And everyone here, knows everyone here is thinking about
Somebody else
Well, it’s best if we all keep this under our heads
And I couldn’t tell, if anyone here was feeling the way I do
But I’m lonely now, and I don’t know how
To get it back to good

Back 2 Good – Matchbox 20

In a house full of aunties, 15-year-old Liz-Marie was the surrogate mother I didn’t know I wanted. Alone, in a house full of children and mother figures quick to tell me how everything I did and said was the wrong thing. She was the only one showing what was right. Showing…light.

My brother and I were that month’s newest additions to the house of unfortunates and undesirables. My brother even at 4 years old with his broad nose and broad smile was a charmer. Everyone immediately fell in love with him. A change of pace from the half-way house of 3 years ago where he was relentlessly bullied and I was held back from defending him. New environment. Different nuns. More white people. Who knows? He quickly made it home.

I was having a harder time adjusting. My mind kept rolling back to my parents. Why couldn’t Mom keep us? The people she worked for were rich, surely they can make a little space for us. I’m quiet. I’m helpful. I can teach their son in any subject. Why couldn’t I go there. And why didn’t my dad want me?

Liz-Marie showed me to what would become our room. Right now it was hers and she was in the process of clearing the bottom bunk which would become my bed. She asked me what sized underwear I wore. I shrugged my shoulders indicating I had absolutely no clue. My mother bought my underwear. Even though I lived by my dad, when she dropped money for groceries, between their fights, I would get my panties and vests for school.

Liz held up a white and pink one to my waist, then handed it to me. She took it back to check the tag then gave it back. She then handed me four more in a similar pattern in different colours. “Do you know how to wash them?” I did. She gave me a thumbs up in approval. She helped me pick out outfits from the communal closets and I spotted a teal t-shirt with the word “Cool” on it that I prayed would fit me. Then stormed in a boy with Liz-Marie’s face. David, he was the second of her three younger brothers who lived here with her. He was one year younger than me but already he dwarfed me. Just like Liz, he was incredibly thin, but it wasn’t from a lack of food but an abundance of physical activity. They both had jet black, pin-straight hair and matching sideburns. Liz’s hair flowed freely down her back, while his was trimmed in a bowl cut.

“D new boy iz your brudda?” I found my voice to respond in the affirmative. Before he could mouth his follow up question, Liz chased him out the room reminding him that the girls’ quarters were off limits to boys. Especially now that there was another big girl in the quarters besides Liz. Me, at 9 years old, I was considered a big girl. I was always the big girl. I had to cook for my brother and I. Clean up before my dad came home. I walked him to pre-school and would travel to school. On days where I didn’t get transportation money I would would wake up early, do all my chores then walk from Petit Valley to Belmont Girls’ R.C. and be on time to catch the free morning breakfast. At age 9, I took care of things.

Liz’s face beamed when she showed me around the small room. When she came to the radio, she grinned wide flashing her double riders. “What music do you listen to?” I shrugged my shoulders and answered, “I dunno, whatever on the radio.” She turned on the clock radio and fiddled with the dial, without looking at me she asked, “What station do you listen to?” I lost my voice again, shrugging my shoulders and shaking my head indicating my indecision. She flashed those riders again. “That’s ok. I listen to Hott 93.”

She slid the little knob back and forth until the music was clear. Then came his voice. The voice that now brings me calm when my world felt messy.

And she only sleeps when it’s raining
And she screams, and her voice is straining
And she says baby
It’s three a.m. I must be lonely
When she says baby
Well I can’t help but be scared of it all sometimes
And the rain’s gonna wash away I believe it

3 A.M. Matchbox 20

…St. Valentine, 2009…

Fergie began to sing from my pocket, muffled by my thighs and jeans fabric. All eyes swung to me. I pretended I didn’t notice. I sat in the middle seat of the taxi. Did they really expect me to be able to reach my phone? Fergie had stopped regaling the passengers about her humps as the taxi turned onto lower Charlotte Street.

The taxi came to a stop and I did a little shimmy to get my brick of a Motorola Rokr out of my back pocket to see the missed call.

“2 missed calls from Othello”

I called back and began to walk up Charlotte Street, absent-minded to the fact that South Quay would have been a quicker walk to the Movietowne taxi stop. Othello answered and by the tone of his voice and the silence of his background, I knew where this conversation was heading. He wasn’t on his way to meet me like he promised. His mom said no. He didn’t do all his Saturday chores. So no privileges. Sigh…that’s what you get for dating a 18-year-old. Stood up on Charlotte Street on Valentine’s Day.

I turned onto Independence Square and debated my options. It’s 7 at night on a Saturday. My friends are all out on dates and I really don’t want to go home. I can go drown my sorrows in whatever slasher movie that’s in theatres. Also, I need to dump Othello.

I crossed from KFC to the bank and approached Nicholas Tower. I slowed down and when I saw the commotion ahead. A group of men were talking and laughing loudly over what looked like a box. I approached slowly and debated if to make a U-turn. As I drew closer, I realised they all wore a dark navy uniform. All except one. A familiar face. Ozzy!

Despite being the shortest on the group, he stood out. He had everyone’s attention. He wore light blue shirt with black trousers. A huge contrast to the attire I’m familiar with on him. Gone were the blonde dreadlocks with the green and purple strands. In its place was a sharp skin fade with neat curls on top. No skateboard. No converse. No saggy pants with chains. Ozzy grew up!

As I approached the conversation stopped. Maybe it was my stride or the fact that I was dressed in all black approaching a group of security officers. Either way all eyes were on me.

“Happy belated Birthday Ozzy.” I greeted him with a smile. He smiled back probably impressed that I remembered his birthday was yesterday. Thanks to MSNchat, I did remember. I also sucked my teeth when I saw it because yesterday he was the shaggy rugrat who harassed the girls outside the library. The miscreant in the hoodie who carried a skateboard, but rarely skated. Who would talk big about his non-accomplishments and start fights with other guys at the library over girls. Who tried to get me fired from my vacation job two years ago around the same time I made employee of the month. The guy who I had an inexplicable crush on, knew this and still chose to sleep with my best friend. I hated that guy. That guy was Ozzy. A nickname he got likening his personality to that of rocker Ozzy Osbourne.

“Remind me, what’s your real name again.” I parted the crowd of men as I walked towards him. He told me. “Like the Russian dictator?” I clarified. “Yes, like the Russian dictator, it’s spelt slightly different, but my mom named me after him.”

This clean look suited him. His dimples stood out more and I noticed how white his teeth were. An incredible feat for a pack-a-day smoker. But his darkened lips against his caramel brown skin revealed the truth of his habits. “So what are you doing here?” He was probably surprised to see me not attached to a textbook or complaining about an assignment deadline. “I’m headed to Movietowne to watch a horror movie, wanna come?” He pulled his neck back in shock. “On Valentine’s Day? Why not a romantic comedy or something?” I rolled my eyes at the obvious stereotyping, “Because I enjoy horror movies. The adrenaline rush from the jump scares and trying to figure out who is the killer. Those things excite me. Romantic comedies are chick flicks and boring.” I shifted my weight to my left hip, simultaneously folding my arms. I felt his eyes on me. Honestly I felt all their eyes on me. I was a 21 year old girl in black skin tight jeans and a matching t-shirt out after dark talking about horror movies. And if these men knew Ozzy’s reputation, I’m either trouble or I’m about to be in trouble.

“Aren’t you into heavy metal? Wanna take in a scary movie with me?” I stereotyped him from what I remembered when we were 17. “Nah. I don’t like horrors. They give me nightmares. Maybe a regular comedy. I like to laugh.” The admission softened him. He smiled as he said it and those white teeth caught the streetlight.

A soft whimper came from the nearly forgotten box on the ground next to us. I noticed there were holes punctured sporadically around the box. Then, I saw a nose poke through the top. I stooped to see what creature beckoned for our attention in there. “Her name is Bob.” He introduced her unusual name for a female pet. “Why Bob?” I didn’t look at him. I was enamoured by the black and brown puppy who was so excited by my affections. She was unaffected by the fact that she was about to topple over the box with her wagging tail. “There is a rasta woman working with us and we call her ‘Bob’. She’s a bitch.” I don’t know why I laughed. Maybe I thought the correlation to be clever.

“So do you still live Morvant?” I closed the box and stood up. I took my default stance of putting my weight on my left hip and folding my arms under my breasts. He noticed them perk up. I noticed him noticing. “Why, want to come visit?” His arrogance knew no bounds. “No. I was thinking it would be a short trip for you to drop Bob home then meet me in Movietowne. We can take in a late movie.”

“Boss!” we were interrupted by his colleagues, “you forgot to sign for the relief officer.” He excused himself and left me with whimpering Bob on the sidewalk of Nicholas Tower. Boss? Someone hired him to be in charge of something? Guess he has grown up. He came back. He always had a quickened pace like he’s in a hurry. A habit probably developed due to being a shorter than average guy with a larger than average personality. He overcompensates.

“So how about I come by you? You have a DVD player?” I thought about his proposition. My brother was home. My mom wasn’t. But she was two blocks away doing an overnight shift at Bryden’s. I changed the topic, “Who was mad enough to make Ozzy a boss?” I pointed at collection of officers assembling at their posts behind the glass doors and walls in the building behind him. “A Syrian.” He smiled. “And don’t call me Ozzy please. I’m not that fella anymore. Call me by my name.” I did. I wanted so badly to believe that he changed.