I was reading the Zen Archer's ongoing series of posts about her experiences on the Romero trial, and I've held it together when listening to the stories or when reading about the case but tonight's blog entry really hit home in an uncomfortable and distressing way. Read it first and come back. I'll wait right here
All I could think of was junior high. West Junior High in Colorado Springs to be exact.
I wasn't a bad kid, I never ran away, I drank once or twice but I didn't get drunk until senior year of high school, I didn't do any drugs at all, I "smoked" by which I mean I went through the motions in an effort to look and feel cooler than I was but I wasn't what you would call a "bad" kid.
Some of my friends though were definitely what most would consider bad kids.
I had one friend in particular that I thought of reading the ZA blog entry. I'll just call her J. We lived in Old Colorado City in a neighborhood filled with big, old houses that had since been converted to not so big apartments and smaller bungalow style homes. My mom and I lived in this awesome 2 bedroom, peach colored bungalow with leaded glass windows and a porch swing. J and her mom lived next door in a small, weird apartment.
I started hanging out at her house a lot and it took me awhile to realize how unusual J and her mom's relationship was. They lived in a 2 bedroom apartment with a basement and they lived there with her mom's friends Steve and Nikki. Nikki slept in one bedroom, J's mom in the other bedroom and Steve lived in the unfinished basement surrounded by nude drawings of women that he presumably drew himself. Once we found a stash of used needles just laying around in the corner of his room. Nikki was a stereotypical biker chick, tall, solidly built and with black frizzy hair. J's mom, R was an old biker chick, no bra, no showers and no teeth. Well to be fair she had teeth but she thought it was hilarious to constantly take them out to make other people uncomfortable. And they all smelled... well bad.
For some reason I thought it was fun to hang out over there. Looking back, I cannot think for the life of me why. It smelled bad, it was filthy and there were a LOT of drugs in that house. J and her mom would smoke weed together and get baked out of their gourds while I just sat there feeling uncomfortable, J was 13 at the time.
My mom never seemed to mind me going over there. Maybe it's because I had been a latch key kid since the age of 7, maybe it's because I was already doing my own laundry and cooking my own dinners and taking care of myself even more since my mother had become sick the year before, or maybe it's because my mom didn't care, who knows the reason and I suppose it doesn't really matter. There were times she'd encourage me to go over there, mostly to get me to leave her alone I am guessing. Whatever the reason, I started hanging out over there quite a bit. Even having sleep overs, which in remembering, makes me feel kind of ooky especially given the fact that there were plenty of times that it would just be J and myself alone in the house with Steve who would be high out of his mind and tottering around the house in his underwear.
There was one day in particular that sticks out in my mind. We were out riding our bikes one day, like normal 13 year olds, when all of a sudden she mentioned that she had to stop at a friends house. I didn't question it. Kids are dumb after all. She asked me to wait outside as she'd only be a couple of minutes. Again, I didn't think anything of it and just hung around outside waiting for her. After 20 minutes I started to get really bored and considered leaving. 30 minutes later she finally came back outside, disheveled and slightly out of breath. As we rode away I asked her what had taken so long. She explained to me that she routinely had sex with this 30+ year old guy for drugs for herself and sometimes for her mom.
She regularly had sex with a 30+ year old man for drugs. For her and for her MOM. My mostly innocent mind was shocked at the thought. And more than a little bit dismayed. And sad.
She and her mother moved away about a year later and we lost touch. I know she was pregnant when they moved. She was 14. I don't know who the father was, I don't know what happened to her, I don't even know if she grew up or not. I'd like to think she grew up.
Reading that blog tonight made me think about how lucky I was that I never ended up dead in some guys garage like that poor Alicia girl. It made me think about how my friends and I would continually put themselves in situations that could have rapidly become dangerous or even life threatening.
I cannot begin to imagine how hard it is for my friends with kids to balance being a good, caring parent while trying not be overprotective and smothering. There has to be a happy medium. Being overly permissive or not caring what your children get up to don't work. Trying to be a friend to your kids doesn't seem to work either. I'm eternally grateful that I don't have kids, that I don't have to think about what they are doing or where they are or who they are with.
Reading about Alicia stirred up some particularly vivid memories that I hadn't though of in years.
I don't really know the point of this blog, I don't know that there needs to be a point. I know that I feel unsettled and sad and pensive right now. I know I want my friends to pay more attention to their kids than my mom paid to me. I want my friends kids to grow up safe and protected and loved. I want all these things and can give none of it.
Parents, teach your children well.