Sometimes I wonder when you actually become an “adult.” I still look in the mirror and insist that the face staring back isn’t really all that different than the one I knew in high school. But it most certainly is different. I’m a year and a half away from thirty, earn my own keep, and own things like a house and car. I’m losing hair and gaining weight. Now, maybe I don’t see that face in the mirror because I don’t feel like that face in the mirror. While I’m not quite at the point where I worry about falling off the toilet and breaking a hip, I guess I am older than that kid from high school… perhaps even an “adult.” I’ve walked through the mall before and wondered, as I pass the other people, which of them look at me and think “kid,” and which think “grown-up.” Surely older folks recognize me for the relatively spry young’n I am, but just as surely the teenagers in baggy pants peg me as old and out of touch. I mean, a collared shirt tucked into denim shorts… with a belt?
When we used to live in L.A., there was a girl who lived across the street from us. I’m not sure who she lived with, but it was a woman – stepmother, mother, I don’t know. I was young, couldn’t have been more than five years old because that’s when we moved. This girl, Naomi, wasn’t treated well by the woman she lived with. Frequently, Naomi was not allowed in the house. In fact, my most vivid memories of her are freeze-frame scenes of her sitting out on the stoop… doing nothing, just sitting. Because she was so often not allowed in the house, she would sometimes come over to our place at odd hours to ask if my brother or I could play. Early-early in the morning, late-late at night; I didn’t really understand it until later on when I figured she was just locked out and probably bored or scared or both. I don’t think I really understood any of it at the time, I just played with her like she was any other kid on the block. Kids are beautiful that way. Class, station, economics, you’re blind to them all at five years old. In fact, overhearing my parents expressing sympathy for the girl was my only indication that anything was different than my situation.
I don’t think I’ve ever talked about this to anyone before, so it makes its debut right here on the blog, direct from wherever it’s been locked away in my head for all these years. One day I remember Naomi asking me if she could use the bathroom at our house. I’m not positive, but I’m pretty sure this little girl actually spent more than a few nights sleeping on that porch stoop outside… barred from entering the house. Considering that, what other option did she have? She had to use the bathroom somewhere. So, we struck a deal. Naomi could use the large bush in our backyard as her personal bathroom, provided she let my brother and I watch. I know people, I can feel you all recoiling in disgust, I know. Remember, I’m five years old. I’m not thinking about how exploited this little girl already is, or how humiliating of a situation we were putting her in, I’m just thinking I’d like to see how a girl poops and pees. So, we watched. She pooped, she peed, and we watched, fascinated. I don’t remember, but I’m pretty sure this didn’t happen more than a couple times total. Thinking about it today, I don’t feel much else but sad. I don’t feel guilty, too young to hold myself very accountable… just sad. Sad for that girl having to poop under a bush in a neighbor’s backyard while curious little boys watched from the wings, heads pressed to the ground to get a better view.
We moved away from that area when I was five years old, and it didn’t take me long to forget about Naomi. Years later, I remember being back in town with my parents, driving down our old street. I couldn’t have been more then ten or eleven at the time, and I can remember my folks commenting on how the place had changed. Then we saw her. A girl about my age, sitting on a porch. It took a minute before it hit us, but eventually someone, I think my mom, said, “Oh my God, that’s Naomi.” Five+ years later and still out on the porch. Sometimes I wonder whatever happened to that girl. Back when I was a kid, I can actually remember going in her house once. No details, just a still-frame image of a messy rug and coffee table. Can you imagine growing up on a porch? Just feet from where you should be – inside with your parents. Hey Naomi, if you’re out there, I just wanted to say “I’m sorry” for watching you poop. I’m pretty sure that at least my mom had an idea about what was going on. I can remember her being suspicious. Had I been able to understand…
Next paragraph. Goodnight.