I originally wrote this post in February 2010, and shared it with a few friends. I have edited for grammar and comprehension, added a few lines here and there, and changed a couple of names to prevent embarrassment to those still living:
Bikers have a saying, “If you can’t run with the big dogs, stay on the porch”, to which I add, “Once you get off the porch, it’s very hard to get back on.” This is a story of running with the big dogs, but mostly, it is a story of trying to get back on the porch.
The story I tell you now is about a person who is dead. She is dead to me, and I revel in her death. She lived with me, she was me for many years of my earthly existence; but she is no more. With the help received in homeless shelters and rehabilitation centers, and the tough love of my family and friends, she was banished, and died in exile. I was glad to see her go. I like to think of my life as a story of addiction, loss, love, and redemption. Have no doubts, though, this is a cautionary tale.
The ending saga was crucial. If the drama of total and complete loss had not played out, she might still be here, haunting me with ‘what ifs’. However, the power of the addiction that took hold of her was so earth shattering; there was no way for her to survive it. She had to die within me, or I would have had to die altogether. Becoming sober and living a sober life is like a reincarnation. I have the same soul, yet I am not the same person.
Most people my age have families (divorced or not), their own homes, cars, bank accounts, and credit cards. They take vacations, pay for weddings and funerals, throw parties, eat out and buy new clothes. They have all their own teeth, even if they had to buy them. They have worked hard all their lives to achieve their goals. They may not have actually reached the goals they set when they were young, but they became, through hard work, self-sufficient. I am another matter. I never wanted to be like the rest of them, but I did wish they would like me. I wished they would love me.
I searched for a realistic goal to achieve, but all my goals were set in the clouds, and I did all my searching in bottles and bindles. I started out on the wrong road straight from the cradle, and walked that path with few excursions to stability. I suppose you could call me precocious, but really I would say I was a child who had needs and knew it, demanded they be met, and was sorely disappointed. I don’t fault my parents for this anymore. Having reached this ripe old age, I realize that they raised their children the best way they knew how. They had so many children and so little time for each child. I was the second to last child, so it was inevitable that I would feel slighted, especially with my heightened sense of worthlessness.
I adored my mother and feared my father (which is ironic, because it is my father I miss every single day). My father came from a large, poor, Irish family. My mother had a brother eleven years older than she. With their difference in age, her brother married quickly, and she lived as an only child. Her parents were older than most parents, and often sent her to live with others. Still, they were very well to do, and she may not have received all the love she needed, but she was certainly overindulged. I always thought we were not well taken care of, though I now understand we were incredibly spoiled, just not with physical or emotional displays of affection, or with quality time, all of which I desperately craved. Rather, they showed love in the way they provided for me; the early punishments for bad behavior; and in my teens, the unmitigated freedom. This sort of love, along with my predilection to addiction, dramatic belief in my insignificance, and rebellious need for independence combined to create the sad enigma known for years as Meg.
I believe that I began to rebel soon after being allowed down the street by myself, and that was when I was four years old. I met Lynnie, who moved in that year, and we became fast, first, best friends. We ate tomato soup and grilled cheese together at the little kid’s table in her parent’s kitchen; we played with our Tammy Dolls together, we played at being animals with her little brothers. We had the best time, and did everything together.
It’s hard to believe now, but even then I knew I wanted something more than our lives were affording us. When I was five, I decided to run away. I packed my little suitcase (why did I have a suitcase, when we never went anywhere? I certainly cannot guess now) with my plastic high heels and my fake fur stole, and took off down the street. I got as far as the end of the block, and realized that I could not go any further, and had to go back home. I was not allowed to cross the street or to stay out when it was dark. I got home in time for dinner, and my mother never knew I had run away that day.
My parents knew so little about my life, even as a little girl. When I was seven, I started babysitting for Ronnie, the ‘biker babe’ down the street. She was a single mom with a two-year-old son named Joey. She also belonged to the Mavericks, the (MC) Motorcycle Club indigenous to New Jersey. Ronnie was one tough broad, leaving my little brain awestruck. I had never seen anyone who looked like her in real life. From my seven-year-old vantage point, she was Emma Peel and Honey West rolled into one. She seemed to always wear black leather, and wore heavy make-up and teased up her stiff, dark hair.
She paid me well for a seven-year-old, seventy-five cents an hour. Then, the jig was up, because my mom found out. She was so mad, but she never said anything to Ronnie, which was smart on my mom’s part, because even then messing with people from certain MCs was not a good move. Mommy told me I could never baby-sit for Joey again; never even go into Ronnie’s apartment, ever again. I told Ronnie this, but she said, “Well, we just won’t tell her.” So we didn’t, and I continued to baby-sit for Joey, but I hid my money better.
When I was seven, Ginny moved into the neighborhood, and nothing, not the neighborhood, and not my life, was ever the same again. I don’t remember the exact day that Ginny showed up, as I do with Lynnie, but her impact was immediate. She moved into a house in between Lynnie’s and mine, situated perfectly to divide and conquer.
Ginny moved to our block from the ‘poor’ street in our town. She was seven years old, and smoked cigarettes, cursed, and fought. Lynnie and I had never seen anything like her. We were both astounded. We thought Ginny was just like a grown up. In our little minds, the cursing and fighting and smoking were all very cool, just like the teenagers, and teenagers were practically grown-ups, only hipper.
As we were the only game on the block, Ginny deemed to be friends with us, but only on her terms. Lynnie and I had been best and only friends for three years before Ginny came along. We naturally assumed she would be the third best friend. That is not how Ginny wanted it. She said you could only have one best friend, and one of the best friends always had to be her. The way she engineered this was not nice, and really not ingenious, but our little naïve minds were so pliable and gullible, it was so easy for her to manipulate us, for years.
Ginny would pick a fight with one of us, Lynnie or me, and tell the other one they were her best friend. This would last for a while until she got bored, or until the other one had something she wanted. Then, she would fight with her ‘best friend’ and sidle up to the one in the bullpen. The bad thing about all this attention from Ginny, apart from the disruption to our block’s dynamics, is that the current best friend was actually tortured more than the one in exile.
Ginny did smoke, and we had to learn to smoke, too. She cursed and fought. I learned to curse, but couldn’t fight. I just couldn’t do it, unless of course she was beating me up, and then I would awkwardly try to defend myself. I never was successful. We had to be like Ginny to be with Ginny, and I was more than willing to pretend I knew what cool was, and that I was cool. I knew some of my older brothers and sisters were cool, but I didn’t know why.
I didn’t know what made someone cool. I thought it might because they played the records of Joni, The Grateful Dead, The Who, John Prine, David Bromberg, and many others. They were always hanging out on the third floor with lots of friends, and they smoked funny smelling cigarettes and pipes that I wasn’t allowed to know about. I thought it was great that some of them protested against the war in candlelit marches right in South Orange, and all over our area. They dressed like the people I saw on TV that I assumed were cool, too. How I wanted to be a teenager, to be what they were. Cool.
Before I end this week, I want to make it perfectly clear that although I do believe the events in my life happened the way I describe them to you, I do not blame anyone or thing for who I became. I was a creature of my own design. I lived in a Hell of my own creation.
copyright 2011 meg marlowe