I have a scar on my right knee that’s been there since about 4th grade, a skateboarding stunt gone wrong.
I got it at my favorite house of all the homes we ever lived in. The bungalow on the hill with the huge wide porch and tapered columns. Mom planted a big garden in the backyard and grew sunflowers that stood two feet taller than my best friend.
It’s the home where one brother fell asleep in his plate of spaghetti and the other stuck a metal key in a light socket. I call him Eugene Melvin Belvin Borris because he’s always been a bit of a dork and super curious about things older sisters didn’t care about. That’s not bullying, that’s the normal dynamics of sibling relationships, or so I used to think.
The home on 3rd Ave. South was one of many addresses where I woke up in the middle of the night to shouting and long expletive sentences that were as entertaining as they were worrisome. My mom, always home with us, stayed up late waiting for our dad who sometimes came home too late from the bar smelling like beer, cigarettes and a scent she never wore. His clothes once found their way to the front lawn…via the second story master bedroom window.
I prayed at that home and many others that she would leave him. She was better than that and deserved more. It takes a long time to have a better understanding of someone else’s story.
Jeremy’s skateboard story is different than mine, though that’s not really his name, and he stands about 6 feet tall. We met last week. The first time I saw him he was huddled against the wall in a corner with a hoodie pulled over his short red hair, hiding this whispy 6 inch beard that begs to be cut off.
He is skinny at only about 130 pounds and can’t eat Corn Nuts because his teeth have all been pulled. His bright blue eyes are beautiful but cautious in a way that has seen too much for a young man in his 20’s. They reflect a sort of sadness and sorrow. My heart wanted to hug his guts out.
But then he started a conversation with a few other people and there, in the waiting room, he began to share about this drug and that drug and how you can mix this and do that and how one time he did blah blah blah and it was hilarious.
There was also an 8th-grade boy in the room and two elementary school kids including a girl who had about 17 healed over cut marks hiding just under her sweatshirt. I felt them and my stomach began to feel nauseous, sweat began to seep into my double layered shirt and my blood was starting to warm.
The person I used to be, when I was still an inexperienced little girl with big dreams, interrupted the conversation. With nothing but love in my heart and a lot of backstories to draw from, I could not sit quietly any longer. And I said some things. I don’t remember what exactly.
This was not the place. Children are in the room. And sure, it all seems like fun and games and it’s also so frickin’ hilarious until it’s not. Until something terrible happens and you find yourself broken and alone, beat down, addicted, homeless, and feeling nothing but hopelessness. It’s all funny until you realize that all of this fun has just destroyed decades of your life.
And then we bonded. Jeremy shared with me his own skateboard story. How he tried to ride it for the first time as a little boy, outside, on the sidewalk, all by himself. He mounted with both feet and fell off immediately. He started crying, not just crying, but really wailing because he hurt himself pretty bad.
His dad came running out of the house, yanked him up by one arm and began beating his butt and screaming in his face, “You don’t cry! You do not cry!”
Until years later, when we realize our lives have been lived as one big, loud cry for help.