The first thing I remember after the night that Dad disappeared was the color of the sun. In LA there’s a certain sparkle to the air, at least on some days. But that day the air was flat and dry and the sun colored my bedroom walls a sick yellow, like what you’d think sick should be. James was outside already, yelling at somebody, the police I think. They’d come to talk to us again. Make sure we were okay. Or was that it? Being three years younger, I didn’t get the seriousness of our situation, other than our father being dead. I didn’t get that I could be put somewhere. But James was old enough to be my guardian. He was 18 and I wasn’t. He was yelling at the police about that, or maybe it wasn’t the police.
When I get up and go to the window, the dying palm blocks my view of the man that James is yelling at. I see another one, a cop standing to the side, his hands on his heavy belt the way they stand. Legs set too wide to be normal. James won’t give it up and I hear him talking nonsense. Then another car drives up. White, dull, ugly, State. We know State. They’d tried to take us away from dad a few times. We knew these cars. Women came in these cars. Nice women but clueless. We could always talk them out of taking us. If we could just keep dad shut up. Minute he opened his mouth, he was putting us in danger. He was the one who created the thin ice there. Made us work too hard to fix it if dad started in. He was usually out of his head, and not just when he was drunk. He wasn’t that drunk. He was just that way. Out of his head.
The strange yellow light of that morning. The grass had dew which I felt on my bare feet when I went out to get James to shut up. We now needed him to shut it. I was left defending us. We had to stay together, and me definitely out of foster. That threat hung over me pretty much from 10 years old on. But somehow we’d managed.
James and I are smart. We don’t act it sometimes. But we can do what we need to do. Outsmart when we need to. Not that I didn’t respect the women who came. A few were young and I liked them. Most were grizzled and looked as worn out as our dead lawn. All the color sapped out of them. So I was always nice, but James just kept talking carefully and they left. I’m sure someone wrote down this shit, but probably no one looked at it.
And I’m glad because that kept me and James a family living in that wreck of a house. But certain times of the year we could see the mountains and the air glittered. And I was happy.