Chapter XII: 525 South State


 

Reeling from a death I was not emotionally mature enough to process, I dug my heels in the dirt, put my nose to the grind and counted down the days until I was finally to be going off to college.

Even as a child, the value of hard work was not lost on me. I’d observed for 18 years at that point that if my father went to work for 80 hours a week, we’d have a life filled with many things and comforts. A nice home, with pleasant decor, up to date wardrobe and makeup, it appeared from the looks of it, that if you just worked hard you could have the material things that make life a little less miserable.

Life was meant to be miserable no matter what I believed at that time, so why not have nice things?

So I worked, and worked, and worked. It kept me out of sight and out of mind for my mother, which was a double edged sword. It meant I was far less likely to take any abuse since I was often not home but it also meant since I wasn’t at home I didn’t always know when her moods shifted signaling a storm was coming. Much of her insanity in those final months before art school blindsided me, almost as if she was destabilizing further, regardless I pushed on. There was a light at the end of the tunnel and if I could just get to it maybe I could take a breath and process all that I’d been through.

Summer came and went. I left the jobs I’d been holding onto, packed up my shit and moved to Chicago to start art school. Slowly I began to relax. I was in a dorm, with a roommate, in a building with a cafeteria. I had a schedule of classes to attend, labs to complete. It was as if I was finally living the life of a normal kid who’d gone off to college. But I couldn’t settle.

My poor roommate had to endure everything from my complete lack of boundaries, to my insane fear of doors, and my unrelenting desire to please others and attain approval. I was nothing short of obnoxious. One upping every line, doing what I could to be the center attention and claim the last laugh. Cringe worthy doesn’t really encompass how embarrassing my behavior was.

While scary drugs and violence were now absent, so were the mentor-ships that had kept me grounded and focused. Not really understanding how to handle such a ham in the classroom, I alienated most of my professors quickly. Can’t say I blame them.

I’d be doing a song and dance to make sure everyone and everything thought I was ok for nearly twenty years. There wasn’t a need for the facade anymore, and yet I kept it up.

Exhausting.

For.

Everyone.

Many could tell I hadn’t a drop of my own personality and I was always behaving in the way I thought would garner me the most positive attention. When positive attention wasn’t available, any attention would do. Surprisingly, I did make some friends who could tell quickly I was a lost puppy and did their damnedest to help me come out of my shell. An aspect of coming out of my shell was that I began talking to my mother less and less. Each phone call she took as opportunities to take her frustrations out on me, and honestly at that point, I knew I didn’t have to take it anymore. I could just hang up.

There was a freedom in that so foreign it at first left me confused.

Trying new foods, and wearing different styles of clothes, I began to try and figure out what I liked, what made me happy. I knew photography did and I knew getting high did, but only half of that was worth actually being happy for.

This exploration delighted me. Flexing out my curiosity felt good.

One day after researching heavily across the interwebs, I discovered a famed bookstore in Humboldt Park that I wanted to venture too. A skittish and sensitive little shit, I gathered my backpack, navigated my way throughout the subway system and found the bookstore. I purchased there one of my most prized books of all time that I still keep in my library to this day, a first edition print of To Kill A Mockingbird.

Having not spoken in a few days, after I returned to my dorm I called home to tell mom and dad of my recent discoveries. I ranted and raved about a few local restaurants, and then proudly told them of my discovery at the bookstore.

Neither of them found anything I had to say interesting, and in fact, were outright upset I’d be traveling to what they believed to be a rough part of Chicago. My parents had a penchant for hating on the impoverished or anyone of a color darker than them, so their reaction to the news of my adventures was not really a shock.

To be honest, a lot of their views were repugnant, only furthering me desire to distance myself from them. I’d grown to find their perspective on things rather disgusting and knew I would just be perpetuating their toxicity forward by allowing them to have the reaction if I didn’t respond to it swiftly. Informing them that I was grown and independent, I could do with my life as I please and they could kindly fuck off.

You understand by now that the archetypal ‘Karen’ was based off of my mother and her pattern of behavior.

To her, my seemingly pestilent behavior was loosen her grip over my life and that simply wouldn’t do. Our conversation ending in screaming and I went downstairs to binge food and hide from my emotions.

I swiped my card.

Declined.

What?

There’s 2k in my checking account, I know there is.

Swipe.

Declined.

My face began to get red and the woman ringing me out let me have my things and go. I promised I would pay them back tearfully and moved as quickly as I could back to my room to check my bank balance.

All of my money was gone.

Not Dad’s money.

Not Mom’s money.

My money, that I had earned working, it was all gone.

She’d drained my bank account, leaving me stranded at art school with little more than 40 in cash and a couple of grams of weed I ended up selling.

Enraged that she believed she could behave in such a way I vented furiously to my roommate who suggested reasonable, we smoke a bowl, I calm down and in a few days I talk to her.

Three days later she issued me an ultimatum, only dress, travel to, eat things and in general behave in the way she wanted or she would leave me cut off and force me to find my own way. I obliged at first, but I was far too rebellious, and had tasted far too much freedom to allow her to maintain this control.

I debated heavily, what would I do.

I had no roots in Chicago, only friends, but we were all kids. No one could take me on while I was such a lost puppy of a person and I knew it. Not strong enough or confident enough at that point to remain in Chicago and fight for my own way of life, I dropped out of art school and the abuse resumed.

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