Saturday, October 29, 2011

Finishing Up The Memoir

Here I am in the final stages of my memoir -- Pretty  Bold For A Mexican Girl: Growing Up Chicana In a Hick Town. It feels really, really good.

I have decided to begin and end the memoir with stories set in San Francisco where I moved after I left Tuolumne two weeks after graduating high school. The opening story will set up my angst for my Tuolumne experiences, experiences that comprise the majority of the memoir (see two examples here), and the final story sends me out into the world.

Here's the opening story:

Finding My Way Out
      I didn’t run away. I left.
      I left the long dusty drive way, the creaky front door, Mom and her lines on the kitchen table, my flunking-out-of-school brother, my blonde, eight year old sister, and April -- the baby who came to  live with us because her mom was doing more drugs than ours.
      I left and my mom cheated on her boyfriend -- our “step-dad,” starting doing lines with another guy across town; my brother dropped out of high school; my sister developed early, started her period at nine and started hanging out with boys, and April went to live with another family. April would go on to live with yet another family, my brother Amonie would wake up hungover everyday, and my sister would get pregnant at twelve.

      I left for San Francisco. Two weeks after graduation. I was only seventeen.  Suzy and me packed up our clothes, my drum set, and my green trunk filled with stuff for the kitchen we’d share in our new apartment on Delmar Street, the attic apartment with the slanted ceilings, the one just off Haight -- walking distance to Escape From New York pizza for lunch and/or dinner, the music store where we bought strings and drum sticks for band practice, and twenty-one year olds who’d buy us beer.
      I remember standing in the tiny kitchen of the apartment on Delmar street, only big enough for one person at a time, marveling at its brilliance. The sink didn’t leak, the cabinets all had doors, the counter wasn’t perpetually damp and crumbling away, and the four by four space of linoleum on the floor was intact, no peeling here and there, or pulling away at the corners. The landing of the apartment landing had a staircase up to our attic apartment, a spiral staircase. My mom wasn’t there awake and wiping at her nose for days on end, flipping out and screaming then sleeping for two or three days straight. We kept the kitchen clean, so as not to be reminded of home.
      I dreaded calling, but I missed the kids. I missed my mom too, but I had been missing her long before I moved to the city. With no phone in the apartment, I’d walk down to the corner of Masonic and Haight to the phone booth near the bus stop on the side of Rasputins. I’d have to quickly put my handful of coins in the coin box when someone answered the line, ka-chink, ka-chink, ka-chink, ka-chink. I’d watch for people I had gotten to know, the cute blond guy Billy, Theo the compact, muscular stage hand from the Farm, Lauren, the guy with a girl’s name, and the two girls we hated whose names I can’t remember.
      Tired of eating just-add-water falafel and not being able to afford more than one slice of pizza a day, I called home day, sobbing into the phone as soon as I heard my mom’s voice. I had wanted to come home to visit, but Suzy didn’t want to drive all the way there, and I didn’t have the money to pay her for the gas. I told mom all about it between tears and wiping my nose on my arm. I told her about the falafel and the fog even in the summertime -- maybe it was just the fog that was making me depressed.
      “I can send you the gas money,” she said.
      “Is it hot there?” I asked looking toward Rasputins.
      “Yeah, too fucking hot,” she answered.
      I could hear a rooster crowing in the background from her end of the line.
      “You can send me the money?” I asked.
      “I’ll send it Monday,” she said.
      A Muni bus was crossing the intersection at Haight coming my way.
      “Suzy isn’t going to want to drive up there anyway,” I said quickly before the bus got to the stop in front of me and opened its doors.
      “You could always just come back home,” she said. “I could send someone down, and you could just come home.”
      “No Mom, I can’t.” The bus doors wooshed shut and it pulled away. She didn’t believe me.
      “Just come home,” she said.
      I wished I had a tissue. My nose was running, and fresh tears were streaming down my face.
      “No, Mom, you don’t understand,” I said gulping for air. “I can’t. I can’t go back there. I won't go back.”