Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Multimedia Fallout

Things I'd forgotten, that my multimedia piece stirred up in me, my mother, or my sister:

-Most of the neighbors who were terrorizing my family during my youth are dead now. Some of them were killed even then—car accidents, fights, knifings.

-My sister ran into the surviving one years later. Billy was delighted to see her. He'd seen screaming all night in the yard and fighting not as a bad thing that hurt others, but as good fun.

-A different neighbor had been with my mother and sister when they were jumped near the ball park, and that neighbor just split when the others attacked. She had run home and hid. She didn't call the police. She just wasn't equipped for this kind of urban nightmare. My mother had to call the police from someone else's phone.

-There was another time when my sister went ballistic over all the bottles that the trashy neighbors had thrown into our front yard. She went out into the yard and threw a Jack Daniels bottle back into their yard, yelled "Keep your trash in your own yard" and turned around to come back into the house. But she'd hit Billy in the head with the bottle and cut him. This resulted in a fight, and in the process of fighting, Billy ripped (not on purpose, I think) her shirt off. He knew this was trouble and started yelling "Patty, come out here and get this girl off of me."

Or at least that's what my sister says. But she forgets that I was there. I watched the whole thing. She was fed up with them terrorizing us. She picked up a baseball bat, smashed out the glass in our front screen door in anger (um, that is our property, duh, why'd you do that?) and then went after Billy. She threw the bottle AT HIS HEAD on purpose, and seems to have been stunned that it actually hit him. Maybe she thought it was an accident.

But I was there. And I vividly remember it. It was no accident, just a surprise. The police came and took my sister downtown, where she reported that they howled with laughter that this 17-year-old girl had hit Billy H****** with a bottle. They let her out immediately. My mother was pissed. She'd thought the police would be sterner, maybe teach my sister a lesson. Instead, she got a heroes welcome.

-The neighbors' ultimate insult for us? "The Dictionary People." Yeah, that's us, the friggin' geniuses. Sis says: "I can remember Patty making fun of me saying "where'd you learn to talk like that, in school" because I was actually presenting an argument and making points instead of exchanging f*ck you, no, f*ck you."

And we all had the same reaction to the audio recording. Took us right back, in an instant. We knew the voices so well. After all, we heard them screaming outside in the night for more than a decade. I felt a twang of fear, then remembered: They're all dead. You don't have to shrink up and quietly turn near-invisible as you'd learned to do back then. They aren't here. Anyway, they taught me skills that have enabled me to move among cultures quietly, to hover above the fray and avoid dipping into it. Currently, more a hindrance than a skill, but sometimes quite useful.

Then there was this: "Marie, do you remember the time you broke your arm at the playground and your father still left and went to the turkey shoot? We had to get a neighbor to drive you to the hospital."

Oh yeah. But one can o' worms at a time, please...


Steve Buccellato said...


Marie said...

I come by it honest.

Anonymous said...

And, when your sister ran into the bully Billy years later, worried that he still hated her and held a grudge, didn't he say, hugely amused and pleased, "Yeah, you whupped my ass!"

I'm reminded that my brother's wife told me that when she first met my brother, she thought, "Oh, this man is so normal and well-adjusted, he must come from a normal, well-adjusted family." It wasn't long until she learned otherwisel...

--Marie's auntie pville

Susan D-L said...

I've had some weird/loud/annoying neighbors over the years but that's a bloody nightmare, what you all went through.

About ten years ago we had a woman and her adult son living in the rental across the way. She had been a nurse in Vietnam and was pretty unhinged. Her son was there as her caretaker, but he was woefully unequipped to the task. She was constantly screaming at him.

One night the screaming started up and was soon followed by the sound of things breaking and glass smashing. ANother neighbor must have called the cops because they showed up about five minutes later and approached the house with guns drawn. It was very freaky, because in all other respects ours is a very quiet street.

They talked her down and things were quiet the rest of the night. The next morning, another son showed up and came around the street to apologize, and to tell everybody that she was going into assisted care. They'd hoped she could live on her own but she wouldn't stay on her meds.

We felt bad for her, but also very relieved she was going somewhere else.

Marie said...

On Avenue B, I used to have this neighbor who would stand on the street and yell at the top of his lungs about living in America. It's said he was an opera singer in Eastern Europe in a past life, though who knows.

Him yelling didn't phase me (for some reason), but it would annoy the hell out of my houseguests.

But not enough to stop them from coming back. :)

Marie said...

Auntie Pville, like Uncle R, I "pass." I look so normal...people are often surprised. I'm quite sure that some people suspect me of being a liar who just makes stuff up about my past.

Eve said...

Thanks for sharing this, Marie. I had no idea you had such a childhood and filled with so much violence. You're even more of a miracle considering your past trials.

Marie Javins said...

Thank you, Eve. It's very kind of you to say that.