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“Just get some clothes together,” she tells him. It is becoming harder for her to control her emotions. A tear leaks from her eye.

“Can I take my toys?” Daniel asks. He’s just a kid.

“No, honey, not right now. We’ll come back for them.”

“Where are we gonna go?” I ask.

“I don’t know yet, honey. I don’t know.” Tears now flow down my mom’s face. She tries unsuccessfully to steady herself. “Make sure you have all of your school stuff. Don’t worry, honey. It’s gonna be all right. God will provide.”

Sobbing now, she says, “I’m so sorry this keeps happening.”

The apology rings hollow. Disillusionment with my mother grows. I can no longer keep from crying.

We spend the next few months in what my mom refers to as the Sleazy-Eight Motel. The ambiance of the place fits quite nicely with the boarded-up restaurant next door and Pacers across the street — I always wondered who showed up to a strip club in a limousine. On more than one occasion I’m sure that I ride the elevator with a hooker. I desperately try to avoid the malodorous guy who loiters on the oversized electrical box in front, ranting about the devil’s inappropriate relations with his wife. There is also a time when the whole staff is in hysterics because someone has left a pig in one of the rooms.

Days turn into weeks, and weeks turn into months. At last my mom proclaims that she’s found us somewhere to live. My brother gets excited. He cannot contain the grin that lights up his face. For someone so adept at make-believe, I don’t know why I feel I have to bring reality crashing down onto his head. I fight the urge to blurt a remark that will make him cry and upset my mother. Instead, I adopt his hopeful tone and ask our mom where this next place is.

“It’s right up the street,” she says, smiling. “It’s a house, too, not an apartment. I’ve always wanted my own house. I saw the For Rent sign and called. The guy is going to get back to me next week. Do you want to go look at it?”

“Yeah!” my brother says excitedly.

“Sure,” I say, trying to simulate his enthusiasm.

We walk the two blocks from the Sleazy-Eight to the driveway of the new place. The three of us stand there. There’s a chain-link fence and a locked gate.

My mom exclaims, “This is our house!”

I can’t take it anymore. I don’t want to get my hopes up. “No, it’s not,” I snap. “Not yet.”

“Yes, it is,” she says. “I’ve claimed it in the name of Jesus, so it’s ours!”

I try not to roll my eyes.

“Let’s pray.” She grabs my brother. “We are gonna lay our hands on this fence and claim this house in the name of Jesus!”

I do as instructed and close my eyes.

“Amen,” I repeat as she finishes her prayer. My hopes are up.

For once, I’m not disappointed. A week later we get the good word. We pack the few belongings we have at the motel and make arrangements to get the rest of our stuff out of storage. Finally, I am going to be a normal kid. I’m not going to have to pretend anymore. Everything is truly going to be all right.

∗ ∗ ∗

I remember how hard it was to breathe when I found her stash. I remember the feeling of isolation and all the questions. Was it my fault? Pangs of guilt, fear, betrayal, anger. I remember the weight of the burden that had just been placed on my shoulders. I remember my little brother. Oh God, my little brother. What am I supposed to tell him? I know I am going to have to raise him myself.

I find the syringes while moving into this new place I am to call home. It is late, around 10:00 p.m. The syringes are in a large ceramic Winnie the Pooh, an item I’ve never seen before. Used hypodermic needles rattle around in Winnie’s head. There must be 20 of them. I finally have answers to questions I should never have asked. The numbness sets in. I know that the money problems my mother is having are not the typical ones faced by most single parents. I am only 13, but I know that my life will never be the same again. My mom lied to me.

Trembling, I carry Winnie, filled with drug paraphernalia, to confront my mother. I find her in the kitchen with the usual — Popov, straight, no ice. She recognizes what’s in my hand. Our eyes meet. Hers tell me everything I need to know.

“Mom,” I say, keeping my composure. “What are these? Why do you have them?”

The lies spew from her mouth and hit me with such force. She sounds so sincere. I know she is capable of lying, but until now I didn’t realize how easy it is for her. My mother is a Monet in the art of deception.

“Where did you…uh…what do you mean, honey? What’s that?” Her eyes are glazed. She’s drunk, and possibly stoned. I don’t yet know how to tell the difference.

I’m surprised at how calm I am. “I found this in your room. It’s filled with needles. Why do you have them?”

“Oh, honey, I’ve never seen that before. Where did you say you found it? I have no idea where it came from.”

“Are they Michael’s?” I ask. Michael’s this guy my mom has just started dating. I barely know him, but apparently he is moving in with us.

“No, honey, absolutely not.”

I pretend to accept her denial. I practice her art. I spend the rest of the night alone and crying.

She and the boyfriend spend more and more time secluded in her bedroom. A beat-up brown Cadillac pulls into the driveway with increasing frequency. I steal money from Mom after she cashes her welfare check, to buy food for my little brother. Not only do I have to deal with the insecurity of being one of the few poor kids attending Point Loma High School, I also worry about not having a home or a mother to return to in the evening. My fears are not unfounded.

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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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