Learning To Love You More




Assignment #14
Write your life story in less than a day.

Bristol, Tennessee USA
Email Jaime



My mom continues to joke that she s surprised she ever had another child after me. After I was born at 10:35 am in the Philadelphia Naval Hospital I had not slept through the night until I was 3 and a half years old. I get it from my father. Same as my dark brown hair, high cheekbones, brown eyes, and olive complexion. I also have his appreciation for motorcycles and science fiction. I suppose you could say I was always a daddy s girl. When he had to leave for Spain or Hawaii or Italy, I was inconsolable. I was the reason he quit the Navy and became a computer programmer. My younger brother was born in 1987. I was his protector and tormentor, respectively of course. About two years after I was born my grandmother said to my mom, "If I hadn t been there, I would never believe a person could be born unhappy." We lived with my mother s family in Ocean City, New Jersey for the first few years. I refused to cooperate whenever my mom took me to JCPenny s photo studio. That lasted two years. When I began kindergarten I worked harder at trying to be congenial though. I had birthday parties and pictures and pretty dresses. From there we moved to Maryland because it was the last place my dad was stationed before he quit.
The first home we lived in that I can remember was an apartment in the poorest county of the state. It was a group of brick buildings that only went up two stories and had a very large water drainage cement ditch lining the back of it. We often climbed the fence, dodging broken beer bottles and syringes, to watch teenagers spray paint the sides of the ditch. They only let us hang around because we thought they were so cool and they knew it. My friends and I also watched the drug deals go down in the laundry mat across the street. I still remember the very obese Hispanic looking man sitting on some 12 year-old s bike outside the door. He was watching for cops and not doing it in a very inconspicuous way. We never owned any of the nice jackets or shoes that were in style then because kids were getting stabbed or beaten up for them. I never argued with my mom about her decision because I knew some of the kids that got beat for their gear. It wasn t all bad though. My baby-sitter and her family were very nice people who taught me about morality and respect. Her two daughters were my best friends and we amused ourselves with clubs, crafts, and acorn fights. (Yes, we threw acorns at each other.)
Eventually we moved to another apartment complex about 10 minutes away. My parents got tired of the roaches and the drunks that always seemed to hang around our old apartment building. This new place was also a brick building, but it was all connected and newer looking. We were excited about the built-in pool they had. Our third floor, two bedroom apartment had a gray carpet and a somewhat closed off balcony. This place looked nicer, but it had some of the same problems that the other place had. The difference was that drug deals and exchanges occurred around the complex s playground instead of a laundry room. We didn t have roaches, but there were equally slimey characters trying to lure me and my friends into their apartments or cars. I usually kept watch when we were out playing. I didn t know how to relax enough not to worry. Unfortunately, that wasn t enough to protect me from my best friend s older cousin who did not know how to keep his hands or his thoughts to himself. All I really remember is him laughing at me as I ran home. I never told anyone because I knew that I would be the one who pays. My parents would have kept me inside more often and my privacy would be invaded by every psychoanalyst insurance would pay for. So I didn t say anything for five years. I hid inside until my friend told me that he went back to where ever the hell it was he came from.
Then we moved again. This time it was to spare me from having to go to a particularly dangerous local high school. Opposite of our last home, this new community was in a very wealthy part of our state. Most of the schools were only a few years old and the housing developments were geared toward the upper middle class family who could afford giant SUVs to house inside their garages. That is if the Audi wasn t already in there. We couldn t afford that lifestyle so we lived in a trailer park that was only allowed to continue existing in the town of prosperity because it was a nice looking park. They had standards and they d kick you out in a heartbeat if you violated them. I was determined to reinvent myself, although not really because all I was working for was to be like everyone else. It worked. The first day of my 6th grade education at this new school I was invited to have lunch with the most popular girls in the school. I hadn t spoken two words to them, but I was pretty enough and dressed well enough. I kept giving them the wrong answers though. "What do you listen to?" I told them mostly rap and country. You can only imagine what look I got. And when they asked me if there were any guys I liked so far I told them that I didn t date. "What do you mean? What are you a prude?" I didn t know what that was. I just knew that I wasn t interested in dating. Boys were still my playmates, not love interests. I also turned down cigarettes and alcohol. Soon they kicked me out of their little clique. Needless to say, continual harassment ensued. To this day though I m glad it happened because I ve never once tried to be someone that I m not. Because I have a spine of steel that does not require anyone to agree with me or like me.
I started to make my own friends, and those friends happened to be the popular boys. As a social exile, this of course was against the rules. If the girls reject you, you definitely don t get to hang out with their boys. And considering that I didn t dress like a tomboy - I wore skirts and heels and nice blouses - there was one thing people concluded from my relationship with these boys. She must be putting out. I became known as a slut, which is humorous now because at the time I wouldn t even hold hands with a guy let alone give him a blow job. Occasionally I let a guy I liked feel me up because it seemed like what he wanted, and being na•ve I thought that if I gave them something then they d stay. It never went beyond that though and it was never from my initiation. However, these were the most popular boys in the school and no one was going to ridicule them. It never really bothered me because the other kids were afraid of me so they never harassed me directly. I learned early on from living in a poor, violent area how to command attention and fear. I knew how to glare at someone in such a way that they d be frozen mid-sentence. So I could almost laugh at them fumbling over their excuses to deny they had said anything about me. That was until one of my own male "friends" started spreading rumors about me taking money for sexual favors. It made me feel like I was just meat and that I meant nothing to anyone. My own friends lied about me. It was the small group of female friends I had made that helped me deal with this. However, the feeling of being inhuman and cheap stayed with me for a long time.
When I was 12 years-old I met Paul, who would end up being one of the most significant individuals to ever enter my life. Someone that I would love more than my own life. Amusingly, I met him in a chatroom of all places. Specifically it was the "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" chatroom at Talk City. I don t remember exactly what our screen names were, but I remember calling him "Ember" instead of his full screen name or any of the other nicknames people gave him. I liked it because it was my personal name for him, but of course it ended up being used by others. I m not sure what it was that brought us together in such an obsessive way. It wasn t just that we were young. I didn t even obsess over male movie stars or singers. I never had posters of JTT or the New Kids On The Block on my walls when I was younger. I never saw being in love as the ultimate goal of existence either. I didn t fantasize about marriage when I was a little girl. When my parents read an email he sent to me describing in a very whimsical manner us running away and keeping ourselves safe and happy together, they would not let me talk to him anymore. I didn't see him much after that until I was 15.
At the beginning of high school I was dead set and determined to become an actress. I read books about acting, about self-promotion, about ways of gaining experience. I practiced scenes from my favorite shows and movies. I signed up for a drama class my freshman year. High school was a nice relief because my school was so large and there were so many students from all different schools that my social surroundings were new. Most of those people didn t know who I was or my reputation. I could, as I had hoped to do before, reinvent myself. I played soccer and joined a few different groups. I started working my first job. And about the time I was interested in someone else, he reappeared and everything I had ignored for months and months rose quickly to the surface. Which is why I was so damn scared. I was afraid that if I indulged in this now, then he would get tired of me and we wouldn t end up together later on in our lives. I mean we were just kids. You re not supposed to find your soulmate when you re still trying to figure out who you are. So I picked someone else, someone that I knew would be temporary. He picked someone else too, but he didn t intend on it being temporary. Getting through that time for me involved taking handfuls of advil at one time, sleeping most of the day, and trying to talk him into changing his mind. Then my family took a week long vacation to Sedona, Arizona and it was there, away from my home and from him, that I could find a little bit of peace. I could rationalize in my mind that he was not gone forever. She would probably leave him. I could tell this much. And I knew that complete collapse and failure was not very becoming for me. I went back home with this clarity of mind and it pulled me out of the grave I had dug for myself.
And she did leave him. What I hadn t quite anticipated was him then not speaking to me. Deciding not to wait for him any longer, I began a relationship that would last for the next two years. Eventually I began talking to Paul again, but only as friends.
In high school among my peers what I became more or less was a ghost. I continued soccer for the school and I was in a few different clubs still, but I never talked much and no one really knew me. I was kind of an untouchable figure even to my friends. There isn t much to say about my time in high school. I had started cutting and burning myself. I lost my virginity. I became more open about my interest in females. But it wasn t until my senior year that I really came alive as a person. I had started talking to Ember again, as friends, and although I loved him we didn t speak of it. It was in my English class that I wrote about sexual assault and rape for the first time on a personal level. My teacher asked me after class one day, "Were you writing about yourself?" I froze. I felt my face tightening and my eyes welling up with tears. I looked away and told her that I was, but it wasn t a big deal. "Do your parents know?"
"Of course they do."
That year I experienced kind of an inner explosion. I found a voice in writing that I never had before. I wrote about every damn painful history I d ever had as if I was exorcising demons. I wrote about the injustices I saw going on in the school amongst girls and other girls, or girls and boys, or adults and teenagers. I wrote about the hypocrisy and the betrayal and the illusions we seemed to be thriving on. I wrote about my depression and my parents fighting all the time and never feeling good enough. It felt suddenly as if I had real power. Not over other people by scaring them, but self-power. Power to use my voice. This also happened with my art as a result of Paul refusing to speak to me for a few months. As I sat at my desk feeling locked in a room that was filling with water, I began to draw. Just images representing how I felt. Lilith being replaced with Eve. A girl tied up with her breasts exposed and being sold by another female dressed in a man s suit. A girl in a slaughterhouse with meat hooks in her back and letter blocks strewn about on the floor. The images kept coming and with every hour spent sketching these ideas and developing them I felt a sense of relief. I also felt more connected to my art than I ever had before.
That was also the year that I broke up with my long-time boyfriend who I no longer loved and was mostly staying with because of fear. I didn t want to completely disrupt our lives. I didn t want to hurt him. However, all of that got tossed into the back of my mind when Paul rather unexpectedly came to see me in April, which would be our first in-person meeting. I say unexpectedly because despite being somewhat planned, I did not believe I d actually see him. But I did. We picked him up from the Baltimore Travel Plaza on a day that I don t specifically remember other than it being sunny and warm. When I got out of the car to walk into the bus station I could see a face moving towards me through the glass and I thought, Well, I hope that s him otherwise I m about to be mugged . It was. The time we spent together was so surreal. I ve never felt more comfortable and beautiful and alive. (Well, except for when I went to see him later that year in June; much to the disapproval of my parents.) As I walked across the stage to accept my diploma in May, I really felt as though I had grown and was on the verge of really having a life, since I defined life by happiness.
It s not as simple as that though.
My first year of college went pretty well aside from the seizures I started having. The awkward thing about seizures is that there s no visible damage, yet you can t move after having one. You can barely even speak or think. I stayed at Johns Hopkins for a week of observation and saw many doctors. They still don t know what is causing them. My dad had lost his job and couldn t find another one, which led us to moving out of our trailer (we were going to be kicked out anyway) and into my grandparents home in Tennessee. Paul left me in a very cowardly way, but his reasons for doing so were valid. The first call I got from him after 7 months of waiting left me in my bathroom bleeding from self-inflicted wounds. It was the last time. I d be lying if I said that I don t feel desperate. The nice thing about life though is that as long as you remain willing to fight for it, then it ll meet you. It ll carry you into something new. It ll allow you to grow and draw wisdom from your experiences.
Now I am 20 years old, I live in Tennessee, and I m a fine art major. I can t drive because I still have seizures, but I like to go cruising with my dad. Despite our differences, I m closer to my mom now than I have ever been. I m still a brat, but she loves me for it. I m trying to get a scuba diving certification because I d like to swim with sharks someday. I m learning to appreciate the company of others more. And when I walk our dog in the evenings I like to watch the mountains. The history here, if you re open to it, will tell you that we can do anything because once someone looked at these mountains and climbed them. Once someone decided to settle here and build a life for themselves. The mountains remind me of this and it makes me smile.