Cultural & Ethnic

Teacher Unhinged


This book will launch on Jan 27, 2021. Currently, only those with the link can see it. 🔒

L.A. radio producer gone homeless after the economic downturn moves back to her hometown in Albuquerque, New Mexico and becomes a high school teacher to face high-risk students and the family problems she ran away from.

How Did I Get Here?

I haven’t always been what society would call a “homeless loser,” staying with friends in Los Angeles for the past few years. I did earn my bachelor’s degree and learned a trade in radio while going to the University of New Mexico. After graduating from college, I moved to Chicago. I got a job as a social worker, working with pregnant women and babies. But after five years of living in Chicago, I couldn’t stand the winters any longer. Below zero weather is not for me. I’m more of a sun-worshiper. I do miss the food in Chicago though. When living in Chicago, my boyfriend at the time asked me if I wanted to move to L.A., so we did, in the summer of 2005.

I abruptly broke up with that jerk less than six months later. My boyfriend had gotten some gigs DJing at a few clubs in Hollywood. We had a routine of me dropping him off and picking him up. There’s nowhere to park in Hollywood for free. One night, when I picked him up, he was drunk. He started asking a barrage of questions about my friends who were visiting earlier. They were in town to check out a college. He asked about when they left and then accused me of lying. It got heated FAST. I pulled over because I didn’t want to wreck or for him to grab the wheel. We were on Vine near Santa Monica Blvd. We were yelling at each other. Then out of nowhere, he showed his teeth, growled and barked at me a few times and attacked me like a wild dog, biting me. The top of his head hit the ceiling of the truck, turning the dome light on. He lunged toward me, bit my shoulder and tugged at my windbreaker, pulling the seams apart. At some point, I think he hit his teeth on the steering wheel, because the horn honked. There was blood on the steering wheel, on his lips and on my jacket sleeve. I felt like I was the end of the Michael Jackson Thriller video, it was surreal.

He grabbed my car keys from the ignition, opened the door and tossed them over a locked gate on the side of a church. I ran after them, jumped over the gate without any difficulty to retrieve them. My adrenaline was pumping. He got his DJ equipment out from my back seat and started walking. I grabbed my keys, lept over the gate again, and booked it back home. I packed up all I could. Load after load, my stuff brimming out my Jeep Cherokee. I got a text from him:

“You’d better be the fuck gone by the time I get there.” I was planning on it, but I thought he’d be in apology mode by this time. This was not the first time he was violent with me since we’d moved here. One time we were arguing in bed and he pushed me up and out. My head hit the wall. I was in such pain, but he didn’t give a shit. Another time, I found a letter to a woman and he snatched it and backhanded me. It happened so fast that he busted my lip and the shock made me fall to my knees. It was so unexpected. That time he was apologetic. He fell to his knees crying, embracing me, rocking me and begging for my forgiveness… I forgave him out loud out of fear, but not really in my heart.

I kept packing. I wished I could take my bed. I just needed my audio equipment. He walked into the courtyard as I was walking out with almost my last load.

“All your stuff better be out of here,” he said. I didn’t’ say a word. I kept walking, got in my truck, and WENT.

I was freaking out. I didn’t know what to do. It was 4 am. I would have had to drive back home to Albuquerque in one night. Luckily my cousin, Joy, had recently moved to L.A. from Colorado. I called her.

“GET OVER HERE,” she says to me. Thank God, because I didn’t know anyone else out here. I was driving to North Hollywood when my now ex-boyfriend called on the other line. I let it go to voicemail. He left a message. He said he was putting my speaker monitors outside. He’s insane! I turned back. My audio equipment were my most prized possessions. Someone would pick them up in minutes! I raced back on the 101 back to Hollywood. There they were. My subwoofer weighed a ton.

When I got to my cousin’s, she and her boyfriend let me crash on their couch.

My windbreaker was torn and stained with his blood. My cousin took a picture of me a few days later when the bite mark on my shoulder turned green. She sent the picture to me, but I deleted it, I didn’t want to be reminded of what an idiot I was.

My cousin let me stay with them for months with no guilt or weirdness. I will never forget how open their hearts were to me. There was no better gift in the world than people you can trust and would do anything for.

Then I got a job in radio operations for the largest broadcast company in the country and I got a place of my own.

I don’t know, maybe I still would have done it all over again, just to get out of Chicago and be in Los Angeles. I couldn’t have moved by myself. It would have been too expensive and I didn’t know anyone in L.A. like he did, to help us find a spot. Maybe I knew it wasn’t going to work out, but I did it anyway.

After living in L.A. for two years, things were going great. I had engineered audio for L’Oreal commercials with Penelope Cruz. I had made friends with music artists and producers. I was producing three nationally syndicated radio shows. In 2007 one of my music producer friends took me to the Grammys!

I came to L.A. to be a successful radio producer. I felt like I achieved that, but I realized it didn’t pay nearly as much as I thought it would. I considered being a talk-show radio host. I learned that was where the money was. But I wasn’t willing to act a fool or to be controversial for the sake of controversy. I felt like that would be selling my soul. I admire people like Casey Kasem, Dick Clark and Ryan Seacrest. My secret dream was to be an in-demand pop music producer. It’s my secret dream because I’m still learning the art. And I keep it secret is because part of me feels like spending time on music production is selfish. My boyfriend had left his kids in Chicago to come to L.A. to become a music producer. My father spends his life having fun composing music instead of taking care of his kids. l loathed them both for that. Aside from having to move out abruptly from living with my boyfriend, my life was on the up-and-up.

…Until the housing bubble and the economic downturn of 2008. Starting from around 2006, people were no longer able to pay for the mortgages on their homes. About 10 million people lost their houses in foreclosures. With that, small businesses started closing down. Those small businesses had to lay off their employees, and there was a snowball effect. There were layoffs, after layoffs, after layoffs.

The radio networking company I worked for laid off 4,000 people. They did it on President Obama’s Inauguration Day, January 20, 2009. The layoffs were on the last page of a few newspapers. Word on the street was, the company chose that day strategically, to not be in the news. None of the radio hosts on the network breathed a word of it.

I got laid off from that job and then fired from another. The firing was from an NPR affiliate in Encinitas, near San Diego. I was doing voice-over work. My good friend from high school, Jade, let me stay with her in San Diego until I got situated. Things were going great for a year. Then the Director found out that I was going to be a contact person for the new union that was voted in. The Director and my supervisor had told me on my first day that they didn’t think the union was a good idea. They started writing me up almost every week. They wrote me up for things like “five seconds of silence between elements,” or “breathing too loudly on-air.” I was walking on eggshells. I was soon diagnosed with fibromyalgia around my neck and shoulders. I had horrible pain with all the stress. I had to go to a masseuse because at the end of each week my trapezius muscles felt like rocks. It turned out that the Director had turned up the high frequencies on my mixer. The mixer that “no one is supposed to touch,” according to them. So, it made my breathing sound loud on-air. I had a feeling I was going to get fired. I started having panic attacks, crying and hyperventilating. I learned that when someone wants you out, they get you out.

I started losing my hair, not sleeping, and getting female infections. Two years ago I wanted to be successful, now I just wanted to be able to sustain myself. I felt like I was reaching the end of my rope, getting to the end of my savings. What was I going to do if I couldn’t put a roof over my head or feed myself? I had done all the hard work that I was supposed to. I had the determination. All for nothing.

I started thinking about how I could kill myself that wouldn’t cause anyone trauma. Like, I couldn’t hang myself and have a friend find me. That’s awful. They would never get that memory out of their mind, ever. Or blow my head off, yuck, all that blood. I thought about drowning myself in the ocean, but breathing is so instinctual, I didn’t think I could actually do it. Then I thought of jumping off of a steep cliff. But what if it’s not high enough and I live with broken bones and horrible injuries and medical bills? It wouldn’t be worth the risk. I thought about drinking myself to death, but I saw the movie Casino, it takes a hell of a lot of drinking to do that. Pills might be a good option. But I didn’t know where to get them. All my friends and I are hippyish and refuse to take pharmaceuticals.

I would exhaust myself from searching for jobs, not hearing back, crying and thinking of ways to kill myself. Then my friend Olive would come home from work. I lived with Olive in her apartment in Hollywood on Fountain St. It was near the police station. We would produce digital music together. She had some lyrics written already and ideas for the melodies. We spent night after night for about a year working on one song in Logic Pro. We even had her record the vocals at my producer friend’s professional studio. She has raspy-Jazzy type vocals. The song is great, but I couldn’t get the E.Q.’s right on the bass. I didn’t know what to do except for post it on SoundCloud.

Right now I’m at my friend Ernesto’s. I’m getting ready for my dead-end part-time job selling men’s skincare at Bloomingdale’s. I know Ernie from working together on a show that airs on Sirius Satellite Radio. I just got out of the shower and checked the time on my phone. I noticed I had a missed call from my dad. He left a message. I had left him a message earlier asking to borrow some money.

I hate, and I mean hate asking anyone for money. It’s the last thing I would want to do on this earth. But I had no choice. There’s a problem with my paycheck. I haven’t gotten it. I’ve moved so many times, it could have gotten lost in the mail or sent to an old address.

I don’t want to ask my dad for money, but I’m definitely not asking my mom, she’s done enough. She gave her life for me when she got pregnant with me at the age of seventeen, and my father was twenty-eight. My mom sometimes held down three jobs, but she managed to make ends meet. She’s my role model and mentor, my Wonder Woman, my heroine. I’ve learned a lot from her. She was always confident and fearless. I got the drive to be a hard worker from her. I decided not to repeat the cycle of having babies young and living in poverty. Well, she did pound that into my head, anyway. My mom functioned as both parents. And I tend not to forget that my father didn’t pay child support for the first few years of my life.

My so-called “father” is in his late sixties. His name is Jose. My half-sister Joselin and I were each named after him, except she spells her name with an “i,” and I spell mine with a “y.” Our father is a singer-songwriter. He’s never been married and has five children from five different women. Our names and years of birth are:

Marcella - 1970

Joselinda (Joselin for short) - 1974

Toby - 1974

Joselyn (me) - 1975

Angelica (Angie) - 1985

Marcella was given up for adoption at birth. Joselin was second, and then Toby was born ten days after her. I was born seven months after them. “Papa was a-rollin’ stone.” He was donned “New Mexico’s Native Jewel,” by his fans… or maybe by him? He was born in Las Cruces, New Mexico. The black-haired, green-eyed guitarist makes the women of New Mexico swoon over him. When he sings his Spanish melodies, they are drunk with lust, and have sex with him without condoms!

Marcella lives in Arizona with her husband and family. She is a foster parent, like the couple who adopted her. Toby lives in El Paso, his mom is from Juárez. We’ve only seen him twice. Dad stopped talking to Toby. Dad said he “had had it with him” when Toby started getting in trouble with the law. I thought it was strange that our father had given up on him and stopped calling him. I thought, “Parents are allowed to do that?” Angie is about ten years younger than the cluster of us and grew up in Albuquerque, like Joselin and me. The one thing we all had in common was that our father didn’t raise any of us. I could never understand how he could abandon us all.

I met Joselin’s mom when I was hospitalized for surgery at the age of four. Her mom worked at the same hospital and visited me. My father visited me while I was there too. He gave me a big grey and white rat stuffed animal.

A stuffed rat. I wish I would have known what “foreshadowing” and “narcissistic” meant back then. It would have given me a lot of insight into who my father was. I mean, how egotistical do you have to be to allow two women to name their daughters after you? Wouldn’t you say, ‘I already have a daughter named Joselin?’ How hard is that?

Joselin and I met each other when we were ten years old. It was then that my father’s girlfriend at the time encouraged him to start seeing his kids. Our father was raised by his aunt Linda because his mother had passed away when he was two. He was living with his dad for a while, but my dad’s stepmom was abusive towards him, so he didn’t want to stay with them anymore. Joselin and I were both taken to aunt Linda’s funeral by our mothers when she died. At the gravesite we bowed our heads in prayer and joined hands.

Joselin and I look a lot alike. We’re about the same height, with dark, thick curly hair, beige skin that tans, and brown eyes. She has her mother’s smiling eyes and a few happy freckles. I have more almond-shaped eyes and age spots. We used to spend some Sundays together, before we got boyfriends.

Joselin discovered our oldest half-sibling when she was planning her wedding to Francisco. She found out that Francisco was a cousin to Marcella through Marcella’s adopted family.

That’s when I wrote a letter to my father to ask him honestly how many brothers and sisters I had. We met at a park. He focused straight in my eyes and said I didn’t have anymore half-siblings. That’s when I realized my father was a liar.

I listen to his message on my speakerphone and set my phone down on the windowsill so I could put on my makeup.

I had told Joselin I was afraid I might have to have to sleep in my car because I wasn’t going to have enough money for gas. I wondered if she told him?

I didn’t want to ask my sister for money because she had already helped me get my jeep out of impound for parking tickets. L.A. tickets will be the death of me! Is it even worth living here?

I listen to my father’s message:

“A-hi, hita. I was just waking up from a nap. I’ve been sick for the last three days. I took two naps. I haven’t been able to sleep. I went to the V.A. Hospital, and they took blood. So yeah, I want to make sure it’s not the prostate cancer coming back. I’m just tired all the time. I had them check me for diabetes. I’m always thirsty and tired. Or I don’t know, maybe it’s my cancer? I apologize for not answering your call. I listened to your message, and what really hurts me in this is that no one is taking care of me.”

Taking care of? He acts like he’s bedridden and can’t do things for himself!

“You’ve never taken care of me. I’m tired of arguing. It causes me anxiety and stress. I talked to Joselin about my kids, and she said that you lost respect for me.” I crinkle my eyebrows and look at my phone. Well, even if she did say that, it is true. “But you know what she told me? She said ‘I’ve got your back, dad, don’t worry.’ My eyebrows go up. Is he trying to pit us against each other? “I don’t want to go on and on leaving messages. I do love you, I do love my daughters. I just feel used.” My jaw dropped to the floor.

“I understand you’re having a hard time. I can’t figure out why you can’t get it together. I’m going to send you some money, but you said some cruel things to me and me to you. It’s been hard for me. I don’t know how much I can send. But, if you want to go back, then I can go back too. Your mom said it was safe, Joselyn. And when women have lied to me, I don’t know if it’s revenge, but it just gets to me. And me getting back to them hurts the children. Three out of five women said it was safe.” I roll my eyes. “But you came into this world anyway, and you’re the one who ended up paying for it, bottom line. Women who have lied to me, one way or another, I make them suffer. Sometimes, or all the time, or most of the time, the kids end up suffering because a woman lied to me. And I’m not blaming you, but if you wanna go back all the way to those days, I guess I could do the same. The important thing is, I’m either not going to get respect from you, and you’re not going to get respect from me. Or maybe we can find a way to respect each other. We’ve both made mistakes. Let’s discuss things in a sensible way. I’ll send some money out. Love you, adios.”

I grabbed my phone from the windowsill. I went into the bedroom and threw it at the mattress and pillows as hard as I could.

“I cannot believe this guy! I can’t believe he admitted to taking revenge on five women! He knew what he was doing! He did it for 18 years to five kids! He has no conscience, no guilt, no feelings! He must be a sociopath.” I felt sick to my stomach. I never wanted to hear that message again. But I didn’t delete it either.

I finished getting ready for work and packed up my things.

In the past year, I’ve filled out about two thousand online applications. Enough to make me want to throw up. Doesn’t my father know that I’m a go-getter… because of him? We had to be, because he wasn’t there. My mom and I had to do everything to stay above water. I was working by the age of 14 so I could buy my own clothes. I thought by earning a degree and having skills in radio, I would always have a job. But I was wrong. I’m not a moocher. I’m just having a tough… decade.

How could he not be there for me when I need him the most? Oh!… like he did when I was a baby! I’m the idiot. Why would I think the man who abandoned his five kids would help me when I needed him? I thought he’d come around and want us there in his old age, after surviving prostate cancer, but no. I had given him opportunities to redeem himself, to be there, to be needed. But he interprets that as me using him. I’m tired of trying. He has to show effort to have a relationship, and he doesn’t. He’s so… shallow. We never talk about anything meaningful. He doesn’t ask about things that are important in the world or in our lives because he doesn’t pay attention to what’s going on. He doesn’t try to get to know any of us. I’m not sure if he has feelings or emotions. He hugs, but his hugs aren’t warm. He says he loves us, but he doesn’t show it. I can’t do it anymore. It’s not worth what I get in return- disappointment and loss.

If his point was to not argue, he failed at that, he took his jabs. If his goal was to show me love, he definitely failed at that. If it was to show respect, he crushed the possibility of that. How could I respect someone who takes revenge on women, at the cost of his own children? I could never forgive him for that! What kind of person takes revenge and then is stupid enough to admit it?

“You’re relieved of your fatherly duties!” I yell. “You’re off the hook, Jose! You obviously don’t want to be a father! But I take my presence and my love with me!” I had to say it to him and the ether.

I pick up my stuff and head out the door. It’s about three o’clock in the afternoon on a clear day. It’s 2016, and Christmas is approaching. I hate this stupid job at Bloomingdale’s, but it’s all I’ve got for now. It’s a long drive to Newport Beach and my Jeep is a gas-guzzler. I’m going to have to cut corners and sleep in my car tonight instead of using money on gas to drive back to L.A.

About the author

Writing under a pen name, Teacher Unhinged is Annalise's story of facing teenagers left behind and the family issues she ran away from. Annalise is still living and distance teaching in Albuquerque. view profile

Published on November 21, 2020

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80000 words

Genre: Cultural & Ethnic