried and cried to him and soon I heard my  mother at the door.  She was irate!  I could hear her out there making threats and banging on the door and windows.  She was crying and completely distraught.  I'm the one that should be upset!  I thought. She always did this.  She always overshadowed my hurt.  She always acted like the only pain that mattered was hers.

My little heart hardened and I wanted to punish her!  If she wants to be upset, I'll give her something to be upset about!  I had been my mother's mother for awhile now and expressions like this were constantly running through my mind.   I heard Fred use them or got them from the TV shows I watched.  It was easier for me to be a parent if I pretend that I was no longer a child.  I played the part as best I could and developed a very adult like way of speaking by the time I was 11. 

I called the police. 
"911 Emergencies, what is your emergency?"

"My mom is high on drugs and trying to hurt me, her name is Susan _________ and she has warrants out for her arrest too."

I gave them the address and then walked out the door to go back home and get my things together.  I figured they would take me now, and I wanted to have my things.  My mother was outside waiting.

"I called the cops, they are on the way to arrest you and I'm going to live with foster parents!"  I walked with my head held high and tried not to cry.  My mother put her hand on her heart and gasped, "No!  Why would you do that! No no no.. Pleeeeaassse!"  Then she fell on the ground in the middle of the road and cried.  I turned around, walked away and left her there.  I knew it was an act.  In less than a minute she was running up behind me talking a mile a minute.  "Baby, I'm sorry, please don't do this, we can go somewhere else, I have a place we can go, I had it all set up, don't worry." 

I made it to our house and started packing my things.  I had a hard time getting everything together because of all my collectible Beanie Babies.  When I got finished I had 4 garbage bags full of stuff and didn't know what to do next.  I looked at my mother crying on the bed and took a long shaky breath in.  What have I done?

I couldn't leave her.  I let the tears stream down my face and went to her.  She took me in her arms and whispered to me over and over, "I'm sorry...I love you, I love you, I love you, ssshhhhh, I love you."... I knew she loved me... She just didn't know how to love me the right way.  I stood stiff in her arms and starred off into space... thinking about what would happen to us next.

My mother called for a ride and we packed up all of our things and skipped out before the cops showed up.  I had a hard time leaving Bird Bird, but my mother promised me that we would call Fred to come and get him on our way to where ever we were going.  After all of her lies....  I don't know why I always believed her promises, but I did.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

My Father's Grave (Ch. 26)

After I found out my father had died Larry had somehow convinced my mother that the right thing to do was to give me an opportunity to say goodbye and visit his grave.  He paid for me to fly home to the reservation.  I left my mother in his care.  I was excited about the airplane ride, and extremely curious about the reservation.   I hadn't been there since I was about six years old and remembered very little about it, but I had heard so many stories from my Dad and Uncle Steve.  My mother hugged me goodbye and I left her sobbing near the gate.  As I boarded the plane I pretended I was running away and never coming back.  I smiled to myself, but then an image of my mother, scared, alone and crying ran through my mind.

When the door closed I felt panic rise up from my stomach and I wanted to run back out to her and hug her.  I wanted to scream, "I'm coming back!  Don't worry I'm not leaving you!  I'll never leave you! I'm coming back!"  I just couldn't imagine leaving her.  Larry couldn't take care of her... He didn't know she needed help getting out of bed everyday.  He didn't know she needed someone to remind her the "shadow people" weren't real.  I had to sleep with a kitchen knife under my pillow in case the man that raped her came back.  Would he know to do this?... No, She needed me.  I sat in my chair and stared out my little window.   I pressed my fists into my eye sockets till I saw a kaleidoscope of colors.  I cleared my mind.  I decided that maybe pretending I was someone else, maybe someone going on a vacation, was a better idea.

I took the pain from my father's loss and I put it deep inside myself, next to the nothing place and the place I kept to hide my ugly memories.  Then I went through the pocket in front of my seat and looked at all the safety instructions.  I listened closely to the stewardess as she explained how to put on my seat belt.  I acted like I didn't have a care in the world... I'm just a regular girl on vacation...  I imagined the plane crashing and me being the one to explain to everyone, "If your oxygen bag is not inflated, don't worry! Oxygen is still flowing.  Exits are to the rear! If we need to exit, lift the handle up and press out.  Remember!  Your seat can be used as a floatation device." :)

When I arrived in New Mexico my aunt and cousins were waiting for me by the gate.  They were so excited to see me!  They hugged me and my auntie kissed me and told me how big I got.  I had no idea who they all were.  I just smiled and tried to be helpful.  I wanted them to like me.  I wouldn't let them help me with my suitcase.  I didn't want any part of me being there to be something burdensome for them.

The desert was beautiful.  Miles and miles of sky.  Far off in the distance I could see the outline of mountains.  When the sun started to set, the mountains turned purple and the clouds behind them were pink.  The sun made the whole sky glow with red, orange and yellow.  It was like being in an old western movie with a happy ending... only I was in a mini van instead of bareback on a magnificent stallion... 

After a long drive we arrived on the reservation just before dusk.  It seemed empty and naked to me.  There weren't any trees and the houses were so spread apart.  None of the houses had fences, or yards.  There was no grass, it was just all dirt.  The trees they did have looked more like large bushes and they hardly had any leaves on them at all.  The only thing green that I could see were these waist high shrubs, and a lot of those were brown too.  Something about it was so beautiful though.  All the buildings I saw were either real pueblos made out of clay or they were newer houses designed to look like pueblos on the outside.  It felt like I was in another world.


The next morning when I woke up we went to the river.  As my cousins jumped in and laughed, I stood there looking around at all the other people.  They all looked like me, with dark hair, dark skin and dark eyes.  As I stood there thinking about this I realized I felt like I belonged.  I was suppose to be here.... I was suppose to be jumping in rivers and laughing and looking at beautiful sunsets....  I ran!  I reached the edge of the bank and leaped in!  When I surfaced I felt renewed.  It was like I had washed away all the extra years I had earned by seeing all the things my mother didn't protect me from.  I was a kid again.

The reservation at sunset

Later that day my uncle took me to see my father's grave.  I had to throw spirit food at the gate to the cemetery and ask the spirits to bless us.  The graves in the cemetery were not like the other graves I had seen in California.  These graves looked like someone had been laid right on the surface of the land and just covered up with a mound of dirt.  Each mound was decorated with stones and flowers.  My Dad's grave had a headstone with some flowers, but there weren't any stones around his mound.  My uncle told me it was the family's job to keep the grave site clean of weeds and looking nice.  I got right to work.

I collected as many little round stones as I could find and obsessively stacked them around my father's grave.  I made a little cross out of stones going across the mound like some other graves had.  I worked for about an hour before my uncle told me we had to leave.  I wasn't finished yet though.  I had to finish.  My uncle insisted we had been there long enough and we had to go home now.  I shook my head no and my eyes started watering.  I couldn't leave him there... I wasn't finished yet.  I couldn't hold the hurt in anymore.  I sat down in the dirt, crying into my hands, embarrassed.  My uncle knelt down and grabbed me by my shoulders.  He looked me right in the eyes, with his own tears running down his face and said, "I'm sorry.... Can I help you finish?..."  My words were trapped in the same place my tears were coming from, so I could only nod yes.

The rest of my summer there was spent running around near the river with the other kids.  We were like a pack of wild dogs.  We especially liked to go out when it was raining.  The bank near the river was made mostly out of clay and when it rained it became very slippery.  We would dig out all the rocks and make our own natural water slides into the river.  We used the clay like a paint and covered our entire body and then we'd run through the brush near the river crying out like we were about to conquer the world.  We were conquering the world.

The end of the summer came soon and then it was time for me to leave.  My aunt and uncle drove me to the airport and walked me to the gate.  My uncle bent down to gather me in his arms and told me that he loved me.  Those three little words sparked a desire in me I didn't know I had.  I grabbed on and started bawling.  "Can I stay?... Ask my mom if I can stay.  She can come too.  If you love me then we can come, just ask my mom."  I could barely get the words out I was crying so hard.  My uncle started crying too and my aunt stepped in.  She told me that they would always be there for me, but right now my mom was waiting for me in California.  She said that my mom would be sad if I didn't come home today.  My mom missed me.  As quickly as my tears came, they were gone.  For me, crying like that, was scary.  I had to be strong... I had to be strong or I would die.  Today I was in danger of dying of a broken heart.

Tomorrow I would be in danger of being stabbed to death and raped by a man my mother owed drug money to.

Miss Kitty said I was strong.  I can be strong........  I will not cry.....  I will not cry.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Tears, Tears & More Tears (Ch. 25)

I was in my room playing with Bird-Bird when my mother came in my room talking on the phone.  She had an excited expression on her face and I knew right away that she must be talking to Uncle Steve.  Uncle Steve was the only family member I really knew on my father's side of the family.  Other than my mother's sister, the Mormon, I really didn't know any of my family.  I got to talk to Uncle Steve on the phone a couple times a year and if I was lucky, I'd hear news about my father.  

I missed him so much.  I started to get excited and thought for a second that maybe my Dad was at Uncle Steve's and I'd get to talk to him too!  I held on to the hope that my Dad was going to come and get me... he was just getting things ready.  The idea that I might talk to him.... and that he might come and get me right then was emotional overload for me.  My eyes started to water and my body trembled.   I stood there with my hands balled up and an opened mouthed expression of pure joy on my face.  I had only talked to my dad on the phone a handful of times since we moved to California and every time he told me he would see me soon.  I took this as a promise.  My father is coming to get me! and it might right be now!...

It had been about a year this time since I talked to Uncle Steve.  "Uncle Steve!!!!  Hi!  Are you taking good care of Whitey?  I got a new Box Care Children book.  Remember when you ate that fly! Ha ha." I slapped my knees with both hands and bent over laughing as loud as I could.  When I was happy, I liked to let the world know it.  "Hee hee hee, emmm mae!  Cucuyatramatz!  You made me eat that ca-ca fly!"  He liked to call me by my Native name and spoke to me a lot in our Native language.  To me it was a secret language, a language just between us.

My mother wanted to talk to him about my Dad, but I didn't want to give up the phone, so we put it on speaker phone.  "Steve!  Any news from you know who?" My mother asked......Silence.... My uncle cleared his throat and in a low soft voice said, "Ah, Sue...You don't know? Oh God, Sue... He's.......dead............"

Time stood still for a few seconds and then I took the phone and I threw it against the wall as hard as I could and ran in my room!  I cried and could only breathe by sucking in air in short shallow gulps.    I heard my mom pick up the phone and tell my uncle that I was on the line too and had heard everything.  Then she came in my room and put her arms around me.  "Oh baby, I know, I know, I'm so sorry.  I know, I know..."  I cried in her arms for a few minutes and then I stood up and told her to get out!

She did not know!  She did not know what this meant!  I hated her... I cried and cried till there weren't any tears left in me.  I sat on my bed and stared into space and rocked myself back and forth.  I held my head in my hands and tried to focus on breathing.  I couldn't get any air.  I didn't know what to do.  What would I do?.....  No one was coming for me.  It was just me and my mother now... It was too heavy for me think about.  I couldn't lift my head.  I curled up in a ball on the floor and at 10 years old...I felt true hopelessness.

I found out later that my father had died about a year ago and no one had a way to get in touch with my mother and me to let us know.  Latter Larry paid for me to fly back home to the reservation to visit my father's grave and say good bye.

Time does not always heal all wounds.  The pain of loss still hurts my heart.  It feels empty in there... in my heart.  It feels like my chest might cave in because of the emptiness.  I never got to really know him.  It hurts.  I am comforted by the fact that God loves my father as much or more than I do.  And my father is with him!  This thought fills that emptiness inside of me with peace.  I can breathe.  I can smile through the tears. I can close my eyes and know deep in my soul that my father is in heaven and one day I will see him again.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

The Debt (Ch. 24)

At 3 in the morning there was a loud crash in the kitchen.  I was asleep in my room when it happened and woke up from the noise.  I heard my mother from the hallway, she sounded panicked and scared.  "Baby!?  Where are you!?"  I got out of bed and poked my head out of the door and saw her standing there.  "What was that?" She asked...  How am I supposed to know?  The tone of her voice scared me, and I didn't want to speak, so I shrugged my shoulders instead of answering her.   

She just stood there looking at me.  I looked back at her and then let out a big breath of air.   I felt so tired.  I pulled the blanket tighter around myself and walked out to her.  She let me lead the way to the kitchen to find out what the noise was. 

I found a brick laying on our kitchen floor surrounded by broken glass.  The brick had a note tied around it.  I went to get the note and my mother jumped on it and shoved it in her pocket before I could get to it.  I called Larry.  Larry told me to call the police.  The police came and a report was made.  Nothing was mentioned about the note.

I don't know for sure what the note said because I never saw it.  But I imagined it was some kind of warning.  The only area in the Valley where you could find drugs was a scary place full of gang bangers.  My mother started going there frequently and when Larry noticed, he stopped giving her cash.  The lack of cash did not stop my mother from going.  Several weeks later the gang bangers decided they were not happy with the debt my mother was accruing and they made steps to do something about it... starting with throwing the brick through our window.

Three weeks later, Larry dropped us off at home around midnight after a fun day at Knots Berry Farm.  My mother asked me to sleep with her that night and we were so tired we just crawled into bed with out even brushing our teeth.  A few hours later I woke up because there was someone in our room.

I was sleeping on the side of the bed closest to the wall.  On the floor next to my mom's side of the bed was the figure of a man crawling on the floor.  I thought for a second that I might be having a nightmare.  I reminded myself, there are no such thing as monsters.. there are no such thing as monsters...  But there was a monster.  He was dressed entirely in black and had a black stocking cap on his head.  

He got near the side of the bed and my mother woke up.  She jumped out of bed!  She started talking fast, "I have what you want, it's right here. Relax. I'll go get it. Just relax.  Stay cool.  I have it I have it I have it."  I tried to bury myself in the mattress.  I pulled the covers over me and stopped breathing.  The man on the floor stood up and held a knife out to my mom.  He whispered, "lay the fuck down now, you know why I'm here!"  His voice came out in a hiss.  He was angry! 

"Don't try to play the hero and you won't get don't want your daughter hurt do you!?"  Then he reached over my mother and patted the blankets that were over me!  I recoiled and tried to squeeze in the crack between the bed and the wall.  I can't even describe my fear to you.... It consumed me.  My entire body reacted.  I was shaking, sweating and choking.  It was like the room around me was a vacuum and all the air was getting sucked out of me.  I peed my pants.

My mother whined and in a low voice said, "No, please don't.... please don't..."  For a few seconds everything was quiet.  So quiet....... Then he took his hand off of me and used it to unbuckle his pants.  The clink of his belt being undone sounded almost musical.  Then I heard him undo his zipper.  I saw his other hand near my mother's neck, holding the knife.

He raped my mother.  I could feel them moving.  The noises still haunt my memory.  I heard him hiss out threats at her over and over and I heard her moans.  I could hear him slurp up the saliva that was dripping out of his mouth.  I could hear him breath.  I could hear the slap of his skin against my mothers.  I closed my eyes as the head board banged against the wall.  I tried to go to the place where I didn't exist, but I couldn't.  I stayed there under the covers, laying in my own pee....wishing I was nothing.  My mother needed me, I couldn't abandon her, but I didn't know what to do.

When it was all over and the man had left, my mother went into the kitchen and called Larry.  Larry called the police and soon officers filled our house.  They dusted for prints and took records of what my mother said was stolen.  My mother said nothing about the rape.  My mother said nothing about knowing who it was.  

After all the officers left she hugged me and said, " I was so scared!  I wish you would have just hit him in the head with the lamp or something!"  ... I hugged her back and didn't say anything.  Inside I was filled with guilt.  I should have done something... We cried together.  I cried for my mother and my mother cried for herself.  No one cried for me.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Spoiled in the Valley (Ch. 23)

The electricity got shut off at the little apartment next to Newmark Park and we fell behind on the rent.  If my mother wasn't spending all the welfare money on drugs, then she was gambling it away at the nearby casino.  We called it Bingo, but what she really played there were slot machines.  My mother wanted a better life, but she was only willing to invest money in slot machines to acquire it.  I hoped the dollars she put in the machines were like throwing pennies in a wishing well.  Maybe all the wishes she made were for me.  I wish I could get a house for my daughter, I wish I could buy my daughter new clothes, I wish the electricity would get turned back on...

One day she went to play "Bingo" and she met a man named Larry.  Larry was a large white man with tiny teeth, thin hair and clear blue eyes.  My mother bewitched him, and we were soon packed up and on our way to the high desert of California.  I was ten years old


Larry gave us a house to live in and took us to pick out all new furniture for it.  I had my own room!  All the furniture in my room was painted white and my bedspread was bright yellow with white flowers all over it.  The fridge was full of food, I had clean clothes and there were talks of taking me to Disney Land!  Meeting Larry at the casino was better than winning the jackpot.  Maybe my mother wished for him... maybe I wished for him.  No matter who it was, our lives changed.... for a little while.

Larry was a good man.  He made sure I was taken care of and showed me what "normal" was.  He taught me about what it meant to be responsible, honest and hard working.  He signed me up for Little Republicans of America.  He put me in etiquette classes, dance classes, and piano classes.  I went from having to wash my clothes with shampoo in the tub to having shopping sprees in Pebble Beach.  I went from begging my friends to let me come over for dinner, to having my friends beg to come over my house because I had a brand new PlayStation.

Just like a chameleon I adapted to my new situation and became a spoiled child of the valley.  I adjusted so well you would have thought I had been born with a silver spoon in my mouth.  In my first year of middle school I ran for class President and won.  I started my own club called "Community Helpers" and we went around cleaning up parks and reading at nursing homes.  I joined a drama team; I won spelling bees and was a challenger on the debate team.   The weekends were spent going to the ocean, museums, amusement parks and shows.  He took me to my first Broadway show and we saw Dancing in the Rain.  It was a nice life.  

Me at 10

Meanwhile, my mother slept.  Drugs were hard to come by in the area we lived and Larry didn't like them.  Larry didn't live with us and when he had made a date to come over I would be wound up with anxiety.  I had to get my mother up, showered and looking decent before he arrived.  I'd yell at her, "Get up.. get up, get up, get up!"  I cut her hair myself and did her makeup.  I made her coffee.  I would beg her, "be nice to him mom, please!..."

I could not lose what I had.  Larry wanted my mother... and I was going to give him what he wanted.  I could tell she hated Larry.  She would kiss him and then turn around and make a disgusted face at me.  Join the club.  Been there done that, I thought.  Now it's your turn!  I was an adult stuck in the body of a 10 year old.  I felt like it was my responsibility to make sure things kept going the way they were.  I started to prefer it when my mother could get her drugs.  At least then she would do her own hair and get out of bed.

Larry would come over and I would send them off on their date and go to the living room to give them privacy.  I'd turn the TV on and watch documentaries on Area 51 till midnight or read till I was so sleepy I couldn't hold my eyes opened anymore.  I wanted to stay up till the date was over so I could make sure everything went all right.  I was generous with my hugs with Larry and always tried to make myself look nice and well mannered.  Please keep us!  I'll be good, I'll be good...  It was hard work living in the Valley, but I wanted it.  I wanted it so bad.

At school and all my activities it wasn't hard for me to pretend to be normal.  I created another place inside of myself just like I did when I became nothing.  I shoved my past and my memories in this new place.  I had a "nothing" place for Giraffe Knees, a place for my mother's daughter and her memories, and on the outside I was a normal, spoiled, 10-year-old girl.  I was always my mother's daughter at the end of the day though. 

Deep down, part of me will always be my mother's daughter.  What has been seen cannot be unseen, what has been learned cannot be unknown.  You cannot change the past, but you can learn from it.  You can grow from it.  You can be made stronger.  You can use that strength to change your life, to change your future.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

The Bad Secret (Ch. 22)

It wasn't long until John, the manager of Newmark Park noticed me.  I picked up trash there twice a day and hung around all day mooching off the other kids, and he soon began to pay me special attention.  He was an older man in his late 60's, thin, very tall with short gray hair and a trimmed mustache.  He let me help out around the park and taught me how to clean off the bases and turn on the lights.  I became his little assistant and in return he would give me money and buy me food.  He knew I needed help and offered his.  I took it.  He called me giraffe knees because he said he loved how my thin legs made my knees poke out.  

 Me at 10 years old

John came over and met my mother and then he started taking me around  to run errands with him in his car.  He took me to his house to meet his wife.  All of the staff at the park soon befriended me and looked at John with approving eyes.  He bought me new school clothes and I started wearing clean socks.  He even bought me my first training bra.

John was like Humbert Humbert and he wanted me to be his Lolita.  Because of what had happened to me before, something inside of me was broken.  I was able to shut myself off when I needed too.  When what was happening was too scary, or horrible I just disappeared inside myself.  I learned from my mother that people always have ulterior motives and don't do something for nothing. So, I let John kiss me like I was his lover.  While this was happening I would go to the place where I didn't exist, where I was nothing.  I would sit next to hm and lift my face and hold still while he tried to push his thick tongue in my mouth.  His breath smelled like sweet rotting meat and he would get so excited his hands would shake.

When he wasn't being "Humbert", I tried to be as childlike as I could in the hopes that he wouldn't want to kiss me anymore.  I'd put on my roller skates and sing silly songs....See John, I 'm a little girl!...  It didn't work though.  Late at night after everyone left the field and we were closing up he would take me inside the snack bar and hold me on his lap and tell me that he loved me over and over.  He would pet my head and hold my hand and kiss me. 

I hated it, but I let it continue and didn't tell anyone.  I needed him.  He was all I had and he said he loved me.  It became our secret.  Every night as we were locking up I would get a panicky hollow feeling in my chest as I watched the last person on staff drive away.  I screamed at them in my head, Please don't go! Don't go, don't go, don't go, don't go.  John could tell I didn't like it and would compromise with me about it, "let me just kiss you for ten minutes Giraffe Knees and then we will go to Jack in the Box....K?"  I would let out a big breath of air, press my lips together and answer him in a whinny voice, "fine, only five minutes though....." He threw his head back and laughed, "you sound just like my wife!" 

Eventually his kisses started getting  more and more aggressive and I went deeper and deeper into myself.  On the outside I became rebellious.  I started smoking cigarettes again and spent a lot of time with an older girl who liked to start fires.  She had convinced me once to light a fire in the girls bathroom at the ballpark.  We each made a fire in separate stalls.  I used one square of toilet paper, she used an entire roll.  John caught us.

I started stealing wine coolers and drinking them with my new older friend too.  During an evening game in the late summer I stole an entire 12 pack and got drunk while keeping score.  I had to announce the names of the players into a microphone for the crowd and kept slurring my words.  "Nest ut to bat numbler thidy linnne Richlllard Jones."  I laughed and laughed!  John came in and took over.

I felt like destroying something, anything, including myself.  I knew I had power over John, power in our secret.  I tested it over and over... deep down  hoping that maybe this time would be the time everything would end.  I was too afraid to end things myself... what would I do?  Who would take care of me?  What would happen?  I felt like the secret became an ugly thing of mine too, not just his.  I knew what we did was something "bad".  I was bad.  

I am nothing, I am nothing, I am nothing........ I am bad. 

I was only 9 years old.  John was 60.  I have to keep replaying those words in my head over and over because part of me is still ashamed of this memory.  I was only 9 years old... I was just a little girl trying to survive, a little girl who wanted to be loved.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The Game of Surviving (Ch. 21)

Half way through 4th grade my mother managed to get welfare services to give us a housing voucher and we moved into a studio apartment right next to Newmark Park.  Our little apartment had the smallest kitchen I had ever seen and an old style fridge from the 70's.  It was what my mother called a ca ca green color.  In front of our duplex there were these enormous dips in the road because of a rain-wash.  When you drove through them it was like you were on a roller coaster.  Up and Down... up and down.  There were two dips.  I was beyond excited to have our own home.  This was the first time we had ever lived on our own.

The first week my mother bought groceries and invited Fred over and cooked dinner for us.  Our fridge was FULL of food.  I couldn't stop opening it and rearranging it.  We had our own house and our own fridge and it had food in it!  I could go in there whenever I wanted to get something to eat or drink.  The happiness I experienced made me overly excited and I lost the ability to walk anywhere, I could only run!  I ran from the kitchen to bathroom and from the bathroom to the living room.  If my mother asked me to get something I jumped five feet off the sofa to get it.  I was on top of the world and my grin reached from ear to ear.

The next week my mother didn't go grocery shopping, instead she took me with her to the gas station where she sold all of her food stamps for half the cash they were worth.  She did not spend the cash on food.  I hated her.  She saw my expression and said, "don't worry!  I'll get food later... you are such a worry wart!"  She didn't get food later.  When the money ran out, her drugs ran out and Fred didn't come by because they had gotten into a fight.  Without drugs, my mother did nothing but sleep and I was left to fend for myself.

Newmark was a baseball park and at night and all day on the weekends they held little league games there.  I hung around to play with the other kids and sometimes their parents would buy me snacks from the snack bar not knowing they were really buying me what would be my dinner.  The manager of the field was a man named John.  After each game John would pay all the kids a dollar for every bag of trash they picked up from under the bleachers.  I took advantage of this opportunity as much as I could.  The other kids were bigger than me though and most of the time they beat me to the trash before I could snatch it up first.  So when the bags were handed out and all the kids ran to the bleachers I waited till no one was watching and got all my trash right out of the trash can.

I filled two bags of trash everyday and got two dollars.  Then I walked more than two miles to Burger King and bought two whoppers for .99 cents each.  I was always a dime short, but they let me slide.  On the way home I would stop at the grocery store and steal two king sized Symphony candy bars.  I would eat mine before I got home and then I would give the other Whopper and candy bar to my zombie mother.  Everyday I had Burger King for dinner and every day I brought home dinner for my mom.  I stole the candy bars because they reminded me of the battered women's shelter.  Maybe if my mom got candy bars she would be happy.  I remembered the lack of candy bars at the shelter seemed to cause a lot of turmoil for her...but the candy bars I brought home didn't make her happy.

It seemed like I was always having the problem of not having any clean clothes to wear to school.  I couldn't stand it!  I didn't want to be made fun of anymore.  I started washing my clothes in the tub with shampoo if they looked dirty.  I only washed the clothes you could see though.  I didn't worry about  underwear and socks since no one could see them.  My socks would get crusty and stiff with filth.  Instead of washing them I would just pull the sock down more on my foot and fold the dirty part over.   I managed.  I became a scavenger and a thief.  I mostly stole food or candy. 

I worked the parents at the ballpark to buy me hot dogs or I talked the kids at school into asking their parents if I could come over for dinner.  Children my age became a sort of pawn for me.  I needed them as a cover to get what I needed from their parents. I was in a game of survival.  You win you get to eat, you lose you go hungry.  Sometimes when I was playing with the other kids I wanted to scream at them, "I'm only playing with you because I have to!"  I was so lonely, but I didn't want the other kids companionship.  They lived in another world than me and they irritated me with their naivety.  I wanted to steal their happiness from them.  I tried to ruin Christmas for them and told them there was no such thing as Santa Claus.  I got angry when they told me about the Tooth Fairy leaving them a dollar.  There was no such thing as the Tooth Fairy, and they didn't need that dollar.  I needed that dollar...but there was no Tooth Fairy for me.

Fred would make an appearance every once in a while and would take me to Rosa Maria's when he could.  Rosa Maria's was a little taco shop that had the best taquito's you will ever try in your life.  I couldn't afford to eat there with my two dollars a day and whenever Fred came over I would beg him to take me there.  My entire life revolved around getting food and feeding myself.  If times were tough I ate Whoppers, if it was a good day, I got Rosa Maria's taquitos.

One day Fred came over and took me to get taquitos and on the way home we stopped at his house and he gave me a baby cockatiel.  My lonely days were over.  I named the bird "Bird-Bird" and he became my best friend.  I spent hours teaching him to talk and sing.  He use to sit on my shoulder and go everywhere with me.  When I got home from school I was greeted with a little high voice that said, "hey bay-be!"... "Hi Bird-Bird!"  I would say back.  I loved that bird.  One day I took my bird out side to play and had forgotten to trim his wings.  He took off and I watched him fly away down the wash... 

I screamed at the top of my lungs!  Losing Bird-Bird would mean I would have nothing to care about now... I needed something to care about, because just caring about myself was too scary...  I didn't want to be alone.  I cried and cried and fell to my knees on the ground.  My mom came out wondering what all the screaming was about and I tried to tell her in between my sobs.  Then she put her hand over her mouth and pointed at the sky, "Oh my God baby!  He's flying back to you!"   Bird-Bird tried to land right on my shoulder, but missed and hit the ground hard.  His little heart was beating so fast!  His chest was moving up and down so quickly it was like it was vibrating.  I wished he were bigger so I could hug him.  I didn't want to share my joy over his return with my mother.  I took him inside and whispered to him that everything was going to be OK and ignored her.  I blamed her for Bird-Bird flying away.  Of course he wanted to fly away from there.... I wanted to fly away too...

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Being Nothing (Ch. 20)

After months of Jack in the Box and Nine Ball my mother and I moved in with a man named Dale and his brother Dean.  They lived in a brand new house in a brand new sub division... It was nice and had a large, lush, green yard.  All the houses in the sub-division were identical, just painted different colors.  The inside of the house was completely carpeted except for the kitchen and the air conditioner was always on so that it was freezing inside. 

Dale was an average man with black hair and brown beady eyes.  We gave him part of our welfare check and he let us stay in one of his empty rooms.  Dale and his brother seemed "normal" to me and I couldn't figure out why they were helping us.  I had learned by the ripe old age of nine that most of the time people don't do things for nothin'.   Dale wasn't a druggie, I could tell just by looking at someone whether they were junkies or not by then too.  I also didn't suspect him of having sex with my mother... so what were his motives?  That was a word my mother taught me, "people always have ulterior motives," she would say.   

I started at a new school and spent my afternoons watching Dean workout on his Nautilus machine.  He was younger than Dale by at least 10 years (maybe in his late 20's) and had the same hair and eyes.  I was his little buddy and I was soon working out on his Nautilus machine too.  He use to put really heavy weights on and had convinced me that I was the strongest girl in the world!  We made charts and tracked our progress.  I was going to be a body builder!  Sometimes he would help me with my homework and make me dinner too...  I decided that if Dean wanted to be my new Dad then maybe that would be OK with me.

Dale was grumpy and quiet.  He spent most of the time watching TV and reading newspapers.  He had lots of secrets with my mom and they were always whispering so Dean and me couldn't hear.  Whatever secrets they had, Dale wasn't happy about them.  His whispers would sometimes come out as snarls with his face in a grimace.  His constant agitation made feel like maybe I shouldn't unpack my suitcase...we wouldn't be here long.

 One night my mother and him got in an argument and my mother took off.   I was asleep in bed and Dale came into my room and put a desk chair by the side of my bed.

I knew what he was there for...  and my mom was gone... I was alone.  He talked to me in a low calm voice and said, "this is your mothers fault, I'm angry at her and you have to pay..."  Fear filled up in my body and I felt my weight push me further into the mattress because of it.  I was so scared and so angry!  I'm going to tell on him!... I'm going to be OK... I'm going to be OK, I tried to console myself.  He sat there for what seemed like an hour and the whole time my body was tense in anticipation for what he was going to do to me.  I felt sick.

Then Dale flipped me over on my stomach while I continued to pretend to be asleep.  When he reached his hand under the blanket and started touching me I jumped up into a sitting position.  Then I took my scrawny little hand and slapped him in the face!  I don't know where I got the courage.  My heart was beating so fast and right away I regretted letting him know I was awake.  Now I can't hide, now I can't pretend I'm not here, now this is going to happen to me, why... why did I do that!....  I started shaking uncontrollably and then all of a sudden Dean walked by the opened door to my room!

I opened my mouth and took in a big relieved breath of air.  Dean wouldn't let this happen.  I was saved!  "Dean!... Dean!!!  Please... Dean!!!.......... Dean?" 

But Dean ignored me... How could he ignore me?...

All my hope evaporated then and something inside of me broke.  I stopped moving, stopped breathing and I stopped thinking.  I thought maybe if I was still enough I could freeze time, and what was about to happen to me wouldn't ever happen.  I couldn't even let my mind acknowledge that Dean had ignored me, that Dean didn't care, that I really was alone.  I closed myself off and went into myself.  I was not there.  I did not even exist.  I was nothing.

I was nothing, I was nothing, I was nothing, I was nothing, I was nothing, I was nothing, I was nothing.....

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Our Secret House (Ch. 19)

My mother came and "rescued" me from the Mormons during the middle of the school year with a man named David.  I was honestly relieved to be going.  It was exhausting living there.  I was good at pretending to be normal; I learned to mimic others around me so that I could benefit from what ever situation I was in...  I was just like a chameleon.  But pretending to be Mormon made me feel like maybe I was evil... I had too much sin.  I wasn't good enough.  Years later my aunt would also get tired of pretending to be Mormon.   She would ask for a divorce, and then her husband would commit suicide.

The ride back to California was spent with me jumping up and down in my seat asking my mom over and over again about our secret house.  "Is it ready?!... Do I have a room?!"  My mother would just smile and tell me in a sing song voice, "you will just have to wait and see!"  I was so happy that she had came back for me, I felt like I could wait for ever as long as we were together. 

We ended up staying in a hotel for a few days because the house wasn't ready.  David paid for the hotel and spent a lot of time with us there.  He was tall, thin and blond.  He had a mustache and straight white teeth.  I liked him OK.  He had a daughter around my age and he would bring me some of her old toys.  

My mother always underestimated my ability to understand things I should not and had a bad habit of talking openly in front of me.  After three or four days in the hotel I had gathered that David was married, his wife didn't like that he "partied", my mother was having sex with him, and the house we were supposed to be moving into was David's.  David had a change of heart though and decided not to leave his wife.  That presented the problem of what to do with my mother and me.  David solved this problem by moving us into his Shop...

The Shop was a metal factory.  David owned a business that made metal works for different types of machinery.  The main office had a reception area with a couch that was connected to the metal shop by a long hallway.  Off this hallway were other offices, including David's.  David's office also had a couch.  In the very back office there was a pool table and bar.  My mother stayed in David's office. The couch in the reception area became "my room" and the metal machinery shop became our secret house.

I was enrolled in another school where I was ostracized because I wore dirty clothes and didn't take baths.  There was no bath at The Shop.  Changing clothes was hard because you had to be careful not to step on the floor barefoot.  Little slivers of metal were everywhere and they would cut you just like broken glass.  My fingers were raw and sore from hours of my mother picking at them with tweezers to get the splinters out.  Sometimes she would get the splinters out, but most of the time there weren't even real splinters in my fingers, just imaginary ones.  It's never a good idea to let someone high on meth amphetamines near you with a pair of tweezers. 

For dinner every single night David bought me fast food.  I liked Jack in the Box the most and ordered the same thing every time.  Chicken strips, curly fries and a cheesecake.  I hope I never see another piece of cheesecake from Jack in the Box for the rest of my life.  Dinner was usually followed by a game of pool.  

I learned the game quickly.  David taught me how to shoot and where to hit the balls to get them to move in the direction you wanted.  I learned about geometry.  In fourth grade I was at a 6th grade reading level, I was learning about the solar system, and was memorizing my times tables.  I could also break and run half a dozen games of 9-ball in a row.  David called me his little prodigy.  

During parties he would call me in during the middle of the night to impress his friends.  He taught me how to sandbag my skills in every first game I played with someone.  I could coerce them into taking a bet they would lose if they thought they had a fighting chance.  I thrived on the attention.  I imagined becoming the best pool player in the world and being on TV.  I was a cocky little thing.  I'd trick grown men into losing their money to a nine year old and then laugh in their face... My mother would laugh too, "that's my girl!" she'd say.

At night in bed on my couch I would think about how dumb all the Mormon's were... and how dumb all the people were that went to Dudley's gospel church.  There is no God.  It scared me to think that there could be a God, because if there was a God, he forgot about me.  How could God forget about me?  Everyone always told me, "Jesus loves you." 

If he exists, he must not love me... I thought.