2008-11-06

NaBloPoMo/NaNoWriMo Day 6

Somebody Help

I tell my parents that the people I was with at the park are all carnival workers. I tell them I became friendly with the carnies yesterday, and stopped to talk to a few people I recognized. I feel bad for disowning the homeless people, but I know they would understand.
“Why would you be hanging out with a bunch of carnival people?” My mom is disgusted. “These people are the epitome of white trash!”
“They’re nice,” I protest.
I get grounded. I’m supposed to stay home and spend the day cleaning my room, which is alarmingly messy.
Grounding doesn’t really bother me, though. I am used to being grounded. I get grounded left and right. It seems to me that my parents, busy with their own complicated lives, have put strict rules into place so they won’t actually have to supervise us. As long as we appear to be following the seemingly strict rules, my brother and I are free to run wild. For instance, my younger brother has been drinking and smoking weed since he was ten, but as long as he comes home for dinner each day and acts respectful, our parents assume all is well.
The only reason I get grounded more than my brother is because I have trouble with the simple, unwritten rules like, “Do well in school,” and “keep your room clean,” and “appear to fit in.”
At any rate, all being grounded means to me is that I’ll have to get home early, before my mom gets home from work.
So on Monday I ride my bike back up to the park and search out the homeless people. We hang out in a picnic shelter inconveniently located right next to the police station. It is a small crowd today. David, Pat and Harold have gone off somewhere, so its just Don and Al and me. Later, Kurt shows up. Kurt brings a whole shopping cart of sub sandwiches in plastic packages, which he says he got from the Dumpster. Don says he won’t eat Kurt’s sandwiches because he doesn’t think Kurt is a very good judge of whether food is fresh enough to eat. That hurts Kurt’s feelings, and he sulks. So I eat one of the sandwiches to make him feel better. Al eats a few, too. Al will eat anything. Don makes hot dogs on the grill, and I am sitting on top of a picnic table next to him, eating a hot dog wrapped Wonder Bread, when I see my mom’s van pull up.
“Oh, shit!” I moan.
I stuff the rest of my hot dog into my mouth, and walk over to her, waving like there is nothing wrong.
My mom gets out of the van, shouting, “You little bitch!”
She grabs my bicycle and tries to force it into the back of the van, all the while screaming at me. I stand and watch her, my heart pounding in my ears.
The bike won’t fit in the back of the van, no matter how she tries to wedge it in. Finally she throws it to the ground and yells, “Get on your bike and ride home!”
I get on my bike, and ride over to my friends, stopping only to say, “I’m in trouble! I gotta go, but I might come back!” Then I ride crazily across the grass, past the bandshell and through the parking lot. As I cross the street, I see my mom coming up the next side street. She’s on her cell phone, looking pissed. I feel like I’m in some sort of movie, being chased by Mobsters or FBI agents. I cross the train tracks, fly through the alley behind the grocery store, down the street and up the driveway of my house. My mom’s van is hot on my tracks. As she pulls into the driveway, I drop my bike and run into the house, intent on getting up to the relative safety of my bedroom.
I am still on the stairs when my mom gets into the house. “You are not to leave this house!” she shouts. “Your room is a mess!”
“Okay!” I reply.
“If you keep acting like this, we’re going to have to get help,” Mom snaps.
“Good!” I would be glad for my family to get help. I picture a helpful person who
will teach me how to fit into the world, and teach my parents how to be… nice.
My mom follows me halfway up the stairs. “Did you hear what I said?” We’re going to put you away!”
I go into my bedroom and slam my door behind me.
The image of being put away is completely different from the one I had of getting help.
My paternal grandmother is schizophrenic. I don’t know her very well, because my parents have always kept their distance from her. Divorced from my grandfather, she lived in an apartment building for retirees up until a few years ago, when my dad and my uncle put her in a nursing home after she kept breaking her hip. We only see her when it’s a holiday or someone’s birthday.
The only reason I even know that she is schizophrenic is because my mom finally told my brother, my cousin and I, one day when she heard us making fun of the way Grandma acted. “You know, Grandma is schizophrenic,” she announced, stopping us in our tracks.
Much later, as an adult, I will start to learn bits and pieces of my grandmother’s story. I will find out that Grandma had what they then called a nervous breakdown, when my aunt was still a baby and my dad wasn’t even born yet. My grandfather had her put into a mental hospital, where she spent many years on and off. According to one story, my Grandma once threatened to kill her children. She was given several rounds of electroshock therapy, lots of different medications, and other forms of treatment that were considered the norm back in the 50’s and 60’s, But it all did more harm than good.
At this point, though, all I know about my schizophrenic grandmother is that her children… my dad and his siblings… can’t stand her. Most of the things she says are met with eye rolls and sighs of, “Have you been taking your medication?”
One of the things she used to be paranoid about, ironically, was the idea that people are plotting to put her away. But since that very thing actually happened to her many times, I don’t think was so crazy for her to be afraid of it happening again.
I don’t want to be put away.
Its now-or-never time, I decide. I’m going to have to come up with a way to get myself out of this situation, out of this family that doesn’t really want me, out of this world where everyone thinks I’m horrible. I’m going to get help.

My mom has gone back to work, so there is no reason for me to sneak out. I just walk out, get on my bike, and leave.
I ride back towards the park. On my way there, I spot Pat and Lorenzo in the alley behind the grocery store. I nearly crash my bicycle trying to get to them. Sweaty and tear-streaked, I cry to Pat, “I’m not gonna stay with my parents any more! They think I’m crazy! They hate me! I’m not going back!”
“Don’t worry.” Says Lorenzo. “You can stay with us!”
Pat gives him a dirty look. To me she says, “Whats going on, honey? What happened now?”
I quickly tell her the story, in a way that probably doesn’t make much sense. I am confused. I am upset. I am freaking myself out.
“We’ll find Ramirez,” Pat decides, setting her mouth in a firm line. “He’ll know what to do.”
Pat walks with me to the police station. I keep looking over my shoulder, expecting my mom to come down the street in her minivan, hanging her head out the window to scream at me.
Finally we get to the safety of the police station. I insist on bringing my bicycle all the way inside the police station, so my mom can’t drive past and find out that I’m here.
Pat waits with me until the juvenile offer, a youngish guy who reminds me of a football player for some reason, comes and urges me to to his office with him.
Then Pat stands up, smiling at me. “You’lll be fine, little one. I’m sorry I can’t
help you more. I can barely take care of myself.” She kisses me on the head before she leaves.
I follow the cop, who says his name is Officer Dean. He brings me into his office. The first thing he says to me is, “So what’s going on? You don’t want to follow your parents’ rules?”
I scowl, shaking my head. “That’s not it. They don’t really have a lot of rules, anyway. They just hate me. My mom, especially. And I just don’t want to be there.”
“What makes you think your mom hates you?” asks Officer Dean.
I recant some examples of things my mom has said and done that make me pretty sure she hates me. The times when she has called me a loser, the times she has stood over me and screamed at me about my school work. I tell him about a time when my parents got into a huge fight. We were all going to go out for dinner, and my mom suggested Mexican food. I suggested fried chicken. My dad agreed that we should go for fried chicken, because he remembered that I had told him several days ago that I was craving it, and he’d promised me we would get some the next time we went out for dinner. My mom threw a fit. “She’s a little princess! She gets anything she wants!” my mom snapped.
“How about we stop at Taco Bell on the way,” said my dad. “That way you can have tacos, and Nicki can have fried chicken.”
“I don’t want Taco Bell! I want real Mexican food!” retorted my mom, storming into her bedroom.
Wounded, I started to cry. My dad tried to reassure me. “She only says those things to hurt you. So if you just act like it doesn’t bother you, she’ll stop,” he said.
It was meant to comfort me, but something about his words made me feel sick to my stomach. It was one thing to believe that my mom hated me, and even to wonder if I was such a bad person that I deserved to be hated. But hearing my dad basically confirm that my mom got some sort of satisfaction out of hurting me… that was different.


(to be continued...)

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