Part II: Cameron
I was rarely home anymore. I spent most of time at Jon’s house.
“Hey bro, are you coming over to my house for Thanksgiving?” Jon asked excitedly.
“Not sure yet, I know my mom is going to make lots of food. Not like anyone would come. No one comes over our house anymore. Shit is sad.” I said.
“You’re always welcome in my house, Cam.” Jon responded.
“Have to make sure my mom is okay. I also can’t leave my sister behind.”
“Bring little Brooke too, she’s also welcome. So is your mom. You’re my family.” Jon said as he jokingly punched me in my arm.
Jonathan lived a few blocks away from me, that’s why I was always over his house. I dreaded the walks back home. My thoughts would flood my brain, my body would tense up as I would walk up the steps through the front door. My mom would always be in the kitchen cooking, my sister on the living room carpet usually with her dolls or playing with our dog Chopper. That was her best friend when I was not home. I just turned 15 last year, so my mom lets me walk to and from Jon’s house. We also live in a good neighborhood, so she trusts that I will be okay. I want to bring my sister with me most of the time, but she must stay with my mom. She is only 5, so my mom worries.
Jon’s mom would always have a plate set for me when we would walk home from school. I would rush home, drop off my bag, change my clothes, grab my basketball, check on my sister and mom, and leave again.
“Where are you going?” My mom would say worriedly.
“Same place I always go, Ma.”
“Will you be eating over there?” She would ask.
“Is that even a question?” I responded.
I would put off coming home for as long as I could. My dad would often pick fights with me as soon as I would walk through the door. He would be on beer who knows what number and he would be fumbling through the house.
“Where have you been, you little shit?”
I would often try to walk past him, heading up the stairs to my room.
“Don’t you hear me talking to you? I asked you a question.”
“My friend’s house.”
“Well, your mother made dinner. So go show her some respect and eat. She didn’t slave away all day for you to go eat at your dumb-ass friend’s house.”
“Not hungry.” I muttered.
That is when it would go bad. He would fumble towards me, grab me by my hair, and throw me towards the kitchen. My mom would be standing in the doorway, tears swelling up in her eyes, but she would remain silent. She would never stand up to my dad even when he did this to her kids. She was frightened.
My sister would cry. She would run in between my dad and me and put her hands up and yell, “STOP.” My sister should not have had to defend me, her older brother, when our own mother should have. My dad was smart. He would never blatantly hit us, he would push or shove, slap us. But he never left a mark. This was the trick. My dad would never hit my sister, only me. He would push my mom around too. Often put his hands in the air, resembling a fist and threaten to hit her. She would cover her face.
I would take my sister out of that house as often as I could. I would ride bikes with Jon and his little sister and Brooke would come along too. I always asked my mom if she wanted to come over and hang with Jon’s parents, who were the coolest people I knew, but she always shook her head no. It was like she knew if she left the house and dinner was not ready by the time Dad got home from the bar, she would hear his wrath. I felt bad that I could not do anything.
I did my best to take care of my mom. I would talk to her here and there. Hang in the kitchen with her. Tell her about my days at school and how I was two points away from having a GPA that would get me honors. I had made the J.V. basketball team at school too.
My mom would drive us to school every morning and drop Brooke off at Kindergarten. Our schools were on the same campus, but two different buildings. Dad never came to our schools. I don’t even think he knew what they looked like. My mom would come to parent-teacher conferences, her body drained, and her mind foggy with other thoughts.
My teacher would talk to her and she would sit there and nod with a blank face. I’m not sure she even knew what was being said. I always had good reports from my teachers. But the feedback was always the same.
“Cameron has good grades, but I wish he would participate a little more in class or talk more with other students. He tends to gravitate towards his friend Jonathan.”
“Yeah well, they are best friends.” That would be the only response my mom would make the whole conference.
We would leave and go back home fearing the next occurrence.
Thanksgiving was a week away. My mom would cry the most during this time. She knew no one would come and she would be left with all this food. I came home from school and she was sitting at the dining room table. Brooke was by her side. My mom held her head in her hands. Brooke was consoling her.
“Ma, what’s a matter?” I asked.
“Aunt Lori cannot come over for Thanksgiving. Your cousin Chelsea has the flu.” She said as her voice cracked.
As young as my sister was, Brooke even knew that was an excuse to not hurt mom’s feelings.
“You and Brooke can come with me to Jon’s house, Ma. It will be okay.” I tried to reassure her.
Ever since our grandma died, my mom has been out of it. Not like her life was easy anyway. But at least grandma helped her stay sane. Our grandpa left years ago. My grandma stood married, never giving him a divorce, but she kicked him out of the house after his last drunken bender.
Funny how history repeats itself, I thought to myself.