On days like this, really bad days, I’m reminded of equally bad days from my youth. One in particular came to mind:
I was 9. At any rate, I was too old and too experienced to have done the extremely stupid thing that I had done today: lost my bus tickets (which were equal to exactly $3.00 in bus fare). The thing that made me most angry though (at myself) was that I would have to tell my younger brothers we were going to have to walk over two miles to our second bus stop, the one that dropped us off at the necessary stop that placed us on our bus to take us home. I could easily make the walk in an hour, but those two, being six and all, would not want to do it. I had managed to finagle an extra bus ticket from a classmate, so I could use 50 cents to buy them snacks. Too bad I didn’t know how long that was going to last. So, I asked my teacher for another dollar (and got an overwhelming lecture about responsibility) so I could afford at least another juice for them halfway between point A and point B.
3:15 (the time that we were let out) got to us just a little faster than I would have liked to. At that point, I had $4.95 cents. A classmate had given me a bunch of her “emergency” change (the change she saved up in case she and mom had to run from her dad) and I promised I would pay her back little by little with interest. At nine, I already understood how to play that game. I figured, I could give her $2.00 and that would be fine (which would take about 4 weeks to pay off). So, I went downstairs. I collected my brothers. We walked to our first bus stop which was conveniently located by a corner store and did what we did every other NORMAL day. We got snacks. Well, they did. The little busy bodies noticed, but I just said I wasn’t hungry. We paid our money and then we went outside. Except this time, I took one of their hands and we walked started to walk towards our Gentilly neighborhood from Uptown New Orleans. For the first 4 blocks, I just told them that this would put us closer to the Broad Express, at an easier stop, so that we could probably actually get on (I felt bad for lying). Four blocks later, the first brother was pissed off and rightfully so. Here he was at 6 having to walk because I couldn’t remember where a bus ticket was.
Blocks 7 and 8 (they trusted me enough to keep walking), both started to complain that they were sleepy. So we took a break. By this time, we were at another busy street, and like a panhandler, I started to ask for spare change. I explained to people that we lived in Gentilly and I couldn’t find my bus tickets. One man looked at me like I was scum of the Earth and made a quip about welfare babies and unemployed moms. It stung. We were on welfare, but my Mom had to work to keep us there. I told him that and that he was a mean old man, collected my brothers, and continued walking. I’m not going to lie. I distinctly remember that this was the time that I started to cry. I had to figure out a way to keep them wanting to walk and they weren’t having it. So, we waited at a bus stop and I had three buses close doors in our faces. By now, it was 4:30, my little digital watch told me this, and we should have been walking in our door and my Mother should have been getting a call at work about our safe arrival.
But we kept walking. I had to carry one brother who almost as big as I was in height, but not in weight, because he was starting to look a little weak (turns out he was too hot and he wasn’t getting enough water) and he was flushing. I’m trying not to panic while holding him. I figure, we have maybe 6 more blocks to go. I counted wrong.
At block 14, I realized we were just a little over halfway there. So, we stopped. I sat them on a bench and asked another lady for two dollars to buy them water. I explained to her that we were walking home and I’d lost the bus tickets. She asked how much would it cost for bus fare. $3.00 the first leg. She didn’t have three dollars. So, she gave me the two I asked for and I bought them water and we kept moving. By the time we got to our needed bus stop, it was 5:45 pm. No doubt I was in for THE ass whooping of my life.
We got on the bus and I realized that like a dummy, I miscalculated the amount of money that was needed to get home. I counted the transfer money as the amount and not the base bus fare. Panic set in pretty quickly. My brothers had already sat down and the bus driver made a move like he was going to put them off. I started to scream. Seriously. At nine, I wasn’t sure what to do in this situation. So, I started to scream and cry. My Mom, who’d waited at work until they put her out, was sitting in the middle of the bus and realized it was her kids who were being put off (this mean ass bus driver was really gonna put us off?!?!?) and paid our fare. She asked what happened and I hurriedly told her the same story that I’ve written out. I also asked that she not whoop me because it was an honest mistake and I wasn’t sure how I did it.
So, people. I’m now 23 years old. I’m attempting a graduate program at a University with very little help (financially) from the school. I want to go home. I want to give up.
The thing is, people keep telling me to be strong. I don’t want to be strong. I’m tired now. I don’t think it’s the bone-tiredness that women who’ve worked all of their lives talk about. It feels pretty damn close though. I just want to go home and sleep. I feel like I’ve always been strong and once, just this once, I’ve managed to dream a big that was finally bigger than me. You all can pray, just don’t tell me to pray. I’ve prayed every day. Maybe, I’m praying for the wrong thing. Maybe, I’m not praying hard enough. But the fact remains, I pray. So, if your advice is to pray, then you pray for me.
What I know though is that I’m tired of being strong.