Dear Diary

September 25, 2013

Life feels weird.

Ruby

An idealist and a realist are sitting on a city bench. They are, respectively, Peter and me. We are analyzing everyone we see and deciding what their lives are like.

We look down over the railing behind us at two boys skateboarding, one filming the other with a comically large video camera. They are about 10 years old.

“I bet they’re named Jamie and Tyler,”* I say.

“Oh, totally!” says Peter. “And look, they’ve been working on this trick for hours. Their persistence is going to continue to a be part of their lives when they’re older.”

“Kids don’t have a good sense of time. Like dogs.” Peter suddenly looks disappointed, so I backpedal. “But yeah, maybe they’re just really naturally persistent people with bright futures.”

Just then we notice a man walking towards us. He is wearing a tattered gray sweater and has a wild gray beard. As he gets closer I notice the tiny cuts on his mouth. I figure out why when he comes right up to us and starts to speak—his unusually sharp teeth must prick his lips occasionally. He asks us for some change.

We spent almost all of our money at the thrift store earlier, and gave most of what was left we gave to a bedraggled man on the highway who told me I had beautiful hair. All we have now is $4.50 between the two of us. We give half of it to the bearded man, who stares at it for a beat then looks up at us.

“Excuse me, but can I have some more?” he says. “Do you have a five?”

Peter looks flustered. “Are you looking for work?” he asks the man. “I used to wash dishes at this place that’s looking for a new—”

“Come on,” the guy says, cutting Peter off. “What the fuck can you get for two bucks?”

Peter’s eyes dart to his wallet. We both know there are still two dollars in there. He looks at me and I shrug.

“Come on, kid,” the man says. “I tell you what, if I ever see you again, I’ll give it back to you.”

Peter looks unsure. “That’s so improbable, though.”

“No it’s not,” the man says.

Peter finally decides to give him the money, and the guy sits down on the bench opposite our own. Peter asks him about his life.

“I was born in the year 1960,” the guys says. He has a Rhode Island accent and he might be drunk, because he’s slurring his words. “I was a normal kid. My mother raised me. I went to school. It all went bad when I turned 17.” He stares at us for a minute. “How old are you kids?”

“Fifteen and eighteen,” Peter offers.

“OK, well, I was 17, and that’s when it all went bad. That’s the year I killed my father. It was 1977. He was a drunk. My mother raised me, and my dad just drank and slept in the house. Nobody knew what mental abuse was back then. If you weren’t being beat, you weren’t being abused. It didn’t exist. But my father was a mental abuser to my mother. I loved my mother more than anything, and my father was abusing her.”

He tells us that one night he woke up to hear his father sexually assaulting his mother, but he didn’t feel safe going into their bedroom and trying to stop him. “I just cried and cried,” he says. “And I never cried. I’m a man, damn it. But on that night I cried for my mother. I didn’t know what else to do until the morning.

“I waited until my mom left for work. He was sleeping, as usual. I took his gun and I woke him up by pushing it against his head. I said, ‘Dad, this is the last thing you’ll ever remember,’ and I shot him three times in the head.

“So then I did what any kid would do. I cleaned off the gun and hid it, got dressed, and went to school.”

We sit there stunned for a minute. Then Peter asks, “How did it feel…to kill him?”

“I didn’t feel a fucking thing. I was just glad there was one less scumbag in the world. Now I’m gonna keep telling my story.”

According to him, police came to his school that day and arrested him in front of all his friends. In court his mother testified against him. “She said he’d only just done it once,” he says. “On the stand, I cried again. I told the judge that the sick bastard deserved it. Anyone who’d do that to a woman deserves to die.” He turns to Peter and gestured toward me. “For example, if I saw you abusing her, I’d kill you right here.”

“Fair enough,” Peter says.

The man tells us that he was sent to prison for 35 years. “I spent the prime of my life behind bars,” he says.

“What was jail like?” I say.

“It wasn’t fun. But it wasn’t too bad. Back then it wasn’t too hard to get weed in there. It’s not as bad as people tell you. When they let me out, the judge asked me if I learned anything and guess what I fucking said? I told the judge that all I learned was that if it happened again, I’d put nine bullets in his head. My name’s Mike, by the way.”

We introduce ourselves to him, and take turns shaking his hand, then the three of us sit in silence for a few moments, looking at the ground. Finally, Mike gets up. “I hope you kids have a good life,” he says, giving us a peace sign.

“I hope your life turns out good, Mike,” I say.

He laughs. “It won’t be good,” he says, shoving the four dollar bills and change into his pocket as he walks away. ♦

* The quotes in this piece are were not transcribed verbatim, but they are reproduced here as faithfully as I can remember them.

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16 Comments

  • Ruby B. September 25th, 2013 7:37 PM

    Britney, I’m so glad you’re in a good place right now! :) It seems that the beginning of the school year is always really good or really bad.

    • Britney September 25th, 2013 8:03 PM

      Thank you so much, Ruby! I honestly thought my mind was going to EXPLODE but everything is so much better now. And yeah, it always seems to be either one, which sucks so much but I guess that’s just how it is.

  • Tiger September 25th, 2013 7:54 PM

    Ruby, wow! you write beautifully as always and such an amazing story

  • dreamygirl September 25th, 2013 7:58 PM

    Britney, THAT IS SO TERRIFIC. I am so happy for you! I’ve had a pretty horrible day and this diary entry has made me feel a lot better, actually–you really deserve to feel good about things.

    Ruby, really interesting entry. I’ve always wanted to be able to talk to people like them, just be straightforward and ask them their life story, but I’m kind of younger and my friends would never ask anyonw with me.

  • lilagrace September 25th, 2013 8:11 PM

    Ruby … I barely have words for your entry this week …
    It’s like “wow, this is how life really is – there are people who have a history that goes beyond my imagination“ – at the same time it kind of feels like a scene from a movie (don’t mean to undermine your experience!)
    How did you feel when he told you his story? (if I might ask)

  • flingsgotoofast September 25th, 2013 8:35 PM

    I really like your article Britney, even if its short and simple it still got the message across clearly. I don’t know if I am slowly working towards that point of clarity yet but I am finding myself becoming happier and more myself in school and not so reserved like I was previously. I envy those who have found themselves completely and can happily say their life isn’t a complete wreck!

  • Conana September 25th, 2013 9:24 PM

    Oh god! I remember feeling like Britney three years ago! I was so happy, and everyone could see it, people were telling me things such as “wow! now you’re speaking and laughing, and being friendly!” and I remember thinking “that’s because I feel so much better with myself now”, and all of that was because I stopped hanging with toxic people…

  • whyamidreamingwhenimstillawake September 25th, 2013 9:48 PM

    Naomi, i feel you about the thinking too much. I do that too. And I was going to try and talk about that, but you’ve articulated it so much better than i could in your diary, so I’m just gonna leave it at that. x

  • elliecp September 26th, 2013 2:13 AM

    I love the ‘dear diary’ articles…it’s so nice to hear about other people and makes me feel better about my own life <3

    http://roseandvintage.blogspot.com/

  • lotusmarina September 26th, 2013 3:43 AM

    This is post is beautiful, very heart-warming. Also, just a note to the Rookie team, I stumbled upon this online magazine a couple of days ago, and surfing its pages has become one of my favourite things to do – along with reading Aussie magazines ‘yen’ and ‘frankie’ and listening to Lisa Mitchell. I just would like to say thanks because you guys have really encouraged me to get all that jumble and mishmash of stuff in my head onto paper, or into music or into anything artsypartsy. I’ll be sticking around!!

    • Anaheed September 26th, 2013 8:28 AM

      Hi and welcome!

    • Zoe September 27th, 2013 9:10 AM

      They’re all my favourite things to do as well!

  • flocha September 26th, 2013 7:06 AM

    I’ve got to do a lot of things next week which are kind of scaring me, but the ‘I’ll handle it’ mantra looks like a really good way of coping with that kind of thing, so thanks Naomi :)

  • thelilacparadox September 26th, 2013 2:07 PM

    The diaries on Rookie are literally the best part of my week. I am so glad this is a part of the site, and I can’t wait until next week (obviously.)

    http://paradoxicalmusingsofme.blogspot.com

  • unicornconnect September 26th, 2013 3:14 PM

    Ruby, wow. I can’t even believe that happened, it made me so sad. Normally people just freak out and assume people asking for change just want to buy drugs and alcohol and they have messed up their lives by being stupid.

    It seems so weird that a homeless guy just told you about his life when you asked, that’s cool, like I can never imagine it happening to me. Maybe I should be scared less.

  • Eileen September 29th, 2013 12:46 PM

    I swear to god, RUBY. I do this same people’s life guessing game with myself every time I’m in public. I wish I knew someone who could do this with me, I definitely don’t. Thank gob for rookiemag