Trigger Warning * Violence * Language
When I came home from school one day in October to find Mom sobbing, everything changed.
“What’s wrong,” I asked, rubbing her back. She cried even louder. We couldn’t stand it when Mom cried like this. It’s this one long moan, and it’s usually only like this when someone dies, so I asked the obvious question: who died?
“You have to go away,” she said, hitching between every word.
“What do you mean?”
“I’ve tried so hard, but it’s all for shit!”
“I know you’ve tried, Mom. But what do you mean?”
The truth is, I don’t think she’s tried. She just can’t seem to get it together long enough to do anyone any good. She lives on lottery dreams, sure any day she’s going to win and we’ll be saved. I’m torn between loving her and hating her, wanting to take care of her and wishing more than anything she would take care of me.
“All of you have to go away. If I don’t find a new place for you, they’ll come and put you all in a home.”
“I don’t want to go!” I said, jumping up and facing her. That was partly true. I didn’t want to be separated from her and my brothers. “Don’t send us away!”
“I’ve already talked to Sean’s mom and she said you can come live with them for a while.”
“What? No, Mom, I can’t go live with my boyfriend!”
“Don’t be so dramatic, Angie. You’re not living with your boyfriend. His family is taking you in until I can get the electric and water on here. Otherwise, you’ll go in a home and I’ll never see you again. Is that what you want? Is it?”
My face burned. Now Sean would know how I lived. Everyone would know. They could all see where we lived, but they didn’t know how bad it was inside. She was ruining my life.
“I don’t want to go. I can stay here and help you. Please don’t make me!” I begged.
Nothing worked. I had to go and she made me go. I hated her for that, for not holding onto me. And I hated whoever it was that turned us in. We’d lived this way for at least two years and we were just fine. Well, not fine, but we knew it would get better. It hadn’t always been bad. We once lived in a nice trailer, one that was like a house, and it was ours until Mom’s ex-husband took all the house payment money and bought drugs. Still, I knew it would get better if we could all stay together. Family should fight to stay together.
By the end of the week, I was living at Sean’s house. Mom assured me it was only temporary, and Sean’s mom told me it would only be for two weeks. I could handle two weeks. I only needed to follow one rule: “You may not go into Sean’s room.” As much I liked Sean, that wouldn’t be a problem. I didn’t want to see him at all, not like this, not with him knowing so much about me now. And what I really wanted to avoid was his attempts to touch me. It seemed like every time we were alone, his hands went to wandering. I said no a lot when we were together. One of these days, he was going to break up with me because of that, I knew it.
Sure enough, at the end of two weeks, I left Sean’s house, but that two weeks was horrible. The way people looked at me at school, the way they whispered, I would much rather they talk about how I lived than have them talking about me and Sean. I might have been a lot of things, but a whore wasn’t one of them.
When Mom picked me up, she wasn’t happy to see me. It looked like she’d been crying again. I didn’t know what had been going on because I hadn’t seen her the whole two weeks. I didn’t even know where my brothers went since we all went to different schools.
“I’m taking you to Jennifer’s now.”
“Why?” Jennifer was one of my best friends, and I’d spent a lot of time at her house throughout our seventh grade year, but Mom never just offered to let me go. I always had to beg.
“You still can’t come home, that’s why.”
“But, but I thought I was coming home now.” I really wanted to go home. Never in my life would I have ever thought I’d miss that spider-infested trashy trailer, but I did. I wanted to go there more than anything.
“You just can’t!”
We rode in silence to Jennifer’s. I had a million questions, but I knew not to ask any of them. Something about her made me afraid to even try.
“We’ll do everything we can,” Jennifer’s mom said as we unloaded my clothes. Mom gave her a smile that I knew was fake, hugged me for a second, and then left without looking back. I stood in the driveway, watching her go around the bend, and swallowed the lump in my throat. Why didn’t she want me? Why did it feel like she wasn’t trying hard enough for me?
Jennifer’s mom hugged me, took my arm, and pulled me toward the house. I would not cry, not in front of her or Jennifer or anyone. I would be strong and I would take advantage of this time with my best friend. It would be fun. It had to be.
One night, the local radio station ran a contest where the winner would get the chance to be a guest deejay. Jennifer and I hit redial at least a hundred times, and when the deejay announced we won, we were ecstatic. Everyone in town loved the radio station and we won the chance to be on it! Things were looking up.
After our time on the radio, people at school seemed to forget about the other stuff in my life. No one asked me about living with Sean or why I was now living with Jennifer. We were just cool for having been on the radio. I was flying high.
As the Thanksgiving holiday approached, I began longing for home again. Living with Jennifer was one long day of fun, but I missed my family. I missed them more when I felt like a part of this family, although that didn’t make any sense to me. I just wanted to belong.
On Thanksgiving, I used Jennifer’s phone to try to track Mom down and found her at her friend’s house. I really needed to talk to her, just hear her voice.
“What do you want?” she asked, her words slurring. Great, she was drunk.
“I miss you. I want to come home.”
“You can’t. The trailer ain’t big enough for you, too.”
“Mom, what do you mean?” What did she mean?
“I just mean you can’t come home. Not now. I don’t want you there.”
I gripped the phone, smashing it against my ear, sure I wasn’t hearing her right.
“You don’t want me there? What? Why?”
“I don’t have time for this, you little bitch. I don’t have time for this!”
The line disconnected, but I held on still.
What just happened? She was a mean drunk but I didn’t do anything. I just wanted to talk to her, to come home and be with her.
Once again, Jennifer’s mom was there to comfort me. “She’s just under a lot of stress,” she said. I wanted to believe her, but more than that, I wanted my mom to be like her. The longer I stayed, the more jealous I became of Jennifer. I wanted her life, a new life, anyone’s life but my own.
About Angela Giles Klocke – I’m a Colorado-based speaker, writer, advocate, and princess! I am also a survivor of child abuse, sexual assault, domestic violence, and more. I would love to speak to your group, school, or organization. Catch my TEDx Colorado Springs Talk on abuse, violence, and talking about uncomfortable topics, coming soon. Contact me!