Chapter 13

We write to expose the unexposed. If there is one door in the castle you have been told not to go through, you must. The writer’s job is to turn the unspeakable into words – not just into any words, but if we can, into rhythm and blues.

― Anne Lamott

A month after my suicide, I was a patchwork of emotions, still living at home with my mother, although I’m unsure why I didn’t just get up and flee, but I was struggling to pull and hold myself together, sensing that something foreboding was waiting for me somewhere off on the horizon and that every day it was looming ever closer. I was afraid, but I knew that whatever storm was heading my way, I would stand before and weather the storm and I would stand before my biggest fear and let it pass through me. Knowing if I survived, it would make me stronger and I would be better, maybe even a little bit wiser.

The Grant County Fair

The Grant County Fair

I was steadily settling into working  nights at the Burger King at the end of my street and like most first jobs I hated it. But it wasn’t the grease burns, or the nightly rush that bothered me, it was the getting home every morning around two or three a.m and having to wash with lava soap to get the smell of burgers, fries  and grease off of me. I also hated it for all the things it took from me, I couldn’t see my dad because I was often working and I was seeing my friends less and less. The situation was made worse by my mother who would come and bang on my door every morning at ten in the morning and sometimes she would wake me up even earlier, screaming at me for sleeping the day away, oblivious to the fact I had just gotten home, showered and went to bed a few hours prior, which was quickly wearing me down and making me feel as though I was slowly turning into a zombie, just going through the motions. Every day I would wake up tired, shower again, eat a little breakfast and watch my little brothers before going in to work at seven.  I was nineteen and already felt myself falling into a boring and lonely routine. Wondering if God really brought me back from the brink of death for this of all things.

As if sensing my growing frustrations, or noticing my slow decline into depression, my two best friends started visiting me at my work, often waiting hours after we’ve closed just to give me a ride home, since I didn’t have a car.

(Well I did technically get a car from my grandpa for my last birthday, but unbeknownst to me my mother gifted it to my older brother, until he was done with it and got a new car himself, allowing her to sell the car that was meant for me.)

Matt and his lovely family

Matt and his lovely wife

Matt and Steven were like the brothers I never had, they enjoyed having me around and often went out of their way to make me feel accepted and cared for. Often encouraging me in my passions and my writing. They also made me feel loved.  (which I so desperately needed, I didn’t know it then, but looking back now, I know I was looking to fill those holes my family had left within my heart. So they became my family, filling in those holes I so desperately wanted and needed to be filled. Because family to me is what you say it is and you what make it, family doesn’t have to be defined by blood relations or by marriage alone. It’s the connections you make and the bonds you share.)

Then one night after they picked me up from another late night at work, we went to Matt’s and sat around his pool discussing our school year and  the summer that we all knew was drawing to a close and soon we would all be going our separate ways, with him going off to the marine core, Steven pursuing a career in special effects and me the writer, dreaming of a better life for myself. We discussed the possibility of this moment being the one moment in time that would never again come around, that this was it, the days of our youth were winding down and would soon be forever behind us. So it was with that thought, we realized we had to make this summer count for something and we agreed to make it a summer we’ll always remember, our one last hurrah.

We planned to attend the Grant County Fair, and because we lived in a closed minded, back water little town, populated mostly by hillbillies and country bumpkins, we decided to go in goth, to stand out, daring to be different, maybe even ourselves.

Also for me it’s always been easier to act more carefree when I wasn’t dressed as myself, so dressing up in goth felt kinda freeing in a way, by believing I could put on this other persona and be this person that I wasn’t. It gave me person to stop worrying about what others thought of me and what they said, it was liberating. I also learned that I look good in all black, for I actually had more girls flirting with me than I had in my entire life. So that was a nice added plus.



Once there Matt decided to have a little fun by staging a fake fight with another one of our other friends, John and being young and stupid we all thought it was a great idea, which almost resulted in us being booted out of the fair. But once everyone figured out it was all staged and we were just goofing around, everything was well and good, with the rest of the night being incredibly memorable, one that made me feel more alive than I thought possible and how we laughed  all night until we cried.   Although I must confess, the whole time I did keep an eye out for Sherry, hoping to see her somewhere in the sea of people there at the Grant County Fair.

It took three days for word of our shenanigans to get around to my mother and My step-father, Chris and believe me, they were not too pleased. I had been asleep for a whole five and a half hours when they came banging on my door, demanding I get up.  I rose, bleary eye and sleep deprived from working even later than usual and opened the door wondering what they wanted to harass me about now and was immediately shoved inside as they forced their way into my room, with the accusations already flying.

Immediately they began questioning me about the fair and I answered as honestly as I could and believing them both to be overreacting and that if they just heard my side of the story, that it would all blow over. (But I obviously forgotten who I was dealing with.)  But I did my best to explain the situation for what it was, our one last hurrah before we risked never seeing each other again. But they weren’t having it, instead I found myself being accused of being in a suicidal cult and how I was tarnishing Chris’s good name as a police officer and for the first time in my life I found the conviction to finally stand up for myself and cry, “Bullshit!” and reminded them how I always stayed out of trouble, and how I never once broke the law, or drank, did any drugs, nor did I ever cause any problems at school.

But my mother wouldn’t listen, instead she stepped to me and began jabbing me in the chest with her finger, ordering me I was to call Matt, Steven and the others and tell them how I could no longer be friends with them. An act I couldn’t find more humiliating, or degrading, especially from all the times they’ve been there for me and so I stood my ground and defiantly told her no.

She hadn’t expected my answer and looked surprised, which quickly gave way to anger and she began screaming at me, telling me how I was going to do it, or she was going to. But I found my courage and my voice and shook my head as I said,

“Look, my friends and I all graduated together,  and none of them have ever been in any kind of trouble, or been arrested, none of them smoke or do drugs, they’re good friends to have and they’ve been good to me and they’ve been there for me than you ever were. They’re my family and have been my family in all the ways you never were and I won’t write them off for you. “

“I don’t care,” She says, “You either call  your friends up right now and tell them you can’t be friends with them-“

“Mom,” I interrupt, “I’m nineteen, I’m not my brother and my friends aren’t his, mine are better.”

(Which was the truth, my brother’s friends have all been, or gone to prison…some still are and almost all of them have either been expelled or dropped out of high-school and more than one had knocked a girl up, or was hooked on drugs, or an alcoholic. Unlike my friends who worked hard, kept their noses clean and help motivate and even tutor me on their own when I was falling behind them in my classes. All the things she’s always known.

“Call them, or we’re kicking you out!” She threatened and I smiled. Because I realized her threats didn’t bother me anymore and I wasn’t afraid. I was free and my eyes were finally opening to all the lies she’s ever told me. This was what my father kept trying to warn me would eventually happen. My mother was going to kick me out because she had no further need of me, no child support and I was no longer a prisoner for her to bully and threaten, I was free to choose and I chose to go.

“Alright…I’m gone.” I rasp and picking up my phone as she asks me where I’m going to go and so I tell her, “I think I’ll go live with my dad for a little while.”

She watches me make the call with venom and revulsion as I dialed my dad’s number and when he answered I told him, that I  needed a place to stay and that I was being kicked out.  He understood and told me he’d be right on his way and we both hung up.

As soon as I got off the phone with my father, my mother started going off on me, rattling off everything that was wrong with me, calling me a little hoodlum, a liar, and how weak and pathetic I was. All the while, I kept trying to ignore her and begun packing up my things as she followed me around telling me that I was nothing but an ugly little coward and worse.

Of course I didn’t expect any less from her, after all this was the person I’ve grown up with, so I bit my tongue and quietly packed up my things and praying that she would just go and leave me alone, which she never did.

She insisted on saying that I was nothing but a little mischievous liar, always sneaking around and how my dad wouldn’t put up with my attitude or behavior, along with every little thing I did wrong since I was seven and how one day my father would end up beating me to death, or forcing me into the military life to make a man out of me, which was when I finally snapped.

“Enough!” I barked, “Just stop it okay, seriously when does it does it end? You won alright? I’m moving out, you can stop blaming me and holding me accountable for things I did when I was seven. I’m sorry I ruined your life so much by being born. But believe it or not and despite whatever you may think, I was a good kid and I don’t know maybe I’ve just been a little misunderstood, but I’m not the same person I was when I was a kid and I admit,  I used to steak candy from people’s candy jars, I snuck around people’s houses and explored,  I looked in cupboards, searched every room, explored every closet, but  I was seven! That’s what kids do, I never stole or took from anyone and I was a kid. I’m sorry I couldn’t always act like and be the adult you wanted me to be, I’m sorry for all the times I didn’t behave, or be the perfect kid, I’m sorry for the lies I used to tell just so that you wouldn’t beat me with the paddle. But that’s what kids too, we’re afraid of getting punished and you made us afraid of the paddle, but I was eight and you still act like it was yesterday. You haven’t noticed that in the past ten years I’ve changed and grew to admit to the things I did wrong and would only deny the things I hadn’t, until you either beat, or blackmailed a false confession out of me, that you would then use to further incriminate me for other things I hadn’t done, forever condemning as a liar, no matter what I ever said or did to prove otherwise.

“Josh you’ve always been a liar and vindictive, trying to get back at me cause you think you’ve been done wrong!” She snapped back.

“Are you kidding me?” I asked, “And why would you think, that I would think or do that? For what reason would you think I would want to get back at you  for something you did if you’ve always been the perfect mother? Or do you admit that you’ve always been horrible to me and are afraid to death it’s going to come back to bite you? But you got me all wrong, despite everything you’ve ever done and said to me, I always loved you and prayed for a real mother and son relationship with you, but you took all that away, you made me afraid of you and I never once stood up to you, so whatever it is you think about me is twisted and I seriously think that you’re sick.”

“Josh I can’t believe you would say that,” she shot back.

Shrugging, I shake my head,

“Do you ever stop to wonder about why it is you think I’m such a horrible person? My whole life all you ever done was blame me for everything, no matter what and without fail. Never believing anyone else would lie to you, but me. Even after Dominic (My brother) got arrested for stealing a vending machine from the Wendy’s break room, I was there when he swore up and down he had nothing to do with it, swearing to God, that he was innocent, but when they showed the security footage of him actually stealing it, I’m still somehow always the big liar. It’s always been lose, lose with me, I would plead my innocents and you  wouldn’t stop beating me until I confessed and you would always hold that confession against me, telling me it’s why you couldn’t ever believe me in the future. Do you recall how many times and how long it would take of you beating the hell out of me before you got your confessions? Did you ever once stop to think that I would have comped to anything if it meant  the beating and the groundings, would stop, or just so that I could have dinner?”

“Josh, you’re just trying to be the victim,” She snorted,

“Because that’s what you made me!” I retorted. “No matter what I did or what happened you would judge me as being guilty before even speaking to me and automatically assumed the worse about me when I gave you no grounds to do so.  I’ve always been a good kid, stayed out of trouble, always doing what I was told. Even my friend’s parents believe I’m as straight laced as they come, too afraid of ever doing anything even remotely bad or wrong. But you see only what you want to see in me and I’m tired of it. I’m tired of the threats, the accusations and being treated like a second class citizen, so I’m done, you got your wish, and I’m no longer your son.”

Then I shook my head grabbed my bags and shoved my way past her, to wait out in the driveway for my father to pick me up. My heart was still racing, I never spoken to my mother like that before, heck until then I barely even stood up for myself…like ever. It felt good, if not a little scary and hurtful, because I finally admitted what I never had to courage to really face. Which was there was nothing I could do, nothing I could ever say, my mother hated me and would always see me as some stupid delinquent that she could bully and manipulate. Although a part of me was already looking back, thinking about my little brothers and how much I would miss them, imagining there reaction when they discovered that I had gone and how they would ask about me, dreading whatever lies my mother would feed them. But this was something I had to do, I had to cut ties with my mother no matter how much it hurt, otherwise I risked drowning.

But little did I know, my mother wasn’t done, not yet, not by a long shot, dealing me a blow that I never expected or saw coming….

Me, Matt, Dawn and Steven.

Me, Matt, Dawn and Steven.