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A VOICE BELLOWS THROUGH THE DOOR. “San Diego Sheriff’s Department, open up!” I wonder if cops learn how to do that in the academy.

“It’s gonna be all right,” my mom says, feigning confidence as the tears well up in her eyes. She takes a deep breath.

The sound of the deputy’s banging fist tears through the house like the Pacific Surfliner.

“I’m coming,” my mom says. She wipes her eyes and opens the door. I see the familiar brown uniform. I recognize the stern look on the deputy’s face. A beam of 7:00 a.m. sunlight glistens on one of the seven points of his badge.

Standing behind him is another familiar sight, a locksmith waiting impatiently. Is he the same one as last time? I don’t think I’ve ever seen him before, but I recognize the maddening clink of his tools as he fidgets on the porch.

“Ma’am, your thirty days are up,” the deputy says. “We’re here to remove you from the property.” This is blunt. Could he be a little more polite? No, probably not.

“Okay, let me get a few things together,” my mom says dejectedly.

“You’ve got five minutes.”

This is our third eviction in five years. I am 13, my little brother is 11, and we have spent countless nights in Midway motel rooms, eating dinner out of vending machines, watching the free HBO. I keep asking myself why my mom can’t keep a job, and where do all her government checks go? But maybe I should just deal with the uncertainty, because coping with the truth is worse.

I do what I’ve always done: escape to the refuge of school. It’s the only place safe from the insanity. Here I can play make-believe. I ape the actions of the normal kids. I participate in class and get good grades. I know that a solid education is the only way to wake up from the nightmare. And all the while I pretend I’m not sharing a bed in a cheap motel room with my little brother, that I’m not wearing the same clothes I did the day before. I laugh through the embarrassment and smile through the pain. At school, I believe, everything is all right.

It isn’t always easy, keeping up the façade of emotional stability. One day, shortly after one of our many evictions, I am sitting in my U.S. history class, following one of my teacher’s entertaining lectures about “red pinko commies” — he’s a Vietnam vet — when he makes an announcement:

“Starting next week, I want all chapter outlines to be typewritten. Computers are where it’s goin’.”

As grumbles from the class subside, the anger in the pit of my stomach surges. How am I supposed to get a good grade if I have no way of completing the assignments? My family usually doesn’t have a place to call home, much less a computer to use. This teacher is intentionally making it harder for me to succeed. I’m a victim of our capitalist society, and he’s an unjust instrument of The Man. I decide to see my counselor and demand to be transferred out of the class.

First thing in the morning, I storm into the counselor’s office. I am instructed to sign in and have a seat. As I stare at the wall clock, the disdain I have for the system grows in direct proportion to the amount of time I must wait.

“Come on in, what can I do for you?” my counselor chirps, when she finally emerges. Her name is Mrs. White. Though she happens to be Asian, the name still fits. She maneuvers her five-foot-nothing frame around the desk to sit in an enormous black-leather chair. She smiles sweetly.

“I need to be transferred out of my history class,” I announce firmly. “I don’t have a computer!” I cannot contain the rage.

Her tranquility is a stark contrast. She tries to soothe me with her gentle tone. “We have other students that don’t have a computer, which is why we provide….”

“I’m sick and tired of everything being so hard.” My voice cracks, anger giving way to despair. Tears well up in my eyes. “I don’t deserve this. It’s not fair. What did I do?” I drop my face into my hands.

Mrs. White darts out of her gigantic chair, closes her office door, and grabs the flowery pink tissue box on her bookshelf. “What are we really talking about, David?”

A year’s worth of concealed anguish, frustration, and disappointment gushes as I relive the saga of recent days. I vent so much that I miss my first-period class.

∗ ∗ ∗

The deputy’s stiff khaki uniform bunches oddly at the shoulder as he motions to the locksmith, who moves swiftly in his faded jeans and T-shirt. Our eyes meet as he jingles toward the door. Then his gaze darts around the room, searching for something less pitiful to look at. He seems relieved as he crouches in front of the door and begins to fiddle with the knob. The emotional numbness I have felt so many times before sets in, and I stare in detached fascination as he goes about the task of ensuring that I can no longer get into my house.

I am jarred back to reality by my mother’s hollow voice. “David, honey, go upstairs and pack up some of your clothes. And wake up Daniel and tell him to do the same. Everything’s gonna be all right.”

“Yeah,” I say. It’s all I can manage. I dutifully walk upstairs and do as I’m told. I shake my younger brother awake. “Daniel, Mom needs you to get up and pack some clothes.”

“Why?” he asks groggily, in his high-pitched voice.

“We’re getting kicked out.”

“Why?”

“I don’t know, just get up.”

“Mom!” he yells. He throws off the covers and runs downstairs. Highly annoyed with him, I start stuffing clothes into the trash bag I’ve brought upstairs. A minute later my mom appears at the door of our room, holding my brother’s hand.

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Comments

Peasap Sept. 15, 2010 @ 1:10 p.m.

Wow, I thought I had a tough time getting the crap beaten outta me when I was a kid. Was never homeless though, it's always the kids that suffer. Glad you're doing ok.

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Fred Williams Sept. 15, 2010 @ 9:39 p.m.

It's been a long time since I choked up reading a story.

A school counselor risked her job and reputation to help me "run away" from my toxic family and quietly rent a room from some friends of hers until I graduated at 17.

David, I too remember wearing the same clothes, day after day, the classmates' ridicule, laughing off insults. Books, school, work, and art helped me escape.

It has never been easy, and others who have had a normal and comfortable upbringing will never understand. That's just the way it is.

I suspect you share the same deep pride in knowing where you've come from, and how long a journey you've made. You've got a resilience that many others, with their comfortable and normal upbringing, just don't have. You can look grim facts in the face and not be paralysed.

David, I want you to keep writing so I can keep reading what you've written. It's not an easy way to make a living, but you've got genuine skill...and empathy those from typical backgrounds can never achieve.

Thanks for writing this. I wanted to send you an email through the Reader, but didn't find your profile to do so. Feel free to contact me.

Best,

Fred

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nan shartel Sept. 16, 2010 @ 1:03 p.m.

just keep on truckin' homey...as far away from it as u can get!!!

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Silvergate1 Sept. 16, 2010 @ 6:47 p.m.

What a great story. I know it wasn't easy to write. Hang in there!

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Robert Johnston Sept. 16, 2010 @ 8:10 p.m.

If you really want to know what Hell is like? This story pretty much sums it up!

The saddest part was finding out that "The Sins Of The Mother" had been visited upon the youngest boy...with predictable results.

Keep on writing, David...you have the tools and the talent! --LPR

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SurfPuppy619 Sept. 16, 2010 @ 10:26 p.m.

Now that was a great story........some parts sad and not so good, but it shows hope and redemption, and light at the end of the tunnel- if you can make it that far.......and that is a big IF for many.

Gives people hope.

Thanks for telling your story........

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writercorinna Sept. 17, 2010 @ 1:43 p.m.

Ten bucks says that this tragedy began with the man who sexually assaulted David's mom when she was a child. From the extent of her addiction... I'm willing to bet David's mom was raped by her father.

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writercorinna Sept. 17, 2010 @ 1:48 p.m.

David, have you considered the field Forensic Psychology?

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pedz100 Sept. 18, 2010 @ 5:05 p.m.

thanks for sharing the story now i feel i should feel thankful for what i have

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Altius Sept. 20, 2010 @ 9:40 a.m.

I see we have a feminazi in the room -- pushing the old fabrication that most women are sexually abused by family members only to repress the memory. It's a cornerstone of 70s feminist ideology, but it's been completely debunked.

David, excellent and moving story. Bravo.

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Russ Lewis Sept. 20, 2010 @ 10:31 a.m.

(#11) Amazing what you can learn from Rush Limbaugh. Funny, I've never heard that claim, and I follow this stuff.

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vjshuf Sept. 20, 2010 @ 10:50 p.m.

so glad you are doing well now. thank you for sharing your story.

you know writercorinna, your comments are completely unnecessary. We dont know the back story, not every story is the same. Not sure why you found it necessary to write that, but I suggest putting down the Psych 101 book.

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writercorinna Sept. 29, 2010 @ 10:29 p.m.

@ offended by writercorinna Thanks to those of you who did not appreciate the comment I made. In light of how offensive my comment was found to be, I believe those who have complained have shown a lot of restraint which I appreciate. I want to sincerely apologize to David's mother who has read David's story and also the comments. When I made public my self-projections I did not consider that you were close by to share in this discussion about you as if you weren't "in the room" to hear. I assumed you were gone - like my mom who has passed away - because I assumed that such raw family reflection is usually saved until a day when the loved-one we worry about so much is removed from our lives. I see now that the case is that David has written a story about how is mom has hurt him; and I can only expect that this would be a source of pain for any mom alive and around to read. For my comment to add insult to injury by putting mom's father in a bad light... is not something I am okay with doing. In addition to saying I am sorry for unintentionally being a jackass... please let me to quickly explain the projecting that is behind my speculation that mom put her kids through this because of some kind of childhood victimization.

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writercorinna Sept. 29, 2010 @ 10:30 p.m.

First, I live with the belief that every heroin addict is a heroin addict because they have been sexually victimized at some time during their development.

My experience has been, in life, that if I talk to any man or women long enough they will report that, yes, they experienced sexual molestation at some time in their life done to them by some person in their life. Maybe only one out of every four females is a victim of incest; but I repeat, that I have not come across an adult I've talked to yet who cannot identify some time that they were inappropriately sexualized by an older child or an adult. If there are those who can honestly respond to this comment I'm posting to say that they are someone who has lived without encountering this type of sexual abuse I will be happier tomorrow knowing you are out there.

If you are a heroin addict who is someone who never experienced sexual assault; then this I will be extremely surprised to hear.

But I am at a very early place in my learning and I don't have statistics to back up my generalizations. My belief is/was that David's mom put her sons through the things she did because of victimization she experienced. I owe her ten bucks for disrespecting her father. My bet was that there are things David should consider that robbed his mom of her ability to be a mom.

Like the things that hurt my mom. In my case it was my pedophile grandfather... not Davids' case. Mine.

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