Before closing the door of my room, I look at the car and smile. After heaving my two mammoth-sized travel bags on the bed, I survey my home for the next few hours: a clean, pine-scented setting, a small worn bed, a fresh set of towels, and a phone. I can't ask for anything more, except for a working heater ... which refuses to do anything but pump in air that is somehow colder than outside. I'm too tired to care so I simply give up. Anyway, I tell myself that by the time the room warms up, I would have already taken a quick nap, showered, shaved, repacked, and would be on my way to work. After unpacking, I sit on the edge of the bed then notice the telephone's blinking orange light. I figure it's probably my sponsor, who's being courteous, to invite me out to dinner.
Dinner. Food. Sleep. For me these are luxuries I can rarely afford. I am always in a frantic state whenever I speak in front of an audience, to the point that I cannot keep anything down. I try to hide my fear, but there have been occasions when my clients who set up the programs can see my apprehension that sometimes brims to the surface. Then, when I fly out again, for some reason my stomach is still in knots. The only solution: I rarely eat. At least yesterday I was able to gulp down some o.j. between my two morning radio shows. Only after I am through for the day, which can be late into the evening, do I reward myself by roaming through the empty streets, searching for a bite to eat. On rare occasions I actually indulge myself with a real sit-down dinner. And when I do, I savor every bite of every morsel. For me, hunger is another switch I'm able to turn off at will. It's a trick I learned many, many years ago.
I know in my heart that I have the most honorable motives for my oddities. I have a revolting past that at times still terrifies me to the core. But yet every day I have to crawl back into the darkest recesses of my former life for the sole purpose of qualifying my message. I usually need to "go there" three, four, five times a day, or more, pouring out my soul, exposing every fiber of my being, in the vain hope of encouraging and praising others. Since the birth of my son, I woke up to some of the atrocities around me and decided to make a difference, as so many other individuals did for me years ago. Those two primary reasons are why I push myself. If it wasn't for the invaluable assistance of others, I was destined to be doomed.
With the two fluffed pillows I jammed behind my lower back, I snatch a file and scrutinize every piece of information I can digest for today's first program. I pride myself on knowing my presentation backward and forward yet being completely spontaneous, so I can give the program without the aid of a single note. I make a quick mental note that my day will begin with my first radio interview--which is less than two hours from now--and my last program will probably end somewhere around nine, nine-thirty tonight... which means I'll most likely crawl back to my motel room around eleven-thirty. I'm thankful I won't have to drive somewhere else in the middle of the night. At least tomorrow, tonight, my mind corrects, I can get some sleep, grab a Big Mac, and pray that my boxer shorts and my socks that I'll soon wash in the sink will be completely dry before I carefully and painstakingly repack every article in its place; assurance that I'll be able to carry my necessities for the next round of flights.
After studying my folder and going over the exact sequence of what to speak on, I allow myself the pleasure of flipping on the news on television. Since Stephen and I love the same baseball team, catching an update allows me a chance of being just a little closer to my son. Because I have little trust in the ancient alarm clock or the clerk at the registration desk who looks like she can slip into a coma at any minute, I set my mental clock to wake me up in just under ninety minutes, which is more than enough time for me to recharge my batteries and give the day every ounce of myself. Before dozing off I clasp my hands together and mumble through my prayers. Although I desperately miss my family and push myself to extremes, I do love my life and all it entails.
Reprinted from The Privilege of Youth by Dave Pelzer by arrangement with Dutton, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc. Copyright © Dave Pelzer, 2004. All rights reserved. This excerpt, or any parts thereof, may not be reproduced without permission.
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
- PW Starred Review
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