Tag Archive: moving


School Sux


The new school sux.  It’s huge, it’s large, it’s empty, and crowded at the same time.  I don’t know anyone there, for I am a fresh arrival from overseas . . .

The other kids avoid me like the plague. They don’t know me and I don’t know them.  I don’t like them, either. They are mean to me.

I am in the band.  I play a sousaphone.  I played one last year, only it was over in Germany and it was for an orchestra band.  This one is shitty, but at least it’s fiberglass.  I’m gonna be glad of that when I march in a parade.  Only the parades here suck. Their people are so undisciplined. They throw trash in my horn.

I am marching for miles.  A long parade – Easter down in Augusta, Georgia.  The weather is cold and damp and there’s a cold mist blowing.  We march over a bridge.

I haven’t seen so many black faces in my lives.  There are so many of them.  They throw trash as I march by.  Every once and awhile I dip my huge sousaphone, dumping it out.

They are scum.  So is my life.

I am a quite bitter child.  And I understand this.

I hate my life and I am at school.  I work in the lunchroom for chow, saving my cents for purchases of “Ludens Throat Lozenges” – Wild Cherry Flavored – when I have time and walk by the little room they have in a hallway for just this sort of thing and school supplies . . .

I palm my 3 or 4 salisbury steaks under my tray after working the line. They serve them on Tuesday. They are my favorite food here, but they are dry and breaded and thin.  I can feel my fat growing and wish I was thin.

There is a boy in my Sociology class.  He is a boor.  He’s black and he walks around like he’s proud, and he’s the class clown. He’s obnoxious and loud and disrupts everything.  The teach cannot control him; she is afraid and she knows it.  He snatches up my book for no reason, my notes – everything.

I spend my time studying him, making notes of my own.  My dad has started me on my psychology lessons, on big books about Freud and Maslow and more.  Abnormal psych is ahead, as well as some sociology lessons on my own, of my own.  This boy – this ‘class clown’ – is one of them.

I hate him and express it in my notes there.

I hate this class and I hate this school.  Despite testing out with college level reading & comprehension skills, I’ve been placed in a remedial class.  “Dick runs.  See Jane.” That kinda shit.  When I’ve been reading adult level material now for three or four years, including my favorite novel of all time, the “Lord of the Flies”.

How I began to wish I was on that Island.  And I would, one day . . .

tho’ it was just in my mind.

They’ve also put me into advanced math class.  Me! – who cannot divide a fraction to save his life, who doesn’t know anything – I’m missing “math” from the 5th grade on and now they are wanting me to do calculus . . . I’m serious; I can NOT turn a fraction into a decimal or go the other way . . .

My parents suck.

So much was lost during delivery, too – that’s when our “goods” came in: all the stuff we’d entrusted the Army to put into storage during the three years we were gone.  So much is missing!  Most all of my toys, my mom’s Corningware – that kind of stuff.  Even now the adult in me misses my G.I. Joes and the original Apollo ship I’d stole during my North Carolina visit up North . . .

they’d be worth so much money.

My mom says such stuff happens; movers stealing stuff.  But it ain’t right and I don’t like it.

I’m all alone.

Coming in in the middle of school always sux.  But this one is different.

I’ve been going to the Army schools the last three years of my life.  These are much less successful, much more riotous.  Their crowds are so unruly, and they have “teams” and everything – and a gym!  The only one I’d known was on post, and it was open to the G.I.’s.  But this ones different.  For one thing, they have no weight room.  And they have no known organization.  Once a month or so they gather there for something called a “Pep Rally”.  I find it noisy, needless, confusing, a useless waste of time.

I wanna go to the library but they keep kids outta there.  And since so I am so new I’m not allowed to check out books.  Nor later.

But the book mobile comes by our neighborhood every 30 days or so.

That sux, too.

This school sucks

and

my clearest memory of the whole thing is standing outside that great big gray brick building, in the field down low on the hill, staring up; the building surrounded by gray twilight and swirling clouds, and a few students scuttling about

and I hate it.

and I can hate it so thoroughly I want to throw up.

and I hate my life as well.

(back then . . . news from “13”)

 

Homecoming


Home.  “Home is where the heart is,” they say.

But what if you have no heart? What if it’s dead and buried?

Ripped

“Home is where you are at; wherever you stand.”

That’s I learned moving around so much.  Home is where you hang your hat – whether it be a tent, a house, apartment, or truck.  ‘Home’ is where your stuff is.

Home.

It was early winter, 1973.  We’d finally arrived.  ‘Home’.  Back in the Good Ol’ U.S. of A.  Coming down the gangway stair from the jet to terra firma, solid ground, and not the four thousand miles of ocean we’d just covered . . .

As per custom and sworn duty, I got on my knees and kissed the dirty white tarmac, then looked up, wiping sand from my lips and spitting grit out.  My mom and dad scolded me for doing that as they attempted to herd us toward Customs in a low white hanger.  There wasn’t much – just long white stretches of concrete lined by pine forest, burned jet fuel’s acrid stench wrinkling your nostrils; the shrill scream then thunder of the distant jets laboring airborne, burning off precious gallons of fuel in dark swirls and leaving acrid  haze behind them . . .

My brother and I struggled across the open tarmac towards the building with our carry-on bags, our parents in embracing us like brackets.  I was 13; we’d just arrived from Germany, and the future was a big blank – just like the blank white wall in front me with the man-door.  The straggling line weaved towards it,  passengers in bunches and gathers, separated by social graces and grim tired faces – making a rather unsteady beeline for . . .

CUSTOMS” it said in plain black block letters over the door in English on a white sign.  Like everything military in which I’d spent the last three years of my life . . .

Customs.

Customs were about to change, that was for sure.  My whole world was about to get different. And I knew it.

I had been briefed going in.  We weren’t going to be living in our own house anymore.  That had been sold. Rather, we were going to be living in our next door neighbor’s house – now a rental, and the one . . .

the one . . .

even then my mind had stumbled.  Those last days were a daze in the ‘hood – Mister W gone: dead. Sarge, his trusty sidekick and companion: gone, dead as well.  My entire family, life, and childhood had been upset in a rapid series of transitions.  Things that had gone wrong.  It has been like shock therapy to my mind.  Then the move . . . nearly four years gone . . .

The Hood.

Our car was waiting for us. A family friend – the people who lived across the street from us – had gone to pick it up from Customs.  She squealed her delight and gave me a good hug, Southern style.  She had always been like a second or third ‘mom’, only much more loving and kinder than my own – and also a lot more sympathetic.  Towards everything.

Then:  The Drive . . .

The change in scenery: we had been in winter, here it was like fall. The Southern pines were green and tall, the grass visible, though splotched brown.

Where was the snow?

I was calm, but also upset.  I had had this Dream . . .

The Hood.

The miles rolled under the tires like a tolling bell.  Not many, for the airport off Tobacco Road, not far from our former home.  The sand hills rolled by, decorated in scrub and barrens.  I saw the run down clapboard houses with shingle and metal roofs, a hunkering trailer park, roads lined with trash and weeds . . .

Not at all like the Germany where I’d been twenty-four hours before.

The Hood – the neighborhood I associate with my childhood (between 5 and 10). When I left, it was a single dirt road lined with a few tract houses sheathed in clapboard or siding, or, as with our former house, redwood. Only one had brick, and it was the envy the neighborhood. It was across from ours and belonged to the family which had befriended ours so many years ago.

As we made the turn, our family friend still chatting about the changes ahead, I tried to access what I knew.

Most of my friends (or former friends, anyway) were gone. The army family up the road – friends I had known for years – had followed us overseas, coming to visit us while on duty. They were still gone, would be for another two years. They were the “other Army family” in the ‘hood. The rest were civilian, having lived civilian lives, and would continue to live them for as long as they lived. Others were gone, teens grown up, moved out . . . scattered to the winds.

My best “childhood friend” was gone – they’d moved soon after we’d left.  Their father was dead and I’d heard their mom had gotten a new husband soon after, and they’d went to live somewhere over in South Carolina.  We were going to be living in their house, renting it next door to our old one.   As we pulled in – on a paved road – I could see it.  Gone was the barn where my girlfriend and I had cuddled and kissed after getting ‘married‘ one day. Gone were the relationships. Gone were the ditches where we used to sink in cool sand while water ran in clear sheets around our knees. . .

So the isolation would remain.  The nearest store – a 7/11 – had been built about five miles away. There was a book mobile which would come around about once a month, but it was slim pickings compared to what I was used to – a real library, PX, and a whole lot of freedom.  Gone were the bus and train.  The only ones left – the only ones I played with as a former child – were the kids across the road.

Worst of all:

We were in HIS house – the same house – as the guy who had groomed and sexually abused us kids.  Sure, he was gone . . . but I remembered, him and his little brother,  my former best friend . . . still I didn’t know it was ‘abuse’, but the pain of his final rejection and betrayals still stung, that whole mess  near the end . . .

Gone – but unresolved.  It was still there.  Fresh, like a wound that bleeds that you can’t see.  And it was affecting everything I was, everything I felt, along with everything else I’d experienced.  As it would for years . . . all of it.

Return To The Hood


GermanflagIt was a wet, rainy afternoon at the Frankfort International  Airport. I stood in front of the big wide windows looking at the big jets on the tarmac.  I had lost the required thirty-five pounds (in three months, no less) to get my dog shipped home with me; there was a piece of carry-on luggage, and my family behind me . . .

I was ready to go. I had lost my best friend ever, and was aware that I was going into a great unknown. Sure, my parents had told me we were ‘going home’ – but I just knew everything had changed. It had to . . .

After all, I had changed.  I was heavier – fatter – and I wore glasses now.  I had learned a little something of the world.  I had taken up smoking – a heavier smoker, now, though a pack would still last me a week or two or three . . .

and I’d heard (and met) my old compatriot from the U.S. Army back home – a kid up the street who’s family was Army as well.  They’d come over when we were two years into our tour, and weren’t going to be back home until much later . . .

and things had been in such an uproar when we’d left The Hood before . . . with the death of my best friend (and lover) and his abuser’s (and mine – sexually, that is) dad . . . their family breaking up, poor as dirt mice . . . all that was gone; had to be different, much different . . . but how?

I stared out at a jet, wondering if it was hijacked.  It had been sitting there a long time.  A lot of hijackings were happening about then (it was November, 1973, I am sure of it).  Wondering what lay ahead . . .

I can barely remember my family getting on.  But it was a Lufthansa jet.  Wonderful airline.  I can remember the dinner – filet mignon, chunked roast potatoes, some kind of cheese, and a nice fresh salad – and I gotta beer.  My parents allowed me – almost as a celebration of what we were leaving: Germany, going home, going to the Promised Land where we had been once before, a place where you could drink water out of faucets and there weren’t men peeing publicly (and sometimes the women as well) . . .

I didn’t think about it – and I guess I didn’t know . . . but what lay before me was a tremendous change:

AmericaTown

Going from military schools to civilian ones,
Getting away from the military bases, PX’s, cafeterias, AFEES & more . . .
No more sitting with the G.I.’s outside marching, or singing, while dinner went on . .
No more post theater, library system, reasonable source of transportation, or the rules and regulations that went along with living on a military base overseas during the Cold War – and a military base that dealt in secrets, and secret technology as well . .

Instead I would be arriving in a rural environment, just a few miles from Tobacco Road (of novelist & Southern fame – or infamy).  It was a poor area, poorer than most – even poorer than that of the Tobacco Road crowd – and far from everything – a dirt road last I met it, with a scattering of Craftsman style slab houses (plus a few old farmhouses, mostly falling down) – around it . . .

A place of dirt and poor, ignorance and poorly read, with nary a library – not even a store

Dirtroad

and all my old friends? None of them left?

How was I to know?

I don’t know.

So I ate my meal, my bag stored overhead – and enjoyed it.  It was quite good, and Lufthansa seemed to put on a special flight just for me – until the kid behind me threw up in his seat . . .

and so I had to ride with the smell of vomit in my nose, a decent steak setting in my abdomen, and the silver clouds drifting by below as the moonlight – the moon was riding full and bright – with the occasional dark glimpse of the ocean . . .

and we arrived.

I couldn’t tell you much about that – the brief kiss (custom) – when getting off the gangplank – where you get down on your knees and with much gratitude and love kiss the ground you are thankfully! – finally! – soundly!  on . . . then marching over to Customs to make your “I don’t declare anything” declarations, the open bags; the searching & rifling through, the hand passing you on . . .

gathering your things . . . into the airport, a new beginning, a rental car . . .

and we are going home.

In twenty-four hours my life had changed from what I’d known . . . into something new. Something alien and different again, only in a big way.

And I’d be living here for a very long time . . .

I sighed, shouldering my suitcase across my back, and heading for the taxi cab . . . hoping this ride would be fun . . . and filled with dread . . .

For we were going back to my old neighborhood . . . and would not be living in our old house.

Instead we were renting the house next door.

The house my abuser had lived in.  My friend, my lover and betrayer, and the one who had hurt me so much in the end . . .

Escape

The Temps


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kHD5nd3QLTg

“Back in the U.S.S.R!”  But in my case it was “Back in the U.S. of A!”. For we were going home.  Finally and at last.

We’d moved into the “Temps” on the 5th floor of the German military (U.S. occupied) apartments that had been build for the German military back in “the War”.  These were a long string of single rooms, connected by a long hallway.  There were eight rooms on each side, each with it’s own door, and there were no doors on the end of the hallway.  They just ended there in the stairwell.  So while you were living there you were subject to have people walking through the ‘apartment’ that you lived in – whether you were taking a bath, cooking on a stove (in a separate kitchen, of course) – whatever you do.  Fortunately visitors – wanderers, actually – were rare.  Usually you’d just have a gang of kids pursuing one another – taking the forbidden fifth floor route instead of the one in the basement to cut from one long section of armored apartments to another.  We spent some time there – about one or two months, I reckon – living with those walls that sloped up (because you were near the roof) and with the dormer windows.

Gone were the apartments we had lived in below, with their long bay windows in the living room and balcony.  Man!  What can I say: those German soldiers lived nice compared to what I was used to.  And the walls – almost three foot thick, both to keep out the cold and exploding bombshells.  Everywhere: military. Everything green. O.D. was the color of my blood – or part of it.

The rest ran true red white and blue, though I had come to distrust some of the government.  I’d seen too much of it.  I’d lived under the burdens of this world.  I was looking forward to going back to the home of my childhood – if it still stood.

I’d had nightmares all my life, but I’d started to be plagued by this one.  In it I had gone back to the neighborhood, but everything had changed.  Everyone had changed in it; gone were some of the houses, and everyone would be looking at me strange.  As if I was an alien or Martian.  From another world.  Because it was another world, that rural world in Georgia, and this one . . . this all so foreign (and yet wonderfully strange; I wasn’t afraid to explore: I wanted to).  And the Army thing.

But I was ready to go. Gone past ready. It had to be November . . . that’s when dad always got his main orders (there were plenty of TDY’s, too.  And trips in the field.)  And this time we all were to go back home.

As I lay in my room staring at that sloped ceiling (when I wasn’t wandering the base, now stuck on foot, since almost everything we owned was packed up.  Luckily we were on a small one.  It was used to conduct spy missions on and over the border using Mohawks – planes like this one:

Mohawk w Electronics Pkg

They were used to spy on enemy and stuff.  I used to look at the photos some in the hangers.  There was a lot of neat stuff, but not my school.  THAT was over on/near Old Argonner, a base we used to live.  It was in Hanau, Germany, not real far (I think) from Stuttgart.  We wandered all over the place. Sometimes with the G.I.’s, sometimes in groups, sometimes with tours, often with our parents – or just alone.

We had spent a lot of time in the woods.  And in the bunkers doing military stuff.

but this last year had not been good.  First there’d been the fall of one good friend after another – falling away like leaves in the wind; there one day and gone in the next, until I was alone.  Nothing but new kids to play with; kids I didn’t wanna know.  I’d had enough. I was going home.  My last girlfriend has left 3 months ago.

I was ready, more than ready, to move on.

I’d had it with love and stuff.  I hurt inside.  I’d read a lot of grownup stuff.  I’d cruised the books in the libraries and read about everything I could get my hands on.  The administrators who gave tests all said I’d done really good, with a promising outlook.  One even called me a “lazy genius”.  I read and comprehended on a junior college level, and I wrote almost as well as I read, but I sucked in math.

I played the tuba and did art, but this year had been tough.  This year things were short – you won’t be there long enough’ – and they pulled me out some.  Early, it seems.  My heart wasn’t in it.

My heart wasn’t in anything anymore.

I felt burnt out.

And I lay on my bed and stared at the ceiling and wondered, had my doubts.

Everything is about to change which I’m afraid of, but I can’t stand this death I’m in.

The snow’s started.  It’s looking gray outside.  Inside I feel . . . cool.  Waiting and ready and nervous, and listening to the voices down the hall and staring at my room, with its blood red four square tiles, separated by mortar joints.

We’ll be outta here soon.

I hope and pray.

I look around at the bare room.

Its like my life.  Barren and empty except me.

Barren and empty like me.

13.

War In the Hood


War In the Hood

I stood next to the path, gritty sweat running down my face and bare chest. Overhead the sun shown like a molten rock in a diamond sky. I patiently waited, shifting restlessly from bare foot to another, feeling the gritty sand shifting beneath my feet.  A big bark covered log leaned across my shoulder, my hands gripping its rough gray surface like a baseball bat. It was pine, about two inches around, and much longer than me – about six feet tall. Beneath my bare feet the fine white sand was cool between my bare toes; a gentle summer breeze caressed my dust covered legs. All I wore was a set of short cutoffs made from a pair of pants; nothing else. I had no shirt or shoes on – just a firm brown tan carrying a scar or two.

I cocked my head, listening. Not just listening, but listening hard ­for that soft ‘pad-pad’ of feet striking soft sand. Thus far, nothing. The narrow path I was standing next to meandered down the hill in a more or less straight line, threading through thin pine and oak and around scrappy clumps of scrub. I had stationed myself somewhere in the middle, not far behind our house, and almost right behind the teenager’s place – hiding myself beside a thin screen of leaves and finding my weapon of choice.

We had been busy, my team and I, digging sporadically spaced shallow holes along the path. There was one every four or five feet from where I stood, stretching away for a good sixty or more foot in each direction. My team had disappeared – that was the plan – and I stood by to catch ‘them’, the enemy we had been given orders to harm. Even killing was an option, though I chose not to do so. I simply wanted to harm someone, do my part: take one out, or down.

In each hole we had placed stakes selected for the task. Unfortunately, none of us owned a shovel much less a knife, so we had to rely on our skills and intuition – digging holes with our bare hands and fashioning stakes by breaking dry branches so sharpened ends would form. Sometimes we sharpened them on rocks a bit. Then we would dig our shallow holes – odd how the land turned from stark white to a chocolate brown as soon as you scraped the earth. It was a painful task, packing dirt underneath our fingernails and almost ripping them off. Mine were kept short, courtesy of my nervous habit of biting them all the time, but still it hurt as the sand ate away at the skin on the end of your fingers.

I wanted our holes to be deeper, so I had encouraged my team to use the stakes as digging sticks where they could, but soon it became obvious. Looking up and down the path we could see the pine needle patchworks like frayed brown mats covering the holes scattered up and down the sandy white path.  None were much bigger than my foot.  I had measured mine to determine the size of the holes we must dig – and none were very deep. We had covered the holes with laced pine twigs to hold the pine straw mats, but there was no denying it: our traps stood out in the noontime sun like furry brown blisters on the fine white sand. I wiped sweat from my brow with the back of a dusty hand. Above the sun hung like a molten moon – small, distant, and hot. The sky, white-azure, was a leaded plate of glass radiating the heat down, only to suck it back up and send it back later on with more fury. It beat in a continuous wave – a hot July that left your breathless, like standing in blast furnace at noon, which would settle out to simply sweltering at night.

That was one thing about the Georgia sand hills, site of ancient seas – it was cool sometimes despite the rich Southern heat. Set above the Savannah river valley, the breezes carried wafts of ancient air, as cooling to the dinosaurs as it was to me. The settlers ‘down there’ in the valley would come up here in old times, seeking relief from the heat and diseases of the swampy south part of town – Augusta, Georgia it was, and we were not too far off the Tobacco road of fame and infamy.  Not that it had progressed much since that novel was written. Jeeter still lives there, with his mother-in-law and kids – many of them, for they have reproduced like rabbits down here in the south, and there’s no fox to kill them. So they just go on, generation after generation . . . drifting down into the earth like the fossils they are, and leaving only derelict buildings and old outhouses behind . . .

We had moved there some years before, and I was the one calling the shots. After all, I was an officer’s kid – or so they thought. In actuality my dad was but a Warrant Officer, W-1 – the earliest grade available. He was the one who had taught me to fight and showed me some pressure points and things – this was when I was about seven years old and was being matched up against the teenager and kids much older than me. He’d seen me come in bleeding but proud – I’d won another fight with my windmilling approach, but I had no sense of guard; I knew nothing about blocking any blows. Instead I’d just go ahead and suck them up while attacking the other kid – windmilling my arms, head down, feet a’charging. This, I later learned, was not the way to be doing things – and even while fighting like that I knew there had to be something better. So he spent a few hours one afternoon teaching me how to hold my arms up, make a guard – punching out instead of simply lashing out with those wide round houses kids often made. And I became a good fighter, practicing on my friend. He and I were into fighting all of the time; that’s part of what made us such good friends! We’d fight for awhile, determine who was the dominate one – and then with wide grins and big smiles we’d clasp each other around the shoulders and go walking down the road like two soldiers or best buddies, best friends until the end. There was never any animosity between us: we’d simply fight, settle it out, and go on about our play – no harm done.

But this time we were on a different kind of mission. The teenager may had set this one up, though I may be wrong. He often worked for his father as a mason and during the summer he was gone – off on some job site hauling some block, mixing some concrete, or doing some other kind of errand for his dad. That’s why he liked school so much, but it made him strong. The teenager was one of, but not the strongest in the ‘hood. That in part (I think) was due to his age: he was younger than some of them, but older than most of ‘my gang’ – who he hung around most often. Sometimes his attention was split between us – trying to seduce us kids while at the same time maintaining a somewhat normal relationship with the teenagers he in turn wanted to be like: the Fedrickson’s with their nice cars, or even the Stephensons, though he, like us and the rest of the hood hated their bullying ways. All of those kids were older than him – not by much, but enough, I suppose, to have that effect on him: him always ‘looking up’ and wanting to be like them (plus their families were ‘rich’ compared to him; they seemed to have everything, but his own family? Some of the poorest people in the ‘hood. Sometimes ‘we’, our family, came in at a close second. A very close second sometimes.)

This time we were in a war. My ‘team’ – a group of three of my friends and myself – had been selected to patrol – and set up and ‘mine’ – this part of the path. Then, after my friends were done, they were supposed to hightail it up to ‘the ridge’ (a hump in the ground further up on the hill) where our opponents, vastly outnumbering us (it was about twelve to one, including a teenager on their side) – were waiting for us to come up there, or us wait for them. Us little kids had immediately decided to take an alternative action. We had dug our traps – my team had gone up as described – and now I was waiting for something else. That’s why I had picked up this log.

Looking at this path it had occurred to us just how ineffective these traps were. For one reason: you could see them, scattered like the wind tossed mats of pine needle. Our team had discussed it after trying to top the needles with sand (it simply trickled through, burying the hole – or the weight would collapse it down). Not only that but the holes were too small – just big enough for a bare foot to get caught in, sparing a few inches. Due to our lack of construction tools, most of the holes were quite shallow – four to six inches deep, maybe a bit more, depending on the hardness of the sand we were digging in and the time we had allotted for ourselves to get this thing done.

We had brushed out most of the tracks on the path and fingermarks scarring the holes. Most of the kids knew about pit traps – or at least those who played war did. And this wasn’t the first time we had used pit traps. We’d even remarked how bad it was that we couldn’t get some feces to rub on them – that way the ‘enemy’ did – but in the end we had abandoned that idea. Everyone knew we’d get into trouble if we did – the grownups would get mad. Just the pit and the stakes were enough – all that was asked for. Injure some kid bad enough . . . it was enough to make the whole group of us shudder . . .

So we had discussed it, my team and I, before coming up with another plan of action – one that ran counter to what we had been told. I would stand beside the path and ambush somebody – taking them down – and then fading back, do it again – if anyone should come running down that path. We were all agreed I was the most capable of doing this thing: tackling somebody and bringing them down. Meanwhile my team would go ‘up there’ towards the other team’s home (which was behind the ridge) – and lead them down this merry path to my hell. And I was waiting for them to do it; exactly this kind of thing.

However it had occurred to me as my team dissipated along the sides of the path, scurrying through the low brush towards the top of the hill that I was unarmed and unable to do anything against a group of kids who might be coming down that hill. Critically scrutinizing the path, I thought about the games I played – the other games with my dad. A lot of them were ‘war’ games, meaning chess and things – but sometimes he brought equipment home. We had yet to get the missile launchers* – those would come later, when I was about ten or eleven – but they were unarmed. They were simply the collapsible tubes and aiming sights (as well as fold down hand grips, buttons, and instructions on how to use them) – which we would aim at each other when playing war.

So I looked at the path and thought about it – seeing ‘me’ running down the path and knowing what I would do when I saw ‘them’, the traps we had made. I could literally almost ‘see’ myself running towards me, head down, scrutinizing the path – dodging this way and that, avoiding this hole and jumping over another one. I looked up. There was yelling on the hill. Looking around I espied this stick of mine – a broken down tree laying on the ground. I picked it up and took my station, positioning myself behind the bushes . . .

because I knew – knew with an almost complete certainty how the kid would come. He would come like me – head down, concentrating on the path – looking where the next hole was and not where he was going. Already I could hear one running down the path. I knew it wasn’t one of my own – we had all agreed not to use this path; it was mined and ‘booby trapped’ from stem to stern – if not by one of our boys, then one of ‘their’ own. We would just wait here . . . waiting by this path until the enemy came . . . with this great big old stick braced against my shoulder, its end dug into the ground . . .

I heard the pitter-patter of feet coming a lot closer – and the yelling and shouting like mad Indians or wild hoodlums grew louder as the crashing of bushes came down the hill – and I tensed, bracing myself. Glancing around the thin screen of bush I could see him – a kid like me coming on down the path, his head down, hair crew cut like mine – maybe a spot or two thinner (all of our ribs were showing) – and a bit smaller in frame – and he was running, his head down as he concentrated on his path. He was hopping and dodging like a rabbit down the path, his feet skipping between the holes like it was a game, shooting little sand geysers like sparks and flame, leaving dust behind. As he came abreast of me, I stepped out and took my swing . . .

He barely saw me – barely had time to slow down, his face a slate of blank astonishment – but the motion of his body carried him on – and before he had time to turn around, I had taken that great big ‘log’ – that two inch wide stick in my hands – and cracked him in the back with it – right there, right above the middle section, just below his ‘blades (his shoulder blades, I mean) – and POW! – he goes down skidding across the sand on his belly, hands thrown out in front of him. And I had hit him so hard that that branch or log or stick in my hands broke right in half across his back – one end going spinning away into the brush somewhere while the other end stayed in my hand, flaking bark still from the force of my blow.

I looked at him. He looked like a beached fish in the sand; he lay there gasping, his hands making vague clawing motions in the sand. I could hear the yelling on the hill. It was no longer growing louder; indeed, it had settled down somewhat. Had my team taken them? Spinning in my heels I turned, looked up the path and then back down at the kid. He had stopped moving and was just laying there, his ribs going up and down. I felt a wave of contempt mixed with self-sympathy and sympathy for him. That, I knew deep down as I began running through the woods towards where my friends were battling the teenager and someone else, could have been me. That was the nature of our warfare. Grim and determined. And sometimes we kept it real.

Real wars in the ‘hood.

Battle and battle on . . .

Sometimes it seems it was the story of my life sometimes . . . in those days and days to come . . .




*I learned later those disposable rocket launchers were M72 LAW‘s , a Light Anti-Armor weapon which was developed after the Korean war in response to the expected threat of overwhelming masses of Soviet tanks and armor crossing into Western Europe – and perhaps America – in a war which was to come. One might think this, along with the training I had later overseas as an older kid would lead to something . . . but I think not, or do not know. It almost seems as though ‘they’ (the parents, the grownups, and the Army) were training kids for ‘that war’ (the one that never came). The expectation was a Soviet invasion in which our soldiers might die – and so maybe us kids were meant to fight as guerrilla fighter, individually or in groups – and fight hard – until we either died or succeeded in our mission – which was to overcome, overwhelm – and simply survive, if nothing else, in a forgotten and blasted land . . .

Discovering Loneliness


Discovering Loneliness

 When I was a kid and we moved to North Carolina, I was about nine years old. I went from a neighborhood where I knew everyone and a school where I knew some to a place I was unfamiliar with. I went from having friends all around to having none. I went from a poor Southern neighborhood to a middle class establishment; a place of unpaved roads and hard scrabble life to one that seemed to represent luxury and wealth: paved roads, brick houses, many people – and nothing that I knew from my past.

As a result I should have felt a little lonely. Surprisingly, I didn’t. I was too busy trying to adapt to my new environment to feel very much alone. After all, I had my parents to take care of my, my brother to torment me (or leave me alone) – and a dog in the yard. What else could a kid my age want?

Well, I wanted something, that’s for sure. I spent a lot of time looking around. I went to my classes in a modern brick school building for awhile – and then (I think) something changed. No matter; we got moved again. I’m not real certain about that thing.

The dog? He came with us wherever we went. His name was ‘Caleb’ which my mom says in French meant “black”. He was a black dog – a large Weimaraner – that would eat anything, including our marbles and toys.

We had a lot of marbles back then. My aunt would send them to me (Aunt Dottie) and my other aunt gave me a bag (Aunt Nelle or Aunt Lizze). In that bag (my brother had one, identical to me) I kept all my trinkets and toys – including marbles at this time. Up until they all got ate up by him (Caleb). He would go wandering around looking for something to eat. It’s a wonder he didn’t eat me and my brother some time!

I remember once us taking him out to the airport. There he chased the planes. That’s because he was a bird dog (my daddy said) – and he ran out on the tarmac and chased them all until my dad (becoming concerned for his safety) reined him on back in. My mom was a little mad about my dad letting Caleb run around like that – she was afraid he’d get run over by an airplane – but he didn’t. It might have been the best thing.

Perhaps Caleb was the one who made us move. I’m really not sure about that thing.

 

You see, one day Caleb got out of the yard when we were living in that really nice house right there at the end of the courtyard where the trees grew big and tall. It was a brick house with nice windows – nice ones with white frames all around – whereas the ones we’d left in the neighborhood (the ‘hood I’m meaning) were plain and simple.

Caleb got out and ate up some cats. He was that type of dog. He would eat anything.

And that’s when the trouble started.

 

Like I said previously in one story, we always rode our bikes through this neighborhood and some others on our way to school. (One day I saw a rabbit crunched flat; his guts spattering everywhere. I didn’t know rabbits lived in this ‘hood.)

 

But that’s when the trouble started; Caleb eating those cats. Only they were kittens, and they belonged to someone in the neighborhood we were staying, and the trouble got worse and worse until finally . . .

Well, I reckon we left. At any rate I kinda ‘woke up’ to find myself in another place: the apartments we were staying at.

I think my dad had something to do with it; I later learned: the Army ordered him to go back on base; made him – and us – live there.

I didn’t want to live on base. It was . . . well, not terrible, but not nice, and it wasn’t peaceful there. There was always a lot of commotion going on – kids and grownups yelling and screaming and running around; kids on bikes; gangsters, the rest.

You know those types of ‘hoods. The ones the regular people lived in. Enlisted housing.

 

Anyway . . .

 

While I was there we had a fun time going down a long hill each day on our way to school. It was about a mile long – a straight shot running down a little pathway that all us kids would take. Everyone looked forward to going down; no one wanted to come back up. But that was the ride that awaited us every day – huffing and puffing up that long hill, dragging our bikes behind us; maybe mounting them and standing up on the pedals trying to make our way.

 

It was a hard time.

 

Nevertheless, while I was in this ‘hood (the first neighborhood and not the second one – I mean the apartments by the latter; that fine brick house in the former; neither one references the neighborhood I had come from: the poor one from way down South) the teachers must have taken some pity on me, for them gave me chores to do.

You see, the thing is: I was the ‘only one’ there at the time (maybe this is a personality speaking? No; we were waiting to go on back home). And the teachers ‘knew’ this thing about me: I had showed up in the middle of the school term. I knew nothing there – not a single person, a single child, nor a single friend. I would stand out in the playground watching – the other kids playing, running around – but there was nothing for me to do. I took my bag of marbles sometimes – I was quite a good marble player because the teenager I had left behind had shown me how to do this thing: shooting marbles with one hand, thumb flipping them out between a cupped finger; how to shoot them out of a circle; how to shoot them in. How to play “bombsies” and “keepers” and what they were for. How to drop a bomb on a marble – I had some good ones! – even ones made out of steel. Those I reserved for those special fates: when I wanted to hurt someone – because I could drop them on someone’s marble and it would break it in half. Each and every time. (They were huge ones; I learned later that my big steel marbles were tank ball bearings for the turrents.)

I would also skip rope with someone – the girls usually. They were into skipping good, and so was I. At first I wasn’t so good at it – getting my feet tangled in the line – but as time went on I got better and better until I could compete with the girls – playing double-dutch and things, reciting all the rhymes. I got so good the other girls – the black ones – would smile big toothed white smiles of delight – because they delighted in challenging me, a little ol’ lonely white boy from the South.

Sometimes I would play house with them – drawing lines in the dirt and calling them imaginary walls. I was always “the husband” and I was often “going to war” – which meant the end of the game for me. That was their hint: “You are going off to war” – and I would take the clue and wander off to some war of my own.

The teachers? Great teachers, some, I suppose. One of them even told me I was a genius. Others didn’t seem to care. I was just another small face blending in the crowd – an ever rotating crowd, I suppose, from the teacher’s view and mind. I was allowed to go to the library and things – but couldn’t check out a book because they didn’t trust me with one. I guess that’s because we moved around; I was only there temporarily, and they knew it. So did I.

I guess that was one of the hard parts about it: waiting to go back to my old neighborhood, the one I’d left in the South. Wanting to go back some of the time – and then getting caught up in the crowd and by discovering things on my own. Being constantly amazed all the time. Planes flew overhead; bombers, too. Helicopters abounded around the base. Tanks crawled on the dirt, throwing up clouds of dirt and dust clouds. It was a strange kind of thing, seeing these great turtles crawling across the mud and knowing how deadly they were to me (fragments of an old dream invading my mind at the time). But I wasn’t scared of them; I welcomed them – they were cool.

However, this teacher this one time . . .

I guess sensing I was bored, and seeing me standing around all the time – there was nothing for me to do most of the time out on the playground. After all: I knew nobody and they knew me as a somebody that didn’t matter – I wouldn’t be around long. It rankled me some of the time that the boys wouldn’t play – but they had their own forts, their own minds, and didn’t want anything to do with me (for the most part). After all: they had their friends. What did they need another one for? Especially an army one who would be disappearing in a while? So as a result I got no invitations to the parties; no invitation to the prom (so to speak). Just left hanging and alone to my own devices most of the time . . . riding my bike to nowhere (and I had no money to speak of); walking around aimlessly, just looking around – again, always caught somewhere between being amazed and confused by the things I found.

But this one teacher . . . I guess one day she caught me standing around and decided she should make a hall monitor out of me. I would work lunchtime and the breaks. I wouldn’t get recess anymore: instead I would stand there at the back double doors ‘monitoring’ them. That mostly meant just watching people come in and out – that door constantly opening closed opening again – groups of kids either smiling or wandering out; or unhappily coming in. I would watch them all, feeling this strange sense way deep down in my chest; a strange sensation to me.

I guess I was finally learning the feeling of “lonely”. Because that is what it was. Lonely and all alone – at school, in the streets – even in the games I played in, including that baseball league I was in: I was useless and lonely and often left out of play. Not that I blame them. I didn’t know a thing about the game and the coaches weren’t into showing my nuthin’ – because they knew: this kid ain’t gonna be around for long. Why bother teaching him a thing? So I would stand out there with my catcher’s glove in my hand and watch them playing – throwing the ball around, taking batting practice and things.

I suppose my brother was in school, but I never saw him there. Not ever.

This was the place my father first tried hypnotizing me. It didn’t work, but it did kinda work on my brother. I remember him doing it at the dining room table – holding that thing (some kind of silver fob) and waving it around first his face (and then burning him with a match, testing if this thing was true) – and then mine. After seeing what had happened to him! (my brother) there was no way I was going along with it! So instead of ‘staring at the fob’ I stared through the fob and kept my eyes locked on him – my dad – and his chest. Just right there on his chest, catching the swinging thing from the corners of my eyes.

I suppose that’s how that happened. It seems to me I got up later . . .

I don’t know.

Anyway:

Here I am: this hall monitor. And one day these two girls from school (well DUH, I was staying there, standing by this door!) – come in. And they are bickering and fighting. Fighting as in as soon as they stepped through that door they started scrapping – throwing punches, clawing, pulling at one another. So I did what a hall monitor is supposed to do.

I stepped in.

Big mistake! (as I soon found out) – because these two girls (in their rage) – turned on me instead! The next thing I know I’m having to fight off these two girls (I’m wearing my ‘monitor’s sash’ – isn’t that supposed to stop them, mean something in some way?) – and they are winning hands down in this fight.

For one thing: they were a lot larger than me – several grades ahead. And for another thing: they were quite determined to finish their fight on their own, and no hall monitor – no anybody was going to get in their way . . .

So . . . faced with screaming demons with contorted faces and clawing hands (and kicking feet and thrown punches) – I dived for the ground, huddling up and cradling my own head between my knees and hands as those girls scrapped all over me. It didn’t go on long – just enough to make me sore for some time. Claw marks hurt; so do bruises and punches. And these girls were BIG.

The teacher showed up just as those two girls turned on themselves again – leaving me an angry, confused, and sore little mess on the floor – I remember standing up, looking at them beneath a brooded brow – confused somewhat, for I never figured out why they were into attacking me (I just didn’t want them to fight IN SCHOOL – that kinda stuff belonged outside) – and she hauled them away. Me? She just gave one long pitying scornful look as though I had just stood there all along, not trying to stop them or anything – and yet the scratches on my cheeks and shoulders were quite clear! And I was limping along behind – following her, because it was the end of my term as hall monitor and ever standing there again . . .

It seems another teacher found out and scolded HER about it (this teacher who left me out) – and THAT teacher turned on me some. I don’t know why and I don’t know how; just that it happened. She grew sullen and scowley whenever I would come in – and I’d sit there several rows behind, my face down in my book and hoped that I would never be punished by her again. (I don’t know what happened; not exactly why and how – and I think we may have switched schools again mid-year. I don’t know – again.)

But I did learn one thing that day.

When two wildcats are fighting, you certainly don’t step in! And women are wildcats when it comes to fighting – they will scratch at and attack anything, even those who are trying to help them – especiallyif it comes down to ‘lets try to resolve this thing peacefully’ – because I liked peace and quiet as a kid – nothing to ‘set me off’ or make me afraid and angry – I had too much of that at home! – but I’d rathered my life just go along peacefully with everyone leaving me alone at that time in my life. And I wasn’t worried. I knew I’d be going back to “the ‘hood” – that this was all just temporary – not even part of my LIFE – like a stage set that I was wandering around on like some useless extra with no directions and no clue as to what the whole play was even about – ALL the time. Just spinnin’ my wheels and waiting to go back home . . . to be with my ‘family’ and friends; the ones I’d left behind (time and time again . . . leaving it all behind . . . makes me sick some of the time).

It really kinda sucks now that I’ve come to think about it: about being alone; the ‘life’ I had at that time; wandering around uselessly, never knowing when it would be time to go . . .

But eventually that time came, and ‘we’ came back to the hood.

I don’t remember that move, neither. Not one comes to mind.

Shadow Boxes


(We wrote this some time ago – had forgotten about writing about it – and were surprised by all the obscure references (e.i. “symbolisms”) we found in it.  We rather imagine you could find a few, too, as well if you tried . . . strange how we write this kind of symbolic stuff while never knowing we are doing it . . . kind of a sad frame of mind . . .)

Shadow Boxes

When we were living in the military quarters on Fort Bragg, one of the things the kids used to look forward to was the arrival of new tenants. Not their departure, but their arrival, for that meant only one thing; something we all prized. And no, it wasn’t the possibility of a new friend or neighbor. We were after their boxes. And the bigger the better.

Military families move a lot, and involves many things. Loss of friends, gaining of friends, careful packing and unpacking – some items going missing, others damaged on every move – and the eternal shipping truck either coming or going – or loading or delivering with some family in tow.

It would start as soon as we’d see it – a big old Mayflower or some other moving company’s truck pull into the apartment parking lots. It was always a truck and never a van. These were entire families the army was moving, and like anything they had done over and over, they’d learned to do it well. We’d watch it carefully, waiting outside a new arrival’s apartment, eyeballing the boxes as they’d haul them in on handcarts – big ones, small ones, and all the ones in-between. We didn’t care what they had marked on it or what they had. The bigger the box, the greater the prize; the longer the box, the more we anticipated getting our hands on it. Nor did we pay any attention to the family, not unless they had some kids – and then we’d measure them up like those boxes. Everyone knew how hard it was being the new one on the block – because we were all new. Nobody had been there more than a few years. We were all military kids and the faces kept changing all the time. Including my own.

After the movers were done we would start watching. Sooner or later the boxes would appear. If we were lucky, they’d appear right then and there – as we were waiting for them to move in, the owners stripping the boxes off furniture and stuff as fast as they could. The really good ones were done in about one day. So we’d lurk around the apartment and dumpsters, either asking outright for the boxes (which most of the owners were only too happy to give away), and smuggling the cardboard containers to some place in the woods, or better yet, an unused storage room which would keep our treasures safe and dry until the time came when we would use them.

They say when it comes to little kids and Christmas, sometimes you are better off just forgoing the toy and handing them the box it came in. Kids love playing in boxes, and even at nine or so years old, us kids weren’t much different.

Usually within the week the time would come. Gathering our collection of shipping boxes together, we’d take them all out onto a field and begin making a plan. Laying them out, we’d begin taping them together end end to end, cutting holes in some to make tee’s, sides from others to form “L’s”, we’d assemble a huge rambling ‘fort’ made of cardboard. We got good at assembling with no tape – ‘pinning’ boxes flaps together with sticks, or tucking them inside one another so they would form a single unit. Tape was expensive and hard to get, so we usually had none. We would try to use what tape we could strip from here or there on the boxes, but you had to be careful – it could make them fall apart. And for the most part it was useless – the tape would strip the outer coating of cardboard off the box, exposing the ribbed sides underneath. And we’d also take out the staples – those big ones, the huge ones made of tin or brass, and straightening them out, use them again.

It would take us anywhere from a few hours up to half a day, depending upon how many boxes there were – but sooner or later we’d get it done. The fort, branching and rambling like a cubistic drawing of a tree, would wander far and wide – in some of the places loops; in some of the places ‘doors’. Then we’d get in and play, crawling through the tunnels we’d made. Hide-and-go-seek, tag, or just rambling around like giant rats in a maze, we’d go tumbling through those dark spaces, feeling secret and hidden from the world outside. Light would sneak in – those things were never dark – from every crack and hole, and the forts didn’t last long – as soon as a storm would come through the wet boxes would collapse and go rolling pell-mell across the field, flattened and ruined. But while they were there . . .

It was always close and sort of cramped and confined, and you had cardboard dust in your nose. The light would glow in shafts and spears here and there, and sometimes you didn’t know where you were, or where you were going – you had to just guess about things. Sometimes we’d cut flaps into the sides where you could open them up like vents, using them as windows, but mostly we kept them shut, crawling around inside. You had to stay on your guard – if the big kids found one of these forts – and if they thought they could get by with it – they might smash and kick it around, with you inside of it. They were even worse than the storms. That was one of the risks of being inside the box forts – you couldn’t see outside – and one of our greatest fears was when the big kids would come up, and with gleeful malice go about stomping our fort – and anyone who was inside.

Then one day as I was crawling along alone in a box I saw something that stopped me mid-crawl, right on my knees. At first I was confused, then I sat back in wonder, wide eyed, trying to figure out what I was seeing. There, on the opposite wall from where a small hole was, was a picture of the outside yard. Only it was upside. I was confused. How could a picture be there? It was even moving – I could see the trees sway in the wind, so I knew it was real and it was just outside – I knew the scene. Why was it upside down? Why on the opposite wall? It was behind me; on the other side – that much I knew. I was only nine and had never heard of such a thing. There was no camera or projector in here – what was the image showing, what was it doing there, and where was it coming from? As I moved it disappeared. I moved and the image disappeared; I moved again – and there it was. I looked behind me. There, in the box’s side, was a small hole where a staple had been pulled. I traced the small cone of light in the dusty air, putting my finger in it. I could see the shadow appear on the tree, and then I stuck in my whole head, looking towards the light. No – I could not see out of it. I put my head up against the box and stuck my eye to the hole. I just could barely see out at all. Removing my head I looked back again at the other side of the box. The image had reappeared. And just like magic, there was someone walking across it. One of my friends.

I think my little jaw must have actually dropped some. Here was a clue; how it could be done: spying on the outside from within – without anyone seeing you! We could monitor what was going on outside – but no one could ever see inside. Experimenting quickly, I poked another hole in the box – and learned you can make them too big. After awhile I finally got the hang of the thing. It only seemed to work on the sunward side, though on the other – sometimes – you could get some kind of image. Unfocused, upside down, one could see the world outside courtesy of these little pinholes – staple holes, actually – but it seemed like magic. Calling my compatriots, I excitedly pointed them out and explained their advantage. No longer would any teenagers be sneaking up on us! And like magic the excitement spread, and we went around poking little holes in the cardboard walls, sending images of trees and the field onto the walls of our rambling fort – a dozen little movie screens, opening our eyes to the world beyond.

After that – well, we were rarely surprised again when the teenagers would show up to stomp the boxes flat. We’d come out like a half dozen little honeybees – angry and swarming and driving them away. Like little hornets we’d sometimes be – throwing rocks and calling attention to our ‘visitors’ – because while we had the grownup’s attention they certainly would not misbehave – until they’d go away. And there was almost always some grownup hanging around down in the parking lot below the wide swath of the grassy hill – mothers, bored, laying about or talking to someone; littler kids being supervised – there was always a lot of noise, from sunup to sundown, of people playing and talking (and sometimes fighting) and living their lives. It wasn’t a bit like the old neighborhood with the loose (and unknown, and therefore unknowable) teenagers and people around – no one we really knew, and no one who knew them.

So often I would sit alone inside those hot, stuffy boxes, watching the world upside down – these blurry movies of the outside world. I was entranced by this little bit of ‘magic’. Later I would learn this is the heart of a “pinhole camera”, one of the earliest types of cameras ever made. It was something fun to learn – both as a child, and later as a teen. And it made playtime more fun and the forts even more mysterious and delightful, transforming those plain brown walls with the dusty air and yellow shafts of light into worlds of moving pictures of light and shadow. Turning a corner you never knew what you might find. And it gave us a new way of spying on somebody – hiding in a box and looking at the light shining from a small pinhole there . . .

It was a skill that was to become extremely useful sometimes . . .


Back to the ‘Hood        

 

If you’ve been following this blog at all, you know we left “the Hood” to do a year’s stint in North Carolina – yanking me from one culture and dropping me in another.  And even there we were yanked around.  My dad did something which removed us from ‘civilian culture’ – a nice newish brick house on the end of a cul-de-sac – to the rough and tumble world of enlisted housing (in apartments, no less – my first experience with them as well!)

As we’ve determined, these moves (coupled with the physical, mental, emotional, and social abuse) contributed towards the fracturing of my “child’s personality”.  It seems for each ‘place’ – the longer ‘we’ stayed, the more apt I was to build a ‘person’ to handle that place, those circumstances, and a whole bunch of other things.  This is a continuation of that tale . . . Tales from the Hood, I reckon I oughta call them . . .

We left Fort Bragg, North Carolina, when I was ten years old, going back to our home in the ‘hood.  Arriving back in the ‘hood was like slipping on a well worn glove – we fitted in seamlessly, as though we’d never been away. Immediately the old patterns re-emerged, the shirts came off, the shoes slipped to the side, and everything was as it had been before — rough, unpaved, and set in the sandy hills of a backwards backwoods Southern neighborhood. During the first two weeks in the ‘hood my best friend and I fought – an agreed upon fight, just to see who could beat up who. I won, maintaining the status quo, and we both walked away – arm in arm, grinning at our injuries, friends despite our battle. Odd how that always went with my best friend and I. No matter how bad our fights were, we always made right back up immediately.

Among the changes when we came back was my father’s horror at the treehouse we’d built, so high in that mighty pine. Declaring it “too dangerous” for boys to climb (despite the fact we’d been using it for years), he went up there and tore it down while all of us kids gathered to watch in despair. We’d worked so hard to build the thing, taking such great risks getting the lumber up there – and he disassembled it in one afternoon. That was my dad – always destroying what us kids had built, whether it be a playhouse, a fort, or our own self-esteem – then walking away to leave us, sometimes for years at a time. He never helped us, not that I recall, except for me, one time,in a fight I was losing. Usually he was caught between ignoring us or beating us; one or the other, and we always at odds with ourselves when he was gone, because he would be leaving us with our sometimes cruel, psychotic and always strange mother.  At least when he was there her anger at men — and her rage at life in general — would be directed at him, not taken out on us quite so often.

Other things, too, had changed. The teenager, who hadused and betrayed me, was pretty much leaving us younger boys alone. I guess we were getting too old for him, or perhaps he’d grown to have other interests – he hung around his teenage friends more, and they’d often go off driving. Not that that stopped us kids from doing what he’d taught us; we had learned more than we should of, that I know. But for me it was something I only did with my peers, and no longer with someone older. There were exceptions, of course – I know sometimes the teenager would have my friends do the things he’d taught us to him.  I know because they would sometimes come to do them with me, afterwards.  But after the way he had shamed and betrayed me, I never joined in again. I was afraid he’d just laugh at me, or hurt me in the way he had. That shame and sense of being used was too strong in me, and is something I still have within, albeit it is confined to the ‘inner child’ of mine, a much too real part of my internal personalities. Since I wasn’t having sex with him anymore (or maybe I was, I just don’t remember: I know I would have if he asked), I can’t be certain how much he was still preying on my friends, I just know that he sometimes still did.  And I know he was targeting the younger kids of the ‘hood, ones that had been my age when he’d started in on me. To this day I think he had a preference for kids between the ages of five and nine; he was always trying to get us to initiate those younger kids into sex, and then bring them to him. And yes, I am ashamed to say that I went along with his plan, but the kid I initiated never had sex with him. He wasn’t that in to it, and I soon quit my behaviors, realizing that he didn’t much care for it – and I’ve never been one to force someone into that, no matter how badly I may of wanted it. I don’t know why I was and am still that way, but I’m glad that I am. The only thing I can think of is that somewhere down the line, early in my childhood, I was forced to do those things against my will – but I can’t remember it.  There are dark spots in my mind and memory – and I’ve learned not to explore. Life can get bad that way sometimes, making your mind hole up and bury the things you’ve learned – when those things are too horrible to admit to yourself, or so bad it decides you shouldn’t know they happened. And from talking to my brother I’ve realized: there’s a lot of things I’ve “blocked out”, and in many cases it was (and is) for good reason.  What I do remember is the times I said “yes”, or begged for my abuser to molest me — a problem for me since it is a problem for my inner selves.  Some of them just can’t internalize that as rape; they see it as consenting, and therefore asked for — a shameful thing.  Oh well.  (That’s my standard statement for when I get hopelessly stuck on an issue: “oh well.”)

While I didn’t know it, this was to be my last year in the ‘hood as I knew it, and the year would end in many major changes, most of them disastrous, and affecting the entire life of almost everyone in the ‘hood. I would come back only one more time, half a decade later, to find that yes, nightmares do sometimes come true.