Sometimes destiny is from beyond the physical word.
I’m not shy about sharing the stories of my childhood. I’ll tell you, without hesitation, that I lived in over 40 states, never knew my real father, and found myself struggling to contain my own sanity when I was still under the age of 10. I was forced into the life of a nomad; constant travel, new homes—none of which were ever permanent.
My mother—bless her soul, I can appreciate her issues better as an adult—was a lonely woman. Her life was empty without a male companion at her side. She developed a dependency on a partner, but lacked the skills to create lasting relationships. Both of those dismal traits meant that there were a lot of men coming and going out of our lives. And due to her low standards—the woman was desperate, after all—some of these men were the equivalent of the scum build-up on the side of a fucking garbage truck, stains on the carpet in the room where life has domesticated.
For me, the men never had names. I would ignore them, or act passive to any of their motions to me. I’d count the days they were with us. The longest suitor stuck around for about 4 months. Eventually all the men were labeled as ‘The Boyfriend’. They guy with the pick-up truck and drinking problem—The Boyfriend. The one with the army tattoo on his steroid-enhanced bicep—The Boyfriend. The butcher, the bum, the semi-truck driver, the social security collector—all of them fell under the same, simple, denomination.
Some of these guys are memorable than others. Some were actually rather nice. Fantastic actually. I would have killed for those men to be present in my life. Of course, they moved along like every other Boyfriend before them. And then there are those that are less than memorable. Those are the ones I’m not so quick to talk about to a stranger. Unfortunately, these memories always remain the freshest in my mind.
And then there was that one Boyfriend. The one who lived in the huge, run-down home deep in the Iowan countryside. God, I remember like it was yesterday.
My mother had no home at the time. We had been kicked out of the last apartment due to her delinquency in rent payments. She met a man at a bar only a week before who invited her to stay at his place, and she jumped on the offer. They were dating, of course, another nameless Boyfriend.
We drove a run down car—I can’t remember, I believe it was a Ford—for hours and hours, going past nothing but open wheat fields, patches of forestry, and a few decrepit houses which were hard to tell if they were inhabited or not.
I sat in the front seat next to my mother. A sheet with driving directions lay across her lap. She gripped the steering wheel tightly with her right hand while she nervously bit the nails on her left. She didn’t talk much during the drive. We remained silent during most of the trek. I kept watching the scenery pass by my window that I could barely see out of since I was only 7 years old and sinking considerably into the too-large seat. I held a large road atlas in my lap, which my mother asked for me to hang on to. I would occasionally ask her those simple child questions regarding how far we were from our destination:
“Are we there yet, Mom?”
“No, just a little further.”
Hours began to pass and I grew weary of the nothingness in the country. The houses became less and less prominent on the landscape. Sometimes I would see a rare establishment that looked lived-in. And would ask: “Is that it? Are we here?” But my mother would answer, “No, Corey. Just a little bit longer.”
I had fallen into a light sleep when I felt the car finally pull to a stop at the end of an isolated gravel road. Tiredly, yet with a childish energy, I sat up and looked out the window. From the dim evening light I could make out the large, broken looking farm house hidden by a few tall trees. I couldn’t help the surge of excitement that rose in me—despite the decaying state of the house, it was the most homeliest place I had ever had the pleasure to live in.
A tall man wearing blue jeans and a dirty white shirt met us at the door. A balding head and a protruding beer belly. He kissed my mother without giving a second glance to me. He was the new Boyfriend. Quickly he took our bags and walked inside.
I remember how rustic the house seemed inside. The living room was just inside the front door, just as dilapidated as the outside but cozy. A large, soft rug was laid across the floor where a large dog was sleeping soundly. A fireplace—a real fireplace!—glowed in the furthest wall. A few paintings were hung upon the wall along with an ancient-looking clock that filled the solemn room with ticks. I swear to this day that the sound of the cracking fire and the old clock was a blessing for a boy who had known nothing but chaos.
There was a couch nestled in the living room that was empty. I noticed a rocking chair facing the fire. I barely could see a man sitting and rocking silently, adding to the chorus of fire and time the sound of wood creaking against the floor. The light of the fire created a yellowish glow along the side of his face. From the firelight I could see the small dips in his skin that were more than likely pock or acne scars.
I didn’t have long to study him when the Boyfriend pulled my mother and me up a steep flight of stairs. He led us down a narrow hallway straight to a small, warm little room with a cot pushed into the corner. The room was bare and dark, but I was excited beyond words. I never could remember a day when my mother could afford an apartment with a room just for me. I imagined plastering all sorts of posters of rock bands and gorgeous movie stars on the bare white walls. I pictured the room covered with all sorts of toys and records. It was exciting.
My mother tucked me into the bed, covering me with layers of wonderfully soft quilts. She kissed my forehead before joining the Boyfriend standing quietly in the hallway and closing it behind her. It didn’t take long for me to drift asleep.
To Be Continued...