Runaway Run part II
By the time I pulled into the Courtyard by Marriot in downtown Chattanooga, I had 15 missed calls from Anise. 13 of them were probably about the words I exchanged with my daddy and her mom, the other two about Deck. I refused to answer because right now, I was not in the right headspace to deal with it, and I knew it would turn into an argument. I’d call her tomorrow.
I checked in, took a shower, and climbed into bed. In Atlanta, I stopped for dinner and picked up a bottle of wine. It wasn’t chilled but I didn’t care. I poured almost a full cup of the McBride Sisters Sauvignon Blanc white. I picked up this bottle in Target because it was made by black women, but the taste was going to make me a repeat customer. Under the covers, I searched the other wines sold by the McBride Sisters which lead to me scouring the Internet looking for other black-owned wine companies. I was pleasantly surprised there were so many on the market. I created a note on my phone of the wines I was going to try. My virtual wine excursion occupied most of my evening, and I was able to fall asleep.
The next morning, I woke up to two missed calls from Anise and one from my daddy. I couldn’t call either of them until I had coffee. I went to the lobby to get breakfast which was basically just picked over scraps since it was almost 9. I got a banana, a few pieces of sausage, and coffee. I sat in the lobby even though I didn’t want to interact with anyone, but this gave me time to avoid this conversation for as long as I possibly could.
On the elevator ride back to my room, I contemplated who I would call back. I couldn’t handle a conversation with both of them. I finally decided on my daddy because Anise’s conversation would come with her relaying a message about Deck.
“Saige, where are you baby girl?” my daddy asked almost immediately. I don’t think the phone rung one complete time.
“In Tennessee,” I answered shortly, placing all the pillows against the headboard and got comfortable.
I heard my daddy sigh. “When are you going to stop running?”
“I’m not running,” I lied. Running is exactly what I was doing. Whenever things got too hard or if I didn’t want to deal, I left. After graduating from Full Sail, I lost the stability college provide, and for the past 6 years, I had nothing anchoring me in one place, so I never stayed in one place.
“What else do you want her to do? She’s apologized. She understands why she was wrong. I think she’s more than made up for it over the years. And you would admit it too if you didn’t hold on to this anger about your mama.”
I exhaled, focusing my attention on the view of the Tennessee Aquarium from my partially opened curtains. If I moved to a new city impulsively, which was frequently, I usually stayed downtown because downtown had the attractions and restaurants within walking distance. Today, I was grateful I picked a downtown location because I was going to need a distraction after this conversation.
When I didn’t say anything, my daddy continued. “What else do you want her to do, Saige?”
“She’s done enough,” I replied nonchalantly.
We held the phone, me ready to shoot down everything he said while he was probably trying to find something new to say to me. We’d been having these conversations for years and they all ended the same; with his feelings getting hurt, and me avoiding him for months.
“She’s not your mama, baby girl. And she’s not trying to be. Carlene’s not the one who left. She’s not the one who hurt you and it’s not fair that you continue to treat her like she is.”
I popped my lips, and I knew it was disrespectful, but I was so tired of him trying to put the onus of this back on me. “She did hurt me! And I’ll be glad when you guys stop acting like I’m just supposed to forget about what she said!”
“You know,” my daddy began, his voice growing low. “You drag your mama through the mud and in some ways, you are just like her. For all the hurt and anger you carry towards your mama, you are doing the same thing to us.”
I gasped out loud. That was something new. He’s never, in all my 28 years, said I acted like my mama. His words cut me deep and I felt the hurt physically. My heart was literally aching. In a haste, I disconnected the call and threw my phone on the bed. I snatched it up immediately and powered it off because I couldn’t handle talking to anyone right now.
I rolled out of the bed and looked out the window. From my room, I could see the peaks of the crystalline glass roof of the Aquarium. Normally, the architecture would have piqued my interest and I would have delved into its inspiration and the designers, but today I couldn’t focus on its uniqueness. Instead, I tried to rationalize what my daddy just said to me.
She’s not the one who left. She’s not the one who hurt you…
That’s not entirely true and it frustrated me I was made out to be petty and holding a grudge when my daddy’s wife, my sister’s mama, said she didn’t want me in their home permanently.
I was about 10 when I saw my mama doing drugs. I don’t know how long she’d been using or what she was using, but I remember sneaking out of bed one night and seeing her with her face down on the table and coming up and wiping her nose. I didn’t tell anyone because I didn’t know what it was. A few months later, I watched a movie, I can’t remember which movie, and I realized my mama was snorting cocaine.
At first, it wasn’t an issue. She used recreationally for years, mainly on the weekends. She still worked, took care of me, kept up our section 8 apartment on Barbara Battle Way. Then, when I was 14, she met Bull and that was the beginning of the end of my normal childhood. Bull had her using damn near every day. She started calling off her job at Walmart until they had no choice to let her go. That gave her more free time to get high.
A few days after my 15th birthday, my mama and Bull left the apartment, and I didn’t see them for 3 days. I had no money and I’d eaten my last pack of noodles when my daddy showed up to get me. I thought he had some parent sense that told him I was hungry, but I later learned my mama and Bull had been arrested.
We talked for a long time, and he felt guilty for not knowing about my mama’s drug problem and leaving me with her. I didn’t understand his guilt until I got older, but I never blamed him. I didn’t even blame him when his wife said she didn’t want me in their home.
My mama didn’t seem to mind that I wasn’t living with her anymore. She wouldn’t let me come back home, telling me it was best if I stayed with my daddy. That was one of the worst feelings in the world. Absent fathers were the norm in my world. Most of my friends didn’t have their dad’s around, but it was abnormal for my mama to abandon me. I carried so much shame over her choosing drugs over me. I was an adult before I realized she didn’t have a choice, but the hurt had been forever etched in my heart.
I can admit I had a lot of anger when I moved in with my daddy, his wife, and my little sister who was nine by then. I loved Anise, and I was happy to be in the same house as her, but when I heard Carlene say she didn’t want me there, I redirected my anger to her. Because she was there, and my mama was not. I hadn’t yet rectified my mama choosing drugs over me in my mind so Carlene became the target for my wrath.
I overheard her on the phone with someone, her sister I think. I wasn’t listening until I heard my name.
“Chile now he wants Saige to come stay with us. I know that’s his kid, but no. I can’t do it. Nah girl, another mouth? And a teenager? What if she was using too? We just don’t know what was going on in that house and I can’t have my baby exposed. She’s going to have to go with an aunt or someone. She can’t come here.”
I remember her exact words. I remember what she was wearing. I remember the tone of her voice. I remember the time of day. I remember the soap opera that was on TV. The venom in her voice. The disdain she had for me. The way her words pierced my 15-year-old heart. I remember everything about that moment. I never felt unwelcomed around her until that moment.
After I confronted her, she deflected. She accused me of being in grown folk’s business. She accused me of being disrespectful. She said I misconstrued her words. It took her a year to finally admit what she said because I refused to let it go. I wouldn’t talk to her, only replied to her. I only did what she said because I wasn’t raised to be disrespectful to adults. I wouldn’t engage with her. I wouldn’t go anywhere with her. I didn’t want her to come to anything I had at school. She came to the first game where I cheered my junior year and I quit the team, refusing to cheer that night.
She tried, a little too hard, to show me she was sorry. I couldn’t accept anything from her. My heart was already hardened towards her and nothing she did moved me. My daddy, my sister, all of my other family members implored me to forgive her because my mama preferred dope over parenting so why not let Carlene stand in the gap as a mother, they questioned.
Because she never wanted me there. And to this day I wholeheartedly believe, the only reason why she tolerated me was because there was no way my daddy was going to send me away from his home.
I spent too much time thinking about Carlene and my mama to the point it pissed me off. I hated when I let my mind wander to the woman who abandoned me and the woman who only tolerated me out of obligation.
I let out a loud breath and went to the bathroom to shower and tackle my day. I checked emails and did a few hours of work before going across the street to the Aquarium. Watching the animals was relaxing and I got lost in their movements. Some swam lazily, some with a purpose. I focused on their colors, their features, their interactions with the other creatures around them. I visited every attraction I could until I walked up an appetite. I ate an early dinner at Hennen’s, choosing the chicken Marsala and beignets for dessert. I walked back to my hotel full and perturbed my mind wandered back to what my daddy said.
I opened my laptop and started scouring the Internet for efficiency apartments in Tennessee. I usually like to at least have some sort of idea of the area I’m moving to, but more often than not, I jumped up and ran without planning that far in advance. I usually didn’t mind this part, finding somewhere to live. I enjoyed reading, riding around, looking at neighborhoods, exploring a new city. But today, I was frustrated. I found something wrong with every single studio apartment I looked at. I finally settled on an Extended Stay because I was familiar with the chain. I lived at an Extended Stay for a few months when I moved to North Carolina a few years ago. I put in my information to move in tomorrow. I found the nearest Target and bought two more bottles of McBride Sisters wine and drank myself to sleep.
I woke up the next morning around 10. I did a few hours of work to wait for the 2 p.m. check-in. I navigated my way to the Extended Stay, checked in, and brought all of my stuff in. While I was putting my things away, I powered on my phone. After I settled in, I wasn’t prepared for all of the notifications that showed up on my phone. I barely made it through Anise’s last text and knew I had to call her.