Day 1

May 22, 2002
Today I set out from Melvin Village and on my journey into the South. I didnít get far, got stopped up in Manchester with a trip to the bank, seeing my two roommates from this past semester, getting things settled before I took off.
You can expect things to happen and make mental predictions in your head, but when they actually happen, they can put you in shock. My mother told me last night that unless my father has a dramatic change in the next few weeks, sheís going to leave after my sisterís graduation.
Shock.
There really isnít anything else to explain it. Sure, Iíd seen the behavior. My parents not talking directly to one another, deliberately staying in different rooms, my father getting more stressed and easily angered, my mother more critical. Last night my father kept getting continually pissy and taking it out on me, so I asked him what was up.
He said, ìYour mother and I arenít doing too well right now.î
I said, ìObviously.î
He looked at me, brow furrowed, his anger playing on the surface. ìHow do you know? Your mother talk to you?î
ìNo. Iím not stupid.î Then I walked downstairs. Staying away from him when heís like that is easier than dealing directly with him. Let him stew, then go to sleep. He kept after me though, getting nastier the way heíd done before Iíd started to change everything.
I told him, ìEither you knock it off, or Iím leaving tonight.î
An engine sounded in the driveway. My mother had gotten home. Dad looked at me. ìI have a headache, Iím going to bed.î
The tension in my shoulders eased a little bit. No more fighting tonight at least. My mother came in. ìWhatís going on?î I asked.
ìHang on, I have to use the bathroom,î she said.
When she came back out, we sat down and talked and she told me what I said before. She canít take how selfish he acts, the things he does to make everything the way he wants it, how unsupportive he was for her, and me and my sister.
Then she said, ìI feel bad that I didnít do this sooner. The way I grew up, without a father around, I didnít want my kids to grow up that way. Now I realize that he hasnít been much of a dad for you, and I wish he could have. He has problems, and heís made choices, and heís had twenty two years, and heís wasted them.î
I couldnít stop the tears. I donít cry easily.
ìDonít be sad,î she said. ìPlease donít be sad.î
I had to struggle to get the words out. ìIím not sad. Iíve been waiting for over a year for you to say that, since I was a little kid for you to say those words.î
I left the next morning, this morning. My sister hates my mom right now, calling her ìThe Bitch.î Aubrey doesnít know any better, sheís wrapped up with my father and thinks that Mom is hurting him, but she isnít. Dad is hurting himself, and itís all we can do to get him to see. Iím afraid now that heís going to quicken the pace of his self-destruction and heíll never get the chance to see.

The drive to Manchester is a familiar boring route. I did happen to find Vanilla Coke (if youíve been around me for the past couple of days, then you know that Iíve been looking since it came out last Wednesday). I love the stuff now, way better than Cherry Coke. Any of the Southern readers will agree with the importance placed on new Coke flavors. The sole Yankee who would agree with me would be Tom, who has graciously provided me a place to sleep for the night (a mattress, much better than the floor!). Because of the tension at my parentsí place, I left a couple days earlier than Iíd planned, so now Iím planning and traveling at the same time. Daunting, but fun.
Someone once told me that finding a good friend is easier than finding a good roommate, but in the past few weeks, Iíve found both in Paige and Lora. I had dinner with them tonight, though in the past week weíve been regulars at the Red Arrow, we went to Blakeís because of the relatively early hour. The Red Arrow is only meant for late-night jaunts. On the way, Paige told a story about what sheíd seen earlier.
Across the street from the schoolís lower campus entrance there used to be a blue house/apartment building. The school had purchased the house when it came up for sale earlier in the year, but because the building was so far below code, it was easier for them to tear the place down rather than fix it up to use for student housing. Theyíd started the process early this week in the demolition. Earlier today, Paige had come across a neat little scene: the half-torn down house with three of our monks standing in front of it, hands in their habit pockets. ìI wish I had a camera,î Paige said. Then she continued, in typical Paige-fashion, ìI mean, I have I camera, but I wish I had one on me then.î
ìI know what you meant,î I said.
ìJust making sure,î she said.
Paige does a lot of that. It helps, because thereís a lot less miscommunication and a lot more fun. Lora always joins in and with the three of us; itís a consistent barrage of one-liners. The litmus test lately for any possible men in our lives is the guyís ability to keep up with us and have fun. Paigeís last date, Jay, had been a perfectly nice boy, but rather boring and overwhelmed when he and Paige went with me and Lora over to the Red Arrow. Cross that boy off the list. Too boring.
Paige also tends to go off on a lot of tangents, which keeps our minds fairly alert. Recently, in a conversation about children and sex, Paige announced, ìNow isnít a good time for a baby or an STD.î
To which I replied, ìIs it ever a good time for an STD?î
So many openings, so little time.
At Blakeís we waited forever for our food (and Lora had class at 6:30) and ended up talking about where Iíd live in the coming months.
ìYouíll be homeless,î Paige said. ìA bum.î
ìIíll live in a van down by the river,î I said.
Lora and Paige started giggling. I reconsidered. ìExcept, Iíd have to buy a van. Thatíd be more expensive than Iíd intended for being a bum.î Scratch that plan.

Iíd made plans earlier this week to get together with Marissa tonight, and with Owen being taken care of by my sister, I could spend the night there. However, Marissa seems to be among the missing, both on AIM and when I called her house a couple of times. Iíd talked with Connie about my parents and she offered a futon at her house, but they had to get up early. Same with Levesqueís house in Salem. I couldíve stayed with Paige and Lora but the hard floor on my already sore back wouldnít lead to any good rest. Then Tom logged onto AIM, surprising me. Tom usually isnít out of work till eleven, eleven-thirty, and it was only nine.
ìYou wonít believe what happened,î he said.
Actually, I probably would. Tomís job has been dangerous to his health for the past year heís worked as a residential instructor. Too many times heís ended up beaten and in the hospital from a restraint, never his fault. ìWhat happened?î I asked.
ìI was playing soccer and I got my foot stuck on the uneven ground and fell flat on my face. I have a sprained ankle.î
I should also mention that Tom isnít the most graceful of people, but he has one of the most graceful hearts I know. He and Angie (his fiancÈe) offered me a mattress in the extra room at their place, and Tom went out to the Red Arrow with me. I had to leave a tired, sick Paige at the yearbook office, desperately trying to finish up the yearbook by tomorrowís one pm deadline. I told Tom and he suggested that we bring Paige a grilled cheese and root beer to go. Good man, Tom.

Graduation

I graduated yesterday afternoon.

I woke up yesterday morning and could hear the water splashing under car tires on the road. Rain. I looked out the window.

Snow.

Stupid New England.

My roommates woke up as did Brendan upstairs. Brendan went back under the covers. “I’m going back to bed until the world rights itself,” he said. Good for him.

Father Jonathan said at graduation that he and his fellow monks should have been more specific in their prayer for no rain. It didn’t rain.

Damn snow.

I don’t feel any different. I have a very expensive piece of paper on my desk, though. $100,000 later and I have a college degree. Tomorrow is getting ready, Tuesday I have a job interview with child protective services of NH, Wednesday I am planning on leaving.

And imagine, the psychologist said I am all okay now. :o)

The idea

I am telling my story. Think about it. Everything I went through, for some reason, really took place in the South, at least the worst of it all. Key West, Georgia, Alabama, those are the places where I fought my worst physical wars. I’m okay now. I have control, I have my self. So I am going back, like an antebellum. I am the Carpetbagger. I am a yankee going back down to the South to see where the War took place and what it looks like now.

Along the way I will see friends I haven’t seen since I was little, or friends that were with my during the most pivotal battles of my life. I’ll see places where I spent my childhood from the view of an adult. I’ll stop in New York, where I was born. I’ll stop in Baltimore, where my last suicidal ideation took place. I’ll stop in Virginia at David’s. David who saw me in the middle of my battle, who couldn’t bear to see me losing, and became someone else for awhile, but is a good friend now. David who has become a student of conservation biology. I will take a photo series of him doing his fieldwork, out in the marsh in the amazing early morning light, all geared up in his field outfit. Then I’ll travel an hour south and visit my friend Sara, whom I’ve never met in person. I’ll meet and photograph her amazingly quirky family in all of its craziness, Sara and her dancing, and her scary boyfriend Dane. Sara has heard all of my struggles, and despite being far away, has been there as a true friend. Then I’ll cotinue South, hitting Georgia, where most things took place. I’ll see Leanne, who has become and EMT and I’ll be a third ride on her bus (ambulance), documenting that. I’ll visit Chris who has become a cabinetmaker, loving every moment of this trade with his father. I’ll photograph that. I’ll go to fields that I saw when I was little that reminded me of battlefields. I’ll go to real battlefields, both those from the civil war and those from my childhood: the place and neighborhood where we lived in Georgia, the elementary school, the middle school, the high school. I’ll find old tornado pictures from when the tornado hit. From Georgia I’ll fan out down to Key West, where I spent the tenth year of my life. The canal, the old house, the elementary school and the playground of my first and only fight in a schoolyard. If I can find people I know, I will photograph them. I will see the Sunset Festival at Mallory Square as an adult. (legal, mind you). I’ll go back to Georgia, then hit Alabama, visit two friends who have stood beside me, and been like aunts to me, Adrian and Anne Kate. I will photograph Adrian’s family, Anne Kate and her cats, the couch where I collapsed after my last and hardest battle. Then back to Georgia, back up the coast, taking Route 1 and seeing all the things I missed as a kid, because my parents would never stop.

Then I’ll be back in New Hampshire. I’ll put together my story, the present interlaced with the past, so I can understand what has happened and what I grew into. Yeah, I know. Profound. We’ll see. I’ll develop the pictures, the studies and documentaries, random artistic photos, the ones that help tell my story. Then I’ll put them together, the book and the photos. That will be Carpetbagger.