About once a week Eric would drop off groceries, which mostly consisted of a loaf of bread and ham; usually while we were sleeping. Afternoon showers were our savior from the heat. Practically every day, in the early afternoon, there would be a break from the exhausting heat. The sky would grow grey, and a slight breeze would kick up. I’d run around the house putting all the box fans in the windows. I would put one facing in to pull air into the room and one facing in the opposite direction to suck air out. Within minutes the air would start circulating cooling off the house.
This was the time of day the kids and I would nap. We had no direction—not that we ever really did when my mom was home—but I felt lost. During that summer I‘d sometimes wake up before sunrise and sit on the front steps. I wondered how things could be this way. I was beyond lonely. I’d stare off into a daydream until the sun lit up the dewy grass, and the day would start all over again. Not once do I remember my three younger siblings questioning what was going on. Somehow, they’d figured it out.
One night, I was sitting on the porch when the college guys who lived next door walked outside. “Hey, can you come over here and help us with the clutch?” the brown-haired guy shouted to me from his driveway. I flicked my cigarette from the front porch and walked over barefoot. My little brother stood on the porch in just a diaper with blond hair to his shoulders. The girls stood watching. Their haircuts were blunt and crooked, because I’d taken on the role of barber, in addition to everything else.
“I don’t know how to drive,” I barked defensively.
“Just sit in the driver’s seat and put it in gear,” he said.
Embarrassed, I fumbled with the stick shift, pumping the pedals on the floor board. Finally, he gestured for me to move over.
“How old are you?”
“Who lives with you in that house?”
“My mom and her husband.”
“The guy who drives the truck, is that your boyfriend?”
“That’s my stepdad.” I laughed at him. I will never forget the look on his face that followed. Suddenly, it was like he knew way more about me than I wanted him to.
“Then why does he stand and stare into your window at night.” I stopped laughing.
“Where’s your mom? I haven’t seen her in a few weeks.”
“She went on vacation, but she’ll be back soon. What do you mean he looks in my window? He hasn’t been here in days.” I could feel my stomach turn inside out.
“He comes late, after you’re sleeping. Do you need anything?”
I walked away from him, humiliated, and raging all at the same time. I needed to vomit, but the bile just lingered in my throat. The house was so hot I always slept without a shirt on; my mattress was under one of the windows in my room, which stayed open to let the air in. It was at that moment everything crept up my spine and rested onto my shoulders.
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