All Downhill From Here (cont): Hunger

Wherever my sister disappeared to she didn’t take her cat. I called a week after everyone moved out to see what she did with her… long pause on the phone….”I haven’t had a chance to go get her”. She left her INSIDE so she wouldn’t run away but never went back for her. As soon as I possibly could, I took a backpack and a leftover turkey leg to the house. Sure enough a terrified cat runs up to me meowing frantically – even the toilet seat was down so she didn’t have any water! I’m the fucking kid here and I’m doing this shit for my 23 year old sister. After she calmed down and had some food and water, I put her in the backpack and snuck her on the bus, sitting next to an elderly man who wet himself, puddle in seat. I felt so bad for him, and decided to pretend I didn’t notice but I could see his embarrassment. So it was that kind of a sad day for everyone I guess…

The studio my mom rented was tiny, like maybe a master bedroom size and small bathroom. I had a black pleather hide-a-bed couch that I had gotten somewhere for free. I’m not sure if my mom slept in that place once. It was really close to downtown and my school was literally across the street. I could get to my first class 5 minutes after waking up by taking a fire escape that started directly across from the front of the apartment complex door (indoor apartments) and climbing in a window. The front door of the school was down a steep hill and a block away. In the winter I didn’t have shoes with any traction so my options were to slide down on my ass in the snow or take the fire escape. I think I got away with it for half a year before I found someone had finally locked it.

My mom would leave me with $15 a week for food (tuna and ramen is what I usually bought). She’d be gone working hospice for people an hour away in Idaho and didn’t want to commute. Plus, I think she got the jobs because she told them she can stay overnight. Also, better to not commute and leave your teenager alone all week (not the first time she had this arrangement) with barely enough food. A short drive really and all she had to do was listen to music a little longer every day, because it was her goddamn responsibility to return. With the $15 I had to get dog food for Otis, lettuce for my Iguana and mice for my python (don’t ask me where I got these pets but they kept me sane and she never stopped me – or warned me I’d be feeding them all, and myself, off $15) – so there was very little left over, hence the tuna and ramen.

It was about a month before she was fed up with the weekend drive to bring me $15. She stopped paying rent and I started to find homes for my reptiles, taking them to pet stores to trying to scrape together some cash. I would have had Otis forever, but between my situation and the fact that I was technically hiding him (my mom didn’t tell me there was a $350 deposit for pets). I found him a home with a family who bred Boxers and wanted a smaller house sized Boxer. I’m still a little bitter about that, but at least he was probably happy and lived on a farm (a real farm btw).

On my mom’s last visit, where she abruptly broke the news that I was being abandoned, she left my brother a note. I took it to him the next day, embarrassed, knowing he didn’t want to take care of me either. It basically said “you owe me” and passed me off to him like a disease. He ranted and raved about it with no clear answer about my future. I went back to the studio and waited to get evicted, which surprisingly was about another month. A month of being hungry (my brother never fed me any of the times I stayed with him, aside from when he worked at Burger King, if I walked 2 miles each way to get a burger, which I didn’t often) and a month of bronchitis so bad the school paid for me to get a TB test after finding out my dad had TB. Finally, my friend’s mom had started to notice and took me to the Dr for antibiotics. Malnutrition was probably a factor.

I refused to talk to my mom after that, successfully for a few years even. I remember she called the school once trying to get ahold of me for something. I got to treat the school like my personal secretary and tell them I didn’t want to talk to her. Most of my teachers knew I didn’t have parents and I was usually either squatting, or staying in an unfinished basement with a “friend” (she didn’t like me much but her mom offered me to live with them once I turned 18 – still in high school – and pretend I was their nanny to help her win her divorce). I wrote my own sick notes, got acceptable “I refuse to try but I’ll pass” grades, and skipped classes on my birthday, Until I graduated.

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