It was hot as hell in the car on our way back to my mom’s apartment. Her cars never had air conditioning. We used “ghetto air-conditioning,” plastic water bottles between our legs.
We fell into our chairs in the living room, exhausted but ready to go.
“So…what to want to know about?” she asked slyly.
I told her I wanted to know about her experience being homeless as essentially a little girl.
Michelle had been living in Willingboro, NJ for only a few years before she became a homeless youth in the late 1970’s.
Michelle’s adolescence was tumultuous due to an incredibly drastic change in life style at such a young age.
Going from an all girl’s private school then to a public school in Boston, where she survived the traumatic Boston Bus Riots in the early 1970’s, was jolting enough.
Now Michelle was teenager, living in a New Jersey suburb now, with a stepmother, two half siblings and a father who spent more time in working in Africa than home.
No one seemed to notice her as she fell into the backdrop of what felt like someone else’s family. She skipped school for 90 days…and no one noticed.
“How do you skip fucking 90 days of school and nobody knows or says anything?” Michelle said laughing.
“I remember one time, diving through my window as my alarm clock was going off…I never got caught.”
“I even had a cat.”
Michelle’s delinquency could be considered a product of negligence. When she skipped school, she hung with her friends, drinking in the woods and smoking cigarettes.
Her days were covered with grass; all kinds.
One day on her walk to school, Michelle brought along a roach she took from her Dad’s ashtray to smoke with her girlfriend.
“And it was fucking angel dust…but I didn’t know,” said Michelle almost in a whisper, as if she could get caught telling the tale, “and I didn’t know anything about that.”
On the bus ride to school, her head was whirring and vibrating with thick heavy thuds and weightless ringing as her head bounced from the front of one seat to the back of her own.
Finally, the school called her parents about the unnoticed 90 days absent, and she got in serious trouble.
“I think that was why I drank the paregoric acid, rubbing alcohol…” she continued to list substances, “cold pills with dextrin.”
Paregoric acid is opium tincture and anhydrous morphine in a liquid with a slew of nauseating substances, including Benzoic acid. Most of Benzoic acid’s chemical compounds can be taken from the castor sacs of the North American Beaver.
And so does artificial raspberry flavoring, according to Google.
We just had to google it. How could you not.
“It is now used to wean baby born to opiate addicted mothers,” she read off of the internet, she paused.
“I knew my shit then and didn’t even know it.” she said laughing in the face of her younger self.
“Yummy.” We both cackled at the thought.
She was attempting suicide with reckless and guttural desertion.
After Michelle finished consuming nearly the entirety of her bathroom cabinet, Michelle called her friend Laurie to tell her she had gone through with it.
Her friend Laurie called 911.
After being taken to the hospital and having her stomach pumped, there stood her father,” you can’t even do that right.”
“He was mean, and that was that. I just did not feel wanted anymore.” Michelle’s voice took a sobering tone.
“You don’t want me here? I don’t wanna be here…and I guess I proved him right.”
Shortly after, Michelle took a duffle bag, which she regretted taking because of how heavy it was, and left.
“Who lets their 16-year-old daughter leave without, y’know, doing something?”
She considers that the biggest “fuck you” she ever got, and she has had a lot of ‘fuck you’s.’