We moved from the 2 bedroom house behind my granny in south-central LA, to a 3 bedroom apartment on the west side of LA on the outskirts of Beverly Hills. It was another major change. I went from a place where I didn’t have many friends to a place where everyone smiled and said hello. My school was in walking distance. The first day I thought my mom was going to drive us to school but she didn’t she told us to pay attention to what she did and where she turned because she wasn’t going to come pick us up and she expected us to be home within 30 minutes of school letting out.
My older sister, older brother and I were afraid that we would get lost so we drew maps of the neighborhood as we walked to school with my mom. As the days went on we would take different turns just to see what was where and to add to our maps. We marked streets, the homes of our new friends, the candy stores, and streets with hills that we could ride our bikes down, big trees, parks, libraries, and strange looking buildings. By the time we finished making our maps the first pages were torn or lost.
My days at Shenandoah Elementary were fun. I was still very shy but I had a few friends. No one messed with me and I did well in my class. I was the type of student who wanted to get all the answers right. I raised my hand to answer every question and I cried if I didn’t get the answer correct. I was in the third grade. Only seven years old and I had a secret. Like all kids I wanted to share my secret so I told a girl that I considered my best friend. This was the beginning of the discrimination. I told her I had a big secret and that I would tell her if she promised to keep it between us. I told her and she stepped back and said to me “Your gay and your gonna die. My uncle has that and my mom said hes gay and deserves it.”
“Gay? Whats that mean?”
She just ran off and I never talked to her again. I didn’t want to tell anyone that I told my secret so I kept this conversation to myself. I think that was the day I began to keep everything to myself I didn’t want anyone else rejecting me. I tried hard to fit in. I didn’t have an opinion and anytime any one asked me to make a choice my answer was either I don’t know, I don’t mind, or it don’t matter. I didn’t want to make any wrong choices and give anyone reason not to like me. It became my major goal in life to make others like me. I was always polite I always smiled and I never tried to stand out. I didn’t want anyone to notice me because I thought they would somehow discover that I had a secret.
I was in the 4th grade and I’m not sure why but my mom had to tell my teacher about my illness. Ms. Magana is one of the nicest teachers I ever had. Im not sure if she was so nice to me because I was HIV positive or if she was just that way by nature but I felt like she smiled just a little brighter when she looked at me. She was the first teacher who didn’t question my intelligence. I always felt smarter than the other kids in the class because in New York they teach you at a faster pace than in California. I knew how to multiply and divide in the first grade. Ms. Magana let me do work from the 5th grade books and she also let me help her grade papers. I was helping her make copies one day and I got a paper cut. She asked me if I could clean it and bandage it myself or if I needed her to help me. She didn’t want to send me to the nurse because she understood the stigma and rejection that may have followed. I told her I could do it myself. I washed my hands dried them and tried to put the band-aid on. She saw me trying and came over took the band-aid and put it on my cut. She explained to me the my blood had germs in it just like everyone else’s and any time anyone got a cut we should always make sure to protect ourselves from their blood. She explained to me that she was not afraid to help me clean and cover my cut because she could do it without touching my blood. She put the band-aid on me and said “see all don’t and I have nothing to worry about. She got a bottle of cleaning solution from the cabinet sprayed the table I was sitting at and wiped it down with a paper towel. That made me like her even more because now I felt like I had a friend.
…. he came and got me from my bed every night. I would cry when my mom left for work begging her to take me with her. I clung to her on weekends. It got to a point that she couldn’t leave me at home without me and if she did I would cry until she came back or I fell asleep. She would have to sneak out the house and not let me see her go. I never told her why I was afraid to stay at home without her.
As my mom’s relationship with Willy went on she became pregnant by him. The baby was conceived around the time that a strange illness was affecting new born babies. I’m not sure exactly what happened leading up to my mom being tested for HIV but she was and with that test she found out that she had AIDS. The baby she was carrying was most likely going to be born ill. Raymond Antony Miller was born prematurely in September of 1990. He was so small he could fit in the palm of my mother’s hand. He stayed in the hospital for a long time. I remember my mom saying that she asked God to just let him come home long enough to wear all his clothes and after 3 month he was able to come home. On the morning of valentines in the year 1991 I remember waking up and seeing red lights flashing outside of the window. It was an ambulance. I didn’t know that when I opened the door and walked out I would see a bunch of strangers in the apartment. I quickly turned and closed the door to the bed room and got under the covers I didn’t know it at the time but they were in the house trying to resuscitate my 5 month old baby brother. Raymond died that day. His little lungs gave out while he was asleep. Somehow I don’t think I was really upset or sad because I didn’t really understand. When I look back now I think I would have had ill feeling towards him because of what his father did to me.
Shortly after the death of the baby my mom was told by a nurse that if she wanted to survive with AIDS the best thing for her to do would be to move back to California. She pack up the things that we were able to carry including the goldfish my siblings and I got while trick-r-treating and she bought 5 grey hound bus tickets. I don’t remember much about the trip across the USA but I do remember getting off the bus in Los Angeles and meeting my grandma she was so happy to see us she took turns hugging and kissing all of us over and over again. Now that I think about it I know that took love because we had just spent 3 days on a bus and there were no shower breaks.
Even thou I was born in Los Angeles I felt like I was in a very different world. It was warmer and it felt less crowded. I was in aww at the grass that lined the sidewalks and to openness of the streets. My older sister and brother and I were bused to school. In New York our school was a short walk away. Living with my grandma was fun in the beginning
I sit here at the foot of my mother’s bed wondering what steps I could have taken to avoid the current situation I find myself in, jobless homeless broke and loveless. I guess it’s mostly due to the fact that I have spent my entire life waiting to die.
At the age of seven my sister informed me that I was blessed with a curse. How I came in contact with that curse remains a mystery to me. I was born in Los Angeles California my mom was 21 and my father, also a mystery to me. I know where he is and who he is but that’s about all I know about him. I can’t remember how old I was when he convinced my mom to pack up and move to New York but I do remember her talking about how she missed her family and home. I was so young that I didn’t know anything about California or how we got to New York. All I know was that the crowded streets and tall brick buildings were home to me. I was use to the cold winters and I had forgotten the sunshine. I looked forward to the mornings when my mom would dress me and my siblings in so many layers of clothes that we couldn’t bend our arms or legs. We would walk the best we could two blocks up and one block over to our school. Nothing like the schools in California named after the great presidents and historical icons. I remember the schools simply being called two letters followed by a number. My sister, older brother and I attended P.S.118 I was only there for pre k, kinder, and first grade.
With all the sweet memories I also remember a few bad things. We were walking to school one morning and I bent down and picked up a broken spoon. It was dirty and black. My older brother hit my hand and made me drop it he said to me “Don’t touch that. Those crazy people use that to take their medicine.”
I asked him “Is that why there are always needles on the ground?”
I never thought in a million years that my father was one of those crazy people but as I said before he was a mystery to me. Now that I’m an adult my mom tells me bits and pieces about him. He asked her to move with him to New York because he had an opportunity to work a better job and take better care of all of us. He told her he was under a lot of stress and that this move would ease a lot of it but she couldn’t tell her family because they would try to stop her. He also told her that they were fighting so much because of stress and after the move he wouldn’t be so stressed and he wouldn’t hit her any more. The truth was that there was no job, just drugs and a chance for him to get involved with selling. She agreed to the move but his promises of being able to care for all of us quickly went out the window. He was never allowed to get involved with dealing the way he wanted to because of the fact that he was an addict. He began to fight and argue with my mom about the fact that there wasn’t enough money coming into the house so he told her to go get a job and he would stay at home with the kids. This worked great up until he got his hands on some money. Then he would be gone until the next day.
When he and my mom fought she would tell my siblings to climb up the fire escape to our neighbor’s apartment. She was a Hispanic woman named Arlene. Whenever we tapped on her window she would open it up and let us in then turn the music up way loud so we wouldn’t hear the sound of our home being destroyed or our mother’s screams. The whole time she would be yelling and saying what she would do. I only understood about ten words that she would say because of her broken English.