2008-11-20

Another Little Piece of my Memoir

"Prisoner of Injustice"
The rest of the summer creeps by miserably slowly, because I’m barely ever allowed out of the house. I do manage to see the homeless people a few times, though. I fI spot a twenty-minute increment that I can use to get up to the park and back, I take it, riding up as fast as I can to say “hello” and exchange a few words with my friends, and then riding back, putting my bike away and returning to the house as if I were never gone. I become sleuth-like, convinced that every car I see is an undercover cop who has my mom’s phone number.
One day, I actually get permission from my mom to ride my bike up to the library. I go to the library and get enough books to help me pass my time in lock-down more quickly. On my way back from the library, I cut through a shopping plaza that has a grocery store where David and Don often raid the Dumpster. I ride through the alley behind the grocery store. To my delight, David is there! I drop my bike and run to him.
My mom has not given me a time to be home by, so I spend some time hanging out with David in the shopping plaza. We walk through the grocery store, enjoying free samples. We browse through the used bookstore, and window shop at Radio Shack. We get sodas at Brown’s Chicken. Mostly, we talk. I’ve been so lonely, and it feels awesome to have someone to talk to, to really talk to. David listens to my every word.
As we come out of Brown’s Chicken, I see a cop car driving slowly through the parking lot. Officer Dean is in the passenger seat.
“They’re looking for me,” I gasp, my heart jumping.
“No, they’re not,” says David. “You’re not doing anything wrong.”
“Trust me, my mom has them convinced I’m a crazy juvenile delinquent,” I tell him. “I gotta go.” I hug him quickly before I jump on my bike and ride home.

“You better call Mom,” says my brother, as I walk into the house. “She’s looking for you.”
I call her at work. “Did the police bring you home?” she asks.
“What? No! Why would the police bring me home?”
“I called the library and had you paged, but you weren’t there,” says my mom.
“I was there! I have twenty books in my backpack,” I point out. “When did you call? Cause I stopped at the used book store on my way home. And I got a soda at Brown’s Chicken cause I was thirsty.”
“Fine,” says Mom. “Next time, you need to either come straight home, or call to let me know where you are.”
I breathe a sigh of relief. I know hanging out with David was a dangerous thing to do, especially when this was the first time I’ve been allowed out alone. But I’ve been so lonely, with nobody to talk to, for the past few weeks. Most days I spend hours and hours just sitting at the kitchen table, reading or drawing, because there is nothing else to do. That hour I spent with David, just hanging out and talking, means so much to me. It was totally worth the risk.

That summer, my brother, who is not quite fourteen yet, gets caught twice with pot. The first time my mom finds a whole shoe box in his room with bowls, rolling papers, and other paraphanalia. My dad has taken my brother, his friend and I to a music store, while I looked at weird instruments like harmonicas and bongos, while the others tried out all the guitars. As we walk in the door, my mom meets us and tells my brothers friend and I to get lost. As I retreat up to my room, I can hear her demanding, “What is this?” and my brother laughing nervously.
However, she believes him when he tells her that he has only smoked weed once or twice. She makes him throw away his stuff, and grounds him for a day or two.
The second time, when she finds actual weed in my brother’s room, my mom threatens to shave his head and make him spend every day after school at the library once school starts. “You’ll be a little library geek,” my mom says. But they’re all empty threats. Nobody keeps my brother at home. Nobody takes him to a psychiatrist. Nobody looks at him strangely every time he speaks.
“Its not fair,” I lament to my brother, one of the times when he’s actually grounded. “You get caught with weed, and barely anything happens. I get caught being friends with homeless people, which isn’t even against the law, and I nearly get sent to the looney bin. Does that make sense?”
“Nicki, Mom and Dad would like it better if you were smoking weed. That’s normal. That’s something most kids do,” says my brother. “Talking to homeless people is not normal. It’s weird, and it’s gross.”
“That’s what nobody understands! They’re not weird or gross at all! They’re just regular people. Nice people. Some of them are the nicest people I ever met,” I say.
“That’s why people think you’re crazy,” sighs my brother. “Trust me. Just start smoking weed, or drinking, instead of hanging out with bums. You’ll be better off.”
It actually makes a little sense. My mom would probably rather me get in trouble for something she did herself when she was a kid, something we can all laugh about later in life. But I tried smoking regular cigarettes once, and I didn’t see what the point was. It burned my lungs and made me cough for days. Besides, I’d have to have friends who smoked weed, in order to smoke it myself. And I don’t have any friends at all. And then, there’s the minor issue of weed being illegal. When I got caught being friends with homeless people, I got in huge trouble with my parents and they managed to get the police on their side. But if I got caught by the cops with weed, I‘d be in even bigger trouble, and I could even end up in Audy Home with Jason!

I still write to Jason, all the time. I write to him more often than I write to Joe and Andrea, mostly because every time I send Jason a letter, he sends one back to me within a week. Our letters are long and rambling. Sometimes we start them out with, “Dear fellow prisoner of injustice,’ because that’s how we see ourselves, as victims of an adult world that doesn’t understand us.

Right before school starts, I have one more close call with my secret trips out to see the homeless people. It’s a weekend, and I once again get permission to go to the library. Since I don’t really have any friends, the library is the only place I can justify leaving the house for.
On the way home from the library, I cut through the park so I can say hello to the homeless people. I’m always nervous now, to the point of being paranoid. It has changed things between me and them. They invite me to sit down and relax, but I am fidgety, my eyes darting around everywhere, and I won’t even get off my bike.
But maybe I’m paranoid for a good reason, because after I’ve been there by the homeless people for about five minutes, I see a cop on a bike riding towards us. I yell goodbye to my friends and take off on my bike, certain the cop is going to chase me.
I look back and see that the bike cop has stopped to talk to the homeless people. Any minute now, he’ll come after me, I’m sure!
Some girls I don’t know are walking a few yards in front of me. I ride up behind them, and jump off my bike. “Let me walk with you, okay? Just until I get away from this cop,” I say breathlessly.
The girls stare at me. One of them nods and says, “Okay.”
“I’m not a killer or anything,” I assure them. “I just got in trouble with the cops a while back, and I’m not supposed to be around here.”
I walk with them, trying to blend in, until we are safely out of the park, and out of the bike cop’s site. I thank the girls, jump on my bike, and ride home.
For the first time in my life, I am excited for school to start. I have always hated school, but at least it will give me six hours a day to be out of the house, around other people, having some sort of freedom.

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