Living Out Loud: : My Name is Karen

Who I am

My name is Karen and I'm 22-years old. If you read the Living Out Loud Blog, you know a little bit about me, because Larry puts a lot of my posts up. Now he wants me to write a column with a word count that I don't think I can make. I mean, I'm not a real writer like he or C.A. are but they encourage me to express myself, and in their own way remind me that it's all right to be who I am.

Larry says to get as close to the word count as I can, and I'll try. He wants me to write about myself but I don't think I'm all that interesting — certainly not 800 words worth.

I'm black. I'm little. I don't have a scale, but I don't have much weight on me at all. Maybe I'm 90 pounds.

People who don't like me say I have no ass. People who do like me say the same.

My hair is black and my eyes are brown. My breasts are kind of small. I'm not ugly, but I'm not pretty either. Men stare and look at me strange as I walk down the sidewalk going to work early in the mornings. I work in a diner. I wait tables for a living.

My parents are dead — or I think they are. Maybe I should say they're dead to me. They didn't pay much attention to me or my sister. Most of the time when we were little, we lived with relatives — our grandmother for a while, then an aunt, then just some people we knew. I don't think it ever felt strange to us, you know, not really having a mommy or a daddy. You get that a lot here in Over-the-Rhine, what I'll call makeshift families. In my mind, family is family any way you can get one, and my sister and I got love from the people who took us in.

I didn't finish high school. That's something I'm ashamed of but I'm not using my last name here, so who's gonna know? I didn't like school all that much and got really bad grades, and when I turned 17 I just stopped going and nobody forced me to go back. Now I'm older and regret this.

I discovered reading late, or I should say I've started liking it late. I read The Cincinnati Enquirer that customers leave at their tables when they leave, and down the block from me is a CityBeat box where I put it up every Wednesday morning. I got me a membership at the library downtown and I go every so often and get books. Last Christmas my aunt bought me a dictionary, which is helping me figure out and pronounce the big words in some of those books.

My sister lives in the hood too. She's two years younger than me. She got raped some weeks back; I wrote about it on the blog. She's all right now, keeps her door locked at night like she should have been doing in the first place.

Rape is pretty common here. It happened to me maybe three years ago. I was at a bar drinking, underage of course; and when I walked out, some guy hit me over the head with a beer bottle. I must have passed out and he dragged me to his car and had his way with me. I guess the one good thing is I wasn't awake for it. When I did wake up, he was finished and pushed me out of the car and then drove on. About the only thing I remember, outside of having a lot of pain between my legs, is that big ass car he was driving — blue in color, and I think it was a Ford.

Over-the-Rhine is the only life I know but I know there is better life elsewhere now, thanks to my computer and the Web. A good customer at the diner sort of took a liking to me, and when he got himself a new computer, he gave me his old one. He came over to my little place and set it all up for me. I got a dial-up Internet connection, and now I can visit places all over the world and be kind of like normal people.

Wanting to be like a normal person is why I think I'm reading now and trying to write. Writing helps my life in the hood, because a lot of the time it's depressing. I don't keep track of the shootings anymore or the violence or the drug dealing or any of that stuff. I go to work in the mornings, come home at night, maybe visit my sister and read or go to the Web and see how other people live.

I keep checking my word count on this, and I'm over 800 words, so maybe I have more to say than I thought I would. Maybe my life is bigger than I think it is.

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