I got through it. I sat in front of sixteen of my peers and my professor while each discussed my first attempt at a real memoir. For the past three weeks I had been criticizing others' writings, and now, today was my day. I faked two yawns to hold back tears and cringed when the word courageous was spoken three times. But I did it.
The day started out early with a doctor's appointment and a new prescription. Through coffee, breakfast, and e-mails I remained collected. When I started to do the pre-lab assignment for chemistry I got fidgety and shaky. A slight sense of nervousness set in so I switched gears and read the memoirs of my classmates who would be sharing the spotlight with me in a matter of hours- six hours, 20 minutes and counting. After the second piece, I was at full blown freaking out. All I could think of is what everyone would say, what they were thinking, and what they wouldn't say in front of me. The words I can't do this came from my mouth faster and louder. I envisioned myself getting up and leaving class to smoke a cigarette, letting cuss words slip out on my way through the door. I contemplated taking a shot or chugging a beer to ease the pain. But I decided not to; that would be the easy way out, I can't get stronger if I keep taking the easy way out.
When I looked at the clock it was 2:45. I should have been at my chemistry lab at 1:30. [Insert feeling like a big fat looser here] An hour and ten good songs later I had regained composure. I finished critiquing the last memoir and washed my face. It was 4:15, class was in fifteen minutes. From the time I left my apartment till the moment I walked into Tompkins Hall I talked to myself. It started out as I can do this, and then when I realized what was actually going on my dialogue changed to I am doing this.
It went pretty well. It has given me enough encouragement to finish the piece, or at least to push through the lows. I felt like my classmates look at me different now, even though I don't want them to. I want respect for my writing, not for what I've been through; bad shit happens to everyone.
Below is the raw version (expect mistakes everywhere). It is the same thing my class had to read.
Kelly Reid ENG 381
Just for a head’s up: While I was in Chapel Hill on Saturday night I ran into somebody that I hadn’t seen for a little over five years. Seeing her again, talking about what happened and where we each are now in our lives affected me so much that I chose to put what I was originally writing about on hold. I used Saturday night’s conversation to propel myself into a memory I had almost buried completely in the back of my head. I knew that I eventually wanted to write about it but knew that it would take time and guts to get it down on paper. Now, after Saturday night, I can write about her, that period of my life, and everything surrounding it. This is only the beginning of this section so I will e-mail you the rest this weekend.
Mark and Darla
“Is your name Kelly,” she asked me.
“Yeah,” I said. I began to process as to how she might know me. I was in Chapel Hill at the Local 506, the Everybodyfields were playing their last song, and I was chugging a bottle of water in an attempt to dull my buzz. Her face looked familiar but I couldn’t place it. I started to make a mental check list of all of the bands that I had interviewed and any of their girlfriends that had tagged along. Her face still remained unfamiliar. I thought about how I might need to take my picture off of my blog and Myspace. She motioned me over to the bar area, away from the music. I became slightly annoyed. I had waited all night to hear this song and she was ruining it. We stepped into the light, and I took a better look. As she started to talk I almost choked on my water,
“I just wanted to let you know that I am sorry for everything that happened with Mark and Darla, and church.” In less than a second I remembered who she was. I forced the water down my throat, past a ball of emotions and replied,
“Oh my God.”
For some, closure comes when they burn pictures, give away belongings, or find a song that leaves them complacent with their current situation. For me, closure came at almost two o’clock on a Sunday morning in the middle of a smoke filled music club.
I met Darla before I met Mark. It was the summer after my junior year in high school, my parents were temporarily back together after a dramatic separation, and I was living with a pathetic excuse for a drug-dealer boyfriend. I worked at a restaurant doing whatever they would let me. I waited tables, washed dishes, cleaned toilets, and swept the parking lot. I worked every day except Monday; Friday through Sunday I did dinner, Tuesday through Thursday I did lunch and then on Thursdays I stayed until the first girl for the dinner shift came in. It was late into a typical Thursday afternoon, I was sitting in the back of the restaurant smoking a cigarette and rolling silverware. The front door opened, letting in a sliver of sun light in. I stood up and yelled towards the door,
“I’ll be right with you.” I took a long, strong drag from the half smoked Newport and rolled the burning cherry off the tip into the ashtray. I set the stub on the table next to my cell phone and walked back to the kitchen window, “Hey Mikey, you got that order for Suburban Pediatrics ready?” He nodded his head and put the last Styrofoam box in the window. I pulled down the ticket, bagged the boxes and grabbed her sweet tea. I walked to the front, nearing the cash register, and curled up the corners of my mouth. It was hard to smile at the end of the day but she always tipped me at least three bucks in cash so I tried a little harder. I put the bag on the counter, began punching in the prices on the register and initiated the routine script, “How are you doing today?”
“Very well, and you,” she replied. Her voice was comforting and she had round, rosy cheeks on either side of her large smile.
“Ah, you know, the usual,” I answered back. I told her the total and took the Visa card. As I ran her card through the machine she didn’t say anything. I laid the receipt on the counter and handed her a pen. She signed her name in an illegible feminine cursive and looked up at me,
“Are you Kelly,” she asked.
“Yeah,” I replied. I became puzzled. We didn’t wear name tags at the restaurant and my name wasn’t on the receipt. “Why do you want to know,” I barked at her.
“My name is Darla. Your mother told me you were probably working here. I go to church with your mom,” she said. Well that didn’t do much because everybody went to church with my mom. My mom went to numerous churches. She would go to whichever church God led her to on Sunday morning, whether it was in Concord, Kannapolis, Greensboro, or South Carolina for that matter. She continued talking, “My husband is Mark. We came and changed the locks at your house when your dad moved out.”
“Oh, okay,” I grunted back. She knew about my parents’ separation. “Yeah I’m not at home much,” I said to her. She still had that smile on her face, despite my obvious attitude. She opened up her wallet and started back again,
“Well I know you’re not in a good situation right now, and things may be hard, so if you need anyone to talk to, or if you just want to get away from things for a while,” she pulled a five dollar bill from her wallet, handed me a piece of paper with three phone numbers on it, smiled even more and said “just call me.”
“Thanks,” I replied, taking the money and slip of paper. She walked back out into the daylight and I put the money in one pocket with the rest of my tips and crammed the piece of paper in my back pocket. She had left a bad taste in my mouth, but she was right, I wasn’t in a good situation and things were hard. I was working over forty hours a week, barely making enough money to pay bills and buy toiletries, and my living conditions were deteriorating exponentially fast.
I would usually pay the other girls at work to take me to the house on Pinecrest, but on Thursdays my boss lady would take me home. Regardless of who took me there, what I walked into was always the same. In the living room empty bags of chips were scattered on the floor, Bud Ice bottles sat on top of porno magazines stacked on the coffee table, and some number of guys were smoking blunts and playing video games. In the kitchen there were boxes of Hamburger Helper, Ramen Noodle wrappers, spilled cat food, and a barren broken fridgirator. Pixie was in her and Charles’s room with the door shut; meditating, masturbating or sewing. And Shaun was in the computer room, our bedroom, sitting on the mattress counting money and weighing out bags of weed.
The first thing I would do when I got back to the house on Pinecrest is take a shower. I would lock the door to the only bathroom in the house and shut everything out of my mind. I had a methodology to my decompression. I would stand underneath the stream of scolding hot water and wait until my heart beat so fast that I had to step outside of the shower and catch my breath. I would repeat this until I could feel the water temperature teeter too close to warm-almost-cool, then I would do the washing required. This was my after-work ritual. It prepared me for the nighttime.
My time at the house on Pinecrest, despite it lasting only a month, is something I don’t like to think about. If all of the drinking and drugs are averaged out over the course of thirty days, then it really wasn’t that wild; however if the focus is on the last ten days, then it comes across as something along the lines of hellacious.
It was day three with no sleep and when I came home from work all I wanted to do was collapse. I walked into the house to smell the usual stench of blunt smoke, spilled beer, and an overflowing trashcan, yet no one was in sight. I headed straight for the computer room. All I could do is put one foot in front of the other; my eyelids were heavy and my brain was ready to shutdown. I opened the door, which was usually left wide open, to find Pixie and Charles intertwined on top of my mattress. Disgusted, upset and thrown off guard, I turned around and stumbled outside to the front porch to smoke a cigarette. Finding myself out of cigarettes, I stole the change out of the Mason jar in their room and made my way to the Circle K.
It was a half mile round trip, and felt like a century of walking the earth. When I got back to the house it was dusk, I remember climbing the three stairs to the porch and collapsing against the side of the house. I awoke, sometime later that night, on top of my mattress with a blanket strewn across my legs. Charles was yelling, “Someone stole my Goddamned PS2.” A bottle broke against a surface and he kept screaming, “Someone stole my fucking Play Station.” I eventually fell back asleep until Shaun woke me when he slammed the front door and began ranting to his buddy on how they were going to be back in business.
Shaun was not the brightest crayon in the box. He would often ask me simple mathematical questions and never caught on to why his supply was always seven grams short. When he walked into the room where I was lying on the mattress I continued to act like I was sleeping. He began to brag to his buddy how he had pawned Charles’s video game system for cash. The more information he rattled off to large my stockpile of ammunition grew- it was leverage for getting him kicked out. Shaun and I paid rent to Charles. I paid fifty bucks a week and Shaun paid fourteen grams of schwag weed a week, but he was one ounce behind on rent.
Shaun was irate with he left the house on Pinecrest. He was yelling and cursing at me, and threatened to have me beaten up. He had a right to be upset. He lived there before I did. It was his room before it was ours. But now it was mine.
I thought everything would be okay after this, until I realized I no longer had any connections. A few days after Shaun had left he called me from one of his buddy’s phones wanting to see me. At fist I just said no and hung up, and then when he kept calling and I eventually gave into his sweet voice and coaxing. I said yes. His buddy Mike picked me up and took me to the Holiday Inn where he was staying.
When I walked in the room I felt like I was walking into a rioted prison. The mattresses were tilted against the walls and there were beer cans everywhere. One lampshade was torn to pieces while the other was in the sink. Ricky, six-foot-four and two-hundred-fifty-pounds, was ripping chunks out of a Bible while Shaun sat at the table, calm and collected, counting his money. Shaun looked up at me and said,
“How have you been Kelly?” Mike shut the door and locked the dead bolt.
“Fine,” I said.
“Yeah I bet you are,” he said and then nodded to Mike. Mike pushed be against the wall and pinned me down with his forearm across my collarbone. I kneed him in the balls and tried to push him away, but Shaun came over and held my arms against the wall. I had never been afraid of Shaun, but now I feared for my life. I spit at Shaun and Mike slapped my face. I squeezed my eyes shut and felt one of them put a cigarette out on my right arm. The pain shot up my arm and burned like hell. I could feel and smell the flesh disintegrating. As I gasped for air they released me, threw me out the door, and before the door shut, Shaun yelled,“Stupid bitch, that’s what you get.”When I walked up to the house on Pinecrest it was almost dawn. The cab driver would not take me any further than what I could pay for. I went inside the house and looked for my work pants. I pulled the jeans from the corner of the computer room. They stunk of grease and bleach, and from the back pocket I pulled out a piece of paper with three phone numbers on it, dialed one of them, and waited. A sleepy woman answered,
“Hello.”I was crying so hard I could barely catch my breath. I sat on the mattress with my legs pulled to my chest, rocking back and forth, and uttered words between the gasps of air,
I moved into Mark and Darla’s house two weeks before my senior year of high school started.