Royal Breeze Apartments – or whatever it was previously named – located in Clearwater occurring on an obscure date in the third month of the year 1997. This setting includes intimate details such as my mother’s birth month; the first place I ever got high (alone); and, the point at which I was simultaneously saved and abandoned by my own mother.
For the record, it was my mother’s pot. I watched HomeTime on PBS for what felt like hours then sat in my shower trying to come down. That would be the last time I ever tried with any vigor to lose my high. It’s also my fondest memory of Royal Breeze Apartments.
I pierced my ears three times in that bathroom. I wear jewelry in none of the holes anymore.
I consciously remember being a severe over-eater; the side wall of Royal Breeze Apartments adjacent to a Kash n’ Karry (sp?) supermarket. My father paid my mother the child support payment in cash. Out of guilt or pride, or both, she gave my sister and I each a few bucks. Twelve Little Debbie oatmeal creme pies were only a buck, and are still to this day. Some things, like the price of ammunition for an emotional eater, never change.
My mom tried to leave my stepdad once before March 1997. He was a bad hombre. She insisted we were just going to pack up everything we owned and leave him for good. She never announced to where. I wonder if we asked her? I don’t recall. I’m sure we did. That must have unnerved her. Children are innocently cruel. A last minute move with black trash bags happened. I remember stuffing bags and stuffing more bags, and then stuffing all the bags into our white Subaru station wagon. Then we all piled in and drove a few miles around Clearwater. I must’ve blocked out the next sequence of events because all I remember is returning to the Royal Breeze Apartments, un-stuffing the bags, and going to sleep in the bed we didn’t bother to put in the Subaru.
We survived a few self-inflicted power outages at Royal Breeze Apartments. Some afternoons I would come home from school and we would have no power, but the power always came back on when my mom and stepdad finished arguing.
I was the first to notice the eviction notice tacked to our front door, too. I had a few hours to digest the news without adult supervision. Obviously we had to move but we had just moved to Royal Breeze Apartments just a short six months before, and I really didn’t feel like moving again. (Not counting the trash bag episode)
Could we move closer to my school? Clearwater is closer to Palm Harbor than Tampa is in proximity to Palm Harbor, but it would still be nice to move back to Oldsmar. I loved Oldsmar. I thrived in Oldsmar. There are parks, sidewalks, a two-story library, and my innocence. My beloved dog Patches is buried alongside St. Pete Drive East. I was living in Oldsmar when Kurt Cobain died. Oldsmar was important. Tampa could never happen again. I was done with Hillsborough County like I was done listening to that first Roots album. My Tampa friends had terrible taste in music. That’s settled. We’re moving back to Oldsmar. Right? (Right, mom?)
I went alone to my dad’s house that Friday. He lived alone in his new rental in Tampa. I had never before gone to my dad’s without my younger sister, but I was being a pest and thought nothing of it. I went alone with the basics for a quick weekend away from home. A couple pairs of the bare essentials. Typical stuff a 15-year-old would need or want for a two-night stay.
On Sunday night, my mother called my dad on the phone. I only remember him handing me the receiver because he wanted her to be the one to tell me. Smart man. I don’t recall what she said. Sure, I bargained with her. I’ll be better! I’ll be perfect! Just tell me what I need to do and I’ll do it!
I hadn’t lived with my dad since I was eight years old.
There was nothing I could do. She and my stepdad had already signed the lease on a one bedroom single-wide trailer in New Port Richey. My sister slept on the couch just two feet from the thin aluminum door with no window. It doesn’t matter how bad I try to make it sound. I wanted to live with my mother in any condition. Even with the hindsight to know it was the best decision she ever made for me, I still want to. Like the price of Little Debbie snack foods, some things never change.