Just A Mouse

Monday, July 17, 2006

The last few days have been unusually hot. Hot even for the beginning of the afternoon in the middle of July, and it's mostly the humidity that's making it unbearable. I haven't left the house in three days. Not because I don't want to, but because it just takes a lot of energy to function in the heat and I haven't felt really up to it lately.

My mom's house is cool for one thing - we have a big yard. Huge, even. It's shared with the neighbors we share a double with, but it's on our 'side' of the house, and on nice days my mom pulls her lawn chair out and tries to make her already olive skin somehow darker and I sit up in my room with my window open. Across our really big lawn is a fence, and behind that fence is a private pool that on any given day during the summer houses whatever upper middle class children and their Gap tshirt wearing moms and trucker hat wearing dads that sit under the shade while they watch their kids jump off diving boards or play Marco Polo in the water or whatever it is eight-year-olds do now.

I used to live in an apartment building with my mom, my dad and my sister at the bottom of the rich part of the city. I had since I was two years old and we lived in the cramped two bedroom place until I was twelve. I shared a room with my sister the whole time, and my parents slept together for the first six years or so we lived there, and then my mom moved to the couch and it was like that for a while. Having to sneak out through the living room with my sister at 12 o'clock trying not to wake up my mom after my father had left for work knowing that she would be asleep until around 3. She'd go off and do whatever it was teenage girls did and I'd wander around the other apartment buildings.

Behind us, there were the woods, and after I gathered my courage once to go back there and explore, it's where I spent most of my time. There was a clearing towards the middle, just in view of the big white houses on the top of the hill, and a huge fallen tree blocked off my clearing from the rest of the woods and a big sticky patch of thorns and some honeysuckles that I had to climb on top of the tree to get at if I wanted some.

There was a mound of rocks to the far left, but up here the land was perfectly flat. I buried my first newt up there, I talked my friend Alitta into coming up with me to bury him and I remember her laying old leaves on top of his grave in a nice pattern and putting a rock up for him.

After that, she came up with me all the time, and we'd talk about running away from home and living there, bringing up supplies and sneaking back home every few days to steal more food. She'd moved here from Texas, and her mom was huge, cruel woman. When I'd run to her apartment to get her so we could go up to the woods, her mom would scream at her even after we had walked out the door, and we'd run across the parking lot and up through the patch of bushes that we always went through to get up the hill and we'd stay up there for hours. She'd complain about her father and her mother and I'd come up with elaborate ideas that would prevent us from ever having to see our parents again.

She was a year younger than me, and she hadn't gone to the elementary school I had gone to. The school I went to had originally been an old highschool. But the population exceeded the amount of space they had and they built a new one. Because we lived within the boundaries of the rich sector, College Hill, I went to school with the snobby, Christian kids. Most days I'd walk into school and lean my head against the wall and cry, wanting to go home, wanting my mom to make me a bowl of soup. And I'd see it in my head. A bowl of ramen noodles - 8 cents a pack, it was what we could afford - thick with broth, steaming at the table with a spoon deep inside the liquid. People would comment about me when they walked past, and eventually I'd gather myself up and go to my class, my eyes still red and puffy and I knew exactly why people were staring at me when I walked into the room.

I hated recess more than I hated class. I went to school with a crippled kid that used to torment me. He had some sort of spinal deformation and had to use crutches to get around. During recess he'd demand I help him get down to the playground, and under the watchful eyes of the teachers, I had to. They would call me insensitive if I didn't, they'd call my parents and tell them how selfish and nasty their son was and then I'd be punished. So, I'd walk him down the wooden ramp to the playground and he'd bring me to the back, behind a big bush, and he'd shove me, kick mulch at me, especially when it was windy out and he knew it'd get into my eyes.

Sometimes the girls from the local Girl Scout Troop would gang up on me, ask me what church I went to. I told them I didn't go to church, that I wasn't christian, and that my mom's side of the family was Jewish.


When I started 5th grade, we had a class on US history. When we got to US involvement in WWII, my teacher asked if anyone in the class was Jewish or had Jewish friends or relatives. I raised my hand. Nobody else did.

A couple days later in math, this big tough black kid started teasing me. He called me a Jew, I protested, saying that I wasn't, it was just my mom. I wasn't religious. A couple of his friends, another guy and a girl, joined in with him and I wound up telling my teacher, who, without calling my parents, and scheduled a meeting between my teachers and the kids who teased me.

"What did they call you?"
"... A Jew."
"Are you?"
"What? Kind of. My family-."
"How would they even know you're Jewish, Jaser?"
"I'm n- ... my history teacher asked."
She denyed it.
They murmured amongst themselves for a few minutes, and then my math teacher turned back to me.
"Well, it sounds to ME like this is just someone that is trying to get some other people in trouble."
"... what?"

I told my parents, they were concerned, but didn't do anything about it. The girl that had teased me with her friends approached me in class the next day and threatened me. I didn't say another word about it.


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