my fingernails. I didn’t bathe. I don’t know how many days I stayed there alone. I don’t remember. My long blonde hair got all matted and dirty. I starved. I almost died.
Eventually, my life got better. The social workers came on a clear cold day when I didn’t have the strength to get out of bed. The neighbor lady and the counselor from school was with them. She asked me how come I didn’t come get her when Mother got sick. I wanted to ask her why didn’t she come help me when they took Mother out of here feet first, but I didn’t have the strength.
The social lady took me out of that shack with almost nothing. They helped me gather a small paper sack of my clothes, and anything of Mother’s that I could stuff in there that I wanted to keep, like pictures and things. One of her things I took was a framed picture of her. On the back of it I wrote in pen, Rose Weathers, 1952-1983, so I would never forget her. She was only 18 when she had me.
After two nights in the hospital, three nights in juvenile hall, and some good showers, off I went to a group home in Indianapolis. Tormentors taunted me every step of the way. They threw in taunts about my boobs. That was new. My gynecomastia boobs did not stop growing like the books said they would.
Since I had no living relatives I went into the foster system.
The house they brought me to was a big two-story frame house with a big porch. The adult couple that ran the home was black. We, the kids in the house, had to call them Mama and Papa. That was the first thing they said to me. There were three more white kids, two of them boys and four black kids, one boy and three girls from seven years old to a white girl who was fifteen. Mama, who was black, short and plump, with a round face that was almost Asian, told me that the teen girl was wild and to stay away from her. She had been in several homes, they said.
Mama showed me to a bunk in a room with another white boy. I got a scratchy green blanket and a black and white striped pillow and one sheet for the bunk. After I made my bunk, Mama took me upstairs to the attic. We went through a couple old boxes and found two shirts and a pair of jeans that fit me. We went to the kitchen to a drawer and she got me a toothbrush, rinsed it out under the tap at the sink and handed it to me.
“There you go!” she said and smiled.
“Thank you, Mama,” I said and walked away.
I took all my possessions which amounted to a couple shirts and some underwear, plus a previously owned pair of jeans, and a pre-owned toothbrush, and a few items I brought from the shanty and sat on my assigned bunk. I missed Mother.
My roommate was older than me. He was thirteen and goofy-headed. He looked at me and laughed all the time. I could not figure out why. I sat on the side of my bunk and he came in after his chores. Our room was small, so small I could sit on my bunk, lean over and touch his bunk, He stood only a couple feet from me changing clothes.
“I’m Bart,” he said and laughed. He pulled his sweatshirt over his head and he had armpit hair. I tried not to stare. “Did Mama give you a job yet?”
“I’m Ronni, with an i. No, she hasn’t.”
“Are you a girl or a boy?” he asked. “Everybody’s wondering.” He laughed again. “Andre said you was a girl, but I swore you was a boy that just looked like a girl. I was told I was getting a boy in here and when you showed up, I about shit!” He laughed.
Someone knocked at the door. “Hey Brat! Open up! I need to see the new girl!”
“Okay, Ronni, that’s Penny. She’s the oldest and she runs things. Don’t backtalk her or she’ll belt you in the mouth.” I found out later that Penny was a nickname for Penelope. She was the