By Owen September 2007
My life sucked. At the age of sixteen when I should have been having fun and dating, I merely existed. My dad was a long distance truck driver and a drunk. My mom was mostly just a drunk. The good think about my dad being a truck driver was that he wasn't home all the time. When he was on the road my life wasn't that bad. During those times my mom usually came home from work and then soon left for a bar. I was usually pretty much left along at those times.
When Dad was home my life became a living hell. The drunker he became, the more abusive he became. The last beating was so bad that I could hardly get out of bed the next day. The last couple of beating my mom joined in and got in several licks herself.
I knew the time would was near that I could no longer live at home. I was just trying to survive until I became eighteen and would be a legal adult. I was beginning to wonder if I could survive that long. I was a good student and wanted to have the grades to earn a scholarship to college. I had already concluded that my parents wouldn't help me with college.
I had a plan. I had a small amount of money saved toward a car and a place if my own. I knew that until I became eighteen I couldn't legally do either. I had found an ideal hiding place for my money in the shed where our lawn mower was stored. I had managed to save nearly $2,500 from mowing and odd jobs that I'd done. I knew this wasn't enough for a fresh start, but by the time I was eighteen I should be able to earn at least that much again. I never understood why, but my parents did provide for my basic needs such as food and clothing. I accepted it and realized that it helped me toward my goal.
The summer had ended and I was back in school. My lawn mowing jobs would soon be ending, but I could earn some money by shoveling walks and driveways. School wasn't bad. I had no friend, both by design and circumstances. I would be too embarrassed to have friends at my house with my home situation. The few friends I had when I was younger had abandoned my because of my parents. This was fine with me since my focus was on reaching my eighteenth birthday and independence.
There was a new guy in my geometry class. He seemed to be trying very hard to make friends. However, the kids in this Chicago suburb were slow to warm to new kids, unless they were the preppy jock type. This guy was closer to the nerd type. He looked at me with a warm smile, but I didn't want to encourage him. I just nodded an acknowledgement that he was there and went about my business. I would like to have had friends, but that wasn't in the books.
After geometry I headed for the cafeteria for my lunch and found my normal isolated spot. I was eating and looking over geometry assignment when I heard, "Do you mind if I join you?" It was the new guy.
"It's a free country, and I don't own this table," I said hoping to discourage him. He laughed and took a seat.
"Hi, I'm Tom," he said as he extended his hand.
I continued eating and just briefly looked up at him. I said, "I'm sorry, but I not very sociable. I need to work on this assignment. I have something to do after school." I didn't lie since I had a lawn to mow.
I saw the disappointed look on his face, but I didn't need or want friends at this point. I wanted to say I was sorry, but I thought it best that I just leave things as they were.
After school I rushed home to get the lawn mowing job done before dark. I wanted to get the client's lawn mowed so I could get our lawn mowed. If it weren't done when either parent got home it would just be another excuse to get beat on. I had just finished the mowing at home and after putting the lawn mower away and went in the house. As I entered the house I felt blow to my back and my heard my dad say, "Why in the hell are you just now finishing the goddamn lawn."
"I'm sorry, but I was working on my geometry assignment and lost track of time," I said with little hope that I was off the hook.
Another blow to the back and he said, "You do the goddamn lawn first. Hear me?"
I made a quick exit to the bathroom for a shower before he had time to think about a full fledged beating. As I showered tears flowed freely and mixed with the water from the shower. The tears were not so much from the pain of the blows, but from the situation. I felt so trapped.
For the entire week Tom continued to try and make friends with me. I was beginning to feel bad about the way I was treating him. He seemed like a good guy, but friends just weren't in the picture. The following Monday as I sat at my isolated table Tom again joined me. He tried to carry on a conversation, but I mostly ignored him. "At least tell me your name," he said.
"It's Jeff, now would you shut the fuck up and let me get my homework done," I said. He picked up his tray and left without saying a word. I felt like shit for the way I treated him when I saw the hurt look on his face, but I couldn't have friends.
I felt like shit the rest of the day. I hardly noticed anyone as I began my walk home. I bumped into a guy and mumbled sorry and then I noticed it was Tom. He looked at me and said, "Fuck you, Jeff."
For some strange reason I felt a need to explain to him why I acted as I did. I decided to tell him a little just so he wouldn't feel so bad about himself and said, "Look Tom, I have a shitty home life and it's not possible for me to have friends."
"That's no reason to treat a person like he was shit under your feet."
"You're right, and if you want to walk with me a little on the way home I'll tell you what I can." I told him about my mom and dad drinking but didn't go into the abuse.
"Look my parents aren't the best either, they're more interested in a social life and making money than they are in me," he said as tears began to form.
We had arrived at my house and I didn't want to take him inside just in case my mom was home and drunk, so we went into the back yard and continued our conversation. I began to realize that we had more in common than I expected. I was beginning to like him and we talked for almost two hours. I finally said, "Look, I need to get inside before I get into trouble."
Suddenly, Tom pulled me into a hug and then kissed me on the lips. I was shocked and pushed him away when I saw Mom watching us out the kitchen window. I said, "Goddamn it, why did you do that." I was terrified because I knew how homophobic my parents were. I stormed into the house before he could answer.
When I entered the house Mom hit me with a beer bottle. Fortunately, she wasn't strong enough or sober enough that it broke. However, it still hurt. She screamed, "You fucking fagget. Just wait until your dad gets home tomorrow."
I was terrified. I knew that the beating coming could easily kill me. I went to my room and closed the door and half expected Mom to follow me and continue the assault. She must have been in a hurry to get to the bar because I soon heard her car start. I knew I'd be safe for a while, but the real beating would be when I dad got back in town. I had to do something and fast.
I didn't know any of my relatives, or that I even had any. My first move would be to get out of town and fast. I called the bus schedule and found that a bus to St. Louis would be departing at 9:30 pm. St. Louis was large enough that it would be difficult to find me, but I knew I may not be safe there. I'd find another city after I got there. I quickly packed as many clothes as I could get into two bags and arranged the remainder so my closet and drawers didn't appear empty. This may buy me a little time.
I then found my birth certificate and then remembered that if I were to enroll in a new school I would need my school records. If the new school requested them, my parents might be able to find me then. I recalled that Mr. Perkins, the night janitor, would be at the school. I had noticed that he sometimes propped the door open when he went out for a smoke. Just maybe I could sneak in and get my school records. This would cost me some time, but I would try.
I ran to the school and to my amazement, luck was with me. The door was open. I made my way to the office and again I was lucky the door was unlocked. I found the file cabinets with the records. I then found the cabinet with the P's for my last name of Parker. Shit, the cabinet was locked. I opened the drawer to the secretary's desk and found a key ring. I tried a few keys and then found the one that opened the file cabinet. I quickly found my file and started making copies. I then put my transcript and envelope and stamped it "Official". I hopped that it would be accepted without questions.
The next problem would be getting out of the building without being caught by Mr. Perkins. My luck still held and the door was still unlocked with Mr. Perkins nowhere in sight. Once I was out of the building I ran faster than I'd ever run in my life.
I arrived home and saw that my time was running short. I hurriedly put the documents in my bag and went to the shed to retrieve my money. I was fortunate that I had traded my money into larger bills to save space. I put a few bills in my wallet and then put the rest in my shoes. I knew that it wouldn't be that comfortable, but would be more secure.
I then realized that I had about 15 minutes to make it to the bus stop to take me to the Greyhound Bus terminal in Chicago. The two bags were heavy, but my adrenaline was high and I made it to the bus stop with a few minutes to spare. However, I just had a few minutes to buy a ticket to St. Louis and board the bus when I arrived at the Chicago Bus Terminal. The driver gave me a questioning look when I boarded the bus.
I went toward the back of the bus thinking that he would have fewer chances to question me. I also wanted to try and get some sleep. I dozed some, but the sleep I was seeking never came. There was a short stop in Champlain and I had just enough time to buy a sandwich and a drink. I hadn't had time to eat before I left home.
After eating I begin to calm and decided that I need to make some plans. I didn't want to live in St. Louis. I decided that I needed to find a medium size college town and then maybe I could pass myself off as a college student with few questions. I then decided on Fayetteville, Arkansas. I then began to relax and manage to get a little sleep.
The bus arrived in St. Louis about 3:30 am, and I was disappointed to learn that the bus to Fayetteville wouldn't depart until after 7:00 pm. I purchased my tickets and checked my bags then tried to blend in with the other travelers. I found a somewhat comfortable location and got a little more sleep. I knew that I would likely sleep on the bus since it wouldn't arrive in Fayetteville until after 5:00 am.
When the bus arrived in Joplin, Missouri I had time to find a 24 hour restaurant and have a decent breakfast. I still needed to watch my money. I fell asleep on the bus when we departed Joplin and didn't wake up until we arrived in Fayetteville.
Fayetteville was a little larger than I expected, but it would be fine. I rented a locker at the bus station and decided to look for a high school. I needed to be near a high school, but I needed to find a place to work and earn money to live on. After walking several blocks and asking directions, I found the high school, and was happy that it wasn't far from some fast food places and a Wal-Mart. Now to find a place to live.
I decided that if I could find a furnished garage apartment or even a small house there might be fewer questions than an apartment complex. I walked for a couple of hours and found nothing. I then saw a travel trailer with a for sale sign that read, $1,200. If I could purchase that and find a place to park it then I wouldn't have rent.
I knocked on the door and an older man answer, "Yes?"
"Is the trailer still for sale?" I nervously asked.
"Yes, it is. Would you like to see it?" He asked as he looked me over.
"I would please."
"Let me get the key, and I'll show it to you."
The trailer was nicer than I expected and had been well cared for. It had a roof air conditioner and heater combination, a small cook stove, refrigerator, a small bedroom with a double bed, and even a tiny bathroom with a shower. This would do fine, I thought.
"Do you plan to travel or to live in it if you buy it?" He asked.
"I'll be going to school here and thought I might save on rent if I lived in it. I'd need to fine a place to park it though."
"There's a trailer park about four blocks from here that you might check with."
"Great, if you'll give me directions to it I'll go and check and then come back and let you know."
I found the trailer park and was disappointed that it wasn't all that well taken care of. I decided to check anyway, and found the owner. He was an even older man than the owner of the travel trailer. He said that the rent would be $250 a month but that it included electricity and water. I decided that $250 would be less than I could rent an apartment for. I gave him a deposit and then went back to pay for the trailer. I wanted to get everything done before night so I would have a place to sleep.
I would have enough money for a few weeks, but I would need to find a job fast. I decided to try and negotiate a lower price on the trailer. When the owner answered the door for the second time he seemed somewhat surprised that actually came back. I didn't want to appear too anxious and asked to see the trailer one more time.
After looked everything over again, I asked, "Would you take $1,000?"
"I don't know if I could do that," he said. "But, let me go talk to my wife."
Shortly he returned with pleasant looking woman who seemed friendly. I felt that I had a chance at getting a lower price. She said, "I don't think we could take $1,000 for it, but would you take it for $1,200 if we threw in the microwave, the 13 inch color TV, the linens, the dishes and the pots and pans?"
"I guess I could do that if you would be willing to move it to the trailer park," I said as I realized that I had made a pretty good deal. I paid for the trailer and they agreed to move it at the time. Within an hour I had a new home. I was exhausted from my trip and all the walking I had done, but I needed to go to the Super Wal-Mart and purchase a few groceries as well as some soap and toiletries. I still needed to return to the bus station and retrieve my bags.
After shopping and retrieving the bags, I badly needed a shower but, when I turned on the water to shower I realized there was no hot water. I figured there must be a hot water heater somewhere. I finally found it by reading the owner's manual that the couple gave me when I paid for the trailer. I finally got the water heater going and while I waited for the water to heat I fixed a sandwich and a bowl of soup. I was famished and fixed a second sandwich although I knew had to watch my budget.
After my shower, I literally fell into my bed and almost immediately fell asleep. I didn't wake until after 9:00 am. I ate some toast and cereal for breakfast and then dressed to go search for a job. I interviewed at a Burger King and was offered a job for after school. I was told that I could only work twenty hours a week since I wasn't eighteen yet. I took the job but, I knew money would be tight until I was eighteen.
I went back to my "home" and go my school papers and went to the high school to enroll. The counselor wanted to know where my parents were. I lied and said that my parents were divorced and that I lived with my mother. She couldn't get off work to enroll me. The counselor accepted my explanation and helped me work out a schedule. I had the address for the trailer park, but Mrs. Goodman, the counselor, asked for my phone number. I told her that we hadn't had time to get a phone yet. She then said that I could give her my mom's work number. I said that I didn't know that number, but that we would be getting a phone in a few days. I decided that I was going to need to buy a pre-paid cell phone. More drain on my budget.
After completing my enrolment, finding my classrooms and locker I walked to Wal-Mart and bought a phone as well as many groceries that I could carry. I had the rest of the day to unpack and get some much needed rest before starting classes and my new job tomorrow.
I had my home looking nice and all my things unpacked. I then realized that I had forgotten to bring my alarm clock. I would have to make another trip to Wal-Mart. I ran into Mr. Day, the trailer park owner, on my way. "You seem to be getting in a lot of walking today," he said with a grin.
"Yes, I thought I had everything, but I forgot to buy an alarm clock."
"Shit, I have several of those. I'll just give you one."
"Oh thanks a lot that will save another trip to Wal-Mart."
"Hey, since you have to walk everywhere, I just remember that a previous tenant left a bicycle here. You can have it if you want it."
I expected junky old bike, but I figured that it would beat walking. Besides, a teenager on a bike would draw less attention than one walking. I was surprised to see a very nice bike and it appeared to be fairly new. Yes! Life was good.
I would have to walk to school and work the next day since I would still need to buy a chain and lock for the bike. But, overall I'd have to say that things were working out better than I expected.