punkwalrus (punkwalrus) wrote,

23 years ago today...

In 1987, this was a Thursday. It was a nondescript partly cloudy day as I sat in a small pickup truck owned by a man I knew as "Quasi." In the cab behind us was about half my worldly possessions that I had been packing like crazy the following week. My father was out of town, and I was using this long weekend to get the hell out.

In the previous weeks, George Mason University and I had a huge argument. My current workplace was willing to have me for the morning OR the afternoon, allowing me to go to college full time. But the new campus computer system was severely messed up. It kept giving me classes scattered all over the week. I would put in my requests, get a confirmation of requests, only then get a class schedule that was totally wrong later on. In some cases, they weren't even the right courses, and as the time narrowed down, their computer boondoggle left them caring even less under the pile of student registration complaints. The best I could hope for was SOME of my classes, scattered throughout the day. Not even enough for a full semester.

My father had one stipulation: if I was to live under his roof, I had to keep the place clean, work full time, AND go to college full time. He was not going to have some slacker living with him. He didn't want me to pay rent, as he felt it would be a leverage to get out of this deal. I guess he was being kind. But full time job, school, and keep the place clean (which, honestly, would have been pretty easy given he wasn't home that much).

This pressure was enormous, and made me hate George Mason's academic system with a passion. I was paying them money, and they weren't giving me the product. And given I had no car, I had to take a bus to the offices and wait and wait and wait to speak to a counselor in person. This also affected my job. And I needed that money to eat.

Growing within me, however, was a seed of dissent. Living with my dad was pretty stressful. I never knew what he was going to do. His verbal abuse was sporadic and unpredictable. Sure, if I was gone from sunup to 8-10pm daily, I wouldn't see him that much. My job was also kind of a bummer, as I felt they didn't have enough work to give me, yet they seemed to imply I was lazy. And maybe could have dealt with George Mason if I had parents, but my father had no interest in getting involved and my mom had died earlier that year.

The message was starting to come in pretty clearly like a haunted house screaming at sex-starved teenagers in a bad horror movie:


The calls were coming from inside the house, too. My basement bedroom was falling apart: the mold and mildew were eating away at the drywall and whereas most people have roaches or ants as pests, I had cave crickets and pillbugs.

This was no way to live.

Speaking of living, earlier that year, right before my mother died, we had been told by a doctor my heart was bad and I only had 2 years to live unless I had massive heart surgery. While this later turned out to be a terrible misdiagnosis, this suddenly became my little secret when my mother committed suicide a few days later. Yes, the doctor's office called us a lot afterward, but my father told them to piss off. He didn't want to hear from them, since all doctors were quacks. Doctors were the ones that gave his wife all the tranquilizers she ended her life with. So with all this in mind, the futility of existing was overwhelming. I didn't have a friend or a coach with enough sense to say, "well, make those last two years count!"

The month of September in 1987 was looking very bleak. And it was about to get worse.

Sure, suicide crossed my mind. Hell, it left tire marks so deep, I felt I would trip into them. I used to be suicidal as a teenager, and even attempted about 5 times. When my mother killed herself, well, I felt the thunder had been stolen from me. When she died, within a week my father acted as she didn't ever exist, and even 10 years ago, when we last spoke, he referred to his life with her in the third person. So there was a kind of "fuck you" sense of revenge replacing any self-worth I had. Sometimes my driving hate of that man made me do strange things (a lesson I still remember).

At some point, I came down with a huge case of "Who Gives a Fuck." Nobody cared about me, except my dad, and according to him, "Everyone is out to get you. I am the only one who cares about you, and I don't even like you." I was 18, alone, and scared shitless. I only had two good friends: one of them was going crazy with her own problems and the other one lived in Texas. There was no one to vouch for me, fight for me, or give me any support. It was like childhood, except now I was legally an adult and could do what I wanted. Huh.

It was during one of these phases I was alone in my mother's former home office, speaking with Bruce and Cheryl. They were moving out of Hyattsville, and escaping their own roommate issues and needed new ones. Did I know of anyone? Initially, I didn't make the connection. They were not soliciting me, really, just making a general callout. Why would they want an 18 year old living with them? But later that night, I thought about. A lot. Why not just ditch everything and move in?

So I called them back the next day. There was no welcome answer. There was a kind of "eeehhh..." followed by some diplomatic, "we'll think about it." But apparently one person was willing to deal with me, and that was a girl named Liska, who had accepted to be their roommate and accountant so she could save up to buy her own house. I had promised to pay a security deposit up front and I was employed. She said, "he's a better risk than most." The other rommate was almost a stranger from Philadelphia who had just graduated college and had no job (spoiler alert: Debbie was a great roommate).

Things changed quickly from there.

Within a week, I was packed. I told George Mason to piss off, and I wasn't paying them for their shitty service. They didn't care, but that didn't even phase me enough to look back. One of their former roommates had a boyfriend named Quasi, so named because he was large, hairy, and... well, that's about it, really. I never knew his real name, only it was short for "Quasimodo." Like many people with pickup trucks, he was recruited to help everyone move.

My plan was to be moved in before my dad got back on Sunday. I was ahead of schedule, and had 90% of my stuff moved out when on the third trip back, I was met with a nasty surprise: my dad came back early. He got one look of Bruce and Quasi and his expression was a deep, "Oh HELL no..." He confiscated my house key with such force, he nearly strangled me in the attempt to rip it off my neck, where it was held by a ball-beaded chain. Bruce had to calm him down, which is Bruce's specialty. Later on, on the trip back, Bruce told me calmly, "I didn't find any value in anything you father said." That's a Brucism for you, and that means he's REALLY mad.

I was never allowed back in my house again for the rest of my stuff. Even when I was married, takayla was pregnant and needed to go to the bathroom, she was not allowed back there the one time she visited my childhood home. In hindsight, I really should have made copies of the keys. Oh well.

Last thing my dad said to me was, "Why don't you join the Navy and make something useful of yourself?" Funny, considering he left the Navy and considered it useless. But then again, my dad was full of contradictions and I feel that pointing out I had asthma, terrible vision, and was going to die in a few years anyway was moot. He didn't care, and since 1987, I have only seen him about six times for about an hour or so at a time, and not for the last ten years when he moved to San Diego. He's done with me, and erased me just like he did to his first wife of 29 years.

Going back to 1987 for a bit, just when things seemed to get bad, my best friend with the problems got scared I had moved out, and decided to not be my friend anymore which was one of the bravest and healthiest things she did for our relationship. Then I lost my job. Luckily, I had enough money saved up from college to pay rent through the next few months, and I ended up getting a much better job by December.

Moving in with Bruce, Cheryl, Liska, and Debbie was BY FAR the BEST thing for me. It was a decision I never regretted and still value highly as one of the most life-saving maneuvers I did on my own. The transition was rough, because I lost so much of my McLean life behind abruptly, and most of it I would never get back. I lost so many friends because suddenly I became the adult, but even worse, the adult who never went to college. Then the adult who never went to college but had a wife and kid by 21. AAIIIIEEE!!! Most of that melted away with time, of course.

Every year I celebrate this move. Sometimes I try and think what would have happened if I stayed. It's difficult to contemplate, because the road was so narrow. I guess the other options I could have taken were stay in college, which would have accelerated the job loss I didn't know was coming. My father made no bones about it: full time, full college, clean house. No other options allowed. He would have easily, easily tossed me out with no regrets. He did not like me, that much was painfully clear. He considered me a parasite at best, the ultimate disappointment in a human being that failed utterly because I didn't listen to him and follw him blindly. Even when I was doing well, he barely spoke more than a few words to me, and tried to turn all my accomplishments in to dust with a select few dismissive statements. The fact that he never speaks to me now, and has proven many times he's actively avoiding me, pretty much seals the deal. It's a shame, he's got a lot to be proud of. Maybe this is the universe's way of protecting me from his damage, by making his so utterly disconnected, I have to be on my own.

I doubt I would have ever graduated college. It is apparent, via notes my friend and I used to pass in class, that my self worth was minuscule. My drive was a day-to-day survival mode with little to no thought about tomorrow except, possibly, the only control I had was an exit via suicide. It still echos to this day during some stressful times when I think, "who gives a rat's ass whether I live or die?" The entire "hook" most people have to their value of being alive was never taught to me. So I have to think about, "well, if I die, will I upset others?" The answer is yes, and due to some recent things in the last few years, a great deal of others. None of these things would have come true had I gone to college. I wouldn't have been with FanTek, never met Christine, and never had a son. I would have never been in Prune Bran, and thus, never met Sean or knew any of his kids who mean a great deal to me. And a lot of my readers would have never met me. Some suicides I prevented would not have been stopped. So, in essence, not going to college panned out better for me and for others than most would have assumed. Of course, it had its bad moments, too, like 9 years of retail, and a lot of wasted time moping I never went to college, and therefor I am a useless person. Pfft, I have met so many other non-college grads that have made it good, and what would I have done with an astrophysics degree, anyway?

Anyway, here's to me!
Tags: childhood, fantek, father
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