Job Corps is like a juvenile rehabilitation center, one where you can go voluntarily, or you can be ordered to go by the courts or your parents. I used to joke that while everyone else there got the choice between juvenile hall and the Corps, I had actually decided to go on my own. That seemed ironic to me, at the time.
Still does, in retrospect.
In Job Corps, you learn a union skill like how to be an electrician, or a mechanic, or a painter. I decided to train to be a carpenter. I helped roof buildings, learned drywall, how to saw through a two-by-four with a plain hand held saw. I learned how to use power drills, power saws, table saws. I learned about safety too – after an unfortunate incident with steel studs, no gloves, and seven stitches which resulted in the ginormous scar on the index finger knuckle of my right hand. I learned a lot more too…like how it feels to fall in love (or what you think is love) for the first time.
The Angell Job Corps campus was (is?) situated on the Oregon coast, and the ocean was close enough to hear at night. Sometimes I still think about being on the beach, at night, with only the stars keeping me company, with the smell of summer evening winding around me. I love the water. It’s why I keep coming back to the Northwest. Every time I hurt, or am sad, that’s where I go. Something about how when you look at it, it’s always changing underneath. It seems so mysterious and yet…wide.
At any rate, I met PK (or Brian, to his grandmother) in December of 1993. He was tall, blond, handsome, and one of the circle of leaders on campus. All the girls had crushes on him. I was seventeen, and he blew me away. He took me for walks, and held my hand, and asked permission before he kissed me for the first time. He snuck with me out to the woods behind the dorms, and introduced me to “sluffing” (sp?) – the term used in the Corps for going out to the woods and “getting some”. This, of course, was frowned upon – which may have been the reason it was so fun.
PK came from a sad background. His mother and father divorced when he was young, after years of physical abuse on the part of his father (also Brian) to his mother, Sally. When I met PK, his mother had remarried a man named John and settled down to a peaceful (if somewhat eccentric) lifestyle in ShitFuckTown, Oregon (Editor’s Note: I have changed all the names in this blog. I reserve the right to use ones that I would never say to my son. And to make them mean things that make me giggle.).
In PK’s world, the woman was the homemaker, the peacemaker, the chef, and the housekeeper. They were there to make the men’s lives comfortable, not to ask questions, and do as they were told. I didn’t know this at first, of course, and even if I did I don’t know that it would have mattered. He asked my permission before he kissed me, you see, and no one had ever done that before.
Seventeen is an astounding age. You’re not yet an adult, but you can’t imagine that there is anything out there you haven’t seen. You imagine that you already know all there is to know about love, and life, all based on make-out sessions in the back of your boyfriend’s car or the fights you get into with your mom – this must mean you know it all. At least, that was my seventeen.
I thought I had found the Perfect Man. How I could have known that, so young, I don’t know. I don’t know what it was that made me cling so tightly to him…my lack of any role models for a mature relationship? The fact that this was the first time I had felt stirrings of feelings for someone and they were reciprocated (or so I thought)? I still don’t really know. But he was tall, and strong, and confident, and he made me feel safe, at first. Being with him gave me validation, that I was attractive to a guy that I found attractive. And that meant almost more to me than he did.
In February of 1994, I had an unpleasant surprise. Apparently, on one of his visits home without me, PK had knocked up a girl named Bitchass. This was so surprising to me, so perfectly unimaginable that I couldn’t understand what it meant. The only thing I could grasp was that he had told me he loved me, and now some other woman was carrying his baby, his first baby.
He loved me, but she was having his baby. He loved me, but she was having his baby.
He loved me.
She was having his baby.
I wanted to kill her. I wanted to kill him. Then I just wanted to keep him, kill her, and take her baby. I was a little melodramatic back then.
I stayed away from him for weeks. Difficult, in a place like that. I would avoid him, practically running away if I saw him. You will see that this became my style for many of the conflicts in my life…avoidance. If you’re as smart as I know you are, you will learn to confront life head on, face first, without being afraid of getting beat up a little.
At any rate, eventually I started to feel lonely again. Throughout most of my adult life, it seems, I have felt this way, even when surrounded by friends and family that love me. Sometimes it leads me down paths that would probably have been better left untraveled. Sometimes I think that I would have been better off had I slunk home with my tail between my legs, admitting that I couldn’t make it on my own, that I didn’t know everything, and left PK to his parents, and his small town and his pregnant ex-girlfriend.
My life would be a hell of a lot different, but better?
I don’t know. Taking into consideration that had I not gone down that road, even if it wasn’t the best idea at the time, I’d not be writing this to you, because you would not be here. One other thing to always remember, my son: things happen for a reason, if not always the reason you think. Everything that happens to you is what makes you who you are right now, this moment, this instant, thisheartbeat.. Even now, I still say that given the choice, I would still go through it all again. As many times as necessary if it meant ending up with you in the end. Letting go of your past, forgiving yourself your mistakes, is important – but don’t ever, ever forget. Or regret.
I debated with myself whether I should write this next part down. For many reasons, including the part about forgiving yourself in the previous paragraph, I have decided to share with you a decision I made that is one you may or may not agree with, when you are old enough to have an opinion about this. It is important for you to understand that in my life I have made many decisions that were difficult for me at the time, that were perhaps mistakes. Rarely have I made decisions and then second-guessed myself afterwards…but this next secret I will share is one of them.
Next: chapter three.