This one is difficult.
Living with our parents’ alcoholism and drug use was a real drag (definitely pulling my punches). The end result was a whole lot of abuse and neglect. I read somewhere that children of abuse grow up with a hypersensitive awareness of justice. I know this is true for me. It was the unfairness of the situation that was always the most difficult to accept and is probably why my life has always been governed by deep sense of social, political and personal justice. It’s why I am a punk.
With neglect, it’s an injustice that a young kid would have to negotiate life issues beyond their time. That my mother would not come home for days at a time or that we rarely had food beyond a quick run to the 7-11 was common. Neglect is a mixed bag, however. I welcomed the fact that no one was messing with me and basked in the moment when my power was my own, but it came at the cost of growing up quickly and learning to do the things most kids don’t have to worry about; acquiring food, getting to school, keeping clean clothes and making sure all siblings were cared for. Neglect makes life a bitch because, although we learned to tend for ourselves, so much was still out of our own control. For example, the money still came from an adult, and if the money ain’t there, the food ain’t there. I watch The Wire and think, shit those kids have it worse than we did, but rarely have I said that otherwise.
With the physical abuse, it’s injustice of one being overpowered, but physical abuse you get used to, it reminds that you’re alive and teaches you to be angry. There’s no dismissing a hard smack to the face or a bent metal hanger across your legs. Hot blood rushing to the surface of the skin, tingles and burns, and ignites an awareness of the injustice of an adult physically overpowering a kid. My brothers and I have had many conversations trying to understand why the hell we were getting hit. What exactly prompted dad to remove his belt or mom to reach for the Hot Wheels racecar track. The fucking racecar track, it would leave welts like a 1st degree burn. Nothing has come close to explaining it. Hitting me never accomplished what the abuser intended, to change my “ill” behavior, but rather created a focus to overcome and even the score. Each time I’d ask myself, “Can I take her, is today the day?”
The day I finally took my mom out was priceless, a day that she had had coming for a long time. It’s not that I felt good about the event, I actually felt quite bad about grabbing my mom by the back of her hair and pummeling her, but the surge of poetic justice mixed with the adrenaline in my veins was undeniable. I didn’t want to have to do it again, but at least she knew that I could.
It was the start of my eighth grade year and we were living in drug and crime infested apartment complex in a shitty suburb of Portland, Rockwood. Today my social worker friend calls it “Meth City.” Mom’s boyfriend, a large Native American, who always reminded me of Chief from One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, was living with us as well. He was another drunken scumbag that mom had brought into our lives who liked to grab my ass as I walked by or hit my mother when she got out of line. On this particular day, I had had enough of his shit and Mom and I gotten into a huge fight as to why she stayed with this creep. Mom, of course, took Clayton’s side and the scene escalated to her slapping me in the face and calling me a “little bitch.” The unfairness of the situation was too much for me to handle. Here I was trying to shake some sense into her, to get her to join us in reality and she had the gall to try and put me in my place to keep her fucked up fantasy world in tact. A child was in charge of my destiny.
I grabbed my mom by both wrists, shook them in front of her face and yelled, “YOU WILL NOT HIT ME AGAIN,” and pushed her backward so that she fell on my bed. The look of surprise could not mask her indignation and she, behaving in her typical manner, searched for a weapon to assist in the beating that I had coming. There was a faux old fashion phone sitting at the side of my bed on a box. It was the type with a chocolate chip shaped based that held a J shaped arm on a raised metal holster. Mom lunged for the phone, swung its clunky arm at my head and the hard plastic nicked my skull. As I dabbed the small trickle of blood from my hairline I decided, this would be the last time my mother would ever hit me. I had bought into, “Honor Your Mother and Father” long enough and today God would have to hold His tongue. It was a huge barrier to actually raise my hand against my mother, I don’t know why, she had certainly fueled my anger long enough, but I knew it was a line that I would cross. The ethics of her beating your own kids had never entered my mother’s mind and I’m certain it was due to her own upbringing and her alcoholism. It was a lesson she should’ve learned years earlier, but I had never been big enough to do anything about it. On this day she was 5’1” and I was a fucking giant.
I grabbed her by the back of her hair and slammed her to the ground. I remember jumping on top of her and wailing away like Jerry had done to me many times and I in turn had done to Jason. Mom tried to block my blows but I wasn’t having it, each time placing a fist past her wimpy makeshift barriers and landing it hard on her face. It felt good taking my power back but I also felt like I wanted to vomit. How could someone do this to someone they loved, I thought, as her jaw crunched beneath my fist.
The onslaught ended with us both crying and mom screaming, “Get out!” It was a pivotal moment in our relationship. Her lip was bleeding as she stumbled to her feet and pointed to the door. Once mom realized that she couldn’t overpower me any longer and that I would actually fight back, she decided I was too much to handle and dropped me from her life. I left the apartment, sliding past mom and the fucking abuser she once again chose over me. It was the last time I lived with my mother. I had nowhere to go and where I landed is a different story.