My parents had a very contentious divorce. For several years prior to their divorce our house often felt like a ticking time bomb and in a lot of ways it was. We never knew if things would be ok, or they’d be arguing, or my dad would be gone, or their fight would get out of control and the police would be called. I remember that it felt very heavy as a kid. My body always felt tense and I was worried all the time. When I woke up for school one morning to find my mom packing and telling me that she was leaving my dad that day without his knowledge, I was relieved more than anything. At the time I really thought my dad was “the bad guy” and things would be so much better away from him. As an adult I obviously realize that relationships are a two way street and my parents both made mistakes, but during this time my relationship with my dad didn’t reflect that.
One of the reasons I was so relieved was related to my home town. I grew up in a very small town where everyone knew everyone: and everyone knew my family’s business. My friends’ parents wouldn’t let them come to my house and there were only a few of them that would let me come to theirs. I would hear people in school talking about the fights my parents’ had or the police complaints they’d heard over the scanner. At that age I was painfully shy and I never knew how to respond.
It wasn’t just the town and the air of small town judgement; another member of my family was a sexual predator and had recently been discovered. Although both of my parents tried to protect us in their own ways, we were all exposed to way too much, way too early and, in the opinions of many people, we were guilty by association.
When my mom initially moved us out to a bigger town about 20 minutes away from where we had lived previously, I was excited to start fresh in a new school and make new friends, and also relieved not to be too far from the friends I’d known. I enjoyed being there for the time I was, but the nature of divorce makes things unstable. After starting fresh at this new school, my mom moved us back to our house in the middle of the school year and I was back in school in my hometown. I was actually not upset because it felt comfortable, even with the lingering judgement I felt.
I was hopeful that we would just stay this way in our house and after time passed people would forget the history. Then I noticed my mom had put our house for sale and was very vague about the details of where we would go next. There was a lot of back and forth revenge between my parents at this time and ultimately my dad caused my mom to lose her job and she in turn decided to move us to Michigan with her boyfriend, over 3 hours from everything we knew.
When I say this is all we knew, it isn’t that far from the truth. The only times I had been out of state or even on vacation was with my Girl Scout troop. The one “trip” that my parents took us on as kids was to SeaWorld for a day, which I remember fondly, but wasn’t without its issues for my parents.
So one day my mom told us that we were moving to Michigan and that was it. I was devastated and terrified at the time and tried to fight against it, but I was 13 and had zero choice in the matter. And this was pre-cell phones in the era of ridiculous costs for long distance calls, so I knew that letters and hopefully trips home would be my only connections to the friends I’d had since kindergarten.
So in August of 1993 we moved to Woodhaven, Michigan and I started 8th grade at the end of that month.
I started looking for a job fairly soon after moving because I knew (or thought) my mom couldn’t afford to let me do things or get me the clothes I liked. I was lucky to find friends quickly and get setup with some babysitting jobs, but I was hoping to find something more regular. Before I even turned 14 I was looking for a fast food job. I wound up filling out an application with G at a local takeout restaurant and she told me to come back when I turned 14 and I could have the job. I got my work permit and started as soon as I was able.
G didn’t own the restaurant. She had worked there as a teenager and became close with the family. Once she was on her own and working in accounting, she continued working to help her family friends out and make little extra money. She’d started B working there once he’d become a teen.
When I met B it was lust at first sight. I felt like he represented the idea I had about a shy, tortured artist type that would fall madly in love with me and come out of his shell. Teenagers really are this stupid and I remember it too well. I told my best friend that I would lose my virginity to B and I said that 2 years before it actually happened. I was obsessed in the special way that only teenagers or criminals can be.
In hindsight I still don’t think I have any regrets because so much of the good stuff has come from this relationship, but it definitely led to so much struggle as well.