2008-11-01

First Day of NaBloPoMo/NaNoWriMo

Today is the first day of naBloPoMo and NaNoWriMo, and I am ready to post the first part of my life story! Before I begin, let me explain that I am writing this story in present tense, as it occurs to the character (me). Events are described as much as possible in the way that I experienced it at the times that they happened. Other people involved could probably tell the same events in completely different ways, and I would probably even describe them differently if I was telling about them in hindsight instead of in present tense. I invite all of the readers to experience the following story through the eyes of a young child.

Prologue: Two Worlds

I am little, maybe two years old, strapped into my car seat… the brown one that I will have to give up eventually so my new baby brother will be able to use it instead. My parents are fighting in the front seat. My mom is driving. I’m not paying attention to their fight. Its become like white noise to me, something I hear almost every day. The sound of their arguing lulls me to sleep at night. Now, I only snap to attention when the car screeches to a halt, whipping me forward in my car seat. My dad gets out of the car, slamming his door behind him. The car quickly pulls away from the curb again.
I lean forward and demand, “Where’s Daddy going?”
“Who knows,” replies my mom.
I twist around to watch him walking off, in the opposite direction from us.

I am four and my mom has woken me up in the middle of the night, so suddenly that it feels like I woke up already sitting in the wooden chair in the living room, with my mom shoving my shoes on over my footie pajamas. The world is filled with noise. People talking, my brother crying, a horn blaring outside.
My dad’s friend comes to the front door and peers through the screen at us, and my mom shouts at him. She hustles my brother and I into the car. We drive away from the house. I look out the window, but the darkness makes everything look unfamiliar.
“Where are we going, Mommy?” I ask, again and again. I cannot fathom why we are all out here in the middle of the night, driving in what seems to be circles.

I am seven, and when the fighting starts, I know my job in life is to take care of my five-year-old brother. He gets scared, and he cries, when they fight. I remember that I used to feel like that, too, when I was little. Now that I am big, I just feel exasperated, annoyed at them for disrupting our lives and making my brother cry. Even when they’re not fighting, anger sits like fog around the house, making it hard to digest your breakfast cereal, hard to care about school, hard to fall asleep at night.
If its day time when the fights break out, I take my brother’s hand and quickly lead him up to my bedroom, where I can calm him down and get him to play games with me until they shut up. If its nighttime, my brother runs into my room and gets in bed with me, and I tell him stories until we both fall asleep.

I am eight, I am nine, I am ten. I live int wo worlds at once. In one world, my family is great. My mom is on the PTA, and runs her own business from home, and volunteers in our classrooms. We have a dog, and a swing set in our back yard, and every summer we go on vacation as a family.
In the other world, things are different.
I have a feeling that my family is “weird,” and I want us to be “normal.” I try to do things I think “normal” people do. Unfortunately, I have no real idea about “normal” people, except for things I’ve seen on TV and read about in books. I leave marbles and jacks out in the yard, because for some reason I think “normal” kids play with those things.
Maybe I am the weirdest one in my family, after all! I know I’m different from the other kids at school. Unlike the other girls my age, I don’t care much about boys, clothes, makeup, or music. I prefer the sandbox, the swingset, and my Barbie dolls. I am the messiest kid in my class. My desk is like the Bermuda triangle, filled with random papers and school supplies, books, projects and assignments that somehow never made it to the teacher’s desk, even used Kleenexes and snack wrappers. I get in trouble for reading when I’m supposed to be paying attention in class. When the teacher catches me reading and scolds me for it, I get sneakier and bring a book into the classroom bathroom when I’m bored. I can stay in there and read for quite a while before the teacher notices me missing and bangs on the bathroom door. I daydream. I spread glue all over my desk, because I’m bored. I have trouble sitting still a lot. I irritate the teachers and the other kids by constantly swinging my feet under my desk, or drumming my fingers. I know the American Sign Language alphabet, and when I’m bored or nervous my hands wiggle and flutter at my sides, spelling out my thoughts.

I am eleven years old, and the whole world hates me. The kids at school make fun of me because of my wild hair, because I dress and act differently, and because I have so much trouble doing the work in class. The teacher gets irritated with me because I can’t seem to finish my work on time.
The worst is when I actually do my homework, but forget to turn it in. Then, of course, I forget that I forgot to turn it in. The teacher makes us correct each other’s homework, by passing papers out randomly and then calling out the answers so we can mark them right or wrong. If she passes out the papers, and she’s one short, she knows that someone didn’t turn in their homework. She collects the papers again, has us all stand up, and reads off the names on the homework sheets. As your name is called, you’re supposed to sit down. I’m left standing, red-faced, my fingers spelling out “Oh shit” at my sides.
My parents still fight constantly, but my brother is bigger now and doesn’t need me to take care of him, so he hates me too. Once, a year or two ago, he asked me, “When are you going to start acting like a big sister?” We’ve both noticed that, as we’ve gotten older, he’s seemed to pass me up. He understands things that I don’t. The world doesn’t bewilder him, the way it does me. He is popular at school, and he’s embarrassed to be seen by me.
My mom’s hate for me, though, is the worst. She glares at me and shouts at me, about my failing grades, about my messy room, about the fact that I have no friends. “You don’t try,” she says. “I think you make yourself ugly on purpose,” she snaps, or “No wonder nobody likes you,” or “You’re killing this family!”
Its possible that my dad doesn’t hate me. He barely ever yells at me. My dad is cool. He has two jobs, and sometimes he takes my brother and I to work with him. At one job, he delivers pet supplies to grocery stores, and my brother and I love to go to the warehouse and help him “call orders.” We love to ride in the back of the delivery van, and go into the secret Employees Only sections of the grocery stores. His other job is at a gas station, and we spend a lot of Saturday nights there. My dad buys us sodas or chocolate milks, and candy bars, and we pester the high school guys who work there, or jump on the hose out front to make the bell ring. My dad doesn’t yell at us much. Not even at me. My mom says I am just like him. (Usually she says it when she tell something she hates about me. As in, “You’re a slob just like your father!”)
I’m eleven and the world hates me. I make plans to run away from home, probably to northern Wisconsin, where we spend a happy week each summer. My mind connects Wisconsin with happiness, with feeling like I belong somewhere. I think that Wisconsin is a magical state, and if I could only stay there forever, I’d feel happy. Someday, I will ride my bike up to Wisconsin. I pour over the State Farm US Almanac I stole from my parents’ room, tracing the roads and plotting my route. I’ll collect tin cans and recycle them for money to survive. I’ll eat candy bars from vending machines, because they’re cheap. I’ll live in the woods, and swim in the lake to keep clean. The only thing that worries me is the idea of winter, where everything freezes over. Its even colder there than it is here in Chicago! The threat of winter ahead is the only thing that keeps me from running away from home in the spring, summer or fall.

I am twelve when my mom shakes me awake in the middle of the night to tell me, “Dad’s in jail. I have to go bail him out. Stay awake in case your brother wakes up.”
Thinking I’m dreaming, I reply, “Okay. What’d he do?”
“Drunk driving,” says my mom, and then she leaves. I lie awake, staring at the ceiling, until I hear them both storm in through the back door.
From then on, the fighting is almost constant. My mom tells my brother and I that they might get a divorce.
“I want to stay with Dad!” I say quickly.
But my mom says, “No, you’re both going with me.”
Despite that, I find myself hoping for a divorce. I may be one of the only kids in the world who wants their parents to split up. I am sure I will go straight to hell for that. But, for me, a divorce might mean moving to a new house, where I could switch schools, and have a fresh start at a place where the kids and teachers don’t know to hate me yet. I swear to myself that, if I get to go to a new school, I’ll do better. I’ll try harder. I’ll make friends. And maybe on the weekend my dad will pick my brother and I up and do fun things with us.
Maybe my parents will even get remarried, and I’ll have two more chances at having a family that likes me! I especially hope for an older stepbrother or stepsister who will look out for me and teach me things, and a much younger brother or sister who will look up to me.
I know I’m weird for wishing for these things. But I just want, so badly, to belong somewhere!

Instead, my parents stay unhappily married, still always fighting or ignoring each other. My dad loses his driver’s license because of the DUI, and consequently loses his job. My mom gets two jobs to support us. Stressed out, she yells at me more and more. “You’re a loser just like your dad!” she yells.
The kids at school make fun of me more than ever, and my grades go down. I get insomnia. At night I lie awake, tossing and turning, unable to sleep until the wee hours of the morning. I wake up each morning with horrid headaches, nausea, and a sense of impending doom. Sometimes I beg my mom to let me stay home, but mostly I just stagger to the school bus half asleep, and go back to sleep in my first period class, laying my head on my desk.
“Stop acting like this!” my mom tells me, some mornings when I sit in the kitchen, bleary-eyed and miserable, my hair disheveled and my clothes wrinkled. “You come from a fine home! A fine home!”
Everyone hates me, and I wish I could disappear. Like in my dreams where, when something bad happens, I just fly away up into the clouds, where nobody can reach me.

2 comments:

CharmCityChica said...

Wow. Very engaging. I will be adding you to my blogroll if you don't mind...going to have to read your blog everyday.

Anonymous said...

You are an amazing writer...and an amazing person.

-Diana

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