VOLUME 1: IS THIS THE END?
Dear Diary, Monday June 19th
I really hate my life!
And I’ve been keeping this old diary ever since my grandparents gave it to me 6 years ago on the Christmas before they died, so now’s a better time than any other to start using it. I’m so fed up with this life of mine and there’s no one to talk to about it but you.
People on the outside think I’m lucky enough to be living amongst the urban elite in one of the most affluent neighborhoods on Long Island. But Northfield Lane is more than just beautiful homes, manicured lawns, and fancy cars. It’s also about keeping up with the Joneses and keeping your skeletons so deep in the closet that no one can see your struggle or your pain. You should never pout or complain because the way we live is how the rest of the world dreams of living. Yea right!
Our home may be comprised of sun-filled street views, high ceilings, and granite countertops but the curtains were often kept closed, the constant shouting was all that echoed through the halls, and my mother hardly ever cooked on those counters. Living the “good life” was not at all for me what it should‘ve been.
I sometimes watched the kids next door play outside on their porch and I longed to have the genuine smile and laugh they did. Their mothers would come outside with a glass of fruit punch and share some quality time with them. Their fathers would join them for a basketball game or a swing on their swing set. That was not my reality. I didn’t have a loving mother and I had no father period- at least that’s what my mother told me.
She said I was being ungrateful for even asking about him.
“You better be happy you finally got a lil money now and a working brain. Stop worrying about all that other stuff because none of that is gonna get you anywhere in life…” I guess she expected me to be materialistic and vain just because I live amongst people who were. But I’m different and I’ve always known it.
I mean, I appreciate my grandparents working their butts off when they were alive so that we could thrive off their wealth, but I also resent them a bit. They forgot to teach my mother how important it is to love. To them, it was much more important to portray the right image and keep up a good appearance. Well, I’m sick and tired of living the lie of bliss and perfection.
With everything I have to deal with amongst my peers, my mother pretends to be a supportive and comforting single parent when we were out in public; but behind our iron clad French doors, she was just as violent and mean as everyone else. And I can no longer keep up the facade.
It’s time for me to find a way out of this awfully painted picture of a life I’m living or someone is gonna get brutally hurt- and I do mean that literally.
But I’m gonna need you to promise me you’ll keep my secrets because I’m feigning to get some things off my chest. For the longest time, I’ve been letting all this eat me up inside. I haven’t had any friends or family to share this with and it’s finally time I let this all out…
Dear Diary, Monday June 24th
OMG! Today was officially the worst day of my life!
You wouldn’t believe this, but just a few days before the school year ended, I was chased off the school bus today and left humiliated and scared. This beautiful spring day quickly turned gloomy when I became the target of a group of angry kids.
"Leave me alone!" I pleaded hoping the mean girls from my class would back down. But they were out to get me and they weren’t giving up. So I just kept on running and had no plans of stopping.
This wasn’t the first time I had to face torture from my peers but I damn sure hoped it was my last. It was humiliating being a loner and a punk. But that was me. I come from a beautiful but broken home and moreover, I was feeling broken. Over the past 3 years of junior high, there was nothing I could do to shake the pitiful reputation I had at Northfield Junior High.
Even though the other students had my skin color and came from the same upper middle class neighborhood, they didn’t understand my personal struggles. They didn’t know what it was like to be a slightly introverted 8th grader. To be teased and mistreated on the regular was just an awful way to live. I don’t dress as fly as them or get the kinks straightened out of my hair as often as they do. I have my share of issues at home and just try to focus on my grades when I’m at school. I’ve never had much of a social life and for that reason, I dread each day of school.
So there I was today, just making it through to the end of junior high and I was running for my damn life.
After all the teasing I’d dealt with these past few years from my peers, I thought I could stand up for myself, just this once, and end off the year with a win. It was my final chance to make a statement to the other kids before we all entered high school and I was labeled a punk forever.
So this time, when Dina and her crew tried to cut me on the bus line, I stopped them. I told Dina, “Hey! Wait your turn,” as she pushed past me. She refused, so I put my hand out to stop her and she bumped into my arm.
“I know she did not just touch me!” Dina yelled, not realizing she actually touched me. But I knew she was too ignorant to argue with so I just stepped out the way and allowed her and the others to go ahead. Apparently it was too late, the whole crew was angry with me. They came at me demanding I show some “respect”.
“This chick still don’t know her place?!” someone yelled. “Let’s teach her a lesson once and for all.” She pushed me out of the line and onto the bus shelter in the middle of the sidewalk. The whole group followed. I stumbled a bit as my head hit the cold hard glass. As I stood up and tried to back away, they were eagerly coming at me with clenched fists. I was afraid of what would happen next.
So I ran for my damn life, down the street, through a convenience store front, out through the back door, over someone’s fence and onto an unfamiliar street. But the girls caught up to me and had me cornered. The boys who had followed behind gathered around to watch the beat down of the year.
All I remember was a tug of my shirt, a slap to my face, and a punch to my stomach. By then I was down and out.
As if they hadn't done enough damage, Dina signaled the crew to crowd closer around me. Some of the girls kicked me repeatedly while the others took my book bag and threw all my stuff to the ground. They were having a good ole time, at my expense.
I had actually hoped today would be the end of all the tormenting these kids had put me through over the years. But as I lay on the ground bruised and alone when my attackers ran away, I realized the bullying just won’t stop. L
I lay there for what felt like at least an hour before a fine lookin’ brother helped me up. I couldn’t see clearly through my hazy vision but I do remember the touch of his smooth brown skin and those light brown eyes looking at me with such concern. I finally felt safe as I closed my eyes and passed out in his arms.
Dear Diary, Tuesday June 25th
I woke up this morning in excruciating pain. I couldn’t even turn to get out of bed. My stomach felt twisted inside, my face was burning, and I felt stabs of pain throughout my leg. As much as I tried to hold back tears, they came pouring down my face.
I probably needed to go to a hospital but after several visits to the emergency room over the past few years, I knew what I was in store for- long waits, a Band Aid, and a doctor’s note. I was very familiar with the process.
My mother and I had our fights over the years so I was no stranger to the bruises and pain these stupid kids caused me. For some reason, I couldn’t bring myself to tell her what happened though. The last time I cried about someone teasing me, she punished me for being soft. I couldn’t imagine what she’d do to me now.
Coming from a single parent home, I know better than to complain to my mother about these things. She busts her tail working at Northfield General Hospital- the largest and highest rated health facility in our area- as a Nurse practitioner; so I have always appreciated the basic things she provides.
Love, style, and a peaceful life just weren’t any one of them. So I knew I’d have to find those things elsewhere.
Of course it hurts me that I’m judged based on my appearance alone, but I know I’m a damn good person and one day people are gonna look deeper and realize that. Too bad today ain’t that day.
And you know what, my grandmother prepared me for that rude awakening. She used to tell me to “always dress the part” and “look the way you want to be looked at”. But my mother never allowed me to get the gear needed to carry out the right image. She actually prefers me suffering and enjoys witnessing my failure. It gave her the ammo she needed to put me down. It seemed like that’s all that made her feel good. So I just deal with it.
Then at school, it’s no better. My classmates have always made it clear how little they think of me and sometimes their awful words spoke louder than their cruel actions.
“Rat face! Twig legs! Flatty Patty!” the boys shout at me from time to time referring to my mouse-shaped ears, long skinny legs, and small boobs.
“Geek! Plain Jane! Loser!” The girls would say referencing my rare intellect, my less than stylish clothing, and lack of social status.
These kids hated me for not having the values they had. They didn’t like that I didn’t focus on fashion, status, and beauty… probably because that was where all their power resided.
So as you know, this last week of school was pure torture. As ecstatic as I was about ending this awful chapter of my life- junior high- I couldn’t enjoy it. There was always someone trying to mess with me.
But I tried to stay hopeful as I swallowed 2 of the painkillers I hid under my queen sized mattress.
I just can’t wait for these pills to kick in so I could go to sleep and escape my pain. Because at this point, life can’t get any worse.
Dear Diary, Wednesday June 26th
What was I saying before? It couldn’t get any worse? Well I for damn sure lied.
I decided not to go to school for the last few days. I mean, it’s the last days of school and we’re not learning anything anyhow. Well, my mother had a lesson waiting for me when she came home from work today.
Apparently the school called to let her know I hadn’t picked up my report card today. Dammit! I completely forgot about that. The last day of school came quicker than I realized. So she was pissed!
As good as I got at keeping it a secret from her, it was time to tell my mother about my fight. I started to explain to her how wounded I was from this fight—matter of fact—the beat down, and all she could say was, “Your punk self let those damn kids fight you?!” She wasn't the least bit concerned about the pain I was in or the torture I had endured.
“Ma, don’t you care that them kids came running after me for no reason?” I pleaded for her to understand. “They caught up to me, stole my book bag, and beat me nearly to death!”
It was awful just thinking back about it. The punches, the kicking, and the embarrassment I faced as I lay on the dirty ground. It was the worst beating I had ever gotten, and that's saying a lot.
Until this moment, I had no one to confide in about this awful event. Telling my mother should have been a relief. But she didn’t have even an ounce of empathy.
“You stay letting people come at you and you don’t do nothing about it! That’s your own damn fault! When’s your weak self gonna learn to defend yourself?!” My mother spoke to me with rage.
“How can you blame me for this, ma? They’re always messin’ with me and I don’t know the first thing about defending myself.” She looked back at me with both anger and disgrace then smacked me straight across my face with the back of her hand.
“Little girl, I done taught you everything you need to know.”
I guess she expected that after years of taking her beatings, I would have learned to fight back. But instead, I was just beaten down and left defeated. All I wanted was a little peace in my life.
I stood there with both pain and shock. It had been a while since she hit me like that. Just as I was recovering, she came back and slapped me again, this time on my other cheek.
“That’s for cutting school,” she said. “You do that again , it’s gon’ be fire to your behind!”
“But ma, I was hurt,” I cried. But she didn’t even care one bit.
“Get over it!" She turned to leave the room. "On Monday you gon’ have to go and get me that report card so you better dry those tears and suck up your little pain.”
I knew there was nothing more I could say. I had to obey her or else. I knew what was coming for me.
My mother had some anger so deeply rooted inside her that clouded her vision of any happiness. She didn’t date and never really hung out with friends. She only enjoyed using me as a punching bag and I couldn’t stop her. For a beautiful curvy woman, she sure knew how to display the ugly she had inside. I’ve always longed for her and I to get along. I mean, every girl wants a mother they could talk to. But I was outta luck on that. All she wanted to do with me is fight.
I’ve always tried to figure her out- but at 13, there’s no reason I could come up with to explain the hatred she had for me. All I ever wanted was to be loved.
I’m her only child—her only family. Her only anything. I should be everything to my mom but she treated me like I was nothing. And at the end of a day like this—that’s exactly how I felt.
Dear Diary, Thursday June 27th
My mother drove me to school today and waited outside while I picked up my report card. As I was leaving her car, she hissed at me, “you had better had got all A’s.”
And I knew that’s exactly what she was expecting. But I was afraid I didn’t get it this time. All year long, I sat in front of a boy in math that teased me. Tyrone always whispered weird mean things in my ear when I tried to raise my hand and ask a question.
“A smarty pants with all the stupidest questions,” and “Only losers actually want to learn,” he would say.
He pulled my hair and made itchy, scratchy noises whenever I touched my hair myself.
It was so intimidating and the teacher didn’t give a damn about how I felt. I had been trying to get my seat changed the whole year and she insisted the seating chart was “strategically done to benefit the whole class and not just one person.” I mean, would it have been so hard to put all the troublemakers on one side of the room and those who wanted to learn at the other?
I even told my mother about the issues I was having and she thought I was being petty complaining about a “stupid little boy who probably had a stupid little crush.” But I knew well enough, Tyrone didn’t like me one bit and neither did any of his friends.
Then in science, I had the popular girls threatening me not to get a perfect score and mess up the curve “or else”. It hurt my core daily. Tyrone and the others messed with my social life, my self-esteem, and even the one thing I thought no one could ever take away from me—my ability to learn.
So I didn’t need to see my report card to know there would be at least one or two A’s missing from it.
When I walked into the classroom, my homeroom teacher, Ms. Grimmer handed it to me with a look of disappointment in her eyes. I wasn’t sure if it was because I’d cut a few days of school or because my report card was less than she expected of me, so I asked.
“Is something wrong, Ms. Grimmer?”
“Honestly, Patricia, I wanted to ask you the same,” she looked at me with seriousness. “This was one of your worst reports ever. Is something happening at home?”
“Well Ms. Grimmer,” I decided to tell her half the truth. “It’s not so much home as it’s been school, recess, and the bus rides home. All the other kids hate me. No one wants to be my friend. Everyone teases me,” I expressed to her.
She seemed surprised at how honest I’d been.
“Well, I’m sure all you kids have your individual challenges. Some choose to deal with it by ignoring it and some of you take it out on others.”
“That’s not fair. Isn’t that bullying?” I asked.
“I guess you can call it that,” she replied. “But you can't blame anyone for your falling grades. You’re the one who made these things affect your schoolwork and that’s the sad part. You had so much potential.”
She was blaming me now! Did she not know what the teasing and threats did to a person? After opening up to her, I realized she didn’t understand me one bit. She was basically telling me it was my fault for being affected by the constant torture. She sounded just like my mother.
How could they blame me for the awful way people treated me?! I didn’t deserve this.
They believed it was okay to allow my classmates to mistreat me this way? And that bullying was a simple little thing I had to just get over?
I heard enough. I took my report card from her and received my grades. I got three A’s, two B’s, and two C’s. This certainly wasn’t good enough for my mother or my teachers but after the tumultuous year I just had, it was good enough for me.
I forced a smile and just thanked Ms. Grimmer then wished her a great summer. There was no use hanging around any longer.
As I’m walking out she says, “Good luck in high school, Patricia. There are bigger problems and tougher kids. Better learn how to adapt now.”
Her words stung me just to think about the next four years being any worse that the past three. I had to make a conscience decision to make things better. I couldn’t let another person affect me the way Tyrone, Dina, and the others had this year.
As I walked outside to the car, I dreaded showing the report card and explaining it to my mother. I was afraid of what she would say and even worse… what she would do.
Dear Diary, Wednesday June 28th
My mother didn’t take the report card too well.
While in the car yesterday, she played it off cool. It was like it didn’t even matter. I passed her my report card, she glanced at it briefly and threw it back at me. She had to rush off to work so she dropped me home with the quickness.
But when she got home this morning, it was a whole other story. She woke me up at two in the morning and asked me to show her the report card again.
I was deep in my slumber when she came in but I still conjured up the strength to obey my mother’s wishes. She takes the paper from me and looks at my grades in awe as if it was her first time seeing it.
Then she made me read the grades aloud to her, although she had already seen it. But I knew what this was. She had a bad day and was trying to pick a fight.
“I just don’t understand, Patricia. Why the hell you getting C’s all of a sudden?”
“Well ma,” if she really wanted to know, I decided to tell her. "I haven’t been able to concentrate this year. The kids have been teasing me and threatening me and it’s been a huge distraction.” I tried to hold back tears because that would be the ultimate sign of weakness in the presence of my mom.
“You mean to tell me, you’re letting them kids affect your grades now? Dammit Patricia! If you can’t keep your grades on point, what the hell am I gonna do with you? " she yelled.
“Ma, I’m gonna start over. I know I can do better. Please give me a chance. I’m sorry." I begged for her forgiveness. As much as it hurt to hear her say it, it was true. All I have in my favor is getting good grades and I was letting that falter too.
My mother sat down on my bed shaking her head with disgrace. “You always so damn sorry. Your weak behind is always letting people get the best of you. First you let them kids chase you down and punk you on the bus, now you telling me they’re threatening your schoolwork. You’re hopeless.”
“I’m sorry ma. Maybe if daddy was around…”
“Why the hell you bringing up your father?!“ she interrupted angrily. ”I done told you, you don’t got one.”
“Ma, I gotta have one. Why can’t you tell me something about him? Anything?” I asked.
She turned around and swung her hands in my face. Yet another blow to my cheek for the week and it stung bad.
“Like I said, ‘you don’t got one’. And with the mess you be putting me through, you don’t deserve one either.” That wasn’t the first time she dodged questions I asked about my dad. It was risky every time I tried. But how could I not?
She got up to leave my room but not before giving me her last and final order. “Tomorrow you better clean this house top to bottom. Better believe you ain’t sitting on your ass all summer long doing nothin.”
“Yes, ma’am,” I obeyed.