Thursday, 5 May 2011

Following our will and wind, we may just go where no one's been...

Jesus, the past couple days have been a hell of a ride...

My family situation deteriorated so rapidly it left me reeling. On Sunday morning, I was tired and sore from working out the previous day, then working an 8-hour shift on Saturday and not being able to get to sleep until two and having to get up early to make it to work by 9:30. (Yes, eight o'clock is, by my definition, early.)

I work as a service clerk at a large grocery chain in the city, which is a fancy name for someone who bags groceries and wheels them out to peoples' cars. I also do a bunch of miscellaneous chores around the front end of the grocery store. It's definitely not the most glamorous job (in fact, it's probably the *least* glamorous job in the store), but my supervisors are usually tolerable, my coworkers are pleasant and easy to talk to, and the customers are almost always polite. I also get paid a fairly decent wage since the employees at this particular chain are unionized. Not enough to live on, mind you, but enough that I managed to save up a decent amount of money over the summer, and the subsequent school year when I worked about 14 hours a week.

When I got to the breakfast table, my dad sat down and started talking about how "livid" he was over my work schedule. (I was surprised he knew that word.) I was working a lot in the next coming weeks, since I'd bumped my hours of availability up to 40 per week. I wanted to work and save up as much as possible during the summer. I didn't tell my parents that the reason for this was because I wanted to move out by the start of the next semester. The problem was, a couple weeks ago dad had offered me a job in his construction company. The hourly rate he offered me was much better than I was about to find anywhere else, and I actually quite liked the idea of doing some manual labour so I could get in great shape, work outside and maybe get a nice tan, too. Problem was, dad's business ventures have always been shaky at best, and he only had three weeks' worth of work lined up for the summer; just enough to take me out of prime jobhunting season and leave me sitting around with my finger up my ass for the rest of the summer. Plus, since my references are outdated (and weren't that impressive to begin with), and I don't have a whole ton of work experience, I was worried about finding another job once my dad ran out of work or I started back to school next semester. (Since I planned on moving out, I would ABSOLUTELY need another job, no question, and the construction industry typically tends to halt as soon as snow starts to settle on the ground, which, in Calgary, is eight or nine months out of twelve.)

Well, I tried to think of a way to somehow keep my job and work a little with dad as well, so I hemmed and hawed. Dad hadn't given me a definite start date for the projects that he'd been contracted to do, only said something vaguely about having a better idea when we'd be starting working in a week or two. In the meantime, I tried to figure out a way I could have my cake and eat it too; work with dad while keeping my job at Co-Op. I hadn't given him a definite answer.

That morning at the breakfast table, dad went from talking to shouting really quickly. He took it as a personal insult that I wasn't jumping all over the chance to work with him and started yelling about how my employers are "using" me and that they have terrible safety regulations. (They don't; their practice of safety policies is fine, he just wanted to paint everything in an extremely negative light.) He said that he'd been waiting for me to figure my work situation out before he could start working on the construction projects he'd been contracted to do. He hadn't told me this at all, mind you. Eventually he stormed out of the kitchen . When my mom asked him if he wanted her to drive me to work, he shouted "I don't give a FUCK! Either way, it costs me money!"

I made a desperate plea to my mom to talk to him while she was driving me to work. I was crying noticeably on my way into the store to start my shift. I wanted to curl up in a ditch and die, that's how badly I felt, but I had it under control by the time I left the staff room to start my shift. I managed to calm down over the course of my eight-hour shift, convincing myself that my dad would've calmed down by the time I got home and would probably just drop it.

While I was there, I decided to apply for a cashier position I saw upstairs on the job postings board by the staff room. I'd been thinking about becoming a cashier or moving into some other, slightly higher-paying position than the one I'm in currently for quite some time. Applications for the next set of job postings were due by the 3rd, and the adrenaline still racing through my system from my panicked fight-or-flight response to my father's yelling gave me the motivation I needed to ask my supervisor about the position and fill out the necessary paperwork.

When my mom came to pick me up from work, I asked her if dad was going to start yelling at me again. "I doubt it," she said. I don't remember what we talked about on the way home, but it was the same old bullshit. I was so tired of it all; the relentlessness of my father's insanity, my mother's unwillingness to do anything about it, the blanket of disapproval that surrounded everything I chose to do with my life and my time and everyone I chose to surround myself with, and the constant struggle for power over my simple desire to do the normal, everyday things that normal young adults do. My father didn't seem to like anything about me or my life; he hated my job, hated my friends, didn't understand my career ambitions, and looked upon the school I was attending as a necessary evil at best.

I let my mom know that I had applied for the cashier position, and she told me that I owed it to dad to let him know that. I said I would, but I'd wait until he'd cooled down a little bit, and would appreciate it if she didn't tell him. Well, mom must've told him almost as soon as we got home because I overheard him ranting to mom again and halfway through dinner he started ranting at me again. He wasn't yelling that time, just being extremely condescending, and mom wasn't on my side either. They would take turns ranting about me to my face, and I chose just not to say anything. I had learned a long time ago that there is no way to reason with my father, and trying to argue with him only makes him angry or, in his mind, proves whatever point he's trying to prove. Dad seemed indignant, nay, downright offended that I was trying to get a better job at Co-Op. Near the end of the whole ordeal at dinner, dad said that if I didn't work for him in his construction business until I found a job related to my field, I'd have to start paying for food and rent. I thought, "Well, I'll be FUCKED if I pay for those things while living with two people I can't stand and having absolutely no freedom."

I let my dad have the impression that I would agree to work with him that summer, and quietly slipped away once they were both happy they'd sufficiently put me in my place.

I avoided my parents for the rest of the evening and that night, I started looking for rooms for rent on Kijiji. I figured I could stay with them and put my dad off only as long as it took to see if I'd gotten the cashier position I applied for. I was up until two in the morning browsing the 'net on my laptop, looking for rooms, taking down phone numbers and sending out e-mails, until my dad knocked softly on my bedroom door.

As soon as I heard him coming down the hallway, I turned off my desk lamp and shut off my laptop, hoping he'd just go back to bed and leave me alone. He knocked once, softly, and I ignored it. He knocked again. "What?" I croaked quietly, and got no reply. He kept knocking, and pausing, until I got up and opened my bedroom door. He didn't say anything, just stood there in the pitch black, and all I could see was the white of his t-shirt. I was terrified. I turned on my bedroom light, and he just stood there, glaring at me disapprovingly. He started lecturing me again quietly, but I was scared, and completely exhausted from two long days at work and being constantly harassed. I felt cold and numb, and my legs were trembling uncontrollably. When I started sobbing a little bit, he told me to stop it, and blamed my crying on my staying up too late all the time. Of course. He started talking about all kinds of new rules he was going to make - rules that would stop me from going out and seeing my friends without a ton of hassle, rules that would take away my privacy, rules that would make it impossible for me to lead any kind of normal life outside of the house whatsoever.

At the end he said, "And if you try and move out, I'm going to do something - well, I don't know what I'm gonna do, but it's not going to be pleasant."

That scared me more than anything. Because you see, my dad has a history of violence, and I was afraid he was threatening to do something to me. Either that, or he was threatening to do something that would take away all of my freedom, maybe ruin me financially. Because in dad's eyes, the law that makes people legally free when they become 18 is flawed, and he doesn't respect it. He left me alone, finally, but all I could do was lay in the dark and tremble in fear of what was going to come next. I couldn't take it anymore. I couldn't see now how I would ever be able to find a place to live on my own without my dad interfering somehow. I hated my father so, so much, and I wanted out. I couldn't take it anymore. I felt like if I stayed, I would die.

I was shaking so hard from fear and exhaustion that it was very hard trying to keep still as I crept down the stairs. I went into the kitchen and searched around for some big orange plastic garbage bags I could pack my stuff into, but I couldn't find any, so I went back upstairs and tried to quell my fear without success. Finally, I threw off my comforter and tore the bedsheet off of my bed. I sent a text to my close friend, Josh, who I'd been talking with a few minutes before on MSN.

"Any chance you wanna drive 20 minutes out to my place in the dead of night and help me run away from home?"

Josh texted me back a minute or two later. "wtf"

"I wish I were joking."

I packed my stuff in about half an hour and Josh made it to my place in 25 minutes. I threw most of my wardrobe and some blankets onto my bed sheet and wrapped the whole mess up, then threw a few more essentials into my purse and my backpack. I wanted to slip out the door as unnoticed as possible, which was one of the hardest things I'd ever done in my life between the tons of shit I had to carry and my trembling muscles. I focused all of my mental energy on not shaking uncontrollably as I picked up the pile of clothes I'd wrapped in my bedsheet and carried it down the stairs. Once I'd made it down successfully I threw on my coat and shoes, but as I emerged from the laundry room where the coats were kept I heard my father coming down the stairs.I threw on the lights and he stood there, his arms crossed disapprovingly.

"I have a friend waiting for me," I said. "If you try and stop me, he'll call the cops."

"Why does it have to be this way?" He asked. I ignored him. I knew he didn't want an answer; my dad had stopped listening to me a long, long time ago. Now that I think about it, he never has. As I was on my way out my dad tried to call the cops on me because I wouldn't tell him where I was going or who I was going with, and he phoned presuming the cops would accept that I was in some sort of danger. I didn't stick around to see how the call turned out.

I threw on my coat, I threw on my shoes, I grabbed my stuff and somehow managed to drag it halfway down the block before Josh pulled up and I stuffed all of it into the back seat of the car. I remember thinking that my parents really would've thought he looked like some sort of criminal, with his loose-fitting gray sweater and toque pulled over his head. He sped me off to his place 20 minutes out of the city, where I couldn't possibly be found.

And here I am.

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