Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Self Medicating (Ch. 38)

I returned to the reservation feeling free.  I was safe and sound physically.  Mentally I needed help.  I dove head first into a new world of self medicating.  I spent my life till then trying to adjust myself to fit in whatever situation I was in, but never really feeling like I fit in.  I knew I wasn't normal.  I knew my life wasn't normal.  

The drugs provided an escape.  There is no such thing as normal when you are high and I found this to be irresistible.  When I was stoned, I was just stoned.  I wasn't the girl who was abandoned by her mother, or the girl who was molested, or the girl who watched her mother get raped.  The weight of hiding my memories disappeared, because I was empty inside and there was no place to keep them.

I partied with my cousins and fought with my aunt and uncle.  My aunt and uncle treated me just like their own children, and I behaved no differently.  I snuck out like my cousins, lied, stole and received my share of punishments along with them.  My aunt used a long wooden rod to deliver punishment.  She use to line us up if we were caught together and dish out the blows one person at a time.  It was always worse if you were the last to get hit.  The waiting and anticipation was torture! 

Native Americans like to punish their children, we even have a specific holiday every year for it.  It's called River Man Day in English.  May 3rd all the children in each household will go outside in front of their house and dance and throw blessed corn meal while we wait for the River Men.  The River Men are covered in mud, dressed in rags and have a hood covering their head.  The only part of their face that is visible is their mouth and it's full of sharp jagged teeth! 

When the River Men come, they ask your parents if you have been good.  Your parents ALWAYS say that you have not been.  Then you are picked up in one swift motion and hauled away while you scream your head off.  You are taken to the river, where you are told you will be thrown in and drowned.  Eventually other relatives chase after you and rescue you.  The entire thing is a ruse to scare you into behaving in the future.  It's quite frightening.

The more time I spent high, the less time I spent in class.  I use to get high before I got on the school bus in the morning.  Once I got to school, I would ditch with my friends and drink and smoke all day.  I would sober up enough to get back on the bus to go home.  Once home, I would spend the rest of the afternoon hiding in my room so no one would know I was drunk.  At night, me and my cousin would take turns jumping out the window and getting stoned on the side of the house while the other was the lookout. 

When I did go to class, I found the work to be easy and it bored me.  I use to be a straight "A" student and I was in honor classes.  My new school offered free birth control in the nurse's office, day care for the girls who forgot to take their pills, and a "3 Strikes" policy when it came to getting caught with dope...but no honor classes. 

My teacher's didn't challenge me so I didn't see the point in going to class.  I actually had one teacher who use to get high with me.  I went to his class all the time.  He was the automotive teacher.  We use to smoke near the exhaust vent so it would suck the smoke out of the room.  It was very convenient.

My new family was loving and I was never abused, but there was dysfunction. My uncle got drunk every night. My aunt and uncle would fight about it. My uncle would sober up and then a couple weeks later my aunt would come home high and drunk herself. Then the cycle would start again. I started to grow a resentment towards my aunt because of all the punishments she dueled out. What a hypocrite, I thought. How could she punish us for doing the exact same thing she was doing?

I had spent so much time being an adult, that I had a hard time keeping my mouth shut in situations where children should not speak. I felt like my aunt's equal and it was hard for me to respect her. It was a battle I fought internally, constantly having to bite my tongue. It was tiring. Self medicating not only helped me to forget my past, but it also took me out of the present.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The Second Escape (Ch. 37)

The entire car ride back to California I was silent.  I would not allow my mother to put one finger on me.  I pressed myself as far as I could into the door and stared out the window.  The endless dessert flew by in a smear of brown and white.  I imagined opening the door, falling out of the speeding car and becoming a smear of my own.  I imagined it would probably be a red smear.  I wouldn't even look at Bill.  I saw him looking at me in the rear view mirror and I wanted to reach over the seat and smash his head into the windshield.  That would have made a red smear too.

When we finally arrived at Bill's house, I went to my room to find it exactly how I had left it.  Destroyed.  I sat on the bed and cried.  In the living room I could hear my mother and Bill arguing.  Then my mother opened the door to the room and said, "OK, come and give me a kiss...I'm taking off."  I couldn't believe her...  Why had she come and taken me back to him?!  Did he pay her?  Why is she leaving?!  Why did she do this?!  I was so afraid to be left with Bill, but I would NOT kiss her or beg her to stay.  My heart had nothing but hate in it.  I turned my back away from her, "get the fuck away from me."

I had never sworn at my mother before and it was liberating.  At that moment we crossed a line and she became someone other than my mother.  She was no one to me.  When she left I mourned her like she had died.  I knew I would never look at her as a mother again.  Bill wisely left me alone.  The next morning I woke up and got ready for school.  When I walked out into the living room Bill was waiting to drive me.  "I don't want a ride from you.  I don't want anything from you."  I said it with as much disgust as I could.  I almost spat the words out.  Then I walked to the bus stop. 

The only light I could find in my dark situation was that I would see Crystal again.  We had not spoken on the phone once since I left and I knew it was because she was mad at me.  I had left her.  She needed me as much as I needed her... and I left.  She didn't understand everything I was dealing with at Bills and I couldn't explain it to her.  I knew deep down she understood me leaving was the best thing for me, but that didn't stop her from hurting.

When I got to school I found that Bill already had my mother enroll me and I had all the same classes I did 4 months ago.  I walked from my first class to the central plaza and Crystal saw me from across the entire courtyard.  We made eye contact and just like in the movies, we ran to each other.  We both were crying when we hugged and relief flooded through me.  No one knew what my life was like with my mother, except for her.  As long as Crystal was in my life I felt like I would never really be alone.  Part of me was worried that when I left I would lose her, but me leaving didn't change our friendship at all.  It doesn't matter how much time passes between real friends, when it matters, they are there. Crystal taught this to me when I was 14 years old.

I spent everyday for the next three weeks staying over at Crystal's as much as I could, taking the bus to school and completely ignoring Bill.  I wedged my door shut with a chair at night and stayed as far away from him as possible.  If I couldn't ignore him I would speak to him with out looking at him.  If I had to look at him I made sure he could see the hate in my eyes.  

I drank all the liquor in the house and refilled the empty bottles with water.  When the liquor ran out I decided to try smoking dope.  My cousins all seemed to really like it and I needed something to help me escape.  Bill smoked occasionally and kept a stash hidden in the drawer of his room.  The pot wasn't as numbing as the alcohol, but it had other perks.  I didn't get sick or lose control like I did with alcohol.  I couldn't drink during the day because I would get caught, but smoking pot gave me a temporary high that was easy to hide.  It was such a comfort to know I didn't have to go through life so aware of everything anymore... and it also gave me the giggles.  My mother was a drug whore who basically pimped me out to a child molester for who knows what in return.... and I could laugh about it.  I liked pot.

I had talked to my uncle on the phone several times since I'd been back and a plan was made.  I needed about a day and half window to escape.  I needed 4 hours to get to the airport and on a plane.  I needed another 6 hours to land and get on the reservation.  Once I was there I would be safe.  By the time Bill found out I left it would be too late.  The first time Bill went to go on another one of his gambling trips I made my move.  Crystal's mom drove me to the airport.  I boarded a plane and left California for a second time... just like my Uncle Dave had promised. 

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Legally Kidnapped (Ch. 36)

I was sitting in class one day when I was called to the school office.  Hot fear ran through my body.  I thought I must be getting in trouble, which meant there would be a note sent home, which would mean I'd have to face Auntie Elizabeth.  My auntie wasn't someone you wanted to upset.  The entire way to the office I thought of every possible thing I might be in trouble for, and how I could get out of it.  When I got there my palms were sweating.  The principal was waiting for me.

She asked me to have a seat.  I sat.  "Honey, there are some people here that are saying that you are a runaway.  Your mother is here with her lawyer and a detective."  I couldn't process what she said.  At first I was flooded with adrenalin and looked around me frantically for an escape, then I realized there was no way my mother had a lawyer.  It must be a mistake!..wrong girl.  Thank God!  I thought.  I shook my head no and told her that I lived with my auntie and uncle and my dad was dead. 

She pursed her lips together and gave me a questioning look.  I was afraid that if she didn't believe me she might take me away and put me in some kind of foster care.  I started talking fast.  "My mom does drugs, my auntie and uncle are taking care of me.  I'm their niece... my dad is from here, but he died..... and now I live here too... and my mom doesn't care."- Then there was a loud Bang Bang Bang on her door.  "Police, open the door!"  My principal went immediately and unlocked the door, and as soon as she clicked over the lock the door flung open.  It was Bill.

I screamed, "That's not a police man!  That's not a police man!"  Then the principal jumped in between me and Bill and pushed him toward the door way.  She got him out of the room and then tried to shut the door, but he prevented her by shoving his body weight on her.  People were yelling on the other side of the door and Bill finally backed off and the door was shut.  As soon as the door closed I sat down... because I felt like my legs might fall out from under me.  He found me...

The real cops were called and after speaking with my uncle who assured me I was coming home, I was taken to the police department.  I sat at the police department for hours.  Something wasn't right.  Where was my auntie and uncle?  I finally got the courage to ask what was happening when my mother walked in.  She looked smug.  I couldn't believe my eyes. 

My shock was soon replaced with outrage.  "What are you doing?!  Leave me alone!"  She tried to put her arms around.  She put her hand over her heart when I backed away from her.  She looked at the officers around her making sure they were appreciating all the concerned looks she was faking.  "I'm your mom, you are coming home."  I backed father away and started crying.

My aunt and uncle didn't legally adopt me.  We all had the same last name and getting me enrolled in school wasn't a problem.  On the reservation there is no law saying I belong to anyone, but in the city and at my school I legally belonged to my mother.  I called my aunt and uncle and after another hour of conversations between the police and my mother I was loaded into the back of a police car.  My mother was going to allow me to get my things and say good bye to everyone.

The police had no jurisdiction on our land so my aunt, uncle and cousins met me at the reservation border.  When we pulled up everyone was out of the car holding balloons and presents.  It was my birthday.  My aunt was holding a plate with a piece of foil over it.  I broke free of my mother's hold and ran to her.  She gave me a hug and said, "Happy birthday..."  She looked down and shook her head in what looked like defeat.  "I packed up some of your cake for you...here take it."  Then she started to cry.  She's going to let them take me.... NO!  I ran to my uncle,  "Please!  Don't make me go.. Please!"  I'll be good.  I'm sorry... I'm sorry!  Please... "  My body racked up and down with my sobs.

My uncle picked me up and said in a low voice so only I could hear, "You have to go now, but we will get you back,....don't worry Cucuyatramatz."  He hugged me tight.  I hugged him back and over his shoulder I saw my mother sitting in the passenger seat of Bill's car.  Bill was driving.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

A Drunk, Tap Dancing Indian Girl (Ch. 35)

Being a brown noser didn't fair well with my cousins and I spent most of my time in the garage practicing my tap dancing.  The garage was used to make deer jerky and drums.  Lines were stretched from wall to wall where salted meat was hung to dry and hides were laid flat everywhere with dried blood and stray pieces of fur still attached.  I would practice for hours, getting my moves just right, occasionally getting slapped in the face with a piece of carnage.  My cousins teased me.  I guess they never heard of a tap dancing Indian girl before.  "Where are your tappy shoes at?  You won't show us how you tappy dance! Hahaha" 

My cousins offered to "smoke me up" several times and I wanted NOTHING to do with it.  I didn't want to do drugs like my mother.  What I wanted to do was drink.  We had a lot of celebrations on the reservation, dances, feasts and ceremonies.  Each occasion was a reason for everyone to get drunk  The term "Fire Water" is no joke. There is no such thing as alcoholism on a reservation.  There are no police to pull you over and give you a DUI.  It's not abnormal to see Uncle Pato driving down the road going 3 miles an hour, missing the turn and heading off into the never ending desert.

We handle things our own way when we need to though.  Sometimes it means running after Uncle Pato's car and turning the engine off and sometimes it means more than that.  We don't have jails or legal consequences like you do in the cities, (although in some cases we will call them in) we handle things in our own way.   Our way seems to work, we have no crime. We just have a bunch of wild kids who party too much and get away with too much. 

I drank every opportunity I got.  I didn't drink the same way the other kids did though.  They would all drink together, share and hang out around the fire pit or something.  I would sneak and hoard any alcohol I got my hands on and then after I got good and drunk I'd go and play with my tappy shoes.  I loved alcohol.  All those spaces I made to hide my ugly memories inside of me felt filled up.  I drowned my memories in a sea of Budweiser, moonshine and vodka.  Life was much improved.

I loved all the celebrations on the reservation and not just because I could get drunk.  The celebrations all seemed to be about dancing and food.  We had dances for everything; dances for corn, buffalo, rain and even saints.  After each dance a huge feast would be prepared.  The entire tribe pulled together and we all went eating from house to house and then taking our own turn to feed others. 

It gave you an incredible sense of belonging.  I belonged here.  I made bread for others, and I ate bread that others made for me.  I felt it in my blood.  I am Cucuyatramatz.  This is my home.  Nothing felt foreign to me.  Some of the ceremonies were a bit frightening and involved the cleansing of "bad spirits" or "river men" that had sharp pointy teeth.  I was afraid, but also very comforted.  There is something very comforting about knowing exactly where you came from and having your beliefs boldly exemplified before your eyes.  My father was from here, I was born here, and this is where I'm supposed to be.    I am a 13 year old Indian girl.... a drunk, tap dancing Indian girl.

Friday, June 8, 2012

The Reservation (Ch. 34)

My Uncle Dave and Aunt Elizabeth picked me up from the airport.  The reservation was just as I remembered it.  Beautiful.  I had no real memory of ever living there before, only a lingering feeling of familiarity... It felt like I was remembering a past life, not my own.  The house they lived in was a newer home designed to look like a pueblo on the outside.  The house was surrounded by dirt and a scattering of fences made out of tree limbs.  In the yard was a mini van, a beat up truck with no bumper, a brand new civic, and an old, green, Volks Wagon van that was called the Pickle.  It looked like a scrap yard.  There was also a trampoline, a shed, and an outside Indian oven in the back. 

The inside of the house was decorated with drums my uncle had made and parts of costumes used in ceremonies.  There was a colorful Indian blanket nailed to the wall and a painting of a buffalo.  It was nice.  I was lead into a room with a bunk bed and N-Sync and Usher posters all over the walls.  I would be sharing a room with my cousin.  She took the bottom bunk because she said the top bunk was for little kids.  She was younger than I and put on a show to appear older than she was.  I resented it.  Years of childhood had been stolen from me... and she just wanted to give hers up.

Right after I arrived at my uncle's house I was told someone wanted to see me.  It was a surprise.  I didn't know if I should feel excited or scared.  I felt both.  We pulled up outside of an old trailer and when I walked in the door I heard, "Cucuyatramatz!"  It was Uncle Steve!  I ran to him, threw my arms around him and cried. It felt so safe to cry in front of someone I knew that loved me.  I couldn't cry with my Uncle Dave or Aunt Elizabeth... I didn't know them well enough and I still felt too responsible for my own well being to let down my guard.   I lost my mother, Fred, Bird-Bird, and Crystal, but I did not lose Uncle Steve.  Just the relief of knowing that I still had him was enough to make me sob.

I was enrolled in a public school in the nearest city to the reservation and had a little bit of a shock when I found out I had to wake up at 4AM and get to the bus stop at 4:45 in the morning. The bus ride to school took almost two and a half hours.  My classmates were all Native Americans or Hispanics.  There were maybe 6 white kids and 2 black kids in my entire school.  Most of our teachers were white too.  Because I was Native, I was accepted immediately.  I belonged.  Native Pride was strong!  Our people stuck together.  All of the kids that spoke our Native tongue would purposely talk around the teachers to irritate them.  They wanted to show them that they were outsiders, no matter if they had authority or not.  The school was ours.  I learned the language quickly.

I took up my role as my aunt and uncle's new daughter.  I liked that I had to do chores and help make dinner like the others kids.  I craved their love.  If I wasn't sucking up to my aunt and uncle, I was over at Uncle Steve's trailer.  I had brought my tap dancing shoes that I had saved from the time Larry had me in dance classes.  I wanted to show Uncle Steve what I could do.  I tap danced in his kitchen and covered the floor in black scuffmarks.  He smiled and hooted and yelled for an encore.  He loves me... I thought.  I'm going to make them all love me.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

The Escape (Ch. 33)

Bill was having problems with my school.  They wouldn't let him pick me up from school if I was ill, or take me out early if we were going out of town.  To solve this problem Bill tried to legally emancipate me from my mother.  When this wouldn't work he suggested something else.  "Well baby girl, I think that we might have to go down to Mexico and get married!"  I don't even think it would have been legal here in the states, but I had no idea about things like that then. 

I stood with my back towards him and my breath caught.  I could feel my eyes growing into large unbelieving saucers.  I didn't respond for a few seconds... and decided the only thing I could do was act like it was funny... I was too scared to do anything else.  "Ha ha ha!"  He shrugged his shoulders and said, "well, I'll think about it, but I think it's what we might have to end up doing."

Later in the week Bill started planning a trip to Mexico.  I knew then, that what I had at Bill's was going to end.  When Bill left one night on another gambling trip I dug out my mom's old address book and tried to find someone to call.  I had a hard time reading the numbers because I couldn't see through all my tears.  I hate him!  I sobbed and ran around my room throwing everything off my dresser and destroying what ever I could.  Crystal... I would lose her.  I fell down to my knees and let helpless tears fall down my cheeks. 

After I collected myself, I went into self preservation-mode.  I closed off my emotions and dialed all the numbers in the phone book one by one.  The first few numbers just rang and rang and then I got some that were disconnected.  When I got to Fred's number I crossed my fingers and dialed... It was disconnected too.  No No No!  I was angry!  I smashed the phone into the floor and gritted my teeth.  Then I realized I better not break it... I still had to find my mother.  She was the only one I had... and this was a very depressing thought.  As much as I tried to not to feel... the tears wouldn't stop coming. 

I dialed again, please, please pick up.... "Hello?..."  Thank God!  "Hi, I'm looking for my mom, Susan?  Have you heard from her?"  The man on the phone said he had!  But she wasn't there right now.  I gave him my number and waited for her to return my call.  I waited a painful hour with no call back from her.  Then I called again.  She was the one who answered the phone.  I wanted to cry as soon as I heard her voice.  I didn't even know what to say... "Mom?... "  She sounded excited to hear from me.  She went on and on about where she was living and what she was doing, trying to impress me.  She didn't even ask how I was.  "Oh!   And I almost forgot to tell you!  I talked to Uncle Steve and he said that your Aunt Sheila wants to talk to you and I have her number.. I'm supposed to give it to you...... well..... Do you want it?"

She had said everything so fast that the words were almost over lapping one another.  She was high... really high on drugs.  I stared at the wall in front of me and wiped my snot from my nose with the back of my hand.  I couldn't tell her what I called to tell her... All the urgency I felt while dialing the numbers left me then.  There was no one in my mother's phone book that could help me.  She couldn't help me.  Fear grew in my gut.  "Yes... What is the number?"

I called my Aunt.  She asked me a lot of questions.  I gave her the real answers.. the answers I hoped would move her to do something.  "Who are you living with?" 

"A man named Bill..."

"Who is Bill?"

"Some man my mom left me with."

"Where is your mom?"

"I don't know, she's been gone for a year."  Then I started to cry.  I could hear her on the other line getting worked up and talking to herself.  "This isn't right... No.  You need to come home now... We will come get you, you belong to us, we are your family, not some white man your mom decided to just leave you with!"  She was getting upset.  She told me to pack a small bag and she would call me back in 30 minutes.  She called me back in 20.  She told me she wanted me to get on a plane that night and fly back to the reservation.  She asked to talk to one of my friend's mom.  I was shaking.  Everything was happening so fast.  I couldn't imagine what Crystal would say or think when I dialed her number.  "Crys? Something bad is happening."  I was crying.  "It's not OK for me to stay at Bills and my aunt wants me to go live with her."  Crystal was stunned.  "OK....... wait, what?"

"Can you please have your mom call my aunt?  She wants to talk to an adult." 

30 minutes later Crystal's mom had pulled into the drive way and I put my suitcase in the trunk and locked up Bill's house.  One of my uncles worked for an airline and she called him and he put me on the next plane.  The flight left at 5 AM.  We left for the airport at 2AM.  Crystal and me were in the back seat together holding one another.  We didn't talk, we didn't cry.  We just sat there... together.

When we got to the gate I looked at my best friend and hugged her fiercely.  I let myself cry then.  I was terrified and shaking.  Last week I was toilet papering the neighbor's yard... and now I was running away to live with relatives I barely knew on an Indian reservation I knew nothing about.  All I knew was that it had to be better than the horrifying future I saw with marrying Bill.  "Please don't forget about me Crys."  She shook her head violently back and forth.  "Never!... friends forever right?...."  She cried.  I smiled with tears streaming down my face and neck.  "Forever."  Then I turned around and boarded the plane.  When I stowed my bag and buckled myself in I let out a big long breath.... a breath I had been holding for half a dozen years.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Best Friends Forever (Ch. 32)

Months after that first drink of alcohol Crystal moved in.  Things weren't good for her at home and Bill was more than happy to take her in.  We shared the twin bed in my room.  Bill was often gone on gambling trips and we were left to do as we pleased.  After she moved in the prank wars started.  The food fights got severe and the walls in the living room were stained with mustard and other condiments.  Our seances got more sophisticated and for a time we even practiced Wicca and did love spells on the boys at school.

One night I was watching TV when at around midnight I heard a knock on the window behind me.  I froze in terror.  My eyes got wide and I stayed as still as I could (T-Rex logic.)  Then there was another knock on the window opposite from where I was sitting!  Then another knock on the window diagonal from that!  They started banging and banging louder and faster.  I ran to hide in the shower and just about peed my pants.  I was on the phone with the cops when crystal busted through the door laughing...

A couple weeks later I tied her up in the hammock outside in 40-degree weather. I soaked her with the hose for about 30 minutes and then left her out there.  Her teeth were chattering and I could barely understand her when she said she was cold.  I went in and brought out a blanket.  Then I wet the blanket nice and good and put it over her, "warmer now?..."  We loved each other.

My bad secret with Bill never surfaced and it was like everything that happened was over.  Crystal had saved me.  We turned 13 and started getting invited to parties, or Crystal started getting invited to parties and I just came along for the ride... One night we were out in the desert tailgating with a bunch of older guys from another high school.  I was drinking vodka and when Crystal said she had to leave because she was supposed to spend the night at her mom's that night, I told her I was staying.  She was hesitant about leaving me there, but she asked her boyfriend to watch me like a protective mother hen and kissed me on the cheek and left anyway.

I woke up in the hospital and by my side was Crystal.  She was holding my hand, crying and singing to me at the same time.  I had passed out and started foaming at the mouth when Crystal's boyfriend freaked and dropped me off at her mom's house.  I was unresponsive and turning blue so they called for an ambulance.  That was the first time I over dosed.... there would be many more. 

After the alcohol poisoning Crystal's mom made her move out.  She even refused to drive us to see each other because she said I was a bad influence.  So we spent that summer riding bikes with flat tires to meet in the middle of our houses and pass notes.  We would sneak out at night and lay out on the roof of Bill's house looking at the stars.  "Best friends forever... Chris and Crys always!"  We loved each other so much it made us cry.  We collected our tears on pieces of paper and added them to our scrapbooks.  For the first time in my life that I could really remember, I felt like I had someone I could count on.  She would always be there for me.  I knew it in my soul.  She was my sister.  She was my kindred spirit.