People Like Us

The Beginning

Sometimes I dream of my childhood, and sometimes there are nightmares.

usI dream of pre-school mornings spent outside in the sun with Tonka trucks and roads created by a garden hoe in the sand, my brother more often than not nearby. Our feet kick up the sand on tanned legs as we drive the Tonka trucks on newly paved roads in the sand pile near our back door. I can smell the bleach emanating from beyond the weathered screen door, which is latched shut to keep us out while our mother cleans.

“This is my house over here,” my brother says in his dreamy voice. “And in my house I get to have whatever I want. AND I have a big car.”

I ignore him as I continue to carve out my swimming pool in my grand, sand home. I can hear the washing machine churning inside, keeping beat with the country music playing softly on the radio and not quite drowning out my mother’s off tune, falsetto humming. Her humming means our father is working, since Mama rarely hums when our father is out of work. Soon it will be time for our lunch of peanut butter sandwiches and Kool-Aid which our mother will serve outside. It is important to her to keep the house clean until our father arrives home from work, and that means we will not be able to do much inside today besides take a nap.

I notice my brother has begun taking over MY road to MY house.

“Hey!” I say indignantly. “You have your own road! Hey! Stay out of MY swimming pool!! Maammaa!”

The fight begins. We throw dirt at each other and destroy each other’s creations. Our mother comes to door, mop in hand and muttering expletives.

“Stop that fighting before I whip you both! You hear me? You wanna take a nap right now?”

My brother gets one more shove in on me.

“I mean it, I will get the belt!”

This time, the fight is over as quickly as it began. Both of us feel we are getting too old for naps, and neither of us wants to interrupt our home building. We begin repairing the damage to our homes and dreaming aloud once again. Our mother returns to her cleaning after giving us the “warning look”.

I begin pushing sand into place, and find sticks for a fence.

“I’m gonna have lots of horses,” I say.

“I’m gonna have everything,” my brother says.

“Me too,” I say.

My entire childhood I wished it were that simple–damages easy to repair and dream homes built on wishes. I wished for everything I didn’t have. In my mind, it was all possible.

The nightmares usually involve my parents fighting, a hairbrush thrown at a mirror and showers of glass raining down. Sometimes there are snippets of faint memories: my father’s anger, gnawing hunger, cock roaches, walking into class as the new girl for the umpteenth time, my brother’s violence, friends left behind, and eternal shame.

Thankfully, the dreams outnumber the nightmares; blessings far outnumber curses.

This is my story.


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