We went home separately from the high school after his withdrawal/drop out was done, and stood wordless when we met. I had threatened him that, if he wasn’t in school, he’d have to move out. Education was how I had gotten ahead and it would damn well be his ticket to doing better than me.
So I told him to leave. He could come home the minute he decided to go back to school. We could look at a different school, an alternative school, whatever. But he had to finish high school—that wasn’t such an unrealistic expectation, was it?
He walked out the door with a pillow sack full of his clothes. I figured he’d be back in a couple of days, after he realized he couldn’t make it on his own making minimum wage.
When I hadn’t heard from him for three or four days, I went to the sub shop where he had a job as a dishwasher. They said he’d taken another job. Where? They didn’t know.
I didn’t see him again for a year.
I reported him missing to the police, who looked at me skeptically. “You kicked him out for dropping out,” one of them said as though that was perfectly understandable. “But now you want him back?”
These are Vince’s school portraits from 9th grade and about a year later, just before he dropped out:
I found the second one stashed in his room months after he’d left.
I talked to his friends in the neighborhood, but they said he had dropped them months before. They said he’d acquired some stoner friends whose last names or addresses they didn’t know. They did give me one lead, a kid called Mike, and I knocked on the door of that house two or three times during the year but there was never an answer. My cousin, who lived a block away from their house, called me a couple times to say she thought she’d seen my son walked down the sidewalk but she’d been driving fast and wasn’t sure…
But sure enough, that’s where he was. Mike’s parents were survivalists, home schoolers, and pot heads. They felt sorry for Vince. What a buzz kill of a mom he had! So for a year, they all sat around and got high and drank and played video games like Grand Theft Auto. They had been home when I’d knocked.
Vince’s using got so out of control that it was even too much for them, so they kicked him out and he showed up on my front porch, almost a year later, with his pillow sack.
[VINCE: Mike’s parents were good people. I never had one drink there. They both worked full time and wouldn’t let me live there if I didn’t. Mike was never home schooled and he got his GED before his graduation day. I never smoked pot with his mom and only on occasion with his dad. They let us drink when we went up north to their land. But they made sure to keep an eye on us and always promoted responsibility. When I was arrested my first time Mike’s dad told me that he wasn’t kicking me out, but it was time to find another home. It was during my stay there that I worked as a security guard at Liberty State Bank, and overnights at a gas station off I94. I don’t want anybody to think Mike’s parents ever did anything to negatively affect my life. Mike’s dad accidentally shot himself in the stomach years later while making bullets. He was nearly paralyzed and hospitalized for months.]