I like freaking (28)
The night that I saw Freddy at the library, I went to bed, confused. I wanted to flee my situation, but I didn’t know where to go or who to turn to. When I woke up in the morning, I had a bruise across my stomach the length of a fist, but it didn’t hurt nearly as bad as I did emotionally. I was a mess.
When I got to school, I decided to tell my English teacher about my grandfather hitting me, as she seemed like the nicest and most trust-worthy person. She called a few people and then took me in her car to the hospital. At the hospital, I was asked to pee in a cup, and when I did, the cup filled with bloody urine. Freaked out, I took the cup to the nurse and told her that I was urinating blood.
They decided to give me some pills to help calm me down and let me sleep. When I woke up, there was a police officer beside my bed. He had a notepad and a pen and asked me questions curtly, which I tried to answer through brain fog. He never wrote anything down and eventually put both the pen and notebook in his front pocket and then stared down at me. I expected him to say something wildly different than what came out of his mouth.
“Well, the way I hear it, you called your Grandpa an asshole and if he shot you, I wouldn’t care much. This is what you get for disrespecting an old man.”
He then turned to the nurse, who explained that I wasn’t urinating blood, but rather my period had started, as in my first ever period started. When he heard this news, he looked down on me with more shame and shook his head disapprovingly.
At that moment, I knew that I was truly alone in the world. All I had was myself. There wasn’t a single person who would stand up for me or do what was right or just. I thought the bare minimum would be that my Grandfather would get a warning or a fine. Maybe he’d spend a night in jail contemplating his actions, but no, I was the bad guy. How was that possible?
I can’t put into words the contempt I held for police. Who were they there to protect exactly?
From this day forward, I counted down the days to when I would turn 18, leave, and never return. I had to keep my head down and lay low and get by, but I held on to the hope that my freedom was always around the corner. That hope was everything I needed, and it was the seed of optimism that set my future in motion. I learned that dreaming was an escape, and could see the light at the tunnel's end. That light was adulthood.
My grades were perfect, I scored in the 99th percentile on all of the tests and I graduated at the top of my class. I didn’t have anything else to do but get good marks at school. I joined the marching band to have one more activity that got me away from home in a legit way. I was not too fond of football, but I’d sign up for every single away game. I wouldn't say I liked marching, but again, it got me out of the house and busy with something else. I liked speech and debate, but it was another escape route where I competed all over the state. I also signed up for the academic league, where you go around answering questions as a sport. You get the gist - I signed up for every single extracurricular activity I could as a form of escape. I didn’t really want to do any of it, but I was determined to excel at everything I set out to try to do.
The reasons were perverse, really, in hindsight. I wanted to escape, but I also wanted my grandparent’s praise. After dinner, before bed, my Grandparents would read the local paper, and my Grandpa loved to read aloud any of the local school kids' accomplishments. When my name wasn’t one of the kids, I grew jealous of his praise. If he was praising me, then he wasn’t upset with me, so I grew addicted to it as a feedback loop. My Grandmother loved to point out how beautiful some of the girls in my school were, which deepened my insecurities more. Beautiful wasn’t a word that anyone used to describe me. Smart? Sure. Beautiful? No.
I was healthy, well fed, safe and not happy. Living with my mother, I was thin, malnourished, sometimes near death and extremely happy. I was happy because I had freedom and I had my friends. It is interesting that even though all of my base needs were met, living with my grandparents was the most unhappy years of my life. Living with my grandparents was like being on house arrest. They loved and cared for me, though, which I will always cherish.
At the end of the year, I had another prom to go to and guess what? I still fit in my previous prom dress, so I just wore it again. I’m surprised honestly I was allowed to attend. I wasn’t allowed to have a date, so my photo is of me solo. Check out how big my sleeves were. Poof! Also, those bangs. Damn girl. You’ll see I’m not wearing the sneakers that Aaron asked me to wear, but the heels my mother dyed to match the dress.
At prom, I decided I could dance with every guy who’d dance with me because I didn't have a date. A group of boys at school called me “Blossom” because her show came on either before or after The Fresh Prince of Bellaire. We both have big noses and a penchant for hats and overalls. Every time we passed each other in the hallway, they’d give me a hi-five and laugh at my resemblance. Well, the whole group of boys asked me to dance with them at the dance, and by dance, they asked if I would “freak” with them, which is where two or more guys dance with a girl and rub their crotches on you while you rub your ass on them. It looks a lot less like dancing and more like group sex.
I kicked off my shoes and said, “fuck, yes.” We danced for hours and hopped up and down to Nirvana’s “Smells like teen spirit.” This was the best night of the whole year and I was free to be myself and do whatever I wanted. I knew my grandfather would come in at some point and see me grinding away on not one, but several boys and lose his mind, but it didn’t happen. He picked me up at our agreed upon time and didn’t say anything other than I looked nice.
The next week at school, the kids decided to start calling me names. Slut, whore, and then “n” lover. I decided that I wasn’t going to let it get to me. Nobody was taking away the best night of my year. When they said the last thing, I responded, “damn right, I am.” It took the wind out of their sails. That’s when I realized the power of not reacting to something and not letting it get to you. Some kid went to the effort to write “slut” in a note and send it to me in class. I wrote back, “jealous?” and then licked my lips when he looked up at me. I figured, fuck it, what did it matter?
You win some, you lose some, and in this case, I became closer friends with Sam, which is what mattered to me more than anything.
The summer was so boring and filled with loneliness. One highlight was my grandpa deciding we needed to take a family trip to Branson, Missouri to go to Silver Dollar City, which is basically a country theme park filled with people who make glass sculptures, forge things and play bluegrass. They have a few rides that are pretty amazing like, “Fire in the hole” which is a roller coaster that is indoors and takes you through a burning city. It is also super religious. All of the merch they sell there has some quote from the bible.
My Grandpa, who’s very frugal, didn’t like spending money on hotels, so when we were done, we drove back home. I never understood why we couldn’t stay the night and take our time, but all of the fun had to be compacted into one day, and that was it—no more fun. I wondered what the point of it all was. Like, did he see my loneliness and feel any guilt about it? He didn’t ride the rides or partake in really anything. He’d sit down in one place while we had fun and then tell us when it was time to go.
When school started, I was finally in high school. I settled into my new routine and building. Some of the high schoolers were really cool and had cars, so during lunch time, I would go “cruising” with them down the main drag and we’d stop at Sonic, but I never had any money to get anything there. I’d eat people’s leftover fries and tater-tots. My Grandma gave me a check each month for the school lunch, but I tore it up as the food wasn’t very good and I wanted to escape the school with my friends.
I settled into the routine and figured I’d grind it out, get good grades and someday escape to college like my sister had done, but somehow, my mother talked my grandparents into sending me back to live with her. I’m not sure how. I really wish I could hear that conversation because I can’t imagine that they thought it was a good idea. I said goodbye to my friends in Oklahoma and my boyfriend from church. As much as I’d miss them, I missed my Arizona friends more and I was hoping to get some freedom back again once I was with my mom.
I didn’t fly back this time. My mother drove to get me. I remember us pulling out of my grandparenthouse's drivewayuse and seeing my grandma crossing her arms and crying at the sight of me leaving. My Grandpa told me to “be good.” I was going to miss them and their safety.
My mother and I drove in silence. Every now and then she’d tell me things were going to be different and how excited she was that I was back with her.
Well, things were different, alright. I went from having my own room at my grandparent’s house to living in a converted garage with my mother. There was one bedroom, and my mother took it, leaving me to sleep in the living room. I had space in her closet, and to get to the bathroom, I had to walk through her room to get there. At first, I thought this would be a problem, but it wasn’t because, like before, she was rarely home.
We ate at the local food kitchen when she was home and I ate whatever scraps were around when she wasn’t. My world of safety and abundance was gone. Why did she bring me back?