Home, Part Four
November 9, 2011 § 1 Comment
Evening, folks. I trust everyone’s just dandy?
Now this one is a little lighter on the swearing, but it ain’t the happiest thing in the world. Don’t blame me, I didn’t choose to write a story that’s tragic.
“And when I say tragedy I mean soul-crushingly, Santa de-mystifyingly tragic.”
Straight from the email about this story’s topic. I, obviously, am blameless. I am but a humble servant, serving my fans all they desire. I never asked for this (schwing!).
Also, I imagined that it was raining, so have some rain! Enjoy.
Aunt Amanda sat at the table with me. The condo was empty and dark, and it was raining. I kept it dark because Aunt Amanda warned me that money was tight. Money was always tight. I don’t know what was wrong with money. Nothing changed because Mom didn’t work. She was too old to work. Her hair was white when they put her in the coffin. Someone at the funeral tried to explain osteoporosis to me and how it works, but I didn’t understand what he meant until he said “Her bones were weak.” I understood that. That’s why they broke when she fell.
I sniffed. Thinking about Mom made me sad, but I didn’t want to cry. Aunt Amanda didn’t like it when things didn’t go her way, and I didn’t want to make her sad. Money was tight, after all.
“I don’t think we’ll be able to keep helping with the rent here.” She said and held her hands like she was scared they would run.
I understood that. Mom paid the rent, just like Mom got me my medicine and Mom bought the food. Mom wasn’t here, so I would did that all now.
“I’ll pay.” I said. “I’ll pay it. I have money.”
“You do honey, you do. But it’s not about how much money you have. The government doesn’t give you enough to stay here.” She put up her hands. “And I’d like to help but our kids are going to school soon and we’ll need the money ourselves.”
“So what happens if I don’t pay enough money? Mr. Thorpe is a friend!” I was a little scared. I didn’t want to leave the condo. I loved it here. It still smelled like Mom, even though she died three months ago. I wouldn’t be happy anywhere else. I knew that.
“Yes, he is Johnny, but-”
“No. I’m not Johnny. I’m a man now. Man of the house. I’m John now. John.” I felt bad interrupting her. Mom told me not to interrupt people. I don’t hear very well, so she taught me to wait until they were done before answering. People thought I was slow, but I did it for them. But I didn’t want to be called Johnny. Dave could call me “Mr. Johnny”, because adults called each other Mister and Misses. But if it’s not Dave, then I’m John now. I’m John for everyone now.
Mom used to call me Johnny. I sniff again.
“I’m sorry, Aunt Amanda. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to be loud.”
She smiled like it hurt and patted me on the arm. “It’s ok, John. We miss her too. If you want to be John, you can be John. Is that ok with you?”
I nodded and looked down. My ear hurt and my eyes hurt and my heart hurt. I wanted to go to bed so I wouldn’t hurt anymore. I missed my Mom.
“And I know Mr. Thorpe is a friend, but he can’t keep you here if you can’t pay him.” She paused for a second and looked around. “The government won’t let him. It’s the law.”
“Really?” I asked. I was surprised. Why would the government not let him let me stay? Did they not like me? Was it just me, or was it everyone who couldn’t pay? I looked up at Aunt Amanda. She looked scared, like she didn’t want to tell me but she needed to.
“Yes. The, uh, rent amount is set by the Prime Minister. If you don’t pay, then you have to leave. They’ll get the police and everything. It’s very serious.”
“Oh.” I sat back in the chair and scratched my arm. I was very tired again, all of a sudden. I didn’t want this anymore. If the Prime Minister didn’t want me to stay, even if I was paying, well, why was I staying? That was mean of him. Who cares if someone can’t pay all the rent to stay in their home? Mom said I was born here. Isn’t that good enough?
I hurt again. I closed my eyes.
Uncle Richard came back from the kitchen. He had coffee and tea. I don’t like coffee, but tea with lots of sugar is fine. Mom said…
I like tea.
“John, we’ve been talking it over with Sonja. You remember Sonja, right?”
I nodded as I sipped my tea. It was hot, but I liked it hot. It tasted better that way. Sonja was my social worker. I don’t know what that is, but she checked up on me every week. She talked to me and made sure I was keeping busy and showering. She got mad the first time she came, because I didn’t do anything after the funeral. I didn’t shower or clean my hair. I just sat and watched videos. It hurt too much to move. I was scared, because I wasn’t being a good boy like…like I was asked to. I listened to Sonja, and I was a good boy.
Sonja is from Russia. She showed me it on a map and taught me some Russian. “Ya Ivan” means “I am John”, and “Khalk Khogan yavlyaet sya luchshim” means “Hulk Hogan is the best.” Because he is. She scared me at first, but she made me take a shower and clean the room and make some food. I was mad at first, but I feel a lot better now. She took me to the store and showed me how to get my medicine too. I was scared of the pharmacist and didn’t want to talk to him, but Sonja showed me how. His name is Sanji. It sounds like Sonja, but he isn’t from Russia. He’s nice too.
Richard kept talking. “Well, Sonja thinks you should move out and into a home with other people. A group home. With other people.” Richard always repeated himself when he talked to me. I didn’t know why, but it did make it easier to understand. Maybe he was slow?
“Why?” I asked. I burnt my tongue a little on the tea. I stuck it out and touched it to see how bad it was. Aunt Amanda made a face at me.
“Well, because if there’s other people around, you might make some friends. And, uhh, if the Prime Minister won’t let you stay here unless you pay, you can afford a space at a group home. The government will help with that. And you can have other people around and might make some friends.” Aunt Amanda elbowed him in the ribs and gave him a Meaningful Look. I heard of those from the TV and I knew they were bad.
“What Richard meant, John, was that we think you’d be better off living with other people. Sonja showed us the home, and it’s a really great place. Really great. There’s lots of people there, people like…like you. Everyone has a good time.”
I was confused. “People like me? They like wrestling too?” I was interested. If there were a bunch of people who liked wrestling, that could be fun to go visit.
“No, John. But that’s not important. We think…” Aunt Amanda stopped and looked at her husband.
“We think you should live there.” Richard said.
I put my tongue back in my mouth. “B-but I live here.” I said. “I don’t live in a group house. I’ll go visit if you want, b-but I live here.” Did they want me to leave too? Now?
Aunt Amanda touched my hand with just the tips of her fingers, and only a little. “But you can’t stay here. You can’t afford it, and Richard and I want to help, we really do, but we can’t afford to.”
“There’s not enough money, John. Not enough money.” Richard said. He hadn’t had any coffee.
I was mad. I didn’t want to leave my home. It was my home, and I didn’t see why the Prime Minister or Richard or Aunt Amanda wanted me to leave. I didn’t want to leave Mr. Thorpe and Mr. Afiz and the streetcar and the McDonald’s in the subway that didn’t have Dave but was still good. It was my home. It was all my home.
“I’m tired.” I said and stood up. “I want to go to bed.”
“Of course, dear.” Aunt Amanda stood up quickly. She looked a little scared. “We’ll leave now. But before we go, could you sign this form?” She held out a piece of paper with a lot of writing on it. My head was hurting bad and I was tired, and I could only make out “Transference of Beneficiary Status” at the top.
“Do I have to read it?” I asked. I didn’t want to. I needed my dictionary and it was in the other room and I was too tired to read tonight.
“No, not at all. It just…tidies up a bit of the work from the funeral. Remember all the papers we had to read and sign? This is just the last one. That’s all.” The words came out fast, like she was in a rush.
I shrugged. “Ok.” I scribbled my name where she pointed.
She looked very happy when I signed the paper. “Alright, great! Now you have a good night, and we’ll drop by with dinner tomorrow.”
I said good-bye and locked the door and went to sleep.
A few weeks later, Mr. Thorpe and Aunt Amanda came and told me the money was gone and I needed to leave. Then Richard came to pack my things while I was out at class. I came home and my home was empty, except for Richard and Aunt Amanda and Mr. Thorpe.
They drove me to St. Charles’ house, where Sonja was waiting. She was smiling but I wasn’t.
“Welcome to your new home, John!” She said, happily, and gave me a tour of the house. The other people were friendly, but they all had Down’s syndrome. I only figured out later that this was a house for us. For us. For people with Down’s syndrome.
Sonja showed me to my new room. It was small and very white. I put my poster of Hulk Hogan on the wall to cover some of it, but that didn’t help very much. But it helped a little. Hulk helps everyone.
But it didn’t smell like Mom anymore.