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The Final Conflict
I need a way to escape the war raging in my mind. I’m tired of the bullshit I deal with on a regular basis. I feel like exploding! I want to take all of my frustrations out on anyone in sight. I fear confrontation. I’m 9 years old. I feel like I’m twenty. I have seen too much drama. My parents fight constantly. Daddy’s rarely home. Mom’s a control freak. Daddy claims he’s working late. He owns two convenience stores. He also works for the power and light company. He built his business rubbing elbows with white Jews. Mom said Daddy kisses more ass than the law allows. She thinks he’s playing around on her. I don’t know when he has time. He makes time, according to Mom.
Daddy comes home late, blasting his stereo so loud that the neighbors on the next block can hear it. He doesn’t consider the fact that we have to go to school the next morning. He’s selfish and self-centered. He controls the money. He thinks that he can do what he wants, when he wants. We just live here. We work in the business. We’re helping to build his small empire. Daddy plays psychological mind games, to add insult to injury. He lifts me up one day. He’s tearing me down the next. He’s my advocate when my brothers tease me, which seems like every day. He looks at me with disgust on other days. He says, “Girl, you need to go on a “dite”. He can’t pronounce diet for some reason. The frown on his face when he says demeaning things, makes me want to cry. I eat more in rebellion. Food makes me feel good. It is my comfort through all the stress.
My brothers use me as their comedy relief to handle their frustrations, fears, and insecurities. Darren’s the worst. I’m the fattest person who ever lived! Let him tell it. He tells me overeating is a sin. He says he knows what I’ve been eating by the stains on my shirt. Darren’s a health conscious nut. He’s extremely self-absorbed. He brags about how fine he is. He says no woman can resist his body. He has a small weight room in the basement. He works out regularly. He boasts that no one can bench press more than him. I must admit he’s handsome. His body is well defined. The girls ring our phone off the hook. He’s an arrogant asshole! He thinks he’s a comedian. He loves to tell jokes at the expense of others. He’s usually the only one laughing. He told David and me a disgusting joke about the black man, the Jew man, and the Chinese man. He said they lived in a house together. The Chinese man bought a chocolate pie. He told the other guys not to touch it. The black man got hungry through the middle of the night. He ate all the pie. The black man had to shit. He put the shit in the pie to fool the Chinese man. The Jew man came home hungry. He ate the entire pie. The Chinese man is angry when he discovers his pie is gone. He asked who ate it. The Jew man blamed the black man. The black man told the Jew man, he’s full of shit. Darren thought the joke was hilarious. Conversations similar to this define his character and level of thinking.
I run to Daddy every time Darren and David tease me. Daddy tells them to stop. He tells me, “Don’t nobody want a bone but a dog and he hides it.” He sings a popular song from the fifties to reinforce his point. The song goes something like, “I met this girl name Bony Maroni. She’s so skinny….” I can never remember the rest of the song. It always makes me feel better. I crave his love and attention. He’s allusive. A workaholic. Daddy and Mom are at each other’s throats when he’s home.
We travel a lot in between the fights. I enjoy going out of town. I feel like a prisoner when Daddy holds my hand so tight. It feels like my bones will break. We travel on long trips to Canada, New York, Minnesota, California, Florida, Texas, and even the Bahamas! Christmas is a great time in our home. We have to go to bed early to prepare for “Santa Clause’s” arrival. Our parents tell us if we’re up peeping around when “Santa” arrives, he’ll throw sand in our eyes. My parents prepare a sandwich, a treat, and a glass of milk for “Santa”. They’re always happy around this time of year. On Christmas day, I run to see if “Santa Claus” ate the food. He did! The Christmas tree is stuffed with gifts, mainly for me! My godmother, Aggie, buys me at least 20 gifts. She doesn’t have any kids. She has a great government job. I visit her regularly to get away from the chaos. Aggie asks a million questions about what’s going on at home. I’m too pleased to divulge. The closest she came to a man is her Harlequin romance novels. Oh, and she briefly dated Daddy’s baby brother Uncle Teddy. Uncle Teddy’s a strange character. He’s a loner with little experience with women. He and Mom are close. Mom said Grandmother, Hazel, is too controlling. She says she’s overprotective. Mom dislikes her with passion. Mom said Grandmother doesn’t like her. Grandmother thinks Mom is spoiled. She is. I like Grandmother, perhaps, it’s because I am named after her: Hazel Robin. She’s nice most of the time. She has a lot of positive energy. She taught me how to play Jacks, make homemade ice cream, and cultivate plants. She has a deep belief in God. I watch her walk with God regularly. She admits that she wasn’t a saint back in her day. It’s clear to me that she has changed her life for the better. I like spending the night at her house. We stay up late. We talk for hours. She’s a great storyteller with a vivid imagination. I like to visualize the people and places she describes. Grandmother talks about her mom and dad a lot. She has their picture on her mantle. She cries every time she looks at her father’s picture, perhaps, she misses him. I often wonder.
Mom’s mother has been very sick lately. She had a second stroke. She’s in a coma. I visited her home several times. I don’t feel close to her like I do Grandmother. She has 14 children. Over 250 grandchildren and great-grandchildren, plus nieces, nephews, and cousins. I spent one night at her home. I stayed up all night. I was scared. I slept in the foyer. The front door is at the foot of the twin size bed. My grandparents’ house sits on an acre of land. Their house is small. It creeks through the night. Grandmother is kind of mean. She hasn’t been mean to me. David said she grew up hard. She had to be tough. He says there’s nothing wrong with that. He hasn’t spent the night. Grandmother is swift with her tongue. She swears like a truck driver. It’s not uncommon for her to call someone a black bastard, peckawood (to white people), haint, snake, tramp, or whore, if she felt he or she deserved it. My grandfather is the opposite. He’s a humble man of few words. His commitment to love and family is commendable. They’ve been married more than sixty years. They never fight as far as I know. I can’t forget the day my cousin Lena encountered Grandmother’s wrath. Lena is mean, bossy, and controlling. She has two younger siblings. She babysits on a regular basis. Her mother, Aunt Matilda, doesn’t work. She’s rarely home. She has married and divorced twice. She has her eyes on a preacher man. She treats her older children Lena and Wilbur like step children. They have to move out as soon as they turn 18. I don’t like her. Aunt Matilda and Mom are sisters. They’re also best friends. They love to talk on the phone. They gossip about other people. I don’t like going to her house. She has a house full of roaches. She never has any food. She brought a burger home from Wendy’s one time. We had to split it three ways! Her kids are “po”. That’s what Grandmother calls skinny people. Fried baloney is common in their house. Aunt Matilda eats well. We have to sleep upstairs in the attic. It’s hot. There’s no ventilation. Aunt Matilda gives the younger kids cough medicine when they have trouble going to sleep. Lena is in charge while Aunt Matilda’s away. She behaves like a drill sergeant. She’s resentful of her younger siblings. She whoops them with a shoe, belt, or broom for doing any little thing.
Our grandmother informed us to stop running in and out of the house. I didn’t listen. I ran in the house. The back door slammed. Grandmother was pissed. She marched over to Lena. She called her everything but a child of God. She slapped her. She put her out of her house. I tried to speak up to tell her it was me and not Lena. She just yelled at Lena over me. I watched Lena as she walked down the street to go home. I felt bad for her.
Grandmother doesn’t take any mess off of anyone. I saw her kill a wasp with her bare hand! There’s always a rusty can at her and my grandfather’s side. They like to chew tobacco. It’s extremely gross; especially when they miss the can!
Mom’s extremely stressed over her mother’s illness. She lit her first cigarette at age 36. She doesn’t use drugs. She drinks on rare occasions. I see stress in her eyes. I wish there was something I can do to take the pain away. Mom and Daddy are fighting like never before. Mom said Daddy is distant. He’s unavailable to lend her emotional support. Daddy says nothing at all. He continues to behave badly.
Mom’s into fashion. She’s a shopaholic. She has shoes to match every outfit. She has a variety of dresses, suits, hats, wigs, and jewelry. Mom spent all day Saturday at the beauty salon. She came home looking young, fresh, and fabulous. Her hair’s relaxed with streaks of golden blonde. She struts into their bedroom. Daddy’s waiting for her. She locks the bedroom door. I hear rumbling, cussing, and objects thrown around the room a few minutes later. Mom runs out of the bedroom.
She’s half-dressed yelling, “Darren call the police! Your Daddy is trying to fight me!”
Daddy follows her down the hallway with rage in his eyes. He behaves like we’re not there. Mom stands in the living room fussing like a child. Her breasts are dangling in the presence of her children. I can only imagine how embarrassed she feels. I feel embarrassed for her.
Daddy yells, “You slut!” as they wrestle on the living room floor.
“Yo mammy’s the slut, muthafucka! You short, knock kneed, lopsided head, black bastard.” She shouts, practically out of breath.
No tears flow from her eyes. She’s as angry and full of rage as he is. She tries to free herself from the headlock Daddy has her in. He over powers her. He wrestles her to the floor. He grabs her legs. He spreads her legs wide open. She’s not wearing any panties.
“Look at this.” He yells, looking over his shoulder at us. We stare in shock.
“What kind of sick fuck are you? How can you do this to me in front of my children? My mama’s sick and you gone try to force me to have sex with you? You was out all night, last night, with your whore!” Mom screams.
It’s not uncommon for Daddy to snatch Mom’s clothes off in front of us. This time is more bizarre. I feel confused. I don’t know his motive. Is he trying to humiliate her in front of me and her teenage boys? Or is he getting a cheap thrill out it? I’ve seen the pornography in their bedroom. He has a massive collection. They even recorded a sex tape with their movie projector. Is this some type of sick game he’s playing? Does he want us to participate? Its clear Mom’s humiliated. How much more can she take?
Daddy continues to restrict her movement. Darren charges him. He pushes him off of her. My jaw drops. No one has ever stood up to Daddy. Daddy’s in shock as well. I’m glad Darren did it!
“Yawl not nothing without me!” He yells, glaring at Darren. “You lazy, you don’t work! You can’t pay for this house without me. I don’t need yawl, yawl need me!” He hollers, glaring at Mom.
Daddy rushes off to his bedroom, changes his clothes, and leaves the house.
I don’t feel like going to school the next day. I feel weak and powerless. I am beginning to dislike Daddy. He doesn’t respect Mom or us. Life is worse than ever. I don’t have anyone to talk to. I’m too embarrassed to tell anyone. I have one good friend Madeline. Madeline lives in the southern part of town in a new brick house with a circle driveway. She use to live in the inner city. Mom said after we bought our house, they bought a newer house. It seems like everyone’s trying to keep up with the Joneses these days, including Mom. Madeline’s spoiled. She’s the object of her father’s affection. I really like Mattie, that’s what we call her. She’s tall, lean, with medium size pigtails. She’s the opposite of me. I’m short and plump. I wish I was her size. I admire Mattie. She does everything right. She’s a great skater. She runs fast. She can’t do any wrong in her parent’s eyes. Her parents and older siblings cater to her every need. Her bedroom’s decorated like a princess. She has a full size Canopy bed. I have a twin size Canopy bed. She has the Barbie dream house, the car, and all the other accessories. I like going over to her house for sleep overs. Mattie doesn’t come to my house as often as I want her to. My parents don’t fight when company’s over. I guess, Mattie feels more comfortable being at home. I met her at a Baptist church before we became Catholic. The reason we became Catholic is to save money on the school tuition.
I hate catholic school. We have to wear uniforms every day. We go to mass every Friday. We have to stand and pledge allegiance to the stupid flag. We recite the “Our Father” every morning. The Nuns are mean and cranky. They live in a convent across the parking lot from the school. The Priests are cool. The Priests and Nuns are unable to get married. We have to address the Priests as father. They’re not my father! All the children at school are excited when Father Holt walks across the playground at recess. The Priest’s really like David. They want him to become a Priest. David declined. He’s an altar boy.
I waited outside, one time for David when Father Holt asked him to come into the convent. I asked if I could come in to see what it looks like on the inside. David told me to wait outside. The Priests pay close attention to the boys at school. They ignore the girls. The girls at school have limited participation in mass activities. We are allowed to recite the 1st or 2nd reading at mass, nothing else. Mass is a strange scene. It’s totally different from the Baptist church. The Priests wear long robes. Incents and candles are always burning in the church. Tall statues of white people fill the sanctuary. How do they know how Jesus, Mary, and the apostles looked? The Stations of the Cross line the church. We are required to recite the stations every year during Easter season.
Weekly mass consists of a Priest reciting a brief homily. The congregation is instructed to recite the apostle’s creed. I still don’t know it by heart after years of reciting it. The audience is the choir. We stand and kneel about 3 or 4 times. The entire service last just under an hour. Catholic Church service is boring. The hymns are bland with little emotion. I was baptized in the Catholic Church. The ceremony was long. There were several participants. I received a few sprinkles on my forehead along with a prayer. I thought I would feel different after being baptized. I don’t. We’re told that we are not responsible for our sins until we turn 12 years old. I still have 3 more years to be mischievous!
It’s parent teacher conference night. My knees feel weak. My palms are sweaty. Daddy decided to attend. I’ve been cutting up in class for talking too much. Daddy whooped me once. He made me lie across a chair. He gave me a few swats. Mom insisted that he whoop me. I don’t think he felt comfortable with it. He never whooped me again. I’m afraid of his mean glares. I feel like he’s going to slap me at any moment. His deep, intimidating, voice adds to my fears. Ms. Moore, my third grade teacher, is pleasant. I’m so thankful to have a teacher who is not a Nun. Ms. Moore doesn’t mention my behavior to Daddy. I am forever grateful.
Ms. Moore has an odd demeanor. She speaks softly with a slow, deep, drag. She has long, black hair. She wears sandals, even in the winter. She reminds me of a hippy. My parents exchange niceties toward each other throughout the night. Our family turmoil is our best kept secret.
My argument for talking too much at school is that I don’t have anyone to talk to at home. I like to play make believe when I am alone. I imagine I am somewhere far away. I am happy. I like pretending to be a teacher or a famous singer. I want to be a singer when I grow up. David compliments me on my voice. We created a song once. It was a lot of fun. We have fun times together when it’s just me and him. Darren has to be the center of attention. The only way he knows how to have fun is by putting me or David down. Darren teases David for being musty. His armpits and bedroom smell funky. I don’t understand why; he showers regularly. Darren teases him about his big feet and corns. David wears his shoes too tight. He said no one buys him shoes regularly. He has a job. We work for Daddy. David is tight with his money. He said he’s saving his money so when he’s grown he can move far away. David cannot handle any type of stress. Stressful situations make him nervous. David takes Darren’s insults in stride. It’s obvious he’s insecure.
Darren’s Mom’s favorite child. He gets away with just about everything. He gets to stay out late on school nights. He has company over whenever he likes. Mom went into debt to buy him a new car. Daddy refused to buy him a car. Mom simply says, “Darren leave him or her alone. You know they can’t take a joke.” when Darren teases us.
The drive home from the school conference is peaceful. I’m happy Mom and Daddy are getting along. Daddy stops at the local convenience store to buy a pack of cigarettes. He makes smoking look so cool. I want to sneak one to see what it feels like to smoke. Daddy’s in the store talking to a tall, slender, woman. I don’t know what they are talking about. Daddy’s smiling from ear to ear. Mom doesn’t look happy. I try to distract her by asking a dumb question. It doesn’t work. Daddy plops in the van, still smiling.
“Don’t be leaving me in the car while you in there laughing and grinning with a bitch!” Mom yells.
“Woman, you crazy. I don’t even know that woman.” Daddy smirks.
“I ain’t crazy! I saw you talking to that woman. You act like you know her, the way you was laughing and grinning. You could have took me home!” Mom frowns.
The argument continues as we drive up the street to our home. I feel butterflies in the pit of my stomach. This feeling overcomes me every time a fight is brewing.
They march off to their bedroom locking the door behind them.
David knocks on my bedroom door, “What happened?” He asked with large curious eyes. “Mom saw Daddy in the store talking to a woman and she started telling him off.” I explain.
“I’m tired of this! I can’t get no sleep. I got to go to school tomorrow. I can’t wait to get out of here!” David frowns.
His hands are trembling as he speaks. The fights are taking a toll on him.
“You hear that?” David asked.
“What?” I asked.
“Be quiet, listen.” David said, placing his finger over his mouth. He leans his ear against my bedroom wall. My bedroom is adjacent to their bedroom. We hear a gurgling sound and the stripping of garments.
“Oh shoot, I think he’s in there trying to kill mom!” He said with fear in his eyes.
“For real? Do you think he would kill mom?” I asked.
“Darren’s not here. I don’t know what to do.” David sighs.
“Call the police!” I suggested.
“Wait!” He whispers.
We hear Mom cussing. The door swings open. They’re arguing as they walk down the dark hallway. Daddy comes out first. Mom follows closely behind him. They are shouting derogatory comments at each other. David and I stand frozen in my bedroom. We’re afraid to move. We hear glass shattering in the living room. We run into the living room to see what’s going on. Daddy threw a large vase into our glass coffee table. Mom joins him. She starts throwing pictures and other objects around the room. Daddy grabs her arm. Mom has a piece of glass in her hand. Daddy’s arm is cut through the struggle. Blood starts gushing all over the place. David’s in a trance. He’s visibly shaken.
“David don’t just stand there, call the ambulance!” Mom hollers, as if David has done something wrong!
“No, don’t call the ambulance. They might put you jail!” Daddy said. “Grab a towel.” He demands.
“Get a towel David!” Mom yells, in a nervous panic.
Blood seeps rapidly through the towel. Mom applies pressure to his arm. I haven’t seen that much blood in my life! I’m screaming to the top of my lungs as tears rush through my eyes.
“Shut up Robin,” Daddy shouts, “Let’s go! We wasting time! Yawl stay here. We’ll be back.” Daddy said.
I burst into tears as soon as the front door closes. I think Daddy might die.
David places his arm around me, “Don’t cry Robin, he’ll be ok.” David sighs.
David and I pace the floor for hours wondering what’s going on at the hospital. Darren arrives around 1 am.
“Damn, what happened?” Darren asked, scanning the room, “Mom and Daddy had a fight again?” He asked.
“Where have you been? This is a school night!” David asked with a frown.
“Boy please, that rules for yawl! What happened? Who bleeding?” Darren asked.
“Daddy.” I replied with my head down.
Darren bust out laughing, “They wild as hell! Somebody gone end up dead, if they keep on. Mom needs to leave him. This shit ain’t worth it. They done tore up the damn house.” He chuckles, shaking his head.
We hear the key entering the lock with mild conversation. We’re standing motionless with anticipation.
“Yawl still up?” Mom asked as if nothing happened five hours ago.
Darren smacks his lips and rolls his eyes, “I’m going to bed. Goodnight.” He said.
“Robin, go to bed. I’m alright,” Daddy said, “And I’m sorry for yelling at you earlier.” He added with sincerity.
“What did they do to your arm?” I asked feeling relieved.
“I got lots of stitches, but I’m ok. I’m sorry for fighting. We not going to fight no more. Yawl can go to bed now. Yawl got school tomorrow.”
Is he serious? I am thinking to myself. He expects us to go to school tomorrow? We hear that they’re not going to fight anymore after every fight. David is disgusted. He disappears into his bedroom without saying a word.
I toss and turn for hours. I can’t get the sight of blood out of my mind. I hear loud moaning and groaning coming from Mom and Daddy’s bedroom. Daddy starts moaning, “Oh, Evelyn.” I feel like throwing up. I’m starting to hate them. They are disgusting.
The next morning, I have a belly ache. I don’t feel like going to school. I didn’t get any sleep last night. I ate the rest of the chocolate chips cookies, potato chips, and almost a half-gallon of ice cream. I waited for Daddy to leave for work. Glass is still all over the floor; no one bothered to clean it up. I knock softly on Mom’s bedroom door.
“Who is it?” She asked.
“It’s me. Can I stay home today? I don’t feel well.” I replied in the sweetest, kindest tone. Some people compliment me on the sound of my voice. I use it when I feel uncomfortable with the people I am around, insecure, or intimidated and at this moment, I feel all three!
“No, you cannot! You going to school.” Mom snaps.
I take a deep breath, swallow hard, and prepare for a long day. David and I attend the same school. Mom gives us a ride when she feels like it or Darren takes us, but most of time we catch the city bus. Our school is about 15 miles from home.
“Why you don’t want to go to school?” David asked as we wait for the bus.
“Because, I just don’t feel well. My stomach hurts.”
“I be glad to go to school. I try to stay away from that house as much as possible.” David frowns.
He’s angry, irritated, and frustrated. The neighborhood kids think he’s mean, but I don’t. He’s nice to me most of the time, until Darren comes around then he participates in tearing me down. Teasing me relieves some of his stress.
I am not looking forward to going to school. I know it will be another day of work. I don’t have the energy. I have an ongoing beef with a girl named Yolanda. Her family has money. Her mother owns a grocery store and a nursing home. One time, in the first grade, she was flashing 10 packs of Now or Laters. My favorite candy. She brings candy to school every day. I asked for some, she said no, so when I thought no one was looking, I snuck a pack out of her backpack. I got in big trouble. Sister Margaret, punished me and told Mom. Yolanda likes to tease me about my weight. She’s short, slim and on the verge of “po”. She has long, thick hair that is always nice and neat. I have good hair days and bad hair days. Mom combs my hair in a grandma hairstyle sometimes. I want ponytails every day like everyone else! She doesn’t style my hair that way often but when she does, I feel embarrassed! Today, I am ready for Yolanda. I’m tired and running on a little bit of sleep. I am not in the mood for any jokes, especially about me! Yolanda’s stands in line in front of me as we wait to go outside for recess. She starts her normal routine of calling me fat pigs and other insulting names. In the past, I stand there and take it while the rest of the class laughs. But not today! I have plenty of material to use after listening to my parent’s low rate each other for years. I don’t want to get caught cussing because in our school when you cuss, you get your mouth washed out with soap!
I said, “No you didn’t! I’ve been to your house and yawl got roaches. You skinny with a big head and a little body. You look like Tweety!” Our classmates ooh and awed while Yolanda looks dumbfounded. Her eyes reveal that she didn’t think I had it in me. She tries to come back with something, but from that day forward, she stopped teasing me.
I’m glad to go over Aggie’s house over the weekend. I try to go over there or anywhere as much as possible. Mom and Aggie worked together at the EPA. Aggie still works there. Mom quit. She doesn’t keep jobs very long. I don’t recall her working at all other than in our family business and that was sporadic. She said she helped build the business. Mom’s permanent job is shopping, hosting gatherings, and gossiping with family members about Daddy and other people. She lives on the phone. When three way calling came out, it was on!
Mom doesn’t trust Aggie. She talks to her from time to time. Mom said she’s a busy body and she’s nosy. She said Aggie almost got her into a beef on the job. She said Aggie begged to be my godmother when she was pregnant. I was glad she did. I receive all of her attention, unlike at home. Aggie doesn’t keep a clean house. There are dishes, pots, and pans piled up in the kitchen sink. Clothes, books, open candy wrappers, and paper are cluttered in her bedroom. Aggie keeps the living and dining room spotless. My guess is, in the event someone special comes to visit. She lives in an expensive 2 bedroom apartment with a fireplace in her sunken living room. I tried to help her clean up. It was too much for a nine year old to handle. I’m not sure how the dishes got dirty. I never see her cook. We eat out every day. She may buy me some type of sugary cereal or otherwise we go to Hardees or McDonald’s for breakfast, Dairy Queen for lunch, and Pizza Hut or Pizza Inn for dinner. Visiting her apartment is like going to food Heaven. There is always tons of goodies. She has a variety of flavors of pop and punch to drink, potato chips, and desserts. She spares no expense. She buys expensive Russell Stover’s candy and donuts from Winchell’s. I just love Winchell’s donuts! She buys cookies and cakes from Cake Box. There is never water or orange juice to drink. It pained me to see Aggie go on a strict diet. All she was allowed to eat is Jell-O. She had a surgical procedure. They stapled her stomach. I saw the staples. It looked gross! She was instructed not to eat too much food. She probably busted the staples. She couldn’t stop overeating. Aggie shares her apartment with her younger sister Pauline. Pauline works for the government too. She’s overweight. She’s not as big as Aggie, but she’s big. I can’t move around in her bedroom. Junk greets me at the door. Pauline stays in her bedroom most of the time. She has one friend named Helen who she works with. I haven’t seen her with a man. Mom said she’s a virgin. She rarely goes out unless it’s too work. She may tag along with Aggie and I every now and then to get something to eat. Dairy Queen is their all-time favorite spot to eat. Pauline is cordial. She’s distant and nosy. They question me constantly about my parent’s ongoing battle. The more they feed me, the more I tell the business. They enjoy reading Harlequin Romance and Danielle Steele novels. They have tons of them. Reading is their passion. One of Aggie’s closets is packed to the rafters with books. I feel relaxed here. I take my shoes off. The temperature is always comfortable. I talk, eat, and most importantly, I escape. On Sunday, it’s time for me to go home to prepare for another long boring week. Aggie and I don’t go to church. I haven’t heard Aggie mention God. She says she doesn’t feel like going to church when Easter rolls around. She doesn’t have a bible around. I know she likes to read.
I walked into the house. The music is blasting. Daddy loves music. We have attended a lot of concerts as a family. Daddy likes Diana Ross, Smokey Robinson, Frankie Beverly and Maze, the Commodores, and the Whispers. He listens to King Pleasure when he’s in an awesome mood. He recently joined a group at the Prince Hall lodge. He’s a mason. He goes to meetings regularly. He said he has to pay dues. Mom and I asked him what the signs and handshakes mean. He practices shaking hands and other hand signs with an imaginary person. It seems odd. He grins and says it’s a secret. He can’t tell us. He seems to take pleasure in being a part of the group and withholding information from us. I hope this new group helps to change his negative behavior.
Mom’s in the kitchen laughing loud and talking over the blaring music. She’s frying catfish, preparing a salad, and corn on the cob. Daddy’s at the table grinning from ear to ear. Everyone is in good spirits. I’m pleased to see that they had a peaceful weekend. I just wonder how long it will last. I realize I’m alone again when I enter my bedroom. I have no one to talk to at home. I feel sad. I start craving something to eat. Aggie and I went to Arthur Treatchers to eat, before she dropped me off. I went to the kitchen. I grabbed a plate off the shelf.
“You didn’t eat at Aggie’s?” Mom said.
“Yes, I did.” I replied.
“Well, why are you eating again?” Daddy grilled.
“I-I.” I try to respond. I don’t have a valid excuse for eating again. I’m not hungry, just anxious.
“No, go to bed! You got school tomorrow. You don’t need nothing else to eat. Girl, you gone eat yourself to death.” Daddy said, frowning at me like he’s disgusted by my sight.
I placed the plate on the table, went to my bedroom, and cried myself to sleep.
I am awaken in the middle of the night by loud talking and laughing. It is my Uncle Henry, Daddy’s brother. He comes over from time to time, usually in the middle of the night with one of his many women. It’s not unusual for my parents to host parties at our home. Most of the people that attend the parties are friends and family. Uncle Henry is pretty wealthy or at least it appears that way. He drives a new Cadillac that has a telephone in it. He owns a construction company. He’s dating one of the weekend anchors on channel 7 news. Darren and I are fascinated by him. I am not sure about David. David doesn’t really care for anyone. He doesn’t like people who brag. I heard my uncle yelling wake them kids up. I want to see my niece and nephews. Daddy is too happy to oblige. He doesn’t care how much noise is made in the house, we are going to school tomorrow. Mom came to get us.
The aroma of alcohol and cigarettes fill the air as I get closer to the kitchen.
“Hey, how’s my nephews and niece doing?” Uncle Henry slurred, sipping and smoking at the same time.
“Good.” We replied in unison.
“I’ll be graduating soon Uncle Henry.” Darren said cheesing. Darren desires the life Uncle Henry lives. He wants to drive fancy cars and date a variety of women. He is well on his way. When Mom bought Darren a new car, he worked long enough to buy a kit for the trunk, rims, a booming stereo and any other accessories he could think of. The difference between Darren and my uncle is: Darren doesn’t like to work.
“I’ma tell you what, when you get ready to go to prom, I’ma let you use my Cadillac.” Henry slurred. His female friend blushed. She’s quiet the entire visit, observing the environment. “Really?” Darren asked with excited eyes.
“Yea, really! And little David, when you go to prom you can use my Cadillac too.” David smiles bashfully, looking over at Darren with doubt.
“What about me?” I asked.
“Robin,” he chuckles, “we’ll see, we’ll see. Yawl better go to bed. I know yawl got school. I’ll talk to ya later. I just wanted to see yawl. I love yawl and Darren, call me.” Henry said.
“Don’t worry, I will.” Darren replied, rubbing his hands together.
Summer is finally here! I can sleep in late, ride my bike, and play with my neighborhood friends. I know everyone who lives on my block. There is one family with a house full of girls around my age. Nell is the oldest. She’s tall, bony, and wears glasses. Nell likes to exert her authority when her mother is away but no one listens to her. Nicky is next to her in age. She’s mean and bossy, but I like hanging out with her. I think the only reason she tolerates me is because she has a crush on David. Kay is my age. We’re ok. I like being around older people, most kids my age are too silly and annoying. Last but not least Bonnie, Bonnie is a chubby runt who loves to play games and annoy me. A couple of houses down is Ray. Ray is a strange character. He can cry at the drop of a dime. He’s an only child and is spoiled rotten. One time he chewed pieces of glass right before our eyes. He’s an attention seeker. He does things for shock value. Then there is Derrick; Derrick and David are good friends. Darren is good friends with one of Derrick’s older brothers. Derrick’s eldest brother has an extreme mental problem. One time, he got really mad and busted out all of his mother’s windows in her house. Rumor has it that he was high on PCP. Derrick’s mother is married to a white man which is odd. He stands out like a sore thumb in the neighborhood. Corey lives next door to me. He’s my first crush. A couple of years ago he use to slobber and cry a lot, but I still adore him. At the other end of the block is Trisha. Trisha has two grown sisters that live at home. They have babies, but I never see any men over there, except their dad. Their dad is a short, older man of few words. He just smiles and waves. Trisha’s parents are in their mid to late fifties. They recently had a baby. The baby looks 80 years old in the face. We have a Muslim family living on our block. I know they are Muslim because the girls wear long scarfs covering their head and they have really weird names. I go over to their house when I am bored, really to be nosy. I was curious about their beliefs. Mom said they don’t believe in Jesus. I try to convert them behind their mothers back. Their mother is very nice. She always invites me into their house. Their house has an odd smell. I’m not sure what the smell is. They don’t have any living room or dining room furniture. We sit on the floor. The dad always looks serious. I see him up extra early in the morning walking to the bus stop. They don’t have a car. His wife has a baby every year. As soon as one baby is born, in a couple of months, she’s expecting again. All of the children are born with six fingers. The mother said she doesn’t use surgery to remove the extra finger. She simply ties a string around the finger; in about six months the finger falls off on its own. My friendly and outgoing personality allows me to visit all of my neighbors except Grace. Grace lives alone. She doesn’t allow anyone in her house.
Summer time is also nice because I get to visit Aggie for weeks at a time. I like being there when they are at work. I get to eat and sleep all day without interruption. I like spending time with Mattie as well. It’s always peaceful at Mattie’s house. I envy Mattie; I can feel the love in her house. I never hear her dad saying mean things to her or her mother, but Mom claims he used to fight her. Mattie has an older sister named Robin, same name as me. Robin is kind of weird. She’s fun to be around, but she’s a loner. David and Robin are the same age and are the middle child. Robin isn’t very attractive. She doesn’t get much attention in the family. She’s the odd ball in the family. Mattie’s older brother Detrick is best friends with Darren. Detrick is the total opposite of Darren. Darren is arrogant, boastful, and downright obnoxious while Detrick is soft spoken, easy going, and very kind to his little sister. Detrick drives a brand new Camaro. He has more than Darren, but you would never know it. He’s modest and humble. Mattie has several brothers and sisters that don’t live with her. When Mattie told me she had other siblings, I was upset. I want more siblings too! It seems like Mattie has everything. Mom told me later that the reason Mattie has other siblings is because Mattie’s father has children by another woman. It doesn’t seem so cool now!
I came home from Mattie’s. I wanted to go back right away! Our central air has been out for a few years now. It’s hot and stuffy. We have an attic fan, but it’s not going to get it. It’s about 85 degrees outside. Mom said Daddy refuses to get the central air fixed. He’s rarely home during the day, really at all. They have an air conditioning unit in their bedroom. As usual, there’s nothing appetizing in the refrigerator. Mom doesn’t have any money. She said Daddy hasn’t given her any money to buy food. Mom isn’t working in the family business anymore. I asked her why she will not get a job. She said, Daddy’s women want her to get a job and that’s why she won’t! I’m thinking you rather starve to prove a point? Daddy is clearly paying the mortgage, lights, gas, water, and insurance. I figure, the least she can do is get a job to repair our central air and buy more food! She’s stubborn and full of excuses as to why she can’t work.
Detrick is over our house for the night with Darren. I’d rather be at his house eating delicious food and soaking up the a/c! Darren has a new girlfriend named Denise. She’s sleeping over as well. Darren just finished high school. He has girls spending the night. Girls spent the night before he graduated! I don’t know what kind of parents these girls have! One night, Darren had two girls over at the same time. Daddy caught one of the girls sneaking out the back door. He was furious! Darren said Daddy is just jealous. I like Darren’s girlfriends. They usually cater to me by buying me candy and various flavors of lip gloss. His new girlfriend is different, she doesn’t buy me anything. She thinks she’s the best thing since sliced bread. She thinks she’s cute because she has light skin with wavy hair. I see men dote over women that look like her a lot. It won’t be long before Darren brings her down to size. She speaks with a high pitch, squeaky voice, but she’s hood all the way; born and raised. She met Darren at the local skating rink. They have been an item ever since. She was the other girl that Darren had at the house the night he almost got busted!
Darren, Detrick, and Denise are in the basement smoking weed. I can smell it through the vents. I know what weed smells like because daddy smokes it too. Mom doesn’t say anything. She pretends not to notice.
Daddy didn’t bother coming home last night. I’m not nervous when he arrives because we have a house full of guests. I don’t bother coming out of my bedroom to say hello when Daddy walks down the hallway. He did the usual and locked the bedroom door. I hear Mom’s voice rising within minutes. She breaks into her usual routine, she starts swearing like a sailor. I feel butterflies dancing around in the pit of my stomach. I feel nervous and scared. The situation is escalating by the minute. David rushes out of his bedroom. He heads to the basement. I follow him. Everyone gathers around in the basement encouraging Darren to go upstairs to intervene in the hostile situation. Darren refuses. We hear our parents fighting and throwing things around.
“Darren you need to stop it!” Denise demands.
“No, let them fight. They been doing this shit for years. I ain’t saying nothing!” Darren growls.
“Darren you tripping. You need to go help your mother.” Detrick said.
Detrick is very uncomfortable with the situation. We hear derogatory words being thrown back and forth. It’s extremely embarrassing. We can see Mom and Daddy fighting in a room built off their bedroom. The room has tall glass windows with no curtains. Without warning, Daddy uses a thick block of wood to bust out a window. He uses other objects to bust out the rest of the windows.
Mom runs to the basement door, yelling, “Call the police!”
Daddy runs through the house, snatching all the upstairs telephones out the wall.
“Call the police for what? Yawl do this all the time!” Darren replied angrily.
“David call the police!” She demands, ignoring Darren.
David looks disgusted. He’s shaking like a leaf.
Everyone gathers in the living room when the police arrive. Daddy drops his head when he sees Detrick and Denise staring him down. He didn’t know they were here. The police place handcuffs on him, “I’m sorry,” he said, as the police escort him out of the house.