Thirty-Seven Dollars

bankThe day the earth fell out from under me was the Wednesday after my junior year in high school ended. I was ironing a pair of pink pants (it was, after all, the 80s) when my mother came up to me with that serious-with-an-undertone-of-cruel-glee expression of hers and told me that she and my stepfather had bought me a one-way plane ticket back to San Francisco and that I was leaving on Saturday.

“No, I’m not,” I told her.

“Yes, you are,” she responded.

I screamed (‘You don’t care if I live on the street!’) and so did they (‘No, we don’t!’). I cried harder than I ever had before or possibly since, brought to my knees by the anguish of the belief that I was unwanted, a mistake, without purpose or value. I remember curling up on the front lawn, sobbing and rocking back and forth, overcome by a terrible sense of helplessness.

In the end, I took my ceramic Mexican piggy bank over to the house of the guy I was carrying on with at the time, who incidentally was a ‘family friend’ ten years older than I. I took it out on his roof and shattered it with a hammer and counted out thirty-seven dollars in change. There on the tarpaper roof, I sat with  the shattered shards of my pig and the river of coins, toasted warm by the indifferent San Diego sunshine, and I never went home again.