Friday, July 12, 2013

"Sucks, Doesn't It?" A Memoir, Entry 28


“Liz, I’ve been studying the family circle that you drew, and I have some questions about Mr. and Mrs. M. These were your first foster parents, right?”
“Yeah.” Did somebody drop a pin because I think I heard it fall.
“You didn’t say very much in your description of Mr. M, except to write the word drunk, and then in parenthesis the word molester.” Pen’s voice drops to an almost gentle whisper. “What did you mean by that?”
“Just that he was the usual garden-variety drunk molester of kids. It’s no big deal. At least not compared to what’s happening to some kids today. Jeebus. Now that’s sick. We are living in a sick society, Pen.” I shudder.
Pen’s soft voice oozes empathy. “What did Mr. M do when he was drunk?”
“He screamed bad words at everybody. Like at his daughters, his wife, me and my brother and sister. Whoever got in his line of vision. I mean, we’d be cruising down the neighborhood in his precious new sky blue station wagon and he’d be yelling at all the African-Americans working in their yard, or, when he passed them in their cars and they weren’t going fast enough for him. And trust me, you don’t want to know the words he used. I’ll tell you this much, though, he extended an obscene invitation for them to go back to Africa, pronto. Or else.”
Pen’s mouth becomes one butt-ugly long thin line with just enough space to pronounce, “So he was racist, then.”
There goes that pin again. Plus my mind gets sucked into a tunnel: two plus two is four. Four plus four is eight. Eight plus eight is sixteen. Sixteen plus sixteen is—”
“Liz!” Pen's concerned now. “Are you all right? You seemed lost for a second there.”
The tunnel recedes. “Yes, I’m fine. What was it you said?”
"I remarked that Mr. M was racist."
“Yes, very. And the irony is, we lived in an African-American community. At that time, it was the poorest neighborhood in the city. I guess Mr. M wasn’t exactly flush. I don’t know how he could afford that fancy new station wagon of his. But he sure liked to show it off. He’d hustle me into the car and off we’d go.”
“Where would you go, Liz?”
“I drew a picture of the car. Wanna see it?” I took out the drawings I’d done.
Pen doesn’t say anything as she takes a few minutes to study them. But her face is more yellowish when she looks up at me with a puzzled look.
“Purest sky blue, Pen,” I say dreamily, “with white wall tires and those geeky looking fenders.” I giggle. “I can remember that car as if it were yesterday. I seen it on old classic movies.”
“Yes, I think I know the kind of car you’re talking about. I’m not exactly a spring chicken, Liz.” She gives me a weak smile. 
“Yeah, I know you’re no chicken, Pen. You lots older than me.” I giggle again.
“Well, not lots. Pen laughs. “Anyway, what’s the story behind the drawings?”
I shrug. “Dunno. Just drew what I felt like.”
She nods her head. “Were you ever alone with Mr. M in the car?”
I shrug. “Sure, lots of times. He’d take me to meetings and stuff. His wife had to stay behind to watch the younger kids. I can remember how much he liked showing that car off. Even to dead people judging by the desert picture there. Like as if they can see from the grave. Stupid vain man.”
“How old were you at the time, Liz?”
“Five. Then I turned six. I was out of that house by seven.”
“Did he take anyone else driving?”
I take a moment to think. “Sometimes, but not as much as he took me. He was tryin’ to learn me stuff. I-I mean he was probably trying to teach me to be like him. To hate, you know. I was at the right age I guess.” I clear my throat. My voice is acting up. I covertly look at my watch. Tick tock, tick tock, tick tock. I bet I know what’s coming next. She doesn’t disappoint.
“Liz . . .” Pen hesitates.
“It’s ok, Pen. I know what you’re gonna ask. What did he do, when did it start, how did he do it, and how did you feel about it?” I cock a cocky eyebrow at her. She’s a bit surprised, but waits patiently for me to continue. I don’t disappoint. “Ok, it went down like this. It was a Sunday. Everybody was at church, except me and Mr. M because I was sick to my stomach and he was drunk on his ass. He yelled at me to take a bath because I stunk up the house with my puking. I didn’t argue. You never argued with Mr. M and lived to tell about it.
Anyway, while I was in the bathroom, he came weaving in and just stared at me. I stared back feeling like something really filthy or nasty had just entered the room. I got scared because the look he gave me wasn’t right. I just knew it wasn’t. As young as I was. You know what I mean? Anyway, he staggered toward me whispering something. I looked down at this grungy linoleum floor with the teeny tiny black and white rectangular squares and wished it would swallow me all up but instead the lights went out in Georgia on my mind. The end!” I smile triumphantly at her, but she seems to be floating above her chair with this puzzled, icky look on her face. Or maybe I’m the one floating. It’s hard to tell. 
      “Now see, Pen, that wasn’t so bad, was it?”