I realize why your claims of homelessness upset me. It came to me after a heated exchange with my father where words were weapons and my unresolved came alive. You’re a grown man. You’re thirty-one years old for Christ sake. You don’t like it why don’t you get the fuck out is all I had to hear to –snap.
You see, it’s a very old story – a familiar pattern. We children are not autonomous, thinking, feeling beings. That is we are mere extensions, malfunctioning parts, and thus easily discarded. How dare we not think in kind and speak our minds? How dare we think our thinking thoughts and claim humanity – not while under my roof – you disrespectful spoiled-rotten brat of a war veteran.
My father put me out for an hour when I was ten. That was his way of dealing with when I grow up mouth – a prelude of things to come. It would continue on and off to date. You see, at thirteen, I wasn’t a kid. I was a full-grown man. My cousins in their now twenties are still kids, but we –my brother and I – were always men, never kids, and never good. Indeed we were rotten. We were bad. Failing school was bad. Smoking pot was bad. Sneaking out to my boyfriend – the one they forbid me from seeing – was bad.
Bad could mean a lot of things especially in my house. Smiling too much was bad. Having too much fun was bad. Laughing too much or too loud was silliness and real bad. Excessive happiness was obnoxious hence bad, yes all bad and for all we were punished accordingly. I was thrown out for the first time in the middle of winter, bad for failing, for smoking, for being disrespectful, a no-good little brat bastard – homeless – at thirteen, a man nonetheless.
Most nights it was the bathroom at the Mobil Station or the port-o-shitter by the school, a concrete floor as my bed and a plastic divider for a pillow. When it started snowing, the station attendants felt bad for me, or at least that was their claim when offering me a warm place to spend the night. It was good for the first couple of days. They fed me Turkish food. Let me use the shower. They even bought me weed.
We all got good and stoned. They made sure I was too before they tried to have sex with me. It was all very strange. Everything was normal. They were just there and then – out of nowhere – they were half-naked, disrobing and licking each other like animals, eliciting participation with motions and signaling gestures between moans and reaches for me who sat frozen on the bed beside them.
Nothing came of it. I was lucky. They realized I was disinterested if not terrified, and eventually stopped and went to sleep. That was my last night spent in their hospitality. I had to eat but didn’t have any money for food. What I did have was the weed they tried to bribe me with. Nickel and dime bags were my meal ticket for the next two months. My mother finally let me back in after I showed up at the door in tears with the flu and a dangerously high fever, but even that came with conditions (more on that later).
We all learn this and that from those and them, you, me, and the rest, learning and unlearning. I know where my words were born the same as you do disapproving eyes. Why your sweet is hard to come by and my loves are all impossible to please. Why I got something to prove and you have something to find. Why some of your jokes aren’t jokes at all and some of mine are desperate cries to be heard. Why you try to keep em guessing while I figure em out. Why I fear abandonment and you restraint. Why hugs feel awkward and silence was our self-defense.
All the connections are easily seen and drawn for you, for me, us, and all products of circumstance. We play our cards the best we can, waiting for a new deck and hoping for a better hand, learning and unlearning to shuffle, to deal as our lives unfold.