Choices

I was driving one day through a beautiful woody area in the Santa Cruz mountains. It was cool, shaded and you can smell the salt in the ocean air. For much of the ride I felt like the road was mine. The turns, dips and  curves came at me, but like second nature I didn’t even have to think but just reacted. I didn’t have any music going but allowed the sounds of the trees to be my guide. I had no idea what was coming but trusted I would be ok. A fork was approaching and I began to panic! The unknown and confusion of what was unseen took my mind off of the beauty and guidance that has gotten me this far. I couldn’t take my foot off the gas because fear was now in control. A tight grip on the wheel, cold sweat running down my cheeks was now merging with the tears that had begun to fall. I could see moments of my life that had become pilars of strength, but the future was empty. The fork in the road was upon me and I decided to close my eyes, well I don’t think it was a choice but a reflex. There is no way to change what is coming. I can not feel my legs anymore, it is getting colder and colder by the second. The sounds of the wind rustling through the leaves are bringing such a clam to me. I feel like I need a nap. I just want to close my eyes for a minute. I have been driving all morning. I can feel the cold dripping down my cheeks. I don’t know why I was so afraid, but now I don’t have to worry. I gave up on life instead of making a choice. I can’t hear the beauty around me anymore, but I can see where the road meets the hills before me. A faded view of nature is passing and like driving through a tunnel it is moving away like I can see it in my rear view mirror. The rhythm in my chest has long gone and with a wink a say good night and good bye. 

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How do I Look?

When you look at people through out your days what goes through your mind? Do you look at people and make assumptions about their lives? Do you wonder where they are going, and or where they are coming from? Does their past cross your mind? Where they grew up and how they happen to be crossing your path at that exact time? What led them to be right there with you right now?

I try not to look at people with eyes of judgement, but I do wonder with curiosity. Watching a young man with a backpack, tattered jeans, unkempt appearance passing may have me wondering what has brought him to this place in his life. Is he searching for assistance, or is he content with his being and drifting through life with a joy in his heart I can not see? I feel I have been on the side of those looks in my life and now it has allowed me to change my mindset. I do not use judgement because I know there is a story to every situation.

In the mid 80’s I was to begin my middle school journey. Yes it was called middle school at the time and not junior high, and I do not know when that title was changed. The elementary school I had gone to at that time happen to go up to sixth grade. This was the first time I went to a school for more then one year before moving. Fifth and sixth grade allowed me to make a few friends and have the teachers and staff see something in me without me having to pack up and leave just as they were starting to get somewhere with me academically. Here I go packed up and moving on to a new place which also meant a new school. The good thing about moving back downtown was that we had made that move several times to different parts of the area and it was always like coming back home. I knew the streets and area. I knew some of the other kids around, but only as acquaintances. None of them were really friends, because I had never stayed long enough to make that happen. Either way it was the beginning of the summer and my next step was middle school.

I was a big kid, but I was coming into the middle of these established adolescents . The 8th graders were the big fish of the school, and the majority of the 6th graders came up together from their elementary schools and neighborhoods. I would have to swim against the stream and find my place in this new world. I tried to make at least one friend that would be going to school with me. It was actually pretty easy because there were only two choices of school in our area so I was bound to have one of the kids in the group around me also be going to this new place I called school. I had so much time to get to know people because even at the ripe old age of 11 I was pretty much on my own to get reacquainted with the streets. Parental guidance was a part time job for my dad most of my life even though he was my only parent. We are not going to get into much details of my pops, and even about the people I met that summer because this story is actually about something more then that. It is about a letter my dad received before starting at my new school. It came from the school district and stated that the district would be starting a new desegregation program and that I would now be bused to a school on the south side of the city in an affluent and predominantly white neighborhood. How I was chosen for this program til this day I do not know, but my whole idea of finding friends this summer just backfired on me.

I had no idea what any of this meant. Was this a punishment? Why did I have to go to school with a bunch of people I didn’t know in a place that might as well have been in China because it was just as foreign to me. I did not know the differences in the sense of they had privilege, or I was poverty level all I knew was that it all seemed unfair. I was used to going to a new school every year, but at least I knew where I was going. Now I am being sent somewhere. The idea of being sent without choice really seemed strange to me, but I embraced the idea because I had no choice at the end of the day.

I learned that it was not only me, a few of the kids around the area were also going to be bused around to other schools. Some would be going to the same school I would, but there was also another school that was on the list. Over time I would forget about the busing situation and just be a kid enjoying his summer break. Having fun with the neighborhood kids, and probably finding some not so good things to get into. We wandered the streets so freely like there was no danger or fear of something happening to us. We spent hours at the local 7-11 playing Donkey Kong Jr, eating frozen burritos and downing Slurpee. This was also around the time when I picked up a little bad habit called smoking. I remember the first time I accepted a cigarette from one of the other kids and to be cool I smoked with them. I felt sick, but over time I would grow fond of the slight buzz a cigarette would give me. My first experience with a funny feeling brought on by a foreign substance but not my last. I also learned to borrow items from the store without the intent of paying for them and getting full use of the product. I guess some would call this stealing, and they would be right. I look back on those times and yes they were care free, but the lack of guidance and following those around me that were at times much older led me to learn things I should have never been a part of. Back to the story.

It was the end of the summer and school was around the corner. We picked up a couple things to start the school year off with like clothes and school supplies I guess. I do not remember having a back pack so maybe that part didn’t happen. I know I would always get some kind of new clothes. Mervys was the spot, but I knew I was limited. We didn’t have much money so I knew not to ask for much. Usually 2 pairs of pants, a couple shirts and socks and underwear. Basic needs fulfilled and if I was lucky I would get a new pair of shoes. Nothing fancy, but something new meant the world when it came to shoes. I was ready for my new adventure. I could be anyone I wanted to be in this new place. They didn’t know me so the opportunity to reinvent myself was like gold. I was actually becoming excited for this new opportunity. I was able to go to a “better” school as my dad said. He did not have to try to figure out how to get me there or pick me up because I was going to be taking a school bus. This was also a new concept for myself. We had always lived close enough to schools that I walked, but now I had a chauffeur.

The first day I was woke up and it was still dark outside. It was like 5:00 am, and I felt like I should still be in bed. The bus ride was a little over an hour with picking up other students along the route and my stop was first on the list, so this made it the earliest pick up. 6:15 and if I was late my dad would have to get me to school and then it was a war. Screaming and yelling as I sit in silence for the ride to get my education was not how I wanted my days to start, so getting up early became normal to me. I was outside waiting for the bus by 6 am and could see there was others from the neighborhood enjoying the benefits of the school bus system. When the bus pulled up the sun was also starting his appearance for the day. The bus was cold and the seats were hard, but I got first choice on where I wanted to sit. That was the greatest perk of being picked up first. Not having that awkward moment of walking down the aisle and looking to to see who would let you sit by them, and if no one would be okay with scooting over the bus driver would chose and then you got the look from the kid already in that seat.  We picked up at several other stops on our journey to this new found land called middle school. Here I come.

I could see the new school ahead. It was so much bigger then any other school I had gone too. It was so clean and had tennis courts and was in a really nice area. I could see a couple other school buses ahead of us parked already. Students were sitting on the buses still, and I just assumed it was not time to let us off yet. Maybe we were early, and there was no one to watch us. We pulled up and the bus set his break. We sat there for a moment and waited for the door to open and let us venture off into the newness of middle school. I was excited for the new chapter finally, and we just sat there. I began to see kids getting dropped off by their parents I assume, and walking up from their homes near by and we just sat there like animals in a cage for them to observe. We all sat there and talked and waited for the doors to open so we can go in, and it never happened. Other buses pulled up behind us and it got later in the morning which turned to afternoon. I could see a few people pushing carts towards the buses and the doors finally opened. We began to get up and the young lady asked us to sit back down and came through and handed bag lunches to each of us on the bus. Wow, our new fancy school that I still have not stepped into brought lunch out to us as we waited for something. Anything. A few of the students that had to use the restroom were escorted to the bathrooms where ever they were and brought back to the bus. I was not sure what was going on because we had seen other students walk in and go to school. We had seen teachers and staff walk by and try not to look or make eye contact with us on the bus. We talked and laughed and got loud at times, but no one really said anything. I heard the bell sound several times through out the day and I could see kids walking to their next classes, but I never got to walk in there that first day.

I remember before that last bell rang there was a group of adults that came out of the front of the school and walked to their cars and pulled away. It was not a huge group, but they did not look like teachers or staff, and I would learn later on that it was a group of parents upset that we were going to this school. That final bell rang, the driver came back into the bus and turned his key, and closed the door on the first day and pulled away. We were taken back to the same spot that hours earlier we were picked up from. Doors opened we walked off and there was nothing said about what had just happened. The bus closed his door and pulled away as if everything was normal. Was this going to happen again tomorrow? What exactly happened to us? Why did we sit on a bus all day without anyone coming out and welcoming us to this new place? I guess at that age I did not understand what was going on, or know to question what was happening. I never told my dad what had happened, but he never asked how my first day was either. I found out much later that parents were upset that we had been allowed to come to their school, while their children were being bused down to take our places at our home schools. I could totally understand being upset that you bought a house in a good neighborhood with the best schools for your children and now you are being told that your son or daughter will  be going to a school downtown that probably is not that great, but we were children? Why were we being put in this position because of things totally out of our control? It brings up things in me today I can not seem to grasp, but I can tell you I had a great experience at the school in the end. We as children did not look at each other with judgement. We just went to class and did our thing. Do not get me wrong, there was an adjustment for most of us that were at that school and that included students, teachers and staff. I may not have looked like the kids at that school, but the curiosity and hunger to learn was the same.

 

Life

Everything has a place in your life. Some are ahead of you, some are behind and there are those things that are besides you today making your life what it is daily. How do we determine what stays and what must go?  Do we let what is no good fall on its own like a piece of fruit that has gone bad on a tree?  Will that which has passed its time in our lives, let go and blow away like the dandelion seed?  What if we just worry about nurturing that which thrives, grows and uplifts our being?  What if we do not worry about what needs to be pruned, but water and speak life to what keeps us living? Cherish the great and do not worry about what does not give back to you! Live! 

Everything

Edit

It is not what I see in the mirror that scares me

It is not what I see in the future that holds me back

It is not what I see in my past that haunts me

It is not what I see in the world that brings me to tears

It is not what I see in the eyes of my children that brings pain to my heart

It is not what I see when I close my eyes and sleep that brings me sadness

It is not what I see daily that makes me want to give up this life

It is not what I see around me that breaks me

It is everything I do not see

Darkness

I am not sure about you, but the majority of my memories as a child are not pleasant. Even though the happy times do stand out, they are few. I guess our minds keep those happy times up front, while the harder times have been pushed to the back like pimento stuffed olives in the refrigerator that no one eats. The human psyche is pretty amazing. It guards us from so many memories that will just keep hurting us if they were always on our mind. Things I have seen, comments people have said about me or events I was actually a part of haunt me when I start to dig. I write and bring them to the forefront. It is my personal torture to build me up mentally, spiritually and emotionally. I learn and grow and hope to change these moments from torture to examples and lessons. No one should have to dwell on their past, but we all should never forget what made us the people we are today. Good or bad, something in our past has created that characteristic in you.

Visiting people we see their lives on their walls, and it will show you their family throughout the years. A new baby, birthday, fathers or mothers day, graduation and just moments captured in time with a click of a camera. Books filled with frozen moments that tell a story in their families history. The pictures allow people to bring memories to the surface and share stories. I have no markers of my life as a child that will conjure up feelings or moments of my past. I have an empty canvas that only gets filled in as I write and pull my life from the depths of my vault that we call a memory. I wish I had a few of those memory shakers that can help me remember my life as a child, and not just the dark moments that stand out so vividly for me. I can see a smile on my face as a child, but I can not tell you what was making me happy to remember that moment. Is it my mind working against me, or am I just forgetting those times because they were so few?

Dealing with pain has become a norm for me these days. I am not sure if I am healing those wounds, picking those scabs and throwing a bandage over them or allowing them to scar and become a reminder. I do not mind going through some of these events for a second time, but it does scare me to think that there may be thoughts stored up inside that have been buried deep for a reason. What if I trigger something I do not want to comfront, and what do I do now that I have made it known to myself. I am dealing with those days gone by as if they were babies. I am gentle, tender and loving when I approach these thoughts. I look at them piece by piece so I do not overwhelm myself, but will I ever be done with this journey within?  Will my past ever meet up with my now to show me what is to come?

Family

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There is nothing like the love of family, but you have to have family around to know that love. Even with my family around me I still felt alone. I am not sure why I always felt this way. Growing up there was always family around, which included cousins my age, younger and older but I feel I was not part of them. I wish I had the Brady Bunch situation, but so much of my childhood reminds me of the movie Blow. Smoking, drinking and drugs were the normal situation. I only knew this life, so anything close to normal was created in my head. My parents separated at an early age, so I do not remember much of how it felt to have both of my parents doing that parenting thing in a real way together.

Coming from a divorced situation, and both parents not really there gave way for me to create my own family with friends. There were a few moments in my life that had both my mom and dad living in close proximity. When I was in the 3rd grade I went to a school by the name of Orchard. It was a K-8 school, so there was a wide array of kids. I remember we had the greatest jungle gym ever! It was made of huge logs, and used tires and rubber ramps. It had one of the biggest climbing nets ever. It made me feel like I was in boot camp, and if I didn’t make it to the top I would be thrown into the brig. This was my domain during brunch, lunch and break. One day there was a new kid hanging out on the lone tire swing at the end of what I felt was a wooden ship floating across the tan bark sea! I looked to see if I knew him and his face didnt ring any bells. He was laying stomach down across the tire opening and kicking his feet against the floor causing himself to rotate slowly. Every other turn he would swing a hand at the tan bark swatting a piece to the edge of the playground. He was one of maybe 5 black kids at this school. His color didn’t matter to me, but I could see he wasn’t the favorite of many. Over time I would get to know Johnny really well, but those first few days he was pretty shy and not open to share much about himself.

I lived across the street from the school field, which was good and bad. Being able to walk to school and be there in five minutes was awesome, having everyone see that I lived in an old motel was not the easiest thing to explain. Growing up I didn’t see a problem with how we lived. Moving from motel to motel and never really having a stable place to grow up was normal. I didn’t know how it felt to have friends from kindergarten sitting next to me in middle school and later walking down the aisle to graduation. I changed schools yearly until I was a sophomore in high school. Having a place to lay my head and food to eat was where I called home. There may have been times we didn’t have either of those and lived in shelters, slept in cars and no food to eat, but my dad didn’t let those times last for long.

We were living in a motel that reminds me now of the Bates Motel. Haha. Very cookie cutter side of the road middle of no where 20 dollar a night motel. Behind the motel, but part of the property was a huge dirt field with cactus and trees and what became the landscape for many trips to new lands for my friends and myself. Some of the kids I was friends with thought it was so cool to have the huge place behind my “house” to play at and do whatever we wanted to do and I do mean whatever. Johnny and I would spend what seemed like days back there though. It felt like it was our own land. No one could take it from us. We built a fort in the furthest back point of the field and used that as our safe place. If we were having issues at home, school or with friends that was our spot to just be. There was a long dirt road that led to the end of the motel and then back up to the street on one end. The road started at a brick wall that was at the end of a trail that came down from the back asphalt parking lot of the motel. We had a huge louquat tree and a few fig trees scattered around. The cactus was all running along the back end of the field. Each motel room in the front had a back door that led out to our praire paradise, but no one ever came out. It was our kingdom and those not invited kept clear.

I couldn’t tell you about Johnny’s family because I never went to his house. I knew nothing about where he lived or if he had siblings, but he became my brother. We were together as long as we were awake, but there were times we slept in our safe place. The funny thing is no one ever came looking to see if we were ok. We created our own background and it was very detailed. We met each other at a summer camp where we learned martial arts and survival skills. We were put together because we had advanced so quickly. Everyone knew this story about us because we told everyone this is how we met and why we were so close. I think we even believed it after a while. People would ask questions about the camp and it was like it spilled out of us. All this information about this awesome place that did not exist anywhere except in our imaginations. We would even talk about it while we were alone like it was real because we wanted our dream to be our reality so that is what we did. We brought it to life.

Our friends were pretty impressed with our stories and they loved hearing them. We had a couple boys and a few girls that came over after school on the regular and the weekends meant sunrise to sunset. I finally had a family that I loved to be around. We watched out for each other and took care of each other, and when one didn’t have the others made them whole. In school, play and through out our days we were all family in my head. I had never felt this before and just did not want to lose it. We would run them all around the back doing karate moves that we made up as we went along as if we were training them. They thought we had learned all this from our summers together in camp and now we were sharing it with them. They were the special group chosen, but they could not share this secret or they themselves would be banned from he group. We went on adventures down the creek that ran behind the motel, and there we would find junk that became our treasure for our safe place. Which not only was for Johnny and I, but Cheryl, Danny, Eric, Shannon and Becky. It was our home. Thinking back to it I feel like it was huge. We had a couch, chairs and a table with books and games. We kept a big ice chest that Cheryl’s dad was getting rid of that we kept sodas inside. We had an extension cord that ran from a shed and had one light from a motel room that was missing the shade they had gotten rid of. We didn’t use it much, but it was there just in case. We also had sleeping bags and pillows from the motel because we had slept in there many times, especially during the summer. It was always hard for them to go home, but for us this was our home and going to our families was the strange place. We created this place and relationship with each other that was more then any of us could really know or understand.

Even with our merry bunch of misfits, Johnny and I were brothers. We had a special bond that that just seemed to grow as the days went on. He would hang out for dinner, be there before breakfast and it just seemed normal. I never questioned why he was always here and never home, or why we didn’t go to his house. My dad always welcomed him into our little motel room. If the door was unlocked it was normal for him to just walk in cause he was home. At school he was quiet and didn’t talk to anyone around the campus. Even his teacher had problems getting him to talk. He did his work and when we all hung out he seemed to be really bright. Knowing how to do so many things and about so many places. It was like he had been there and was sharing the information based on experience. You know how when you talk to someone with personal experience you can almost see what they are talking about. That is how he spoke. Because we had created our own world and background, there was never discussion of our pasts. We just made up the life we wish we had lived. It was a happy past with the perfect family and without any needs. We didn’t create lavish lifestyles, just moments that didn’t show or bring up the hurt and pain that made us who we are. The people we had covered up and pushed deep so we can move on.

Summer after 3rd grade was the best and worst up until that moment in my life. My first kiss was with Cheryl and she actually became my girlfriend. I didn’t know what that meant, but it happened and I thought she was the most beautiful girl in the world. She lived in the mobile home park to the right of the motel and I would go over and hang out with her and watch cartoons and play games. Her mom and dad were really nice and Cheryl was an only child so she got pretty much whatever she wanted. It was fun to see and not just imagine how this other side lived. The mobile home was nice. Furniture looked new and matched lol, and they each had a new car and they both worked. Her room was really girly with dolls and a big dollhouse. All these clothes and frilly curtains and bedding. It was like someone beat a unicorn and it sprayed a rainbow all across the room. She had a Fisher price record player and had some music on. She loved to talk about her dolls and even had names and lives for each of them. It was the same way Johnny and I had created our past. Cheryl knew my life. The real life. She seen how I was treated and how I tried to never be home. Even at our age I could see how she would have sympathy for me and bring me lunch to school when she made a lunch. She always brought something to our safe place to share with me. It was a different part of my life and I was becoming used to having things I never would have without Cheryl in my life. Johnny would still be in the back waiting for me no matter how long I would be gone. We would fall right back into our story without skipping a beat. I could see he was bothered that I wasn’t always home any more. Maybe not so much bothered as he was hurt because now he was alone.

By the end of the summer I learned so much about this young redhead and my new brother. I was at Cheryl’s house one day and noticed her dad never came home. We ate dinner with her mom and she was quiet. She kept to herself and when I looked at her she would throw a fake crooked smile at me.I didnt ask what was wrong I was 8 going on 9 and I never thought to be nosey in that way. When I left to walk home that night I noticed her dad’s car was parked toward the far back of the drive way. Her dad wasn’t there though?  Where was he?  It was normal in my family to only have one parent, but Cheryl didn’t know that life. Her dad was always there and loved her so much. He always got her what she wanted and was a hard worker to support his family. Cheryl came to the safe place in the morning and Johnny and I were playing war. Yes card games kept us occupied between adventures and G.I. Joes. She didn’t have her normal smile, she looked in some type of daze. She was looking through me when I talked and hugged her. I could see this was not time for our made up life, but to ask about the reality she was living. She didn’t want to talk about it and at that time I didn’t know about the idea of talking someone into telling me what was wrong. A few hours into the day she couldn’t hold back and took me back to the big loquat tree. We climbed up to the platform that Johnny and I had set up between a few branches. Wood from pallets had become the floor for what was to become a tree house one day. We sat there quiet for what seems like forever until she let out this deep breathe and told me the cops had come and took her dad to prison a few days ago. She was sleeping and heard the talking in the living room and came out rubbing her eyes to see her dad in handcuffs and her mom in tears. She was confused and didn’t know what was happening. Her mom grabbed her hand and turned her around and said dont worry strawberry, that is what her mom and dad called her. Just lay down and in the morning everything will be OK. She got a kiss on the forehead that also had been mixed with her mom’s tears. Her mom walked away and closed the door behind her. Cheryl didn’t know what was happening and cried herself to sleep, but her mom would explain what had happened the best she could in the morning. I didn’t understand at the time when Cheryl told me her dad would touch her in bad places. I didn’t really know what that meant. What is a bad place?  Was she being bad and being spanked? I later found out what that was. Cheryl and her mother moved before the summer ended. She left the school and all. I never seen her again. I always wonder what happened to Cheryl. She was a cute and great girl at the time. We had so much fun that summer beyond a boyfriend, girlfriend situation. We all had our make believe lives and alternate realities that let us be someone else and for Cheryl it let her be just a kid. Where ever she is today I hope she is happy and healthy. 

Johnny was the one person there for me through everything with Cheryl. He didn’t show much emotion or know anything about what was happening, but he was just there for me physically to help take my mind off of things. We dove deeper into our fantasy life and created girlfriends we had at camp that were twins and beautiful. It made my reality disappear and all I could do was think about these fantasy girls we had just come up with. The sadness of Cheryl being taken away from me was slowly disapating. Bit by bit she was being replaced by an imaginary girlfriend that could never leave or hurt me. I create this story and outcome. Johnny started showing up later and not staying so late. I didn’t notice it much until one day he didn’t show up at all. Danny, Shannon, Eric and Becky were still there with me, but it was different. It made me look around as if a part of myself was missing. He was my brother and best friend. He showed up the next day and acted like he had always been there. Like nothing had changed. I asked him about yesterday which we never did. We never spoke about the real world. We just created stories to explain the world and life so they could fit into our perfect land and safe place, but I really wanted to know the truth of his absense. This was the first time I heard about Johnny’s real life, and it made me sad. Johnny lived in a foster home with 8 other kids. His dad was never around and his mom died of cancer when he was 6. He doesn’t know of any other family. He has been in different foster homes since 1st grade. He told me he hoped one day to be adopted by a good family, and all I could do was hug him and I remember telling him I would ask my dad if he could adopt him then we could really be brothers. We both laughed about the thought of being brothers forever and took off running from the back porch. That last couple of weeks of summer was different but we seemed so much closer because we were finally real with each other. We had a new connection. Johnny ended up going to a new foster family not in our area, but my dad told me they ended up adopting him permanently later on. We moved away from that motel before school started to another one on a different side of town. Time to find new friends, learn a new school and wonder if I will ever have a group of friends like I did that summer. 

Comfort 

After a certain age we look back on the life we have lived and ask ourselves what the hell was I thinking. As teenagers we feel indestructible. Nothing can touch me and I will live forever. We do not see how actions have consequences and sometimes the memories will haunt us forever. Haunt may be a strong word for some and I guess I look at it as something I just can never forget and I see it still like it happened yesterday.

The cold outside because it is 2 in the morning mid November comes through my sweater down to my bones. My feet are wet because my shoes are old and walking on the train tracks I encountered several unforgiving puddles. It feels like I’m in another world and I have no idea how to get out of there. At 13 I was out on the streets basically raising myself, because the homefront wasn’t very stable.

Gilroy wasn’t across the country, but I can not remember ever being outside of San Jose so it might as well have been China. Hanging around with people that were much older and having experience’s that someone my age or anyone for the that matter should never have was an everyday occurance. This all went down before cellphone’s, so when I was out there was no finding me unless you really made an effort. I should have never had the opportunity to disappear like I did, but no one was paying attention so I was a free bird. Jumping on the bus with some friends and paying one dollar for a pass that let me ride all day was how it all started. Friends of friends lived in the garlic capitol of the world, so let’s go hang out.

I was used to taking public transit everywhere because asking my dad for a ride was not in the cards ever. I can remember one time having to call him and ask him to pick me and my then pregnant girlfriend up from shopping for the baby because we had to much stuff to be carrying on the bus and the attitude I got for the next few days was unreal. I now owed him for the ride which he made seem like I inconvenienced him so much, but all he was doing was sitting at home watching TV like always, but that is a whole other story. Taking a bus was like second nature and it was almost a safe place for me. It was familiar, and comforting. The hard plastic seats and tinted windows were an invitation to throw my feet up and watch the world go by. I had my own private shuttle that I shared with everyone else with a dollar, but I could block them out and just be alone in my own world. Watching the power poles and street lights wiz by and imagining a skateboard zooming across the sidewalks next to the bus doing tricks and keeping pace with us. I don’t know when I started seeing this figure preforming for me while I toured the city, but I feel he was always there. Was he following me, or was he leading us and making sure I got where I needed to go?

I’ll be honest, I was not a bad kid. I always had good grades and did well in school, but my family situation put me in places where my friends were never the best people. I was the youngest of the group and of course naive. Being that the group was all older then me, I also tried to impress them when I was asked to do things. Never said no and always put myself out there. Yes it was a lack of self-esteem and a cry for attention because I had none at home or from family anywhere. I didn’t know these things at the time. Many of time I was taken advantage of by this group, but they let me be a part and I was willing to take the abuse for my place with them. No matter how small it may have been.

You never know where a day is going to go, but I never imagined this one going where it did. I was only 13 hanging out with a group that ranged in age from 17 to 20. When I think back, just the idea that they were cool with me hanging out with them should have raised a few flags. Going to someone’s house I didn’t know and stay a night or a few days was normal during this time, so hanging out in a different city just meant a new place to crash. People coming home from work, having kids and being adults was just so weird to me. They were passing me beers and flammable plants without batting an eye. Never questioning me about how old I was. It was just an average apartment I guess, but thinking back it was a kick back for druggies and run aways. Everyone was cool and just did their thing. Traffic came in and out of that place like 7-11. It was non stop day and night. At this time I was drinking, smoking and doing other recreational substances that made day and night overlap and sometimes days. I had been there for what I felt was the weekend, but I learned later it was more like 4 or 5 days. This was the first place I had gone with them that had kids my age coming thru as well. It wasn’t just adults getting drunk and high and teasing me and making fun of me for whatever reason. So much of my anger and pain comes from those years and being mistreated by people for doing nothing more then being a kid.

I was on the moss green velvet love seat, the kind with the material that you can make it darker or lighter by running your hand back and forth across it when a dirty blonde teenage girl sat on the floor right in front of me pushed herself back forcing me to open my legs and leaned her head back and fell asleep. I seen her the first day there with two other girls. One was a chubby brunette with braces and the other looked just like her without the freckles but also older. I didn’t know her name and why did she come right here. I ended up passing out while mind mind was wondering about this girl. Who was she and why did she pick me to sit by. Did she want to “hang out” or was she just looking for a safe spot and I looked harmless. This was all going on in my head as I drifted away on whatever cloud I had induced. Then blackness……

Have you ever been hit straight in the face? No guard up, or moment to stiffen up knowing what was to come, but a solid fist to your dome? Well, up until that point I had never experienced this pleasure either. This 15 year old girl was a runaway and her dad had heard where she was and came to look for her. Guess whose legs she was between sleeping when he came in? You probably added that equation up before I even asked. Up until this point in my life I had been in a couple fights, but nothing crazy. After this moment I had been jumped, beat up, hit with a bat, shot and shot at. Being woken from a drug laced slumber by a smashing fist to your face is something I can never explain, but the rest was just as bad. Her dad pushed her away and grabbed me by my sweater and threw me down to the geound b toward the door. Kicked me twice in the side and punched me two more times, but now I was covered up so my arms and hands took most of the impact. All I could hear was, “who the fuck are you and why are you with my daughter?” The girl was now up screaming at her dad that she had no idea who I was and was not with me. This statement seemed to upset her dad even more, as if me being a stranger with his daughter between my legs would clear everything up. I got up quickly ran out the door to his son who had a gun. I stopped looked at him and lost my hearing. I got so dizzy and fell against the stucco wall outside scrapping up my arm and face. I later learned that I had done to much of a certain drug that actually caused this to happen to people. I hit the ground and woke up with a foot on my chest. I guess while I was out the daughter explained things to the dad and he understood I had nothing to do with her and her not being home, so I see them walk out he waves to his son and they get in a truck and drive away. I still have no idea who the girl was or they were.

I crawl inside after falling a few times and learning it may not be a good idea to try and stand. I see there is the lady that lives in the apartment, and a couple guys I have never seen before. No one cared about what had just happened to me and my group of “friends” is no where to be seen. This is day four of me being at the house and I heard my people left two days ago. I was alone with no money, no way of getting home and my dad has no idea where I am at. And now we go back to the beginning. Walking on the tracks cold, wet, bleeding and bruised. I have no idea how long I was walking, but after a while I recognized the street the bus came down so I started following the street. After an hour of walking I could see lights coming toward me and I just stood there like a deer trapped hoping to be rescued from this nightmare. It was the first 68 bus heading toward Gilroy from San Jose. An older black woman asked if I was okay and if I needed a ride. I let her know I had no money and was actually going back to San Jose, the lady replied gently, ” I and going to Gilroy taking a break then heading back and she would let me ride without paying. She can see I just needed a break. I teared up and thanked her. I walked to the back of the bus as she turned off the lights and just continued driving down the road. I sat in the back row leaned my head against the window and closed my eyes. A few moments in I opened my eyes and saw my skateboarding friend outside the window keeping pace with us. I felt that comfort come over me, and realized I was finally in my safe place being taken home.

Parents do understand

I have had the opportunity to be home with my kids during the day and take them to school and pick them up and help out in their classes and field trips since they were in kindergarten. Working the 3:30 to midnight shift allowed me that opportunity. I feel blessed to have been able to do that for them both, but when I was I school if my dad had to be called for something it was taking him out of work In turn meant he was not getting paid and this may be an issue. So at all coat I tried to avoid him having to be called or asked to come for a meeting at school. I actually had no family at me graduation because I was somewhat tricked into going. That is a story for another time. This brings me to a time in my freshman yeah, which was pretty crazy because I was kicked out of one high school and had to go to school in another district. I was used to going to school in a pro dominantly white are because at that time they were busing us from the downtown area to the white schools and vice versa. I bet some of them white parents were pissed about that. It wasn’t a choice we made we were told where we would be going. Half stayed half went, but I was fine with it and got used to it over my middle school years. By my freshman year it was the normal situation, but then I was made to go to another school in an area that was totally white and did not has a segregation situation going on. 2600 student with about 10 to 12 of us being of color. And in the end we were all friends. I had never dealt with racism I my life. It was late 80s early 90s and I was in California. We had it all and it was okay cause we got along. With my new friends in the land of snow it was fun being popular in our own way. The kids stared at us like we were diseased but the faculty talked to us like we were not good enough and a waste of time. I’m thinking about one specific time when I came in to school like normal on a Monday. I took several buses 2 cities away to get to school which means I’m getting up at 5:30 and leave by 6 to start at 7:30. Sitting in first period and the teacher is walking around lecturing about what he likes and dislikes about the youth today. Long hair, ear rings, jewelry and this hip hop music is disruptive and he would never allow it. As this is being spoken everyone in class is looking at me because what he should have said was anyone that looks and acts like him is a waste. I had long hair, my ears pierced with my gold chains and a yellow Sony Walkman blasting Eric B and Rakim. Oh well I knew this was the perception people had of me here but it was shocking to have him be so blatant about it and in class. As the class went on the teacher spoke about how the school had been vandalized over the weekend and they were trying to get to the bottom of what had happened. About 10 minutes later I hear my name announced over the loud speaker along with the other 9 of my ethnic friends. Sitting in the front office against the wall waiting to be taken into the principals office and I was not even sure what was going on. As we waited our parents started walking in the office and sitting next to us and all I kept thinking was please God I hope they could not get a hold of my dad. I hear the door opening and I turned to look and it was my dad and he was not the happiest of campers. He sat down asked what did I do and as I started to answer he said be quiet and we waited for the next 10 minutes in silence until we were called in. The principal invited us into his office where an officer sat and after sitting down himself began his interrogation. So what made you do it he asked. I was stunned and stayed quiet because I had no idea what he was talking about. You had to have known you would be caught? Again I stayed quiet and my dad spoke up asking what was going on. Over the weekend we had someone come onto campus graffiti on the walls and break windows. What makes you think my son had anything to do with this? Well before him and his friend joined our campus we had never seen anything like this so we came to them first. My dad got this anger over his face and said your telling me you called me from work because you think my kid did damage to your school because him and his friends aren’t from here? Are you really being this racist right in front if me? The principal tried to calm him down and the officer spoke up saying he wasn’t being accused just brought in for questioning. My dad turned to the cop saying where are the white kids? The officer looked at him bewildered and replied what? Why aren’t there any white kids out there? Are you charging my son with something? Their reply was no because there is no evidence who commutes this and my dad grabbed me and picked me up saying come on. The principal asked where he was taking me and he replied home because you guys have no idea what your doing. When we walked out my dad told the rest of the parents what was going on and they all got up with their kids and left. The next day returning to school we had gained a new reputation as rebels for going against the administration. As we left I looked at my dad and said thanks for believing in me and he said he knew I wouldn’t do something like this and was upset I had to deal with that. I knew my dad would always be there for me and after that I had a new love and respect for him. The funny thing was that was not the only time something like this happened at that school. I will have to share more another time. Even though I was afraid at how my dad would react about being called from work he was okay with it if it meant backing me up and showing they were wrong. We are the biggest backers of our children and have to let them see that. I love my kids and would be there for them at the drop of a hat.