When I stopped working for ASW, I had all this free time on my hands. I What with no longer needing to spend two to three hours a day berating the homeless in San Francisco, I decided that it might be fun for me, and informative for you, to write the story of my life. I will say, before I start writing (and you start reading), that I will use creative license for some of this since it would otherwise be boring. Exaggeration is the duty of every writer after all. The content is all true to my recollection, but some of the names have been changed to protect the innocent and the guilty in equal measure.
I was born in Mexico in 1966 while my parents were visiting my grandparents. It was the first time my parents had been back since they had emigrated to America.
Even though I weighed upwards of 12 lbs when I was born, it was a relatively simple birth from all accounts. It would be the last time anything that involved me would be described as simple according to my father. Of course, you can’t really rely on my father’s testimony as he once told my brothers a story about how he had walked to the United States from Mexico City in just over a day, fighting bandits, corrupt Federales and two vacationing starlets who wanted him to marry them… both.
At the age of three, I began reading. First it was just the big words I could see around me. I believe my first word was Budweiser. Shortly thereafter, my father was asked to move his collection of beer cans to the garage. I think my love of reading was a defense mechanism. I wasn’t particularly fond of people. They spoke too much, thought too slow and more importantly, they thought there was something wrong with me. It took years for those people to figure it out… I was smarter than they were. It can be a bit disconcerting when that realization comes along.
I began school early. I was just four when I was assigned to Mrs. Donohue’s kindergarten class. Mrs. Donohue was a little person. Of course I mean to say that she was a midget but most midgets, Mrs. Donohue being among them, don’t like the word midget preferring the more socially acceptable label, “Little Person.” She was just over two feet tall and at 3 feet, four inches, I thought it was great that I was taller than my teacher. My glee may have angered the gods because I wouldn’t grow much for the next 13 years.
Mrs. Donohue was the first to discover my love of the written word because I would often skip other activities, including our daily nap time, to cop a few minutes with Dick & Jane. She did her best to focus that energy into finger painting, Lego construction and general playground chaos. She was relatively unsuccessful unless she called for a game of dodge-ball or kickball. Only those two pursuits could tear me away from reading. By the end of my first year, I had read all the books in the class and had begun sneaking over to the first grade classroom to raid their book case.
First grade began with a glimpse of something that would trouble me for the rest of my life. A girl in my class, Justine Harris, who claimed to like me, kicked me in the shins each time she saw me. It wouldn’t be too bad if I had been allowed to smack her back, but my father taught me that I should never hit girls. I’m proud to say that I have yet to raise a hand against the fairer sex… even when anyone would agree they had it coming.
Anyway, first grade was a vacation from life at home around this time. My mother began to experience what would many years later be labeled Post Partum Depression after the birth of my baby brother. Unlike modern mothers who are given various psychedelic remedies to this accursed malady, my mother found solace in the idea that she had two older children who would make suitable aggression therapy tools… you know, cause children don’t often fight back.
After a while, she decided that I was better at hiding the bruises than my older brother and cast all her frustrations out on me. Burned the milk she was heating? Beat E. Dog pee’d in the house because she ignored its pleas to be let out? Beat E. Baby crying because it is hungry? Beat E.
I do agree that it her solution to her problem had a sort of elegance to it. Simple, direct, and according to the glee with which she would rain blows upon my head, satisfying.
I started finding reasons to escape… through reading at first, then through writing. I was fascinated by the written word and found that writing was the only thing that was more satisfying than reading. I began to fill up pages and pages of little composition books with my stories. Until my mother found them and burned them in a fit of rage. I learned to hide things after that.
Eventually though, as I grew older and braver, she stopped beating me. All it took was threatening to kill her while she slept. Of course, that didn’t stop the verbal abuse, in fact, it pushed it to all new levels of malice that even I would think impossible given her limited intelligence.
My father was completely oblivious to what was happening at home. He was working two jobs and focusing on making better lives for all of us. It never really dawned on my brothers and I that we should say something to him and even if we did, I doubt my father would have believed us. Not because we were not to be trusted, but his love for my mother clouded his judgment as well as his vision.
Eventually though, my mother left my father and two brothers for greener pastures. To be honest, that may have been the day I was the happiest I have ever been
To be continued…