It was June of 1995 and my mother; someone I never loved, rarely liked and often didn’t get along with; already had her mind made-up about me going to stay with my father. I say “my” father, but I don’t know if he really is or not, just as I don’t know if my mother really is who she claims to be. I can, however, say that they are probably my real parents, for whatever that’s worth.
His name is Owen and, at the time, I remembered meeting him only once before for a very brief period of time. This time the two of them planned for me to stay with him; in Ajax, Ontario; for weeks. I don’t remember if it was a few weeks or several, but I know I didn’t want to go. They knew it too, but they made me go anyway; a decision I hold against them even now.
Sure, their intentions may have been good, but I don’t care and certainly didn’t care at the time. I went willingly in the sense that I wasn’t dragged out of the house, kicking and screaming, but I hated having to stay with a total stranger for such a long time. What could I do though? Doing to her what I wanted to do would’ve almost definitely landed me in a place that’s even worse, and for a longer period of time.
So I went, driven there by her, with my grandmother and maybe a half brother or sister going along for the ride. If there was anything at all to be happy about, it was the fact that the new Michael Jackson album, History, had finally been released a few days before, the day before or perhaps the very day we arrived in Canada. All I know is that I bought it that day, at some music store, before they left to go back to Detroit.
It came with a mock tabloid newspaper. The album itself was a thick plastic case that held two gold CDs and a booklet. I was so excited about that album that I’d started playing it at Owen’s friend’s place before we even got to his sister’s house where we’d be staying.
That album was, in fact, the best thing about my stay, which I might’ve actually enjoyed if not for the fact that I didn’t want to go there in the first place. It’s not that I was sad or angry most of the time, not even on the inside. It’s just that I was never happy in any overall sense, certainly not as happy as I could’ve been under different circumstances.
Owen, it turned out, wasn’t around most of the time. He lived there, in a room upstairs, but it seems he was gone for days and days at a time, which was fine with me. I didn’t want to be around him anyway. I certainly didn’t want to develop any kind of traditional father-son relationship with him. I just wanted to do my time and get it over with.
His sister had two boys, Chad and Troy, who also lived there. They stayed upstairs and each had their own bedroom on the same (second) floor Owen stayed on. Chad was maybe a couple of years younger than me. Troy was maybe a couple of years older. I slept in the basement alone at night, along with their pet rabbit, but it seems that’s also where the three of us spent most of our time during the day.
That was especially the case when I first got there as they made an effort to befriend me. They were the type of kids who often had friends over to the house, so I also met a lot of their friends, some of whom were also close to Owen’s sister Doreen; their mom, I assume. She was nice enough to me, and a likable lady overall, but I knew I was probably never going to get close to her and didn’t want to. I didn’t want to get close to anybody. I just wanted to be left alone, which was hard to do in a house full of people. They even had relatives visit and spend the night from out of town while I was there, including an attractive light-skinned girl Troy jokingly made sure to introduce to me as my “cousin”, so that I wouldn’t try to hit on her.
We had some fun times; me, Troy and Chad; but I liked and got along with Chad a lot more than I did Troy. Chad and I were actually very friendly the whole time. I made him laugh a lot and don’t remember having even one problem with him. Troy was another story. Though we connected with a mutual interest in hip-hop music, we often butted heads and annoyed each other with constant disagreements and light arguments over petty stuff.
It never turned into anything serious, but it gradually got worse over time. By the end, I think we’d started to despise each other to the point where it became harder and harder to keep-up a friendly front. It was the kind of relationship in which two people constantly insult each other but only half jokingly.
At one point, he and his best friend; a guy he claimed to have a telepathic connection with; invited some girls over while Doreen was gone. They watched Star Trek in the basement with the girls while Chad and I stayed out of the way on the first floor, or maybe vice-versa. When the girls left, I made fun of him for watching Star Trek with the girls instead of having sex.
I wasn’t just being mean though. Every insult was a justified retaliation for some insult Troy had thrown my way, perhaps days earlier. That’s just the kind of relationship we had. And Chad would laugh with me. We also laughed together while watching Heart Of Courage when they showed an old lady hit an intruder in the head with a frying pan.
My best memories include the times I spent with Chad and a friend of his I think was named Steve or Steven. We rode bikes together and even went out for ice cream with Doreen one day. Those were rare moments of genuine fun for me, nightly tinnitus from a possible ear infection was the most depressing, while the rest of the time lingered somewhere in the middle.
That somewhere in the middle time included a tall skinny white girl, a friend of theirs who’d come by and hang with us sometimes. Her name might’ve been Kila, but I don’t think so. One night Owen came down to the basement and saw me sitting on the couch with her; the night we were looking thru a middle or high school yearbook from which I picked-out for her who I thought were the best-looking girls.
I remember her mentioning, presumably to Troy, that the girls I was picking were white, as if to suggest that I was specifically into white girls. I also remember Owen asking me about her after she’d left, teasing me about how we were sitting close together on the couch, probably thinking I had a romantic crush on her or something.
Owen and I didn’t talk much though. He’d talk to me and I’d keep my answers short. I barely asked him any questions and never said his name. I never said his sister’s name neither. I might not have said anyone’s name, which prompted him to mention it to me one day. He said something about me not saying people’s names when I was talking to them, which I defended by saying that it was unnecessary because it was obvious who I was talking to at any given time. That’s true, but it’s also true that I never wanted to get personal with anybody and not saying anyone’s name was a subconscious way to keep that from happening.
I’d started taking Doreen’s radio from the kitchen to play while I fell asleep at night. It was just to block or distract from my tinnitus. One day I saw that she’d left a note on it, saying not to take it anymore. The fact that she left a note instead of telling me to my face is just a metaphor for how disconnected I was from them as an extended family.
I used to eat three or four hot dogs with my pork and beans back then. She, or the other lady who lived with us for a portion of my stay; possibly my attractive light-skinned cousin’s mom; made a negative comment about it. I already hated cooking and eating with other people in the kitchen, even people I generally liked being around, so you can imagine how much I hated doing it around people I generally disliked being around.
My stay, which introduced me to more friends and family members than I’d hoped for, including a knowledgeable DJ guy who taught me that you don’t have to understand the words of a song in order to like it, concluded just after Caribana; an annual festival which Troy hyped as the biggest event of the year.
He and his friends told me about all the fine girls that would be there and all the fun that would be had in a group effort to get me to go with them, but I didn’t want to go. I didn’t want to do anything fun with them. It was close to the end of my stay and all I wanted to do was go home. So even when Troy came in late at night after partying at Caribana and dumped a bag-full of girl phone numbers on the kitchen table, I had no regrets.
The end of my stay had finally come. It was my last day and I remember it clearer than most days. I was taking the bus home and Owen was going to drive me to the bus station. That means we had to leave the house early in the morning when everyone else was still in bed. That was all fine with me because I didn’t want to say goodbye to anybody, but, just before we were about to leave the house with my luggage, he made me go upstairs to say goodbye to his sister and whoever the other lady was she slept in the bedroom with.
It was perhaps the coldest goodbye I’ve ever said. I don’t even remember going all the way into the room. But I didn’t give a damn. I was ready to go. So I went back downstairs, to the first floor, and the two of us left the house. For me, it was for the last time and I was completely ecstatic. Going back to normal after a lot of bad feels great, at-least for a while.
He gave me a hug at the bus station, which I returned half-heartedly, and that was it. That was the last time I ever saw my “father” and the last time I ever want to see him.