When I Was Nine

by Charlotte Hamrick

 I lived at the bottom of a rolling North Carolina hill at the end of a dead-end street with two people who weren't my parents. They had parties on the weekends and the guests would give me sips of their beers in between dancing barefoot to Jim Reeves or Connie Smith. I didn't completely understand what it was they were singing about but in my gut I knew it was the reason people drank beer and danced. 

The man who wasn't my dad was real nice and happy most of the time because he was back in America instead of knee deep in a rice paddy swatting mosquitoes and watching for the Viet Cong. He met the woman in the Army , they got married and that's why they came and took me away from the grandparents who weren't really my grandparents and moved us to North Carolina.  The woman was nice as long as the man was around but when he was away things changed. I just tried to stay outside as much as possible. Especially when she started playing Connie Smith on the record player.

One night they loaded me up in the car with a suitcase and drove to a parking lot where there were some people in another car waiting. The man took me and the  suitcase out of the car and handed me over to these people. Then he drove away. I didn't cry. I didn't ask why. I just got in the car and started talking like this happened every day and it was just another adventure in my life. They told me I was going home.

They took me to an old house that needed painting where other people were waiting for us. They all knew me but I didn't know any of them. They told me I was born in this place where there was only dirt and sand and hardly anything green and the air was so dry it made my nose hurt to breathe. I sat on the front porch and looked up at a blue mountain topped with white and felt as alien as that mountain looked rising in the distance, splitting the earth without a care for the life it upheaved in its wake.

They told me I was going home but I knew “home” was me and I counted on that.  My surroundings didn't really count for shit.