The summer before my 7th grade year at Sequoyah Middle School my father went to prison. He was given 15 years because he wouldn’t snitch. I remember being mad at him for not snitching. I felt betrayed that he would be loyal to these people that I only knew as shadows against the wall of my room. I had never seen their faces because my father would send me to my room when they arrived. I do remember their voices and couldn’t believe that my father chose to protect them over being with his family. Years later he explained that had he snitched, people would have been sent to hurt us. He felt his only way to protect us, the only things he loved in the world, was to go ahead and serve time. My mother started working two jobs again. I rarely saw her, but when I did, it was a shit storm of fights, always for different reasons: I didn’t clean the dishes well enough; I burned the chicken and it was all we had to eat; I was walking in the house and she just wanted everyone to be still. My mom was fucking nuts, but she was loyal. Every visitation day that my father had, we were there. Every collect call from jail, she would accept. If there was something that my father needed from the commissary, my mom made sure he had money for it, even if it meant she didn’t eat. A lot of this I didn’t learn until years later. To me, my mom was pure concentrated evil.
In school, I managed to become 7th grade president. The idea of being in charge of something made me happy. I loved the fact that people trusted me to get things done. I loved power. I loved power in a good way, though. I genuinely wanted to help out my friends. I was a straight-A student, and while I had a smart mouth, my grades spoke for me. During PTA programs, my teachers always wanted to meet my parents. They had this strange fantasy that my parents must be spending hours with me studying because my grades were so great. Whenever my parents came up, I would always just tell them that they were working. They were always working: my mother at the dry cleaner and my dad through his sentence.
When I was in the 8th grade, I got my first boyfriend, Tim. He was the Cambodian boy that sat next to me in my 2nd period gym class. Because I have always been fat, I hated gym. I never dressed out and so if I wanted to pass, I had to walk the school track in order to get credit for the day. This guy dressed out, but liked walking with me. Our relationship was more based on friendship than anything. We were complete opposites. I was loud, outgoing, class president (again), and fat. He was quiet, shy, a mediocre student with a stutter, and super skinny. But I finally had something that was mine. We never had a formal conversation about whether or not we were dating, but when others asked about our relationship, we would simply let them know that we were indeed in one. During spring break that year, my mother would have my grandma watch my brother and I. I knew my grandma would fall asleep watching her soap operas, so I would invite Tim over. One day, after a long conversation the night before on the phone, we decided we were going to have sex.
Movies always make it seem like losing your virginity is some painful nightmare that somehow becomes bearable as long as you are with someone you love. I lost my virginity and was confused. I didn’t feel anything. There was no pain, no blood, and no orgasm (which I had already experienced thanks to the Skinemax and a bunched up blanket between my legs.) I remember sliding off my bed in such a weird manner and running to my bathroom to wash up. My boyfriend and I walked to the movie theater in Northeast Plaza. We ate at Wendy’s before the movie and I remember wondering, “Where the fuck were my fireworks?”
After losing my virginity, life pretty much was the same. I expected a lot of shit to change, but it didn’t. I remember the girls in my class trying to shame me because I was sexually active. They tried to make it seem like I was a whore. Even at 14, you really couldn’t tell me shit. I remember the whispers in the hallway. I remember telling people to go fuck themselves since they were so caught up in my life, but what I remember most was the fact that I genuinely didn’t care. Everyone mentioned pregnancy and STDs but I used protection and I am pretty sure that my boyfriend was a virgin too. So I kinda felt like, “fuck’em.” I was happy.
My middle school sweetheart and I remained together up until 10th grade year at Cross Keys High School. He liked another girl, and I have never been one to hold anybody back. We would still see each other from time to time (this means sex… we would have sex).
One night, my mother told me that she was going to church. My mother always managed to find salvation whenever shit got hard. I knew that we would only have to do two weeks in church. After that she would be back to hanging out late, drinking her beers, calling me fat, and smoking weed. I saw it as my jail. Every 2 years or so, we became Christian. I served my two weeks and then I was out. Well this night, I convinced my mom to let me stay home. I was ecstatic because I knew that she would be gone long enough that I could have my ex over (he lived 5 blocks away). I knew that what I was doing would get me killed, but I did it anyways. Everything was going great!! One problem: my mom forgot her Bible at home. I told my ex to hide in my closet. My mother came into to the house and she wanted to know why my bedroom door was closed but the patio door in the den was open. My eyes got wide, and before I knew it, my mom was dragging my ex out of my room and simultaneously beating his ass. Not that I wasn’t getting hit too. It was a free-for-all. Anybody could get it. At one point my mom stopped hitting me and went to get her gun. She said something along the lines of, “I rather kill you myself than have you ruin my life.” She then aimed the gun at my head, and my ex jumped in front of it. My mother looked at him like he was crazy, and she dropped the gun. She started crying. I told my ex to leave. He wanted me to go with him, but this isn’t Shakespeare. Where the fuck were we gonna go? I laid in bed nursing my wounds and thinking about the fact that my mom held a gun up to my head. I knew what this meant though… Church.
The night after I KNEW my mom hated me, I went to church. I was sitting there as per usual, quiet. I hated the fakeness of the greetings and welcomes to the church. These people didn’t care about us. These people would judge us if they knew my dad was in jail. They would hate me if they knew I fornicated and enjoyed it. They would hate my mother if they knew she held a gun up to my head last night. They would pray for us and tell us everything would be fine. While I was thinking all of these thoughts, a lady crept up behind me and hugged me so tight I thought I was gonna burst. She looked me in my eyes and told me she loved me. I stared at her for a minute and wanted to cry. I told her to stop lying. I told her that she can’t love someone that she doesn’t know and pushed her hands off me. She touched my hair and told me I was beautiful and that she loved me because she had the grace of God flowing through her to see past my transgressions. I found out later that she was the pastor’s wife. She sat next to me during the service, and before I left she hugged me again. This time I gave in to my tears. They came out like streams and I realized that it was now me holding on to her for dear life. I didn’t want to leave the church. No one at home was going to tell me that they loved me. No one was going to hug me or call me beautiful. I let go and went home. That night, I opened my Bible and started reading.
I served my two weeks in church with my mom, but this time when she quit, I kept going with my brother. I stopped having sex. I stopped cursing. I kept pushing my ex away. I gave my all in church. I became a Sunday school teacher. I started with the toddlers, moved to the youth, and within a few years, I was the president of the youth. In the Pentecostal Church, this means Youth Pastor. I was a youth pastor. Take that in for a minute. (Yeah, a real minute.) I found a place that felt safe. I wanted nothing more than to please the Lord. I was a fanatic. I wore skirts all the time because Pentecostals believe that pants are the garments of men. I let my hair grow long and didn’t wear jewelry or makeup. (Shit was savage, bruh.) In school, people noticed but no one ever spoke on it. I was still president of everything. Name it and I ran that shit: Drama Club, Latin Club, Latin American Club, Captain of NJROTC, Student Body President.
By the time I got to my senior year, my father was out of jail on good behavior. The moments of contention in the house always involved me in the church. My parents couldn’t stand it! They felt that I was parading how much better than them I was because I found Jesus. Other high school students had drugs, sex, alcohol… I found something that pissed my parents off more than any of those, and you know what I did?
I got baptized on these hoes!