Sprinting Toward a Horrific Destiny at 17
He was in full control of my life. I did whatever he wanted, whenever he wanted, however he wanted it done. Why did he need control of my child, too?
I’m a survivor.
Leo needed total control. He already had established who held the power in our relationship. Not me. I was 17 and in love.
In my version of love, I did not question him. He had me. To finalize his total control, he needed power over the other human I loved as much as him, my son. Leo had a plan.
He told me to remove my son from my mother’s care and put him in a daycare that was closer to Leo. That way I could pick my kid up and stop by to see Leo every day.
I briefly wondered why Leo wanted me to change daycares, but I did it anyway. The arrangement with my mother was: she would watch my son for me while I went to work and I would pay her phone bill and give her a little cash. Mom took him to daycare twice a week. We both got something out of the deal. He loved being at grandma’s house. He was her first grandchild. She treated him as a precious piece of gold that could do no wrong.
Why did I call it “Gangster Daycare”? It was in the Henry Horner projects. Although the children were two-, three-, and four-year-old’s, they looked rough, like little gangsters.
Their little faces were dirty. Their noses were running. They had on mismatched outfits. Their pants were hanging down around their cheeks. They all seemed old, somehow. They looked sad. But they were well-fed and playing together.
To keep Leo happy, I put my son in that daycare. It was the cheapest daycare I’d ever had — five dollars a day, cash up front. You dropped your child off and handed a five-dollar bill to the old woman. She would watch your child until you returned. Some kids seemed to stay all night, but not mine. I picked him up every day at 5:30 p.m.
I signed my child up for this ghetto daycare, and I put him into it. He appeared to be okay with this arrangement for about two weeks. One day I came to pick up my polite and well-behaved three-year-old, and I couldn’t tell him apart from the other children. He was dirty, nose running, wearing mismatched clothing he was not wearing in that morning when I dropped him off. He looked as unhappy as the rest of the children.
Another little boy had on his matching outfit. Wait. What?
I walked in and confronted the old woman. Her response was that she didn’t know what happened.
During the day my child had been undressed and redressed, and she did not know when or why? Oh, hell no. This was too much to bear. What kind of mother was I?
Because Leo was there, I kept my cool. I grabbed my son’s hand and ushered him out with a pretense of getting ice cream. Instead of getting ice cream, we took the bus to 72nd and Stony Island where my mother lived.
I walked into my mother’s house and apologized fiercely, literally begging her to keep him for me again. The Henry Horner daycare was not a good environment. That place was not a good environment for any child.
After I dropped Joey off at my mother’s house, I got right back on the bus and went back to the Henry Horner projects to where Leo was waiting. When I walked back in without my son, Leo was not pleased. He questioned me. I was quick to think of a lie. I explained that my mother had begged me to let him stay with her because she missed having him around.
This upset Leo. He sat down on a couch and crossed his legs — staring at me. His hands were clenched.
“I asked you to keep the boy here,” he whispered.
In my naivety, I did not understand what he was saying. He was trying to tell me I was violating an unspoken rule. He was trying to imply that if he wanted it, that’s the way it would be. That
Leo knew that after I removed my boy from this delinquent daycare, there was no reason for me to come back to the Henry Horner projects. My trips there became further apart. I spent a quarter of my time at my mom’s house where my child was.
I was too naïve and silly to see I was naïve and silly. Because I believed everything that Leo told me I was not thinking or paying close enough attention. I did what he asked, most of the time without question. Remember what I said about contemplating and thinking?
If I had taken a moment to reflect, it would have given me insight into my behavior. Every day I was up and out doing unimportant things — unimportant compared to the future of my child.
I shudder to think of my son’s path if I had not removed him from that old woman’s care. Thank goodness I loved my son enough that the impending situation penetrated my thick love haze.
I did not, however, love myself enough to get out of that bad situation. I stayed with Leo despite his obvious manipulation of me and any situation I was involved in.
In a few short months, he had stripped me of my friends, my family and my dignity. I was a teenager isolated in the echo chamber of his wants and needs. All I could see was the future he promised me with him; I could not see that our future was tainted.
I was racing toward a place of desire and unhappiness at breakneck speed.
I can be reached at https://www.tonicrowewriter.com