Johanna knew, she says, that it would be her last conversation with her grandmother. Though Johanna had only just met us, she was resolved to get out of that house, out of that life, away from that woman.
Her grandmother’s name is Glenn. A classy name for a woman who’s proudly classless, if such a thing is possible. Glenn judged her son for siring Johanna and Riley, and being sent to prison improved neither Joanna’s father nor his children in Glenn’s estimation. She didn’t care about what he’d done to that woman he nearly killed, she just cared that he got caught.
Johanna slept in that morning—or, at least, stayed in bed. She had to leave the door open for the cat to come shit in its litterbox, so there was no insulation from the noisy disaster that was her family life. Glenn might have been watching soaps, or listening to Pink Floyd, or screaming at Riley. Eventually Johanna gave up, and got up.
She found Glenn, Johanna later told me, standing in the kitchen wearing Jordache jeans and a Def Leppard shirt she’d bought for $25 at the Garment District. Glenn was smoking, and drinking a Natty Ice. It was about 11 AM, and Glenn said the house needed cleaning.
Johanna protested that she wasn’t responsible for any of the mess, and Glenn hissed something like this,
“Who are you? Who are you? I don’t know you. You live in my house. You come. You go. I don’t know where you go. I don’t really give a shit. I do what I have to do, and I let you live here. It’s less trouble than kicking you out. But I don’t know you. And here you are, standing here in your panties, standing here in front of me, in my kitchen. I don’t really think you want anything from me except to be left alone and given a roof, maybe given some food, but I want something from you—now that you’re here, now that you’re awake, now that you’re standing between me and the rest of my house. I think you’re going to be very difficult for someone, someday, but right now, for me, you’re easy. I can ignore you—except for when you’re standing in my goddamned kitchen, full of my food and wearing my face and my tits and not doing a fucking thing for anyone except taking up space. So I don’t goddamn care if you made this mess or if I made it or if God just dropped it all here just to fuck with us. I’m going to ask you to clean it up, and you’re going to do it, because you want to stay easy. You might not think that’s what you want, but I know it is. So wake the fuck up and clean this shithole now.”
Joanna turned around and walked back to her room. Ignoring her grandmother’s cries, she pulled on her pants, grabbed her backpack, and crawled out the window.