Do you remember three way calling and *69? When I was in high school there were no cell phones, iPhones, tablets, laptops, or iPads. We just had the regular land line in the house and if you were lucky you had cordless phone, that meant you were balling! Sometimes I think about how integrated the cell phone has become in our lives in such a short time. We went from not knowing it existed to nearly being totally dependent on it in a very short time. Well back in 90s, I lived life with no cell phone but somehow, I went to school, took public transportation, moved from place to place, and survived. *69 was the new thing. If someone called and hung up you, could return the call by dialing *69. No, you couldn’t see the number or name of the caller (caller ID was still in the works) but this pretty much ended prank calling and the ability to call your crush and hang up. Three-way calling was fun. You could add an extra person in on your call. I would call a couple of friends that also had it and they would call a couple and we would all be on the phone talking about dumb teen age stuff for hours. I remember this one conversation we had about how what you had or didn’t have could influence your ability to go to school. My friends all felt that if they didn’t have Nikes or at cool clothes, they wouldn’t be going to school and they would not be above committing crimes to get the things that they wanted (i.e. selling drugs). I felt totally different. I remember telling them that I would go to school even if I only had a few sets of clothes and had to hand wash them to make it through the week. They laughed and talked trash telling me I was crazy, but I felt uncomfortable because this was nearly my reality my senior year. I had more than a weeks’ worth of clothes but not much more and not cool stuff, I had been moving around and now lived in the projects (the real ones). I did not like going outside unless I had to and there were no jobs close. I know I could have gotten a job someplace but walking out of my aunt’s apartment was always under the watchful eye of men and boys on the streets and I was afraid. So, I was beyond broke, had no cool clothes or shoes, but I was at school every day. School was my refuge. It gave me hope of something better something outside of the life I had been living.
My senior year was still good. I had made new friends junior year, when I first started attending South Tech. With the encouragement of my new bestie Kendra, I mustered up the courage to tryout for volleyball during junior year (I had been too shy to wear the short shorts) and I also joined the cheerleading team. This was a way to be at school or engaged in school activities for as much of the day as possible. I had a little crew of friends but still felt like I was an outside observer of even the volleyball and cheer girls. I know many of them lived a life not much different than mine, but I could not bring myself to open up and be vulnerable. Teenagers can be brutal, and I did not want to have a repeat of the Larry Rice TV debacle, so I kept my shit to myself! During lunch, we sat together and often talked about gossip. There was a girl at school who had gone down on a boy! Everyone was talking about it saying things like “don’t let her drink out of your soda!” We had a whole panel discussion about how we would never do such a thing and what extremes it would take for us to EVER consider it. This is so funny and was definitely a different time, all the scenarios involved a gun, a knife, a bat, or marriage!! We were young and thought we knew what was, what should be, and what would be. In reality, we had no idea at all.
Prom came, I had to ask my dad to buy my dress, I was nice about it but really felt that he should have went all out seeing as neither parent had given me anything in the last year. Yup I was still mad, carrying around the idea of what my parents should have done and what they owed me made sure of that. I went to the mall, picked a dress, put it on hold, and asked my dad if he could get it for me. I have never been good at asking for things. I can only think of one time after that where I asked my dad or anyone for anything. Not that I didn’t have times when I needed things or help, I usually just made do or made something happen. I had a couple people helping me make this prom thing happen, my sister’s God father Larry bought my shoes, my aunt got the stuff to do my hair, and I’m not proud of it but I pilfered all the accessories I needed even the nails and earrings! I know, I know, I shouldn’t have, and it seems so trivial, but I really wanted to be beautiful and fancy for once. Everything came together well, and Mike picked me up in his Buick we posed for a few pics out front of my aunts and we were off to the prom and Six Flags the next day.
With prom out of the way next up was graduation. I was excited but also terrified. I had kept my grades up and was in the top ten percent of my class, but I didn’t really know what I was doing when it came to applying for colleges and financial aid. My counselor never had a talk with me, never even asked if I was interested in college, and provided no help or advice on what I should be doing. I had applied for a few schools and had gotten accepted, but I had trouble with the financial aid part. I was told that I needed my parents to provide information and neither of them did. I missed the deadline for aid, so even though I had gotten accepted to college I had no idea what I was going to do.
Graduation day came up quick and my grandma was going to be bringing my sister and brother to the ceremony. My cousin also went to my school, so her mom and everyone from her dad’s side would be there as well. I had invited my dad (and later Kim to be nice), my mom was coming with my grandma and the kids we would all have dinner and celebrate after. Although, I was stressed about college I though this would be a good day. I was wrong. My grandma and the kids showed up without mom! She had come to St. Louis with them the day before but went to hang out with her friends and never came back. I had not heard from my dad all day, but he called just before we left to say that Kim didn’t feel comfortable coming and therefore he would also not be coming. I was devastated. I just wanted to be important, just this one day. The singularity was forming. I could feel this day slipping into the blackhole as I hung up the phone. People were around me talking to me, I said words and smiled but I have no idea who I talked to that day nor do I recall a single conversation. I don’t remember walking across the stage, or even what we had for dinner that day. The only thing I remember is being in the room lined up before I was to walk looking at all the happy faces and the undecipherable hum of graduation day chatter and wanting to just walk out. I wanted to cry but I couldn’t people would see me and ask questions it would be too much drama, so I just leaned against the wall and vowed that I would find a way to be successful. I was officially done with both of my parents. I pushed myself off the wall and walked out into the darkness of the blackhole no memories survived after that moment. I know that I was surrounded by family and friends that cared about me that evening, but I have no memory of it at all. I could not feel the love that they had for me because I didn’t get the love I wanted from my parents. I know many will say “but you had people who cared”, “people were supporting you”, and so on. The only thing in my teen age mind was at that moment was that I had no one, that I was alone. My inner voice laughed and said “if your own parents don’t care enough about you to show up no one ever will ever show up for you.” On that day I was reminded that I could not depend on anyone but me.