My brother and I learned to be bad reeeeaaaallll good. We learned to smoke cigarettes together. We also found learned how good that homemade muscadine wine makes you feel when every cell in your body aches from misuse in some fashion. It didn’t taste too good the first time, or the second. It didn’t take too many swigs before it didn’t matter how it tasted. It was like getting an injection of liquid courage. We would talk big about how we were gonna whoop them and run away and do this and do that…

I joined the band in 6th grade because my maternal grandmother gave me a clarinet for my birthday. In seventh grade, I was in the marching band. It felt wonderful to be involved and be a part of something good and productive. We went to every football game and I loved every minute of it. School was my refuge and I excelled. I was gifted, according to test scores. That didn’t really mean much to me except that I got to get out of class to go tool around on a computer (Commodore 64) or make ceramics or paint. This was supposedly fostering my gifts. It just gave me an outlet. Band was an outlet. Drama was an outlet. School was an outlet. The only issue with me being involved in these activities was HE was always the one who picked me up from practice. HE taught me to drive. HE took me to orthodontist appointments. No wonder SHE hated me, HE spent all of his time on me. All of these excursions were opportunities for him and humiliation and misadventure for me. He would always give me cigarettes (he knew I smoked because I was stealing his Tareyton 100’s) which apparently meant I owed him in some way or maybe I owed him because he was picking me up from the game or maybe I owed him because he had saved me from a life of Cheerios and ketchup sandwiches and Kool-Aid with no sugar. Either way, I always paid up. He always let me stay up late to watch Arsenio Hall and In Living Color. He would let me toke on his cigarette and he would make me a drink. I always knew what it was leading up to, but I really wanted to watch TV. I would try to talk loud so someone would get up. Didn’t work. He would coax me into the living room after warming me up with cigs, totties, and laughs. Why couldn’t someone just wake up in that house full of people? Sometimes, I felt as though someone was watching. He always took me to drive to dump the trash in the dump (we burned our trash, no trash pick up). There was this road that went up a hill on 280 that he had apparently scoped out or used before. I hated that hill. He would pull me to the edge of the truck seat with my legs hanging outside the door. The door was opened and I was grateful because I could look up in the sky and count the stars and just forget about what was happening to me.

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