Shiloh

Shortly after returning home to Georgia, the four of us- Mom, Dad, Lucas, and Myself settled into a trailer home in Peach Tree City, Georgia. Peach Tree City was and I believe still is a very economically diverse city. In some places there are homes that run in the millions of dollars, and in others there are Section 8 homes, and trailer parks. And kids can be incredibly cruel when it comes to knowing where everyone stands in the socioeconomic scope of things. I never really had any major issues with the rich kids, as I pretty much got along with everyone. But even though I never had any direct conflict with anyone from school, I heard the term “Trailer Trash” a lot. And I knew that that’s how many felt about people who came from where I came from. So it applied to me too. And It really hurt my feelings.

I did however have a lot of conflict with kids from the trailer park though. It was wild, some days were just as easy and fun as could be. Building jumps for our bikes, building forts, playing in the creek and catching critters. And other days, seemingly for no reason at all I’m being challenged and bullied by a kid who just yesterday was my friend. I think, looking back, a large majority of us came from really damaged homes and families. The instabilities we showed and projected on to one another were a direct reflection of the instabilities and brokenness going on in each of our homes. I get a very “ending of the movie The Sandlot” type of bittersweet nostalgia when I think back about these times. I wonder what happened to a lot of the kids I once called friends. Once called enemies. And called friends again.

I don’t know man. I don’t know if it’s just my experience in life, or if most kids have similar experiences as me. Like, is it normal for at one point on a weekend day- to be practicing your skills on the home made dirt jump at the end of the road- and then later that day be over at a group of older kids’ trailer and being forced into the “Fight or Fuck Room”? I’m guessing probably not. It was all very confusing to me. Like, why would one of the older kids in the Park come over, knock on our door and ask if I could come out to play and ride bikes, only to lure me into their trailer and force me to either fight a much older and larger kid who would easily beat the shit out of me, or watch the trailer park floozie blow one of the boys? Is this “playing”? Is this what “normal” was? I don’t know. But it made me afraid. It made me afraid to hang out and play with anyone. It made me disassociate even more. Like, if I just hopped into the space shuttle again, it would all be over soon. It was traumatic for me. And who could I tell? Would anyone even believe me? If I did tell, the bigger kids would surely kick my ass, I know this because they told me so. So I just bottled it up. Every single time it happened.

Now, I don’t know why, but the whole fucking trailer park seemed to be full of weirdos man, and not just the kids. A lot of the adults were creeps too. One of the more “Normal” kids I liked to play with and trade “Goosebumps” books with, his Dad was weird as shit. I cannot begin to tell you how many times I saw this man naked. It was bizarre. We would be over playing Nintendo in their front room, in the middle of a weekend day, and this man would come out and talk to us, or yell at my friend, or get something out of the kitchen butt ass naked. And one of the weirder things he would do is, sometimes we could hear his parents very loudly having sex and the dad would come out after and describe in pretty specific detail what he had just done sexually to their mother. It was fucking gross man. I always felt really bad for my friend and his little brother. They both got bullied really badly at school too. I wonder what ever happened to him.

Another group in the trailer park that were particularly sick, was this family at another end of the trailer park. A mother and father, and three boys- two were much older, like High School and Jr. High, and the youngest was about my age. I have no idea what could have possibly gone on in their family but, looking back I would venture to guess that there was a lot of drug use and sexual abuse going on. I remember one day, going down to the creek with a couple friends to catch critters, and as we made a bend at the trail we came across an opening into the woods where the two older of the three brothers were both leaning against a tree, while a girl not much older than us was on her knees in front of both of them at the same time. Shocked and afraid, my friends and I tried to turn around and hide. We knew if they saw us we could be in big trouble. “HEY!” One of them yelled. “Oh shit.” I am sure we all thought. The oldest of the two ran over and corralled us and cut us off on the path, forcing our trajectory back over to the girl and the other brother. Why were people like this? These two big bullies with a knack for pedophilia just couldn’t let us go about our business could they? No, they had to threaten to beat our asses if we told, or if we didn’t stay close by and watch while they finished what they were doing. It made me so scared and sad. Each and every time an incident like this occurred, it planted this deep deep shame inside of me. I felt so helpless and violated.

And this wasn’t the last I had heard of these three either, fucking sickos. There were numerous weird run ins with this trio. But I think the weirdest thing that I experienced with this family was a day when a group of us had gone over to knock on the youngest brother’s door. We were trying to assemble a football game, and we needed some players. Each one of our little friend’s group were all gathered in the middle of the street with our bikes and a football. We were a few guys short, so we would need to all go knock on some doors and round up some players. The “leader” of the group assigned a friend to “go get” so that we would have enough to play a game. And wouldn’t you guess it? I got assigned to go knock on the door of the brothers pedo.

“Come in!” a voice from the other side of the door responded to my third or fourth grade fist knocking on the door. So I did as requested. I mean, certainly they wouldn’t yell to come in, not knowing who was on the other side of the door if they were up to no good, would they? “Oh, hey, Stevie, you looking for ________?” I heard from a man sitting on a couch in the living room? “Yes.” I reply. “He’s back their in his room.” The man said, as he put his hand on top of a woman’s head who was sitting on her knees blowing him, and another man sitting on the end of the couch took a hit off of some kind of glass smoking pipe, who was also naked, and also getting blown by another woman who was knelt in front of him. Was this fucking real life? These four adults were all ass hole naked, smoking what I can only assume was meth with Porn on the TV while a child is walking right past them. They just yelled for me to come in like what they were doing was 100% normal. It 100% was not. More shame. More Violation. More fear. I got my friend as fast as I could and we boogied out of there to play football. Neither of us spoke of what just happened to the other. I think he knew it was shameful too. I hope he didn’t become as corrupted as his brothers did. But I am sure that he did. I’ve encountered a lot of sick people in my life. It makes me wonder how things would have turned out much different for me had I not. But there’s nothing I can do about that now.

And then there was the “Wrestling Coach” that lived on one of the end streets in the trailer park. Now this dude was fucking sick. We used to always play soccer in the street. The street had speed bumps sporadically throughout the community, and we would designate one side of the yellow perforated (split down the middle) speed bumps as a goal, and the game would only run one way. We operated the game kind of like “21” in basketball. If the goalie made a stop, you had to “take it back” and begin momentum back toward the speed bump since we only had one speed bump like every quarter mile. We made due with what little we had. Anyways, the speed bump we often utilized just so happened to be in front of the “wrestling coach’s” house. Everyone called this guy the wrestling coach because he always asked the kids in the neighborhood if they wanted to come over and learn how to wrestle. This was a grown man. Like in his 30’s or 40’s. We were all so naive still that we didn’t know what to make of this guy. Some of the kids even called him “coach” for short. I guess that was his approach. His guise or design to lure kids in. I didn’t know about any of this shit until later on, when I found myself getting a “lesson” from him. He seemed like a pretty normal guy. Not at all like the blatant other weirdos in the trailer park. He came off very polite and regular. One day I was having a hard time finding friends to come out an play and was kind of just riding my bike around by myself, when “Coach” called my name. “Hey, Stevie, did you have time for a quick lesson?” And he caught me completely unaware and unguarded. Without even thinking I was dropping my bike in front of his trailer deck, and walking into his front door. He shut the door behind me as I walked in, and locked the dead bolt. And immediately took his clothes off right in front of me. Now, he did leave his underwear on, but it was still weird. I remember telling him that I wasn’t comfortable doing the same but he ensured me that this was what all the great wrestlers did. And if I was going to do anything I wanted to be the best at it, so I took my t-shirt off, kicked my shoes off and began to take my pants off. And Literally, swear to God, the second my pants came off, the door kicked completely in, busting the dead bolt right through the wall and slamming off the counter behind it.

“No I don’t fucking think so Mother Fucker” yelled the voice of my older brother Josh. He had seen my bike out front of this guys trailer and knew I definitely should not have been inside this pervert’s house. “I, I, I, was just showing him some wrestling moves.” Stammered coach. “Nah you aint neeter, not with my little brother you fucking pervert, I’m about to let everyone know about you dog.” Josh tells the guy in his southern twang. And he grabbed me up in my underwear and scooped my clothes up off the floor and picked my bike up in the other hand and began walking me back toward our trailer. (For context here, Josh lived in a trailer with grandma and grandpa on Wagon Wheel Way, and Me, Mom, Dad, and Luke lived on Buffalo Rd. “Coach” Lived on Shiloh Drive which was visible from Grandma, Grandpa, and Josh’s trailer. ) He must have noticed my bike over there and came over to get me. Josh very well may have just saved me from a very traumatic experience. It could not have happened with any more impeccable timing. My middle school brother had just saved me from probably being raped. At first it kind of seemed like an over reaction, in my little mind. But a few days later, “Coach” had packed up and just moved out of the trailer park. No one saw or heard from him again. He was just gone. It’s crazy how one heroic act can have such a profound lasting effect, in ripples. I wonder how many of us trailer park kids were spared, simply because my brother was paying attention? Josh was always there for me.

One of the more difficult days for me in the trailer park did not involve any kind of sexual predators or weirdos, though. It was actually a rather normal and fun day for me, until it wasn’t.

My friends and I had been riding bikes, and playing at the park pretty much all day. I remember there was this big concrete slab, used for setting trailers up, and it was vacant. The slab had about 3 feet of drop off at the back end of it, as this was a lot that was on a hill back behind where the ass end of the trailer would be. And we used this as a bike jump. We would speed up to the end of the slab and pull up on our handle bars and see who could get the most air! It was fun. Sweaty, dirty, adventurous kids, having good clean fun. Out of no where I hear “Mom’s whistle”. She could use her fingers and press them into her mouth and whistle like nothing you ever heard. It was loud as shit. And the rule was, any time mom would whistle, it meant to come home. Usually the whistle occurred just as the street lights came on. But this was the middle of the day. Hmmmm. “Gotta go guys.” And then I hit one more sweet jump off the back of the slab, and made my way back to Buffalo Road. As I come up to our trailer I can see that Mom and Dad are arguing about something. And it was very heated. My little brother was inside watching TV, and as I made my way up to the house I parked my bike underneath the raised deck and boogied inside. My parents followed. Utter chaos ensued. Screaming, name calling, accusations, Mom threw a bowl at my dad and he ducked and it hit the cabinets and shattered. I gathered luke up and headed back for our bedroom and shut the door. The fighting continued until I heard something about Dad leaving. I hurried out the bedroom door and shut it behind me, just as he was walking out the front door. He was much taller and faster than I was, so it was very tough for me to keep up with him. Up the driveway, past the red and white Ford Grenada, turning left up Buffalo Road he went. And I followed. Pleading with him not to leave. Dad, don’t go. Please stop. Come back. I could feel in my little bones that something serious was going on and this might not be good. So I had to do my best to save the day here. But dad was not listening. “Go home Stevie.” He yelled back over his shoulder and continued his trek. All the way up Buffalo Road, making a left on to the main drag of the trailer park and toward the exit. I did my best to follow him. I huffed and puffed. And ran and walked. And cried. And plead. I begged. I couldn’t keep up and I could’t get him to stop. “Son, I told you to go home.” I wouldn’t listen. I was following him. This was NOT happening. Not today. On we walked. All the way to the front entrance of the trailer park, which is highway 54. Dad walked out to cross the traffic and stood in the median of the cross way traffic. Being so young I was afraid to do the same, so I stood watching and crying and pleading with him not to do this. Please don’t Dad. And he stuck his thumb out. Right there in the grass of the median of the highway. A pick up truck slows to a stop just past him, my dad sticks his head in the window, and a short talk takes place. ” I told you to go home, Stevie. I will be back son, I am not leaving you.” But he was. He jumped in the front seat of the truck. And they sped off.

I dropped onto my butt and sat there on the side of the highway and the main entrance to Shiloh Trailer Park, buried my face in my hands, and bawled my eyes out. I was in elementary school. Why is life like this?

Shortly after my mother pulled up in the Ford Grenada and put me in the car. I would again be spending some nights looking out the windows for Dad to return.

It wasn’t too terribly long this time though, maybe a week or so, until dad returned. He and Mom seemed to be really codependent and toxic with one another. But God did they love one another. That much I know. Even though they had they’re fights, and would split up from time to time, they always found their ways back together.

Fear of abandonment.

But perhaps the single most fucked up thing I witnessed during my days in the trailer park took place not long after dad returned home. Things had settled back down, and seemed to be going pretty well. Sure, there were times when I had to walk across the street and borrow water from the neighbors because ours was cut off. This was actually more common than you might think in these days. Everyone in the park struggled from time to time. There were times when a bunch of families would pitch in to pay power bills for others, and buy groceries. It was common. We didn’t all live here bcause we were high on the hog that’s for sure.

But anyways. One evening we were all at “The wall”, this white cinder block wall, about three blocks high that bent around the corner of intersecting roads and under a sign. Just hanging out and finishing up the evening playing. It was damn near dark out, and the street lights had come on, but I hadn’t heard the whistle. So I was in the clear for a little bit longer. Giant moths darted around the street lights, and one by one, each of us received our “signals” from our parents to come home. One parent would yell, another parent would bang on a large kettle pot, etc. Until It was just me and one other childhood friend of mine, sitting on the wall talking about life. Eventually, I believe we both just decided to call it a day, and head our respective ways. “Ok, man, see you tomorrow!” We exchange and off we headed. He in one direction, and me in my own. Living in the trailer park was an experience unlike anything else, we saw and heard all kinds of crazy shit back then. So it wasn’t really a shocker to me, when I saw this lady come running out of her trailer screaming her head off. Well, it wasn’t at first anyways.

Being so used to all the crazy shit we heard and seen on almost a daily basis, I wasn’t really all that worried when the lady in the white robe came running out of her trailer screaming, cordless phone in hand. Until I was able to make out what exactly she was actually screaming. It was garbled and hysterical, “He’s fucking killing himself, somebody help me!!” I pushed the pedals on my bike backwards to activate the brakes and see what the hell was going on. The lady kept running, 2,3,4, trailers down, and made a sharp cut through a yard and up a deck and into a front door. What the….. This was crazy. I guess she must have known who ever’s house she just busted in to. This was wild. “hmm”. I thought to myself, as I went to re begin my journey back home. Kicking myself up on to my seat with my left leg to get momentum going I steadied my bike to head home, only to be startled again, by a man coming out of the same trailer as the lady in the white robe. He looked drunk and wobbly. He was trying to say something to me and raised his hands out to me like some kind of fucking zombie. He shuffled and staggered toward me, and as the overhead street lights caught him I could see that he was absolutely gushing blood from both of his wrists and forearms. He made it about 5 more steps in my direction before he collapsed onto the black top road. Smashing his face into the pavement as he did so. Seconds later a group of people poured out of the trailer the lady ran into, about 5 of them came rushing toward me and the man. I inched up to kind of check on him. I had no idea what was actually taking place. “Get the fuck home Stevie, my son is killing himself and the ambulance is coming!” She screamed at me. Well now I knew. Holy shit. I pedaled faster and harder than I ever had in my life. I had just witnessed a suicide attempt.

I was in elementary school.

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