The new world I found myself living in was plain and simple. I’d feel pitiful one day and spiteful the next. I had the right to be this way…we all did. Why should my generation pay for others’ reckless waste? But the time to ask silly, worthless questions was past. Those before me took away my right to determine my future, ran up a huge tab, and then gambled and lost everything.
My moving forward was quite simple. By the time I reached high school, all I needed to get in and get out was a pen, paper, an old Macintosh notebook, paperback textbooks, and Maxwell Madison Garner, Jr. His nickname was Maddy, and he was my one and only love—“the one” as I often told my mother. It seemed like I’d had a crush on Maddy ever since I was able to walk. And I, after all I’d gone through, knew love didn’t come that early, and easily. However, it did seem those love butterflies were always around when we were together. My mother would say that Maddy and I fit together like a hand in a glove. It was so cliché and even clichés disappeared after the Crash. I thought we’d be together forever. But then high school graduation came and went, and so did Maddy.
Maddy’s family moved to southern Ohio after the Crash, so that was where he ended up until his freshman year in high school. It seemed odd to most people, but over time it made sense. As harsh as the Red State leadership seemed to be on liberals, it still didn’t want to keep families separated. But for those who left the South after the Crash and took their children with them, their children were invited to return for high school education. I guess the faith-based leadership had a say on that policy decision and a soft spot for innocent victims; they didn’t want that on their conscious too. But they also knew the obvious, political posturing: many who decided that policy just wanted as many as possible to be educated under new conservative guidelines.
So Maddy was one of those who came back to the South for high school. These students were placed in school districts where they used to live and were housed in national dormitories. All of them were kept on short leashes, but Maddy seemed to appreciate the opportunity. He was also closer to me, but I could tell he missed his family.
I wondered a lot about why the government placed families like the Garners in a place like Cincinnati. Folks like my daddy called the Cincinnati reform zone “Hell Town,” and anyone who went there, inside the city’s southern zone area, knew why. My mother never said anything. She liked Maddy, and I suspect she knew from day one how much I loved him. But the truth was always in front of both of us; Maddy’s mother and father were “lefty rats.” They were not just from the old Democrat party; they were also unwilling to change. Most people who ended up inside the zones did something to end up there. A lot of them continued to be politically active in underground activities to avert economic recovery efforts. Many of them were pro-government, unionized activists, progressive campaigners, and community organizers. If you had an active past with key radical progressive groups and party ties, then you had a good chance of ending up inside a reform zone. That’s why the Garners ended up there, and knowing that made it hurt every time I heard all the ugly zone talk. “Clean up the filth around you until hell freezes over, but rats will always look for more filth to nest in,” people would say right in front of me, sometimes when Maddy was with me, and we could do nothing but listen. “Even during a recovery, they can’t learn, and they will never disappear. The only ones worse than lefty rats are the roamers. But at least they’re disappearing, faster than our money disappeared when Obama was king. But those lefty rats will never disappear. They just have to be managed and kept away from all the others.”
I’d fall asleep in my room alone, crying and worrying about Maddy. Why? I’m not sure. I’d learned tough love like everyone else, and I suspect Maddy had too. We had plenty of time to prepare for the obvious, but time was the hardest part to swallow.
Click Follow to receive emails when this author adds content on Bublish