An American Childhood: Part One

People have told me before that I am good at telling stories. This has been the case regarding telling stories in person. I am still developing the ability of writing and communicating through words on a piece of paper or screen. I tend to pack my writing with so much emotion, at times, that it is sometimes hard to drain it of the emotion and read plainly what I am trying to express. Regardless, I consider myself a storyteller, so here is my story. This isn’t my whole story; I have decided to keep my toddler years to myself. This is my story in the United States, uncensored and plain; this is the story of my time in America.

I was brought to the United States at the age of ten. Looking back at that time, I don’t think I have ever fully understood why we left Puerto Rico. I know it was for more than one reason: my mom’s family lived here, it was less dangerous to live in the U.S., better schools, something like that. But I don’t think I was ever told the whole picture. Maybe that was for the best. Maybe I don’t need to know why we left Puerto Rico in the year 2000, when we moved to the tiny town of Stoneville in Rockingham County, North Carolina.

Life in Stoneville was slow and boring. There was maybe one or two stoplights in town, a tiny library, a tiny locally owned bank, and maybe two or three family-owned stores; at least, that how Stoneville was back then. Maybe they now have a Wal-Mart or a Target. Probably not.

Why did we move to Stoneville? We had family there and moving to a place where you already have people you know is easier for transition. It makes the moving a little less rough and automatically guarantees a community once you arrive. We lived for a few months in my uncle’s trailer home alongside his family. It was a couple of crazy months, but somehow we made it work.

To say that “we made it work” means that we didn’t kill each other. But a bunch of people living under one roof was pretty horrible. My cousin Edy and I, my uncle’s oldest son, had the very worst relationship: always competing, always out-performing, always hurting each other. I easily remember the many times they had to sit us down to be disciplined after going after each other. I believe it was a way to pour out the frustration of so many people forced to live together for an extended period of time.

But we made it work. I was a ten-year-old in a new world and I didn’t like it. I hated Stoneville. I hate it how small it was. I hate it how people behaved. I hate it that I had to live in a home with two families. I hate it school. Oh right, there was school too.

Within a month of arriving in the U.S., I was enrolled for my first year of middle school. My parents believed that if we moved here right after the fifth grade, that I would enter the sixth grade before kids began making friends in middle school. Wrong. Kids had already made friends in elementary school. From the get-go, they knew I was new, weird, and foreign. Fantastic, this was going to be great. It was pretty terrible, in part because I was new and foreign, and had an accent when I talked. It was also terrible because people in the middle school are the worst and meanest individuals in the world. That definitely didn’t help.

I still have no clue how I communicated with my teachers those first two years in the U.S. I didn’t really speak English even though I could sort of read it. I attended English Second Language and some program for Migrant Education children where they accelerated my transition into the culture and the language. But I have little recollection of how complicated communication was. All I remember is that I wasn’t the worst. There was always another Hispanic kid who was worst than you, and that made you by-default a translator for that other kid–that sucked.

And yet, somehow I made really good grades. In the sixth grade, my first school year in America, I made As and Bs and got a “Most Outstanding Student’ award at the end of the year. Suck on that gringos. But it wasn’t an easy year. The worst of it all were the bus rides to and from school. No one told me that bus 114 from Western Rockingham Middle School to the outskirts of Stoneville was the bus for the worst people in the world. Who thought that mixing middle schooler with high schoolers in the sam bus was a great idea? I don’t know, but riding the bus was definitely the worst part of my first year in America. It was in the bus that someone first cursed me out (that a lot of people cursed me out). It was riding the bus that I saw pornography for the first time when I stupid high schooler pushed it against my face, and it was also there the first place where I saw sexual harassment. Calling what I saw “sexual harassment” is a nice way of putting it. I don’t want to go into full detail of the things I witnessed there. This isn’t the time to open that can of rotten worms. Let’s just leave it at the fact that the school bus experience is not one I recommend to anyone.

However, I will add that the fact my cousin Edy and I rode the same bus was awesome. It was riding the bus together that I began to appreciate Edy more and more. The highlight of my school bus experience came in the form of a punch. Yup, this idiot whose name I can’t remember, though it would be funny to make me evacuate a seat in the bus by punching my arm over and over again. My cousin saw him do it and came to my rescue. A week later we were in the principal’s office and but my cousin and I didn’t get in trouble. As for the other guy and his little friend? I don’t know what happened with their lives. I know I am a Christian and I try not to think like this, however, deep inside I hope that ass hole is still rotting in Stoneville. I think he was the first person I ever truly hated. I hated that fucking piece of shit of a man.

After my first school year in the U.S., my mom decided that it was time to put some distance between us and my uncle’s family, something that I agreed with, even though I had finally begun to like Edy. I say that my mom decided this because my dad didn’t live with us at the time. My dad was still back in Puerto Rico working full-time, while we transitioned to living in the U.S. My dad didn’t move to American until I was halfway through the seventh grade and even then he was working in Raleigh, two hours away, so he stayed at my other uncle’s house in Durham, NC, during the week.

We moved from a terrible and sketchy trailer park in Stoneville to a less terrible apartment complex in Reidsville, North Carolina, which was about twenty to thirty miles east of Stoneville, but in the same county. My two years in Reidsville, where I finished middle school, also sucked even though for different reasons. However, my time in Reidsville is better left for another post.

Peace.

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