The idea of moving in with Uncle Rhoda seemed ok, or so I thought. She looked like a guy but we never called her Uncle to her face. She was a rough looking woman who could beat the shit out of most men, and she slept with women.
I really don’t remember the day I moved in. It seems to be that way every time I transitioned to a new home. Maybe it is a mental block, or it wasn’t that significant to remember.
I was in eighth grade and here I was in a different school, in a different house and with different people… again. We lived quite a ways from the school, too far in fact for a school bus. Sometimes I could get a ride from the guy downstairs. He had a son my age so we would ride together. A lot of times I would go downstairs and knock on the door and no one would be home, so I would be stuck walking. It was a long way; about five miles. Sometimes I would take the city bus home. That was scary. There was always weird and dangerous people on the bus, but it cost money to ride the bus and money was scarce so I walked a lot of the time.
I had to share a room with Michelle, Aunt Rhoda’s five year old daughter, in this dinky little ghetto two bedroom apartment. Actually, it was hardly sharing a room at all. I got to sleep on the floor with a blanket and a pillow. I wouldn’t have shared the bed with her anyway, Michelle would always pee in it, in the middle of the night.
One night Michelle asked me if she could sleep next to me on the floor. I quickly responded, “no.”
She ran and told her mother I was being mean to her and wouldn’t let her sleep next to me.
Her mom came in and said, “Why did you tell Michelle she couldn’t sleep next to you?” Like she was offended I didn’t think her daughter was as precious as she thought she was.
I quickly and carefully explained, “I am afraid she will pee on me and my blanket.”
And as quickly as I responded, she turned to Michelle and said, “Michelle, you can sleep next to Lori tonight.”
I can’t tell you how furious I was. I knew what was going to happen and yet Auntie didn’t care. Sure enough, Michelle peed and it was all over my blanket, the floor, and me.
I was so mad, but there was nothing I could do, I was afraid of Aunt Rhoda. So, for many nights I didn’t even have a blanket.
I’m not sure but I think Michelle did it just to get at me. I know she was only five but I couldn’t stand her. She whined all the time and got everything her way and this was just the sort of thing she would do because for some reason she was vindictive that way.
We lived in the bad part of town. The apartment complex was filled with welfare moms and dads or low income families. There was a pool that sat in front of the complex that was filled with sand. It was the kitty liter box for the whole neighborhood. It reeked of cat shit and piss. There were short concrete walls around the pool and no one ventured inside. The complex sat along the 91 freeway. Behind the complex and to the north was a very large field full of weeds and trash. There was a wall between the field and the back of the building and many days I would sit back there on top of the wall as I found solace there.
We were all poor as I said, most were on dope or worse. And worse happened to be the exact apartment that I lived in. Aunt Rhoda was always high, whether on dope cocaine, crystal meth, or all the above.
I already had a smoking habit since the age of twelve but I never desired to doing any kind of drugs. That was soon to change. I’m sure I had only been there may a week or two before she started putting pressure on me to try some marijuana.
“Come on, it’s not bad for you, its fun.” She insisted.
I shook my head, “Nope.” I said with conviction.
“Chicken…” she laughed
“Bawk bawk bawk.” Laughing almost maniacally.
I felt shame. I had always felt shame. I was 13 and had already been through so much, and my family always had a way of making me feel stupid, and this was another one of those times.
I had to be cool, you know, act like I was smart like I knew what I was doing. So after several days of berating me, I gave in.
“OK, I will try it.” I balked.
You would have thought she won the lottery she was so giddy. She handed me the tight rolled joint.
“Draw it in like a cigarette but then just hold your breath and dont let it out until you can’t hold it anymore, then let it out.”
I put it in my mouth, took a drag and held it as long as I could. Meanwhile, my lungs started to burn like fire and I had to fight to keep from coughing it all out. When I let it out it, immediately I started to feel the effects. The room started to feel smaller, my head felt heavy, and I had to lie down. I sprawled out on the living room floor, limbs out, and closed my eyes. The world began to turn slowly at first and then faster and faster. I only took one hit and I was done.
To my shame, I did smoked it again, and then again. The effects changed the more I smoked it. The spinning stopped and all I felt was relaxed.
Before long my days consisted of getting up in the morning and smoking a joint, going to school and at lunch smoking another joint. When school was over I would be smoking another joint when I got home. Of course this was when Auntie was supplied with drugs. There were many times when there was nothing. Auntie did buy my cigarettes when we had the money. Other times we would walk to the gas station half a mile down the street and she would have me distract the convenient store clerk while she stole cigarettes from the counter. We had all kinds, but I hated the menthols and those were the ones I would get stuck smoking.
Meals consisted of generic cereal with powdered milk, spaghetti or Ramen Noodles for dinner. I didn’t eat much then. It seemed to be a pattern for me after my parents split up. I did get lunch provided which was the best meal of the day. Because I was on Welfare (which was the sole reason my Auntie wanted me to live with her in the first place) so I got free lunch.
My Aunt always had her “friends” over. Most of them were lovers (other women). I stayed to myself when these people would come around. Her friends were just as crazy and scary as she was. They sat around and smoked dope and did lines, then they would talk crazy to each other.
One “friend” was a former lover, a guy no doubt. I think she just used him for money which makes me laugh because he was a drunken dirt bag, but he had to have had money or dope because Auntie wouldn’t have let him come around. He showed up one night drunk off his ass. He came in the apartment and plopped himself on the couch, his speech was so slurred you couldn’t understand him, and the smell of alcohol from his pores permeated the entire apartment.
I immediately did not like this guy even more so than the rest of her friends. Maybe it was his constant drunken state that made me ill toward him.
When Aunt Rhoda’s friends would come over, I would just hole myself up in the bedroom, sit on the floor and listen to music cassette tapes. I had three of them; Cindy Lauper (She’s So Unusual), Rod Stuart (Camouflage), and Elvis Presley (Greatest Hits). I played these over and over again on a small tape recorder.
Well, this particular night this “friend”, I’ll call him Jim, decided to see what I was up to. He came into my room and tried to have a conversation with me. It was rather presumptuous on his part; I wanted nothing to do with him, plus I couldn’t tell what he was saying.
Now, I didn’t have much. No bed, no clothes to really speak of, like maybe two or three pairs of pants and a few shirts some socks and one pair of shoes. I also had a small suitcase purchased from my mom. I got to visit her sometimes and I would use that to carry my clothes in. The suitcase was canvas with cardboard guides in the corners to hold its shape. Well, Jim decided that he wanted to sit down and my suitcase happened to be sitting on the floor against the outside wall, so he sat down and when he did it crushed the suitcase causing him to fall straight to the floor. The good part was after he crushed the thing; he got up, struggling to get to his feet after falling flat on his ass, and wobbled out of the room. I was so upset that he destroyed my suitcase. I didn’t have much and it seemed what I did have was always getting ruined. I hated him and my Aunt for even letting this type of person around me.
Another time Jim showed up drunk (when wasn’t he?); Aunt Rhoda let him in and he started talking crazy to her, arguing about spending time with him or something.
My Aunt didn’t take kindly to being bitched at by anyone, she took his boots, which he had taken off shortly after arriving, opened the front door and threw them over the balcony. He went out the door to retrieve them, which took him a while because he could hardly walk, he was so intoxicated. Pretty soon we heard a knock on the door. She yelled through the door and told him to go home. He pounded on that door for an hour. Finally he got the hint and left. We watched through the living room window get on his motorcycle and leave. I don’t know how that man ever lived any longer than eight seconds being drunk and riding a bike.
The house stayed relatively clean because, yep, you guessed it, I was mandated to clean it every weekend. Yeah, me! Another reason Auntie wanted me there besides being a live in babysitter for her precious little one.
Auntie partied all night most times until she landed a new lover. Her name was Pepsi, or at least that is what everyone called her. Pepsi looked and dressed like a man, but her voice was deep and soft. I liked Pepsi and I think she was fond of me as well. She wouldn’t let Auntie kiss her in front of me. I still am not sure why she did that.
Pepsi would actually enquire about how I was doing in school. She encouraged me to get involved with school and offer to help with any homework.
One thing I remember vividly was she had a very pretty singing voice and when she would sing it would remind you that she was actually a woman. She lived with us for a few months and the activity in the house quieted down. I was thankful that we actually started living somewhat normal. Until…
I remember the day I came home from school and Pepsi wasn’t there. I asked Auntie where Pepsi was and she told me she had kicked her out.
An hour or so went by and Pepsi showed up asking to come in and get her stuff. This is when things got fun.
Pepsi was pleading and trying to be as civil as possible. Auntie on the other hand wanted to be the opposite. She would not let her in their bedroom or get passed her. The things Auntie said to her would make the hair stand up on your neck. The tone in her voice began to change and she sounded psychotic saying things like she was going to kill her and described the things she was going to do with her body. Next thing I know Michelle comes out and stands behind her mom, looking around her and smiling at Pepsi. It was like a demon laughing at the infliction of human suffering. All I could do was stand there and watch. At that moment Auntie pulled out a knife. I got scared. She told Pepsi she was going to cut her if she didn’t leave. Pepsi pleaded again and again that she would leave and never return if she could just grab her things. To no avail, the skirmish ended with Pepsi leaving with nothing.
This was not the first display of threat of violence. I had been victim of a gun drawing myself, but not from Auntie but from her drug dealer friend.
I got home from school one day and Auntie informed me that a friend of hers was going to stop by and that he was coming to pick up some money from her. Then she told me that I was going to lie to the man and tell him that I had some friends over (I didn’t have any friends) and that they stole money from an envelope that was sitting on the table. All that was supposedly left was $50.
Well, I did everything I was told don’t you know. If you could see my Auntie you would understand; she was a large woman, hefty and she looked like a serial killer in my opinion; rough and crazy. The bad part about this whole arrangement was Auntie told me she was going to hide in the closet when he showed up and to tell the man she wasn’t home.
He showed up and I opened the door. This guy was this wiry man with hardly any teeth and what he had was rotten. He looked like death on steroids. He asked about my Auntie and I told him she wasn’t home. Right away he didn’t believe me and pulled out a gun and demanded to know where she was. I told him about the money and he became furious, pushed his way passed me and started searching the apartment. Auntie came popping out of her closet in her bedroom and into the main room. The yelling match began. Honestly I think Auntie could have taken him if it weren’t for the gun.
She calmed him down and reiterated the story I told him about the money being stolen except 50 of it. She swore she would get him the rest as soon as she could. When he left, she laughed and said she would get someone to take care of him. And you know what? I believed her.