Welcome back, where did we end? We ended with mom coming out of the hospital and rejoining the family at home . My mom is having to walk with a cane, not doing superb. She’s doing very well at all. But then we got word that her mom had died. My grandmother had been sick. She had cancer, leukemia I think, I don’t remember what kind of cancer, her dying, wasn’t random, but it also wasn’t the best timing. All right.
It was less than a month after my dad died, then my grandmother died. we had to go to Ohio, I don’t really remember how we got there. I just remember we got there. And, once in Ohio, that’s where my mom was from, a little itty-bitty town in Ohio. That was kind of cool. I mean, mind the funeral and everything, as I learned how to play chess, I also learned how to tie a tie.
Back to Asheville I Was in 5th grade, I don’t remember very much. Well, I don’t want to foreshadow too much. But before middle school, life after my dad died was different. My mom changed, she wasn’t… I mean, mind you she was… If you remember, she was always kind of high strung a little bit and she was more the loud and yelling one, and my dad was more the relax, calm down.
But after my dad was gone, my mom, towards me, she changed. not in a negative way, more in like, “Erik, life’s about to get fucked.” Right. “So, I need to teach you everything that you need to know to survive.” I don’t think she trusted much of anything and she was taking a handful of pills everyday just to stay alive. I think she knew that she was going to die soon, or life was never going to be the same as it was before my dad died.
After we got back from my grandmother dying, things went back to “normal”. back to school, all that kind of good stuff. like I said, my mom changed. what she was teaching me, (she was alone, you would think that people would be really supportive, right?) But most people turned their back on my mom, or not just my mom, on us.
My dad was a doctor and had just opened a practice (partnership). They didn’t want to help my dad died too fast, So it would bring up the insurance premiums for all the other doctors. So they were against the million dollar payout or whatever it was to my mom, because they said my dad hadn’t contributed enough to the practice. you learn, everyone wants to say, “Oh yeah, so sorry,” and everything, but once everyone’s tears dry, then that’s how they really act.
My mom became isolated so we became isolated. I could tell, but not tell she was really stressed. she would give me another… I would want to say fucked up life lesson, but it’s not a fucked up life lesson if the things she told me during this span of time, I still keep in my head. And I’m still alive, doing well for myself
She has three kids, one of her kids is black. When there’s a mom and a dad, when there’s two parents trying to raise a black, it’s a lot easier. When there’s just a female, there’s more snickering like, “What is she going to do with him?” all that other kind of crap. people’s true opinions come when people are in need. You would think that people would be more sympathetic, but that’s rarely ever the case. mom sensed this and I’m pretty sure she’s seen, my life was just about to go to fuck. Not even shit, it was about to go to fuck.
she told me how much money I had, she told me what was supposed to happen if she died. she opened up to me more than anyone else. At least, I would think she did because she told me things that my sisters are like, “What?” And I’m like, “She didn’t tell you this?” And they’re like, “No.” So that’s why I’m thinking she opened up towards me.
October comes, almost a year since my dad died. My mom got sick, remember she had to take a handful of pills every day. I’m in 6th grade, 6th grade was different. My teacher was my mom’s friend so I couldn’t get away with anything. My sister was in 8th grade. all the 8th graders knew who I was because I was my sister’s little brother. So it was completely different, right. It was a different environment. But again, that changed rapidly come October. When we got home the ambulance was at the house, we went into my mom’s room, she’s crying and screaming, in excruciating pain. Like, “It won’t stop hurting. It won’t stop hurting.” they have to take her out on a stretcher. I was 11 at this time, so she had an 11 year old, a 13 year old and now a 15 year old. So they took her to the hospital and everything was kind of normal. I mean, she was just going to the hospital so I didn’t think anything too bad of it. I didn’t think any good of it either, but I didn’t think that was going to be the last time she was ever going to be home.
So we stayed at either my aunt and uncle’s house or my neighbor’s house those first couple of days. I think it was my neighbor’s house because they were just nMy sisters and I got an intercom call Thursday during school. The principal calls the Johnson kids to the office. She told us that we needed to go to the hospital, that something had changed and we needed to go to the hospital.
My middle sister lost it. She asked the question, “Is my mom going to die?” The principal told her, “No honey, she’s not going to die.” We just need to get you guys to the hospital. So they packed us up, and we went to the hospital and spent some time with my mom. By this time, they had attached the heart monitors so we could see her heart beating. She couldn’t really talk to us, but I knew it was important for us to be around. My family had been called, Her dad and her brothers, about 11 o’clock at night, they told us we could go home, she looked stable and they didn’t think anything was going to happen.
We went to my aunt and uncle’s house and we went to sleep. Around five o’clock in the morning, we were woken up and told we had to go to the hospital immediately, that something had changed and my mom needed us to be at the hospital. We went to the hospital and the first thing we saw was my next door neighbor. He was a doctor as well and he came out, crying. He said, “She’s not going to make it.” we were with her, holding her hand, my family arrived and we watched her go.
Now, my heart hurt so much at the time because everything that my mom was warning me was now coming true and I hated her for it. I hated her so much as she was leaving me. I couldn’t cry. I told myself you could save her if you just tell her that you love her and hold her hand and give her a kiss. I couldn’t do it. I watched my mom die, everything in my life changed the second she died.
Right after she died, war began, back at my house, my home a couple changes were happening.
My mom told me we were going, if anything were to happen and she died, we would be moving to California to be with her oldest brother, he was financially able to take care of us. Well, the State of North Carolina disagreed with that. They said that, yes, he is financially stable so we will give your estates to him to look over. But since you have family in the Carolinas, they will be responsible for your wellbeing. Since our house was bigger than my aunt and uncle’s, they moved into our house. So last night this was my house, tonight this is no longer my house. It looks the same, my bed’s in the same place, matter of fact, some of the food that was there yesterday is still there. But this is no longer my house, it was their house. No longer my rules, it was their rules. it does not matter your mom let me do this yesterday, those were her rules, these are our rules. See how that poses a problem? It was not fun. It was actually miserable. I felt it was worse than jail. I mean, I’ve been to jail a couple times, not for long or extended periods of time, but it was worse because every day was just miserable. Just being yelled at, all the time, being threatened with punishment on a daily basis it was just horrible. It was so miserable to this day I have nothing to do with that family and I never will. I do not want to hear anything about them, I don’t care. If they were on fire, I wouldn’t pee on them. That’s how much I do not care. It wasn’t just because of this small situation. This was the beginning years of straight shit.
It was a miserable living situation. Everything I was accustomed to my entire life changed in my own house, so I was no longer able to do anything that I was able to do before. All the music my mom bought me, they didn’t like so they confiscated it. Anything they did not like, even though I might have had it for years, they confiscated video games, confiscated… being locked in my room was a common thing. So that’s why I’m used to being stuck in a room. I was stuck in a room all the time, under their dictatorship.
After my mom died, school changed as well. They took me out of normal classes in the morning and gave me a personal tutor because “they said” I was too disruptive in class. They made me go to some kind of psychiatrist a little bit but that didn’t last very long because I didn’t want to talk to anybody (my thinking was and still is, can anyone bring my parents back? No! So why worry about things I cannot control? I have problems I can control best to focus on those things.) I just basically felt like my parents were on an extended vacation, maybe that wasn’t the best thing to do. But that’s what I did.
Remember, when my mom died the state said that the money can go to my uncle but we cannot. Well, the family that moved into our house had no money and no job. So we ended up moving to California anyways, so that my uncle that had the money and was able to take care of us and could give my other uncle a job he could take care of us. It would have been a world of difference if what my mom wanted happened. For this reason, that family (my moms brother) was more open and more advanced. Technologically advanced, socially advanced as well a different mindset. When you’re raised by the owner of a company or even the daughter of the owner of a company, it’s a different mentality as being raised by an employee of a company. Does that make sense? My mom came from a family of people that owned things. My dad came from a family of people that didn’t own anything. Two very different worlds. So when I was raised, my mom raised us, the only way she knew how. In the way of an owner, that type of way. Well when she died, the state thought it was more logical for us to go with a family that had nothing. Opposed to a family that was the same as my mom. The best way to put it, if we went with my mom’s side of the family, we wouldn’t have had to use our own money to survive. But with my dad’s side family, we had to use our own money for everything. The house we bought when we moved to California was 25% my house. The car was 25% mine. So basically everything was 25% mine. Part of the reason I have nothing to do with my dad’s side of the family is one day, in middle school, I don’t remember what year, it might have been in 7th grade. I repeated 6th grade. I was looking on a computer. I had to do something and I saw how much money my sisters were paying per month and how much money I was paying. Now mind you, I am at school, I’m not living at home, I live at boarding school. However I’m paying $500, my sisters are each paying $250, but I’m not even living in my own house, I’m living in a dorm. I’m living in a dorm but my sisters are paying half the amount that I’m paying. Is that fair? No. After I saw that, I truly lost all respect for this family. You’re robbing me blind, locking me in my room like a jail cell (in a house I am part owner) and there’s nothing I can do about it. I can do nothing about my own money.
When we first moved to California. I was told I would have to repeat 6th grade because my grades weren’t good enough, blah, blah, blah, blah. So I was like, “All right, whatever.” They first took me to this little rinky-dink middle school that was a Christian school, everyone there was like half my size. Coming from North Carolina and going to California was a culture shock to say the least. In Asheville at the time, there was like maybe one Asian family and I knew them, it was mostly just black and white. Then moving to California, I got to meet an Indian. Like not a Native American, like someone from India. I didn’t even know that half these countries even existed, but I got to meet a whole bunch of them because California was a little bit more diverse than Asheville was when I was growing up. I noticed they were all kind of small compared to me, they were a year behind but they were tiny, there shouldn’t be that big of a difference, but they were just little people.
I was at that school for a week, then one day I don’t know, my mom’s side of the family came with us and we were headed off to a different place. And, that other place was Harker and when I got there, I don’t remember if I left or what happened. I just remember once I got there, it was like, “Erik, you’re going to this school. What do you want to do?” I was like, “All right, yeah. This is great. I’ll take Japanese,” “Are you sure Erik?” “Yes, I am. Let’s do it.” yeah, not a very good idea. But this school, compared to the little rinky-dink that I was just at, the religious place, this was massive. It was immaculate. It was better than in North Carolina, I was in heaven, they had rows of basketball courts outside. They had soccer fields I mean, it was a beautiful piece of property. The catch was “You have to live here.” At the school. Weekdays in the dorm and weekends at home. “All right, whatever. I can do that. That’s not bad at all.” I was a bigger person so I had authority in the dorm. They left me alone. That’s where I learned to like waking up very early because when you’re in a dorm and there’s only a finite amount of water, I learned that if you’re the first person awake, you get the hot water. Not very many people spoke English. It was an ESL (english as a second language) boarding school so almost everybody was from Asia. There was one white kid, but he was from Russia.
That first year living in the dorm was an experience. Everybody was brand new, no one spoke English. And the culture, coming from North Carolina to basically living in little Asia was very different. It was fascinating, learning about the food and culture. Remember I was trying to take Japanese which was stupid. I didn’t do well at all. I got like a 6% or 13%, something like that.
However, the school was going to Japan. They were opening up, with a sister school Tamagawa, an exchange program. So for 16 days you could go to Japan and then the Japanese kid would come and live with you for a little bit. That sounds awesome. So at this point in time, I was known as a statistic. So there’s white privilege but then there’s also black privilege.Black privilege is when a white school has one black kid, they want to include the black kid in as many things as possible so then it raises the numbers, and gives great opportunity for pictures.
If they had just sent all of one nationality to Japan, then we’re not a very diverse school. But if you were to send the two black people that were in the grade, oh wow, now we’re a very diverse school. Now, you can believe that if you want… That had a lot to do with it. The other part had a lot to do with my uncle. I wanted to go, for someone that’s failing at Japanese, going to Japan makes perfect sense, right? How much did it cost my family? How much did it cost me? In all actuality, who knows? But the reason I say that is because what happened at the end of the Harker story.
I am in detention every other week, the rules in California were much stricter than they were in North Carolina. In North Carolina we had known each other since we were kids. He had been with each other for the last, what? Maybe five years? 2nd grade, 3rd grade, 4th grade, 5th grade, 6th grade. Yeah, five years we had known each other. We had grown up together, there was only 36 kids in my grade, so we all really knew each other very well, we didn’t snitch on each other. It was kind of us versus the teachers more or less. But in California, the other students were not as loyal. if I were to do something, then they immediately would go tell on me, and then detention. this one kid he was a little brat, we were in dance class, he was being an asshole. so I stepped on his foot, he went and told on me. Detention. Like what the fuck dude? You little cry baby. So everything that I did, I was always in trouble, I never could get away with anything. If I looked at somebody wrong, detention.
Now the other black kid, he was the smart one. He was trying to take French and could always articulate his words and he was the nerdy one. I was more of the troublemaker and he was the nerdy one. But turns out, we ended up both being in the dorm. So his family had gone through a divorce or something like that and so the best place for him was living in the dorm. He didn’t have anywhere else to go. So he had joined me in the dorm. We ended up becoming more than friends, it was more like we were brothers because when you literally spend that much time with somebody, they’re your brother. we basically lived together.
We woke up at five o’clock in the morning together, so we could both hog all the hot water. And then, we would go eat together, eat our breakfast because when you’re the first people there, the food is hot. You get to choose, It’s the best food when you’re the first one there. And then we’d go back and we’d get to do whatever we wanted to do until school, play basketball or anything, go to school early. So we did that basically for two and a half years because I think he moved in halfway through our 6th grade year, or it could’ve been the beginning of 7th grade, whatever. And we were the only two black kids in our grade, so naturally we became best friends.
Japan was awesome. Well, I was 13. For a 13 year old, it was amazing. I have absolutely no reason why I haven’t gone as an adult, I just haven’t gotten on an airplane and gone. But when I was a kid, it was just amazing to see the technology they had compared to America. They were just so much more technologically advanced than we were. And then, learning the culture and then going to their school and seeing the discipline. Like us in America, we had basketball practice after school. this is middle school, this isn’t like high school. These kids had to be at school at five in the morning. They had to be up and ready, not just up, up and ready at five o’clock in the gym practicing before school.
I mean, it was cool and we got to travel around Japan, taking pictures and seeing the temples and all that kind of good stuff before we went to the school. But when we went to the schools, just seeing the way they learned was completely different. So that was fun. During 6th grade, we also went to Yosemite National Park, again. The outcasts. the outcasts = the black kids and the fat kid. Everyone else had little cliques and everything. Well me and my buddy, we had our clique and then the fat guy, he was on his own so he roomed with us.
they gave us little cabins, it was three per cabin. We ended up shutting the whole thing down because we had a party over at our house. I don’t know how we did this, but we ended up getting in trouble. Not like in serious trouble, just probably a couple hours of detention. Couple more hours of detention for causing trouble.
In 6th grade, they allowed me to drop a foreign language. So after Japanese, I never had to learn anything, I got a study hall. So education never was really important to me. No one ever told me that I needed to learn. It was always, how do I figure out how I don’t have to do something? Or, in the easy class. So they would put me in all the easy classes. They would put me in study halls as long as I could play sports, that’s all they cared. Every year I was there, I was at risk of being kicked out.
I remember one time they were having… My uncle was there, it’s funny that he’d come for that but no one ever had time to watch me play sports. That’s crazy. I didn’t think about that. Yeah, I just thought about that. That’s fucked up. You couldn’t come and watch me play, but you could come and talk to the school. Well, it doesn’t matter. I was playing football or something, in the meeting, they’re talking about me being expelled for behavioral problems. in the middle of the game, I’m sweating, dripping sweat everywhere, they call me into the office and they sit me down and they’re like, “How many points have you scored?” “I’ve scored two touchdowns man, and I’m out there destroying.” They’re like, “All right Mr Johnson,” this is home. And I was allowed to stay, as long as I could play sports I could stay. It makes sense, they were opening a high school.
In 7th grade, where did we go in 7th grade? We went to Alabama, Space Camp. Now Space Camp, I do not know exactly what happened but yeah, we all got in trouble, like all of us. My whole crew, we basically made the staff cry. Like we were just terrible. I don’t even remember what we did, I just know that… I didn’t go home. I didn’t go back with the class, I went to North Carolina after. But it was told that when we all got back, the entire school was not very happy with me and my crew which… I don’t remember exactly what we did. But not very friendly, we didn’t win very many friends.
I went back to North Carolina for some memorial for my parents. There were so many people meeting us, so many people I didn’t even know, celebrating my parents. That was the last time I saw Asheville for years. So 7th grade, living in the dorm, I went home less and less every time I went home, I got in trouble.
My Uncle found a porno under the bed and I’m all hell broke loose. I was grounded for the entire summer, not allowed to leave my room for the entire summer, that was fun. The only thing I was allowed to do that summer was sit in a room, if I wanted to earn TV time or earn time out of the room then I’d have to read books. Well that would be great but then they’d give me a book, I read it and I read it so fast then they told me I was lying, that I didn’t read it. So then I read it and had to write a paper, so I read it, wrote a paper and they still thought I was lying and cheating.
Going home was miserable and towards the end I never wanted to go home. I never wanted to go home. No matter what happened, it was always my fault. I remember this one time I had just got home, literally just got home. Hadn’t gone to the bathroom, anything. Hadn’t been home for more than 30 minutes. My uncle comes yelling and screaming at me. He’s like, “There’s piss on the toilet seat.” I’m like, “I haven’t…” Like, “Why are you telling me?” “I know it was you.” “I haven’t even gone to the bathroom. It’s impossible for it to be me.” Now I was a liar, all this shit all over pee on the toilet seat that… I hadn’t even gone to the bathroom but I’m getting berated. Just, “You’re a liar. Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.” And, “You’re grounded now.” So here I am, back in trouble over something I didn’t even do.
I liked Skittles when I was growing up, here’s another example of just get grounded, be trapped in a room. Just get home from school, mind you I was only in this house two days out of the week, all right? So two days, the rest of the time I was at school. Two days out of the week. I come home on Friday. Hadn’t even been home. Skittles are in… Mind you, there were little kids living in this house. There’s my two older sisters and then my two little cousins. Little kids in this house. And there’s a Skittle in a printer. “Eric, I told you no Skittles by the computer,” blah, blah, blah. I’m like, “I didn’t.” “You like Skittles, so I know it was you.” I’m like, “Was not me, and yes I do like Skittles, but it was not me.” Whatever. “Get to your room, you’re grounded.” Locked back in the room.
When I was younger he used to try to show dominance by grasping hold of me and things. But then 7th grade all that stopped because one time he was trying to show dominance and it didn’t work and I flipped him. So after that point he was a little less aggressive towards me because I would’ve fucked him up. Those times were terrible, it got to a point, in 8th grade, I don’t think I even went home. I had no desire to be around any of those people.
In 8th grade, we went to D.C. for our spring school trip. We came back from D.C. my uncle picked me up. He was frustrated, pissed off. And he was like, “After all these years talking with these people, I got a phone call from somebody I don’t even know telling me that you did not get accepted,” in the 9th grade. And he was pissed about this and he was like, “I have known the owners of this school for three years on a personal level, And now I can’t get them on the telephone, no explanation.” I didn’t find out until later why that was. There was a reason.
During 8th grade, they had just opened up the high school. That entire year they’re giving me jerseys, they’re giving me stuff. Anyways, they were taking me to sporting events. One of the dorm parents was one of the football coaches. The athletic director, he was all about it. It’s illegal to recruit, so they were more or less recruiting by giving me free shit and taking me to the games and by doing all that. Once they didn’t accept me, I actually had a meeting with the athletic director he was like, ” you know that we weren’t promising that you were going to come here. I just want you to make sure you know that,” just covering their ass, they were preparing me to go to the high school to play sports, but I didn’t end up going.
During high school everything changed again, after 8th grade, I was no longer going to be living in a dorm. I was going to go home. Well the family I was living with, they were like, “Oh, fuck no.” And I was like, “Ah, this is going to be miserable.”. Because I already hated these people. I didn’t like them and they didn’t really like me, I distinctly remember my uncle telling me I don’t have to like you, you don’t have to like me we just have to live together. They were like, “We feel like we need some time as a family, we just can’t handle you guys anymore.”
So we move over to my mom’s side of the family and you’d be like, “Well wait a minute, I thought your mom’s family was supposed to get you in the beginning?” Yeah, they were. But my dad’s family wanted to milk us as much as they could before they sent us over to that family. Or milk me, I don’t know what they do with my sisters, but they wanted to milk me for as much as they could.
So then later, we get moved over to my aunt and uncle’s. Now, this was a completely different change. Wow, I mean I felt relaxed. It was more like I was back living at home. The rules were more familiar like living with my mom, the conversations were more like living with my mom, my aunt reminded me of my mom. So it was much better but then also much worse.
The next chapter we’ll discuss high school and all the fun and interesting things that happened in high school. Now remember this, I had repeated 6th grade so I’m a year behind my regular year. I ended up graduating high school six months before I was supposed to, I only did two and a half years of high school and graduated with a 3.3 something GPA, got accepted into the University of Seton Hall, but I didn’t end up going. But how did I do that? Tune in. And a lot of other shit happened, like…