Chapter 9

My legs were weak and shaky as I tried my hardest to stand on the wooden chair as long as I could. Jon said that I could go to bed when I was tired enough to do so, meaning; I would stand on this chair until I decided to confess how tired I finally was or fell off from exhaustion. I was baffled by this punishment and quite irritated as well. Who did this guy think he was? He can’t just treat people like this. I refused to give in to the only power I felt in control of so I stood there for as long as my legs allowed. I fell 3 times during the hours that passed, struggling to return to the chair quick enough to show my resilience and obvious stubborn tendencies. There were no profound thoughts or elaborate realizations as I stood there focusing and internally yelling at myself to keep standing. The 4th fall was my final as I passed out on my way to the floor and woke up the next morning in my bed.

Waking up the next morning sore and dizzy, I felt as if I were in the midst of a hangover… Well, what I’d imagine a hangover at 11 years old would feel like. No one spoke of last nights shenanigans and I never mentioned it to anyone outside of my social worker who had coincidentally called that very same day to see how we were fairing, promising she was looking into new placement and to just “sit tight” for now. Turns out, this home was only a short-term placement for me and my brother and regardless of what I had to say, “sit tight” was already in the plans whether the people I was staying with were well-meaning or not.

Another week came and went. The hours were turning into days and days turned into weeks so my recollection of time during this stay was warped at best. There was one day Jon came pretty close to actual physical abuse, just not directed towards me.

I sat on the couch as he began yelling at the oldest of the foster children who was sitting on the loveseat across from me. He exchanged words with her and both were visibly getting angrier and more irate. I don’t remember exactly where the argument stemmed but I do remember the girl sitting across from me and Jon standing over her, wagging his fingers in her face. The next thing I recall was the coffee table being flipped in my direction, landing in front of me before forcefully leaning itself on my legs. Jon looked my way and then back at the girl exclaiming, “look what you made me do” while pointing in my general direction. I couldn’t help but think this fool would have undoubtedly been placed on level one at YESS and in the same thought, yearned to be back in the safety and controlled environment the shelter had to offer.

Towards the end of my stay at the Blacks I somehow managed to catch a case of one of my childhood mortal enemies… Responsible for many embarrassing encounters, sleepovers and hospital visits.

Head lice is common in children, especially ones living in the kind of conditions and surrounded by the kind of people I was exposed to. That doesn’t mean it discriminated against the cleanliness of individuals when close enough for the little buggers to jump from head to head at school, the playground or even a grocery store checkout line.

Rita was visibly disgusted when figuring out I had lice. She of course blamed it on my dirty upbringing and lack of interest in taking daily showers at the time. Of course I was well aware of what had been causing me to itch my head 24-7 but wasn’t trying to have a second encounter with the wooden chair over me not immediately trusting that either one of these grown ups would do anything but blame me for the creatures crawling on my head. I kept the lice a secret for as long as I could but of course, the non-stop itching gave me away within a couple of days. When Rita found out I had lice she went crazy cleaning couches, sanitizing counters and throwing bed sets in the washer accompanied by ungodly amounts of bleach. I was made to stay in my room all hours of the day with a plastic cap covering my head, soaked with the head lice treatment that she’d have called in from the family doctor. The only time I was allowed to be out of the room was when we’d eat. I was made to eat at the counter instead of the table with everyone else and ordered to return to my room after clearing my plate. It was kind of like I was enduring the Black’s own form of level 1.

The first time Rita washed my hair was painful. I sat in the tub with a swimsuit on as she pulled and ripped what felt like chunks of my hair out with a lice comb. It felt as if she was purposefully ripping my hair out for bringing these centimeter monsters into her home. I couldn’t help but come to the conclusion that she was doing it on purpose after feeling the rip from my scalp by her bare hands whilst the comb sat on the side of the tub.

I had always been far from tender headed; my grandma would tell me it was probably due to the many times my mom would pick me up by my hair, leading to chunks of hair being ripped from scalp. I remember one time seeing the wad of hair she held in her hand after picking me up and spinning me in a full circle before releasing my body which flew through the air, slamming itself into a nearby wall. When my dad found out what she had done, her sister; my aunt later told me he had done his own form of a body slamming on her. I guess that might have been where her resentment towards me began.

My dad was no perfect man, to some not even good. I’ve heard many stories of him beating up random strangers at bars, employees, his own family and even my brothers. My eldest brother seemed to get the worst of it as our dad would beat him till gashes would gush blood from his head, leaving permanent physical scarring and undoubtedly some emotional scarring as well. He never hit me though and when my mom did, if he found out, she would get the same beating she’d administered to me. Or worse.

After leaving the Blacks a short time after the lice shenanigans my brother and I were placed with a close relative. The stay was short as they decided pretty quickly that having kids of their own and taking the two of us on as well was going to be too much to handle. A part of me was glad after seeing them hover over my brother, one holding him down and the other administering rapid blows to his body with a black leather belt.

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