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MCG, a Chicana feminist, for sure, teaches community college English

Monday, December 10, 2012


Coming of Age -- The High School Years

My mom called me that sometimes. It started somewhere around middle school.      
I knew about Delilah from the yellow hard-back book of Bible stories that my grandfather had given me. Even though the yellow book didn't say so, Delilah was a harlot who betrayed Samson after seducing him with her cunning beauty. I had learned that much like I learned other things, from listening to different versions of the same story, the way they were told, watching expressions on adults’ faces when they told them, and putting it all together in a way that made the most logical sense.
         Many of mom's male friends told me that I was pretty when I was little. What big brown eyes you have, what pretty skin, like a pretty little Indian girl. Once I turned eleven they just leered or pretended I didn't exist at all, which was just fine with me. I didn't understand the connection between those looks and my mom calling me Delilah. But I sensed there was one.
          Two of Mom's friends made me keep a secret. I was a good little secret keeper – nothing like Delilah at all.
                                                    *   *   *
         I am sitting as close as I can to the door. In his white, 70's model Datsun pick-up truck.
         He is driving with one hand, weaving down Apple Colony Road.
         His other hand is on my thigh, snatching at my skirt. He pushes it up; I push it down. I lean closer to the door, sitting now on one hip.
         He's drunk, just on his way home from the bar where he's been all afternoon. My mom is at his place, probably making dinner. I was on my way home from school, walking down Apple Colony Road when he stopped and told me to get in. This had never happened before.
         He leans the right side of his body across the seat and feels for my thigh. The truck swerves toward the shoulder.
         We had been staying at his place quite a lot. It was much nicer than our house. A tidy Victorian style farmhouse set in the middle of two or so lush, green acres of land, a large corner property.
         My hand is on the door handle. I try to get a glimpse at the speedometer.
         His hand finds my cotton underwear. He's pulling it to the side, fondling me. The white fence along the road rushes by.
         I lean back toward him, now sitting on his hand, an attempt to hold it in place. I grab at his wrist, pulling it away. I am eight or is it nine -- I don't know.
         The truck swerves to the left.  
         I can see the house.
         His hand is back on my thigh, fingers searching for the elastic pinching at my inner thigh. I clamp my legs together. He lets go.
         I pull my skirt down, smooth it over my lap.
         Both hands on the wheel, he turns the truck uneasily onto his property, the gravel crunches under the tires, and the truck lurches to a stop.
         Inside the house, I have no words for what just happened. My mom is in the kitchen. It all looks so wholesome -- the tidy house, the white metal kitchen cabinets, something simmering on the stove, only some days she goes to the bar too -- it's where they met.
         I hear him behind me greeting her, pushing the screen door open behind him, and I go to the front room and turn on the TV. It was one of the things that I had liked about his house -- besides the fact that it was so clean.
                                             *   *   *
         By fifteen I had another secret. I had given it up to a bleached blond, Billy Idol look alike.
         Mom was in the middle-room that had been transformed from a bedroom to her sewing room since we were all older and needed a bit of privacy. I shared the newly converted attic bedroom with my sister. We had to climb a ladder to get up and down, but once there we had a room away from everyone. My friends slept over only when my sister Zhanna stayed the night with her friends because then she wouldn't try to butt into our business. Mom was focused on some sewing project. I could hear the squeak of the foot pedal as she pressed down and the slamming sound of the sewing machine needle working its way in and out and in and out of the fabric. She had allowed my friend Sammie and her friend Sam the Billy Idol look alike to spend the night in my room. Maybe she thought that Sam was Sammie's boyfriend. Well he wasn't. And he wasn't mine either, but we had been making eyes at each other for a couple of weeks even though I knew that he wasn't really attracted to me, maybe just curious, so I let him get on top of me, but not for long because it hurt, and maybe I was changing my mind. Annoyed, he pushed me away and rolled closer to Sammie who was stoned and already asleep.
         Soon after, I began having a recurring dream. I was pregnant just like Rachel and Winnie two of my childhood friends. Pregnant and frantic because it was almost too late to get an abortion and no doctors performed abortions in Tuolumne County, and I didn't know who I could ask for a ride to Modesto. All I could see were the mountains that surround Tuolumne, and I was stranded, stuck in the middle of the valley, floating there but unable to rise up and see over the top – to see what was on the other side.
         I'd wake from these dreams in a panic or rouse myself enough to know it was a dream, a dream that I had to force my way out of. I wasn't going to wind up like Rachel, or Winnie, or Katie the cheerleader at my high school, a junior who hid her entire pregnancy because she didn't show. She cheered on the squad in her short pleated skirt and black vest with orange trim into her last trimester. The baby was born with bruises on its face born after Katie was taken to the hospital with inexplicable stomach pains. The next thing her parents knew, she was birthing a baby. And she was from a good family. No one ever called her Delilah.
         I had to get on the pill quick. I had still only had sex that one time, but I knew I couldn't stop it, to go back, back to pretending there was such a thing as childhood innocence, a time when others took what they wanted from me, to now being able to choose with whom I wanted to share it. My dreams were trying to tell me something and the reality was all around me – a rash of teen moms in Tuolumne, a couple were my friends, walking around town pushing strollers and wearing half-tops.
         Amelie's mom took me to Sonora to the clinic where I had to speak with a nurse practitioner, get a pelvic exam, and learn about different methods of birth control: condoms, the pill, the IUD. And they made me talk about my family life. I lived with my mother, sister, brother, and step-dad, and no, I didn't know my real father. Finally, they gave me a wheel of pills that would prevent my worst fear: an unwanted pregnancy and what I imagined would be a life of doom stuck in Tuolumne forever, keeping secrets that weren't really secrets at all.


  1. Thanks for sharing this powerful piece Michelle

  2. Wow, really amazing. I'm so glad you wrote this.