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.