Trigger Warnings: blood, violence, child abuse
The summer before my family left Texas
for good (the same summer which I turned 13
), we moved to a crowded, rundown apartment complex in Clear Lake City
. This was just after Hurricane Katrina
, and most of the residents in the apartment complex
had recently moved there from New Orleans
because their homes had been destroyed by the storm.
We were all poor. Being surrounded by people of the same financial background as me, I felt relieved to not have to pretend that I wasn't from a low-income family all the time. I shared a small room with my brother. We'd somehow managed to accumulate a mass of cheap, shitty instruments, and so I had to climb over a drum kit to get into bed, and sleep next to a keyboard and guitar. My neighbours two doors down had two bedrooms: one for the mother and father, and one for the daughter, son, and grandmother. The grandmother sometimes earned money by waking up at sunrise and trimming the wealthy neighbours' giant lawns with a pair of scissors. I know this because my school bus would pass her sometimes, patiently snipping away at grass around 7 AM after having already been at it for an hour or so.1
The neighbouring family on the other side consisted of a mother and her two daughters, and the mother's boyfriend who was in hiding because there were some arrest warrants out for him. My bedroom bordered the daughters' bedroom, and nearly every night my brother and I would hear some kind of awful violent exchange take place between the two daughters and other the family members, accompanied by screams and crying late into the morning.
One Saturday, I was waiting outside my apartment for my parents to come home, and a younger kid (maybe 10?) comes over and starts talking to me. Being summer in Houston, I was wearing a fairly low-cut tank top that he'd lean over and look down. It was disgusting and upsetting, and no one had ever told me it was OK to tell people to fuck off. I didn't know what to do. I couldn't use my words to tell him to stop. So, I politely said that I'd be right back and went inside. I then went and found a massive jar of some insanely spicy preserved hot peppers2 and poured out all the juice into a mixing bowl. I then walked outside and tossed the contents of the mixing bowl at him. He screamed and cried and shrieked and ran away. I felt nothing at the time, but I feel awful about this now.3 I wish I could go back in time and undo this.
Next Monday as were waiting for the school bus, he ignored me and everything seemed like it was back to normal; he had never violated obvious social boundaries and I'd never doused him in what was essentially liquid fire. As I got off the bus after school and was walking home, someone angrily shouted after me:
"Did you spill that shit all over my brother?"
"He was wearing my shirt. I had to wash it out."
She was walking towards me. I knew if I ran, she'd find me later and it would be much worse, so I stopped and calmly waited. Watching her approach, it then occurred to me for the first time that girls are really, really pretty. Why hadn't I noticed how soft her skin looked before? How pretty her hair was as it fell around her face? She was beautiful, quite angry, and in a few seconds blood would be pouring from my face.
At the bus stop the next morning:
"Has anyone ever hit you that hard?"
"Good, it's about time."
This seems kind of ridiculous in retrospect, so incongruous with my current life -- like I'm remembering something that I never actually experienced,
or that these memories were implanted in my brain
and I'm finally telling someone about this so I can figure out if it actually happened or not. But at the same time, these experiences are fundamental to who I have become and how I perceive the world around me.
About 6 years later, I am in university, and for the first time ever, I have my own computer.
I'd purchased it with money saved up by taking orders at a fastfood restaurant and by guiltily asking my parents for financial support.
almost never left my residence room. It was my most prized possession, worth more than all my other belongings combined. If I took it to class, I'd check it was still in my backpack every 15 minutes. The guilt from asking my parents for the money to buy it drove me to be obsessed with making sure it was OK all the time.
Eventually, I decided to leave campus with it. I don't remember where I was going, but I packed it in my backpack and left for the bus stop. I was waiting for an express bus to downtown, sitting on a bench, when a girl with gorgeous short blue hair walked by. I forgot everything else around me. I stared at her for a minute, and when she got on a bus, I absentmindedly followed. I felt so light and free and transfixed by how pretty she was. After a few stops, I snapped out of my trance. I got off the bus and proceeded to walk to my destination, and then I realized something was wrong: my backpack was still on the bus!
I ran after the bus, but it was too fast. I jumped in front of another bus going after it to get the driver to let me on, which he did, albeit he was quite angry about it. After being scolded for almost being run over, I blurted out everything that happened and how badly I needed my backpack which was on the bus ahead of him. He called the driver of that bus, who search the bus and couldn't find it. They then called several other buses, and no one could find it. It was gone.
After two hours of negotiating with bus drivers, I gave up and got on a bus to campus. As the bus was pulling into the final stop, I looked out the window across the street to the stop where all this had started, and there was my backpack. I crossed the street to it running. Upon inspection, it had been there untouched for the last few hours, with the laptop safely inside.
Moral of the story: sometimes I am really gay.
1 What kind of person pays an elderly woman who struggles to walk to mow their obscenely large lawn with a pair of fucking scissors?
2 Those peppers were the hottest things I've ever had in my life -- I will never forget them.
3 I don't know why I was an unfeeling monster for the first 15 years of my life. Once, that same summer in that same apartment, my father collapsed and had to be taken away on a stretcher by paramedics. As they took him out of the apartment he turned and looked at me with eyes full of sadness. I regarded him coldly and kept practicing for an upcoming music recital: Blackbird singing in the dead of night, take these broken wings and learn to fly...