Dating : 10,000 Words On Shitting.

h2>Dating : 10,000 Words On Shitting.

After spending my middle school years living with my grandparents (as my mom worked through her own psychological trauma of helping her three best friends murder five people!), I moved back with my mom. And her boyfriend. And their new baby. I wanted to move back not because my grandparents sucked. On the contrary, they had given me a sense of safety and security — I just didn’t have enough time to recognize it as safety. Instead, I wanted to be with my sister. As a fresh graduate of middle school, I knew the only way to ensure my baby sister was being taken care of was for me to live with her, out in the middle of nowhere, sacrificing myself to more abuse just to make sure that baby was safe. Shortly after middle school, I packed up what few belongings I had (mostly books, sadly) and my grampa drove me out to my mom’s house. At first, I thought it was exciting. She lived in a double-wide trailer in a trailer park. It had a pool! And a yard! It looked as close to a home as I’d ever gotten with my mom. It was in the middle of the Mojave desert, in the quasi-town of Mojave.

The town of Mojave started as a train junction, presumably where people would deboard and just stay because they were too tired to keep going. On the one side, mountains. Soft, hilly sort of mountains speckled with brush like a patchy beard that led to Tehachapi and that sometimes feature a light dusting of snow. One year the snow traveled all the way down and settled on us, baffling and amazing everyone. Snow in the desert was like snow in the desert. Nobody knew what to do, and we certainly weren’t dressed for it.

The schools quickly realized they had to cancel class, almost as soon as they started because a quarter inch of snow was so unusual. No one knew if the school buses could handle it. Can you believe? I’d heard they canceled school because kids kept throwing ice “snowballs” at the teachers. My friends and I took the snow day to walk along the abandoned train tracks and built tiny snowmen, hard as ice and full of dirt, that melted into sandy lumps almost as soon as they were erected. The rest of the wide expanse around us was flat, flat desert, full of the trees that everyone now posts on Instagram during their Spiritual Journeys. They were unremarkable to everyone who lived around them, but I guess that’s how things sometimes go.

We had a high school and a middle school and even, at one point, an elementary school. But once the high school in California City opened, the high school had to be converted into a middle-and-high school. On days there was a football game, I sometimes got to linger for a few hours because I was in the marching band (if you could call it that). We’d go to the Taco Bell or sit around the band room, shooting the shit and winding down the hours until game time. I usually skipped Taco Bell because I didn’t have any money, so I’d just wander around school or do homework. Even with all that freedom, there’s never really much to do in the middle of a junction that a town cropped up around. Sometimes we’d walk to the gas station, just for the heck of having somewhere to walk.

When my mom figured out that I was developing somewhat of a social life, she started to refuse to take me to the football games — despite them being mandatory attendance for band members — as a sort of punishment or a general flex of her power over me. I remember one such day, I very covertly stole the phone and snuck it into my room to call up a friend and tell him my mom wouldn’t drive me to the game. His parents came and picked me up. It felt like an exhilarating fuck you to the woman who once grounded me for a week for telling her “I don’t care,” and then could not ground me when I would sing the words “I don’t care.”

“You can’t ground me for singing a song,” I told her. She found other reasons, but she could not deny that loophole.

The escape, the kindness of friends, felt like salvation. Not just from my mom, but from the chaos of our home. My sister’s dad had started drinking again and my mom, ever the instigator, would rile him up as hard as she could. One time threatening to take his daughter from him “because I can,” a threat that scared him so much, he ran out onto the porch and proceeded to vomit while sobbing “You can’t do this.” She later would, but the power of that choice would lose its grip as my sister grew up and began to unlearn, one by one, the lies her mother tells about me and her father.

The double-wide trailer had three bedrooms: Mine, my mom’s, and her “office,” which was really just a place to hoard everything she didn’t want me to get to (including the computer, which I still got into anyway. Again, my mother is not as clever as she thinks she is.). I would wake up at 5 o’clock in the morning to change my sister’s diaper and give her a bottle, take a shower, and head to school. There were two pick-up times for the school buses: the early kids showed up at 6:45 and the rest were dropped off at 7:30. I quickly learned to take the earliest bus because it got me out of the house sooner.

When I’d come home, my sister would often be in the same diaper as that morning, sometimes banging her empty bottle in frustration at my mother who refused to get up and refill it. I’d put my backpack down, get my sister fixed up, and fix myself a bowl of cereal. It was through this routine that I learned somewhat subconsciously that I was lactose intolerant. I got reduced price lunch at school, but because that was the only substantial meal I’d have all day, I always came home hungry. There wasn’t much to eat besides milk, cereal, top ramen, and frozen burritos or corndogs. The milk and cereal presented as breaks from the rest of the sodium bombs, so that’s what I’d eat. Like clockwork, I’d be in the bathroom for 15 minutes, only to emerge hungry again. I lost thirty pounds over the course of a few months simply because I didn’t have any semblance of a nutritious diet and I didn’t even know lactose intolerance was a thing. In fact, I wouldn’t realize the connection until my senior year of high school. I lived with my grandparents who made sure to feed me homecooked (albeit bland) meals and kept the fridge well-stocked. I fell into a habit of coming home after marching band practice and have a cup of yogurt to tide me over until dinner. It was only when we ran out of yogurt for a few weeks and I wasn’t rushing to the bathroom that things clicked. I remember realizing like a giant gust of my own lactose intolerant farts, “Oh, maybe the milky teas my grampa makes me before school are why I get so gassy during zero period band!” Shortly after this discovery, my gramma and I set out to find non-dairy alternatives, making sure I still had enough food to eat that wouldn’t upset my stomach. The ability to voice my dietary needs is something I still struggle with today, opting not to mention that I should avoid dairy or sugar when I go out to eat with friends. “I’ll deal with it later,” I tell myself. Or “This is fine. I’m going home in an hour anyway.” No need to rock the boat with my bunk digestion, you know?

To this day, my mother still stocks her pantry with the same foods I ate throughout childhood. The same jug of Tampico, the same jug of milk, the same hot dogs and frozen burritos and canned fruit cocktail. Whenever my sister comes to visit my grandparents, her skin is an unmistakably ashy pallor. Her eyes are sunken in dark circles. She’s thin, but not from trying to be. Her wiry hair and ashen skin make me wonder what kind of ghost I’d show up as whenever I visited my grandparents, and how they’re so good at pretending nothing’s wrong.

Invariably by the time she leaves, her skin is brighter, glowing almost. She doesn’t look heavier, but her overall energy has changed. She’s got some substance in her soul. One time, after just a few days of visiting, my sister completely stopped taking the Claritin she had begun arming herself with. It was an exciting development, that she could breathe easily without allergy medicine, but a dismal discovery that her allergies weren’t coming from her own body, but in her body’s rejection of a toxic environment.

Not too long ago I asked my sister some digestive questions: Does your stomach feel kind of big after you eat a bowl of cereal? Do you have to use the bathroom pretty quickly after? Cut off from practically all communication (another way my mother attempts to exert her power), I became desperate to use up the rare moments I got with my sister to give her little gifts of awareness. Helping her figure out if she’s lactose intolerant was just one of these ways. When she answered yes to my questions, I gave her the news and a little advice on working through it despite her lack of access to a stable, healthy diet. Just one less source of pain, no matter how small, can bring with it an enormous amount of relief. Removing a splinter in your finger won’t cure the cancer growing in your chest, but at least you don’t have to worry about a splinter on top of everything else, you know? My sister’s digestion, her discomfort and struggle to use the bathroom, was that splinter.

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