"You screamed at the make-believe; screamed at the sky... And you finally found all your courage to let it all go."

"How did you survive that?"

I didn't.  

I only lived through it.  

The thing that people who have never "gone through it" don't understand is that in the middle of it all - while it's happening year after year - you are not often of the mind to even consider survival.  You just want it to stop.  When your parent is going batshit whacko on you with the buckle end of the belt, you're not thinking "Golly Gee Wilikers, now how do I deal with this?"  You're thinking things like, "Ow!" and "I hope she doesn't hit me in the eye." and "Did my tooth just get knocked out?" Or "Fuck! That hurt!" (And yes, I thought "Fuck!" at the age of eight.)

Surviving comes later.  As an adult.  Surviving comes in (re)learning how to live like a normal human being.  How to fuck something up and not cringe and flinch because you'll no longer be beaten within an inch of your life for it.  Surviving comes much later in a million different ways you never expected.  In discovering what it feels like to be loved in return.  In learning the joy of being wanted.  In belonging for the first time - EVER.  In waking up unbattered and not having to worry about how to hide it from Mrs. Gulledge.

No Love

I don't love you, anymore. I am not sure why I ever did. I carried the torch - heartbroken, smashed, destroyed - for a decade. Pining. And then you appeared after all this time. My heart skipped a beat. I remembered. Oh the glory days... New Orleans, where you beat me so bad I had to quit work. California, where you threw the TV on top of me and knocked me down the stairs. Where you put me in a coma and then tried to drag my unconscious body out of the hospital. All the time that you refused to work because you would have to stop using in order to get a job. The relationships you destroyed. The bones you broke. The heart that no longer beats.

Suddenly from this side of the looking glass, things look quite different. I never realized how strongly heroin affects your eyesight. I never knew cocaine had such a long-term effect on the perception of an otherwise brilliant individual.

Aching so hard to be loved, the writer in me spun a tale far beyond any reality. "Oh no, when he choked me 'til I passed out and I am wearing turtlenecks in July in California, he was just having a spell. It'll be okay."

Please Pass the Acid (or: An Unbalanced Balancing Act?)

More than a decade has passed since those days on the river, with the smell of desperate chance, chickory and ganga in the air. (Jackson Square at its finest.) Though we were fearful and homeless, in those days we still had hope.  The world was smeared out before us for our bleary bidding.  Our cares were minimal.  Our needs, basic at best.  Our greatest concerns were who was holding what that night and what wig to wear with those shoes.  We were tactless and tacky and we wore our own inane - if not insane - brand of five-and-dime fabulosity on our sleeves with pride.

We were The Young Ones.  We were the Lost Boys (and gurrls) of the Big Easy:  Livin' it hard, burnin' it up, and tearin' it down.  What ever it was.  Our stage was The Streets.  Our cast, a cacophony of Gutter Punks and Drag Queens; High Rollers and Hookers; Poets, Potheads, Vampires, and Waitresses; Runaways and Royalty.  We were addicted to the gutted and glittered glamour that was the tourist's Bourbon Street.  We were addicted to the rough trade in the back rooms of Rampart.  We were addicted to everything in between, never realizing it was all one and the same.

This was my normal.

Insanity runs in my family. Not the locked-in-a-padded cell with Thorazine insane (though some would, no doubt, debate that would help), but more of the barking mad variety. When I was young I was a bit of a wild child, and therefore not often allowed to visit my friends homes, so I never realized that all mothers were not like mine. I did not know that not all mothers smoked and drank and danced around the house wailing to Janis Joplin at the top of their lungs until they just fell down and went to sleep in the foyer. I thought that was how things were done. Mimi (as my mother called herself - she was too young to be a mother and wanted no reminders of it) would often take her "cigarettes" and guitar and her black labeled bottle and climb up onto the roof at night after Trey and I had gone to bed and sing sad songs to the moon about lost loves at Scarborough Faire and dreaming of a world in peace... It became our lullaby as we laid there in the dark. It was normal. But the times, as they say, they were a'changing.