Bodega Bay by Nick
My first few days in Pittsburg were confusing, hectic and scary to say the very least. Of course I was inundated with visits from family on the first day. On the second day, Jackie came by to see how I was doing, then she talked privately with my grandparents for several minutes. While they were talking, I slipped out the front door and ventured out to the edge of the yard for a moment, looking at the end of the block.
I got to spend a week at my grandparent’s house one time when I was little, and I had a ton of fun. They took me to Great America, a theme park not far from where they lived, and we went to Marine World in Vallejo, another cool place. When we weren’t going somewhere, I was helping my grandma in the garden or fishing with my grandpa.
The day my dad came to pick me up, I was in the front yard with my grandpa, helping him water the grass. My grandparent’s didn’t own a sprinkler. Instead, they used a hose, which had to be held in one hand while they used a thumb to partially cover the end where the water flowed. This created a long spray that they swore was more effective than a sprinkler.
I was watering the grass that morning, and my grandpa was pulling weeds from the flowerbed under his bedroom window. I knew that it was going to be my last day there, but I wasn’t expecting my dad to show up until later in the afternoon. So, as I was trying to make sure I had covered every square inch of the lawn, I turned toward the end of the block just in time to see my dad’s truck turning left onto the street.
As minute as it sounds, I had seared that image into my memory, and sometimes when I was sitting in class, I would think about that summer day when my dad came early to pick me up and take me home. This time, though, there was no truck turning left. I sighed as the heavy feeling in my chest grew, but I willed myself not to cry. Instead, I smiled and leaned against the large cypress tree that I had found shade in and took comfort in the fact that I was where I was, and not in Modesto with my mom and Billy.
When I was called inside, I tried to put any thoughts of my parents out of my mind. I climbed the concrete stairs and felt the cool surface of the porch on the bottom of my bare feet as I made my way toward the front door. Right before I went inside, I wiped them on the scratchy straw welcome mat, and giggled a little when I felt a tickle run through my legs. I realized then that it had been the first time I had laughed about anything in a long time.
When I got inside, everyone was looking at me expectantly, and I got a little worried. Then my grandpa spoke up.
“Hey bud,” he said. “I need you to get ready. We have to go somewhere, and you need to be cleaned up, okay?”
“Where to?” I asked, feeling a little nervous about leaving the house for the first time since I had gotten there.
“Well Kevin,” he started. “We need to go to the hospital. Jackie’s going to go with us. There’s nothing the matter, though. You need to have a check up.”
“How come?” I asked in full fledged panic mode.
“Honey, you’ve been through a lot in the last few months,” Jackie said. “We need to make sure you’re okay, that’s all.”
“I’m ok,” I answered, feeling more than a little pensive about being probed. Something gave me the feeling that this was about more than a check up. I had heard one of my aunts talking to my grandmother the day before, expressing her concern that I needed to be examined by a doctor and checked for any type of disease that “that monster,” as she put it, might have passed on to me. I tried to put it out of my mind, but I had a bad feeling that it was coming, and I was scared.
I think what scared me the most about it was the idea that Billy might have actually given me a disease, even AIDS. I knew I didn’t want to die, and I had this idea in my head that if I didn’t know about it, I wouldn’t die from it. Still, I did what was asked of me. I took a quick shower and got dressed so we could go.
For the next four hours, I suffered a humiliation that was second to none. In the first place, I had to be nude in front of everyone. I wasn’t exactly hung up on not wanting people to see me naked, but there was a limit to what I was willing to endure. Being paraded around in front of doctors, nurses and police officers was definitely going beyond that limit. So was being nude in front of Jackie and my grandmother.
I tried to cover up when I pulled my undies down, but the doctor practically slapped my hand away from the privates, letting everyone see what I had down there. I was mortified, knowing that they all had their eyes on me. Even my grandfathers words of encouragement, that this was for the best and that no one was seeing anything they hadn’t seen before, wasn’t helping.
The worst part came when I had to let the doctors examine my butt. I knew why they were looking, but it didn’t make the fact that they were actually doing it any easier. In fact, for the first time through the whole ordeal, I found myself experiencing feelings of bitterness. As if I wanted Billy to pay for what he did to me. It wasn’t like me to feel that way, but at the moment, that was the only emotion that was registering with me. I felt like a terrible person for my thoughts, but in a dark, twisted way, I wanted Billy to suffer the same humiliation I was suffering.
When we got home from the hospital I went straight to my room and cried myself to sleep, too ashamed to face my grandparents after the humiliation I had to endure. Hunger and the smell of my grandmothers cooking drew me from my room later that evening, and I found myself dealing with a new shame for the way I had acted when we got home. I didn’t want my grandparents to think that I was mad at them, because I wasn’t.
I was definitely mad, but for the first time, I had a person to target my anger toward. Actually, it was three people. My mom, my dad and Billy. I blamed my mom for a lot. I blamed her for being crazy. I blamed her for driving my dad away. I blamed her for ruining our family. It was a family I didn’t get to have any memories of because it was a broken family before I was old enough to build memories. All I could do was create possible scenarios in my head that involved my mom and dad being married and having me with them.
When I created those scenarios, I usually allowed my imagination to wander and let myself grow up in my mind with them married. I would lay in my bed at night at times and tell myself stories about my mom and dad being married. The three of us were a happy unit in every one of them, and all of my mom’s instabilities were absent.
In their place, there was sheer bliss. I would come home from school and my mom would have a snack waiting for me, then I would do my homework. Then, at around five o’clock, my dad would pull into the driveway and I would run out to greet him with my mom. We would sit down and have dinner together and then, after my bath, they would tuck me in together. Maybe I would have nightmare, and I would wake up, and get to sleep with them in their bed.
That was almost always how I ended up falling asleep. Awash in the fairytale of my perfect family. Of course, I would eventually have to wake up, and when I did, my mother’s erratic behavior always crushed my dreams.
I was mad at my dad for leaving me to my mother’s devices. He could have fought a little harder to save their marriage, I thought. Instead, he left, and when he did, he left me behind. Sure there were visits every other weekend, and extended summer visits too. But those were ruined when he married my stepmom.
I didn’t hate her. In fact, if anything, over the years I had grown to love her. She was as much a part of my life as my mom and dad were. When her dad died of cancer when I was ten, I cried for her. The idea that her father, who I had never met, had died and left her without a dad made me grieve for her. When my dad told me he would have to skip our weekend visit because of it, I didn’t feel hurt about not seeing my dad. I was genuinely sad for my stepmom and worried about how she was doing.
But she always hated me. I knew it. She made sure that I knew it, too. During my summer stay, she never let me come out of my room while my dad was gone. I wasn’t allowed to go outside or eat lunch or even have an ice cream when she was letting my stepbrother have one. If I wasn’t in my room, I was in the corner for minor things, like smiling when she thought I should have frowned. In a way, being around my stepmom was a lot like being around my mom.
I was mad at Billy for what he did to me. But with him, the hurt ran deeper. I had grown to trust in him as the man in my life in my dad’s absence. He seemed to take over where my dad left off. He taught me to do so much, and it seemed like he really enjoyed my company. I was never in his way, and he always took the time to show me how to do whatever it was he was doing.
Having him there seemed to be the best thing that had ever happened to my mother and I. We always seemed to have enough money to buy the little things my mom had a habit of making me feel guilty about wanting in the past. I had an allowance, too. That was something I have never been given.
In exchange, I gave Billy my trust and my undying devotion to pleasing him. I wanted to be just like him. I would deliberately get my hands greasy so I could look just like he did when he was working on his car, and I followed him around the yard, trying to copy his every action. When he lifted weights, I watched with amazement and dreamt of the day I would be strong enough to do the same thing.
But Billy used that trust against me. He knew that my dad was out of the picture, and he knew that my mom was unstable. In essence, he was all I had in terms of something normal. But then he threw that away in exchange for the fulfillment of his sick desires. He forced himself on me, and I felt dirty and ashamed. I was too scared to speak up, so I didn’t.
Then, one day, I did, and I paid a heavy price. I learned in that one day what Billy probably already knew. That I had nowhere to turn. There was no one in my immediate family willing to help me. My dad thought I couldn’t be trusted to be in his home. My mom was so caught up with her own warped sense of reality that even when the facts laid themselves out in front of her face, she turned her head.
Sitting at the table with my grandparents wasn’t the best place to realize all of this, but that’s where it was happening. As I slowly chewed my food, I felt an anger and a bitterness building inside of me that I couldn’t get a grip on. I wanted to talk about it, but I knew better. My grandparents weren’t going to allow anyone, even me, to badmouth their only son.
That night I went to my room early, and despite the fact that I had a nap earlier, I fell asleep rather easily. Before I fell into my slumber, though, I thought to myself about my life and what I could have done to make things turn out to be different. Maybe I could have bothered Billy a little less. Maybe he was tired of me following him around and asking him what he was doing.
Maybe I could have been a better son to my mom. If I would have taken the time to learn how to mow the grass and work on her car, maybe she wouldn’t have needed a man to come live with us. Maybe I could have mowed lawns for money and helped my mom out. Maybe then it could have stayed the way it was before Billy came into our lives.
Of course, I knew I was fooling myself. The truth was everything was out of my control. I couldn’t have stopped my mom from meeting Billy because my uncle had introduced them when he was in prison. I was doomed before I knew who Billy was. Because my uncle didn’t know any better. He was a criminal, and he didn’t see any harm in my mother dating a criminal. He didn’t think that having a criminal move into our home, under our roof, was going to be a bad thing.
Then my thoughts turned once again to how I wished things were. I painted the picture again in my mind, then I placed the three of us, my mom, my dad and myself, in our respective roles. Things seemed so good when I did it like that. I never understood why it couldn’t be that way in real life. Why my parents couldn’t have just tried one more time. Why they couldn’t have waited until I was older, when I could help them out. I could make them see that they really did love each other and that we belonged together. We were supposed to be a happy family.
The next morning I sat up in my bed and stretched. Sunlight was making its presence known to me through the blinds, and as I let out a long yawn and rubbed my eyes, I thought something was off. My aching bladder was definitely calling my name, but something else was amiss. I knew it too. I got up and made my way slowly to my bedroom door, which was cracked slightly, and listened.
There it was. It was an unmistakable sound, but it wasn’t true. I knew it because I thought it was impossible. I slowly inched my bedroom door open and listened again. I took a long, deep breath and exhaled, then I slipped out to the hallway, tip toeing, not wanting to be heard just yet.
When I came out of the bathroom, I moved out to the living room, where the voice I heard now had a face and for a moment, I was frozen. I stood silently and stared at the man sitting at the table, sipping his coffee and nodding his head while my grandmother spoke to him in a disapproving tone. As I watched, a mixture of fear, anger, relief and uncertainty swept over me at once, leaving me speechless.
It could have been perfect if I had been watering the lawn. I would have been facing the end of the block as his truck appeared. Then, he would have made his left turn onto my grandparent’s street and maybe I would have smiled. But at that moment, the moment I had longed for over the past 3 days, I was at a total loss. I didn’t know what to say to my dad.