When I was 11 my mother and step dad put me on an Amtrack to Seattle, alone. Outside Seattle, near Tacoma, was where my much older brother lived and where I was to spend that summer.
I hadn’t seen him since he was about 16, maybe once for Christmas, because like my sister as well, he moved in with my aunt and uncle at 16.
He was about 21 now and living in an apartment complex managed by his dad (different from my own). I don’t know what possessed my step father to agree to such a scheme, that was no doubt my mother’s idea. He was usually so by the book. Who ever thought an 11 year old should spend the summer with a 21 year old?
On the way to Seattle I remember seeing bison for the first time, grazing in a field early that morning. I was terrified. I had never been to a larger city than Spokane, and definitely not alone.
I brought my boombox and some clothes and was sure I’d get mugged or kidnapped as soon as I got off the train. But no, my brother would be there waiting, right? I got off the train and wandered aimless, clutching my boombox close and looking for my brother, hoping I would recognize him. I wanted to avoid anyone official who might find out my age and that I’m not actually old enough to ride alone. He was an hour late and I remember being so angry. He had no idea what it was like growing up in podunk towns and just thrown into a big city alone at 11. He didn’t answer the phone and I had no one else to call. Alone.
I often feel like that in public. Scared, confused, ignorant of every right thing to do or say. I look at people like “I don’t know you, but save me.” I see people as uncomfortable with my awkwardness and wanting to get away from me, so I just do it for them and try to stay away. But not after saying something stupid first usually.
I don’t know how to interact with people. Do I look at their eyes? How long? do I look like I’m not interested? I’m trying to be interested, but I can’t stop thinking about what I’m doing. Am I acting noticeably weird? How can I relate to what they say?
I will never be well adjusted, social, personable, just weird. Say weird things, die inside every time I meet a stranger. Since I’m the age I am and still feel like this, Its hard to feel like it can change.
That summer was awful. My brother had people over partying just about every night. He got me drunk on cheap wine, which I puked up every night because, as I would find out years later, I’m allergic to red dye. His friends had sex next to me as I slept on the couch. One of his friends tried to get me to give him a handjob while I was drunk (I’m 11 remember). He didn’t buy food so I rarely ate and when I did it was Burger King, where he worked.
I stayed with him at 15 as well as part of an agreement with my mom to get me out of the girl’s home (another long story). Repeat that same summer, except replace booze with cocaine and other drugs. Add self mutilation and multiple food poisonings. Thanks big bro. We haven’t talked in 20 years and I don’t miss him a bit. Sounds harsh but it’s not two shitty summers that prompted that. A childhood of him torturing me and berating me helped, followed by some trust breaking in my late teens.