This is part 2 of the story about the night my mom kicked me out of our house.To catch up on this story, you can find part 1 here.
Any night Mom and Ronnie spent out at the bar always ended in a fight. Mom couldn’t really hold her liquor well, and by the time she’d knocked back a few White Russians, she’d get testy, sensitive and jealous. This would lead to manic fits of rage that never ended well. Like the Easter before this November night, when Mom and Ronnie had got into a fight after a night at the Tavern, and Ronnie stormed off in his truck. No sooner than his tail lights were fading into the darkness did Mom demand that my sister and I take all of Ronnie’s clothes out of their closet, throw them into the yard and set them on fire. We did as we were told; defying Mom wasn’t something we did often. Our obedience was rewarded a few days later when, after Mom and Ronnie had made up, we had to burn our new Easter clothes in return.
So, when I saw those headlights bouncing down the gravel driveway, I knew that something was coming. As soon as Ronnie killed the ignition, I could hear doors slamming and voices raised. Mom was lobbing all of her usual curses at him: how he didn’t really love her, how she had seen him looking at the other women at the bar, how he was a no-good drunk and she didn’t care what he did. Ronnie was silent, and I could see the defeat in his steel blue eyes when they entered the trailer and he marched to their room. He had made up his mind to leave.
Ronnie was a cowboy – the Wranglers-wearing, black coffee-drinking, David Allan Coe type. He was rugged and earthy. He was a welder, and his skin was as tanned and tough as cowhide. He was also a drunk. He’d have a can of Natural Light with his coffee in the morning and he knocked them back until he passed out at night. He was severe in his rebuke, stingy in his affection, and silent in his manner. He had no tolerance for weakness or ignorance. He wasn’t soft or sensitive. When he told you to do something, he expected you to respond as a horse on the bit – submit or be spurred.
He and Mom fought all the time. The more he tried to break her, the more she bucked until he’d end up with a kick in the head. Their fights were physical and raw. She was a mare he couldn’t tame or control, and when he’d finally have enough of it, he’d walk out. This usually only lasted for a few days, once he realized he had nowhere else to go and no one else to take care of his drunk ass.
Such it was on that November night. My sister and I watched the events unfold, careful not to assert ourselves into the situation. Sometimes, when the fights were particularly violent, I would yell and scream for him not to hurt Mom, but my rebuke usually fell on deaf ears. But, since the events of that last Easter, I preferred to stay out of it. Besides, they were more or less unaware of our presence. We were mere spectators at their dog and pony show.
Not this night, though. As Ronnie stormed out the door toward his truck, Mom turned to me and made a demand that forever changed the course of my life.
“Go lay under his truck so he can’t leave.”
I was struck dumb for a moment. I think part of me thought she wasn’t serious, or at least hoped she wasn’t. Did she really think that the only way to stop Ronnie from walking out on her was to ask me to put my body on the ground next to his tires so he couldn’t leave without running me over? I could tell by the look on her face that this wasn’t a joke, though. She really believed that this was the thing to do.
At this point I should tell you a little bit about my relationship with my Mom. I had always been a Mama’s Girl. Despite the fact that she was in and out of jail and rehab, that she would disappear for days on end without ever telling us why or where she had gone (and this was before the days of cell phones when we could have contacted her easily), that she had disappointed me time and again – in spite of it all, I loved her and I believed in her and I always gave her the benefit of the doubt. I guess this is what they mean by childlike faith – she could make me burn my clothes in punishment for something she had commanded me to do, and I would still worship her as Mom.
That’s the thing about idols. They redefine reality. Happiness, sadness, right and wrong are all given new definitions when an idol grips a heart. However, idols can be replaced – and what I said to my Mom after she asked me to lay underneath her boyfriend’s truck can only be explained as an act of God.
I told her no.
I don’t even know how it happened. I had never told her no before. She had once asked me to hide her marijuana stash out in the yard when the county sheriff was coming to raid the house, and I did it. I rolled joints for her, told lies for her, and had put myself in harm’s way more than once for her.
But on this November night, I looked right at her and I told her no.
What she said next, I could never have anticipated. To this day, I find it bewildering and strange. I knew there would be repercussions for defying her. I expected her to lash out, I thought she might even hit me. Aside from the Easter incident, I hadn’t really had many harsh punishments. I had been spanked as a child occasionally, and I had been grounded once. But, for the most part, my rare disobedience had been met with fairly soft consequences.
Until I told her no.
“You little whore. You’re sleeping with him, aren’t you? Get out of my house. Get out and don’t come back,” she said.
I didn’t even know what to say. And honestly, I can’t remember what I did say if anything. Me – her virginal, pure girl barely a teenager on the cusp of womanhood – having sex with her boyfriend? The idea of it was unfathomable. I was the girl who was mocked as a prude because I wouldn’t let my older brother’s friend stick his tongue down my throat when I was 12. I hadn’t even developed a woman’s body. Physiologically, I was still very much a child. Her child.
I heard the engine of Ronnie’s truck come to life and he sped out of the driveway. She yelled at me to get out again, so I went next door to Grandma’s and I called my dad. I don’t remember much of that conversation, but I remember he told me to stay at Grandma’s for the night and he would come get me the next morning. It was close to midnight, and he lived over an hour away.
I had only been at grandma’s for a few minutes when Mom stormed in and demanded that I leave with her. I thought she was letting me go home, so I followed her outside. As we approached our trailer, though, I sensed Mom had other plans. She grabbed my hand and pulled me toward the driveway, instead.