We’d only lived with Mom and Jose for maybe 6 months when I decided I couldn’t take it anymore. I was six and Carly was three.
I missed my bedroom at Nan and Papa’s house. I missed being around grown-ups who didn’t yell at me and hate me. I missed nights after school, when Nan would cook dinner and then make a bath full of bubbles and then Papa would tell me a Princess Jennifer story and I’d go to sleep. In the little gray house with Mom and Jose, it wasn’t like that. Nobody made dinner. I would find crackers or make bowls of cereal for me and Carly. At night Jose and Mom watched Stark Trek or Mom painted and Jose played games on the computer. They mostly ignored us. It was better when they did ignore us.
I missed Nan. I handed Carly a pink pillowcase with a teddy bear on it. Carly loved teddy bears back then. I don’t know why. She had loads of them. Some bigger than she was. Every holiday, she’d get a different teddy bear and she always loved it like it was the best thing in the world, even though they were teddy bears-the most boring, unimpressive toy there ever was.
I told Carly, “Put your favorite toys and three pairs of underwear in here. Make sure it’s not too heavy to carry.”
“We’re running away.”
“Is that allowed?”
I told her it wasn’t allowed, but we should do it anyway. Carly shrugged and filled her pillowcase while I filled mine.
When they were done, I told her we had to be really quiet and go out the laundry room door so Jose wouldn’t hear us.
We walked down the street. I felt this incredible sense of like…”Everything is okay now. Now everything will be okay.”
As we walked, I explained to Carly that Nan’s house was too far away to go to, but we could live in the woods. We lived on this dead end street and at the very end of the street, the woods started. We got all the way to the end of the street. We stood at the edge of the woods. I looked into the dark trees. I looked down at Carly, clutching her pink teddy bear pillowcase stuffed with toys. The woods suddenly looked so ominous and scary. I realized there was no food in the woods and when it got dark out, it would be cold and Carly only had a thin sweatshirt on.
“Nevermind,” I said. “This was just a game. We were just pretending. Come on.”
We walked back home. Our neighbors were outside, a woman named Carol and her daughter who always played with Carly.
As we approached them, 3-year-old Carly happily announced, “We were running away.”
“Shhh! Quiet, Carly!”
I laughed like it was a joke and tried to hide my pillowcase behind my back, but Carly proudly held hers out like she was showing off a trick-or-treat bag.
Carol stared at us. Her face scrunched up weird.
“Let me see your bag, Carly-girl.”
Carol pulled out her toys and her three pairs of underwear, giving me a strange look the whole time.
I couldn’t take it anymore. The way she was looking at me like I did something so evil. I sat down on the curb next to Carol’s three-year-old daughter and I cried. I told her I missed Nan and Jose was scary and always yelled and Mom wasn’t nice anymore like she used to be when she visited me at Nan’s house. I told her I kept screwing up and making everybody yell and scream no matter how hard I tried to be good.
I started to tell her about how two days earlier, Jose dragged me from the living room to the kitchen, took my head in both hands, and slammed it into the kitchen floor until spots popped in and out of my vision and the bump on my head had a little blood on it.
She cut me off and said, “Stop it! Don’t make up stories.”
“I’m not!” I insisted. “Feel my head. I have a bump.”
She threw her hands up and turned away from me. “I’m not feeling anything. What happens in your house is your family’s business, and little miss, I know an exaggeration when I hear one.”
I felt deflated. Exaggeration.
I took Carly and our two pillowcases and went home.
Later that day, Jose came into the room. He looked really angry.
He told us to get our shoes on and get in the car.
I sat in the front seat with him. That was allowed back then. It was the early 90s.
He drove us to Wal-Mart and then drove all the way around the building. We were in the alleyway thing, maybe where stock would have been unloaded when the trucks came in.
He reached over me and opened my door and threw it open.
“There you go,” he snapped. “Get out.”
“You want to leave so much. Then leave?” He glared at me. “You think I’m joking? I don’t want you. Go! Get the fuck out! I won’t go after you. Go. Go disappear. Go get yourself kidnapped or run over. Spoiled little bitch.”
I wanted to get out. I hated being around him. I wanted to get out and walk. Just walk until my legs gave out.
But I was so sure he’d hit me or yell at me more if I got out of the car. So, I didn’t.
We sat there for a while. He kept telling me to get out, that he didn’t want me around anymore than I wanted to be around. Carly started to cry a little and said, “Dad, stop. I don’t want to Jen to go.” But he ignored her and kept shoving me in the shoulder, pointing at the door and telling me to get the fuck out. Finally, he shut the door and muttered, “That’s what I fucking thought.”
This became a semi-regular occurrence, this driving me to some secluded location and telling me to get out and go.
Mom didn’t do it until I was nine, and she didn’t drive me anywhere. She just ripped me off the ground, flung me out the front door and screamed, “I fucking hate you. Go!”
It was drizzling a little bit. I landed on the wet lawn. I don’t know why I remember what I was wearing, but I do. Maybe I remember because it was a somewhat new outfit. It was a pair of overalls with black flowers embroidered all over them. It was the mid-90s by then and overalls were very stylish. Underneath the overalls, I had on a mint green velour shirt. Velour was also very stylish. Nan had let me pick out the outfit at Kids R Us.
I stood up, looked at the front door that she’d slammed shut.
I walked away from the house. I walked down the road. I didn’t get very far before her car was speeding along behind me. She pulled up next to him, nostrils flaring and screamed “Get in!”
And I got into the car.
I didn’t know what suicide was then, so I thought I wish a bolt of lightening would kill me. I wish something would come out of nowhere and kill me. I hate being alive. I bet everyone hates being alive. What are we all doing it for?