Back to School but Only in My Mind

A narrative reflection

Photo by Sam Balye on Unsplash

We bolt from the yellow Blue Bird bus that carries us from fifteen streets away. The bus driver has a pronounced gap between her two front teeth and yells at the top of her lungs every afternoon for us to “Sit our behinds down” before she parks the bus somewhere and lets us have it.

This is the deep South, right before the summer break. The heat is a devil on stilts. The kind of heat prepared to kick God in the shins for creating it.

I’m best friends with two sisters, one loner, a metrosexual, and there are an undisclosed number of acquaintances who know me but don’t know me-know me.

My mom is a recovering cocaine addict who buries her face in goblets of Hennessy and Tanqueray. I spend most of the evenings crying in my room — praying for a way out of where I seem stuck.

My brothers are 8, 9, and 10 years younger than me. The oldest hears me crying and sits by my closed door until I fall asleep.

I never tell him this, but it is nice to have him there — listening, waiting for me to be at peace. He’s still the same to this day — ready to protect me. Open to keeping me safe.

We spend the humid nights at the poolside, playing spades and talking shit about anyone we wanted to.

Or … I run circles around the boys in the neighborhood on the basketball court until the day I split my lip open and bruise my right jaw. I still have the scar. My bottom lip — purple and midnight blue — never the same.

We are young, bold, academically advanced, and full of wonder. I leave at 18 — travel one hour for college — settle there for seven years, and pick my shit up one day out of the blue to journey onward to North Carolina.

I do not look back. I am not speaking to my mother, who finally proves to me I mean little to her when she does not come to my college graduation.

It is a weight I choose not to carry as I move through my 20s, stressed out by the constant feeling of worthlessness. If my own mother can’t see me achieve this goal, why should anyone else?

To my surprise, everyone I love more than mint chocolate chip ice cream shows up. Even my friend from Mississippi.

The Powerhouse coordinates visits and caters to my every whim, hugging me until I feel my soul smile before she leaves to celebrate her boyfriend’s graduation day too.

I am 17, 18, 21, 23, and 25, and with all those past ages still living in my mind, I become the woman I never thought I’d be.

And I love her so much more.

©2022 Tremaine L. Loadholt

*This piece is in response to the Back to School prompt in CRY Magazine via Medium.