Rearview Mirror
By Maureen

Words and music by Pearl Jam.

***

I'm sure I've been painted as a hideous, uncaring monster by my younger brother, and perhaps on some level I am. But don't pass judgement until you've heard my side of the story. I admit to not being a saint, or even very religious. I am sure my soul is damned to hell, but that is fine with me. Better to live in the now than to put stock in some 'pearly gates' nonsense. Especially since no one knows if there is a heaven. I'd put money on a hell though. I prefer to call it 'earth'.

I took a drive today
Time to emancipate
I guess it was the beatings made me wise
But i'm not about to give thanks, or apologize

I had never told Jamie why I working myself to exhaustion studying, trying to maintain a perfect 4.0 in some of the hardest classes Kingsport High School offered all the while attempting to hold down a 20 hour a week job. I didn't think he'd understand. Despite my best efforts, he was well on his way to becoming a juvenile delinquent.

He didn't understand that the only way out of the hell we called life was to earn it. I had to be the best, I had to get the scholarships, head as far away from Kingsport as I could. Only then could I put the past behind me, begin anew.

It wasn't easy. There were some days I could barely stumble into class I was so tired or sore from the beatings. Plus I gave my father a few dollars every paycheck so as to 'earn my keep'. I usually got less of a beating. And I bought food sometimes too for Jamie and myself, and clothes. A few dollars here and there, even at the second hand shops, adds up.

I knew I couldn't take Jamie with me, I couldn't afford it and what would I do with a teenaged punk with a chip on his shoulder? He was destined to live in the slums forever and that was that. I had to help me because no one else would. Besides, I couldn't afford to be altruistic.

I couldn't breathe, holdin' me down
Hand on my face, pushed to the ground
Enmity gauged, united by fear
Forced to endure what I could not forgive...

I had earned a full scholarship and financial aide to the University of Georgia, and sure, I graduated in the top 10% of my class, but my car meant I was truly getting out. I was on my way. I didn't park at home though, afraid my father would discover my plans. I had been careful to hide everything, keeping what I could in my locker at school or on my body at all times.

No one was home, which was much better than I was expecting. I shoved my few clothes and toiletries into a trashbag. Taking one last glance around to see if I forgot anything, I added my school supplies and a towel. I had read 'Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy' for English class earlier that year.

Looking at the trashbag in my hand, the entire sum of my possessions except for a few papers in my pocket. I exhaled, ready to leave the squalor. Time for a rebirth.

I seem to look away
Wounds in the mirror waved
It wasn't my surface most defiled

I worked all summer and slept in homeless shelters, eating in soup kitchens and paying for as little as possible. A few days before school started I took all the money I had saved and bought myself a computer and a few new clothes. I was Peter Waite, college freshman.

I was lucky, I did not have to pay for a meal plan, tuition or books. God, I love financial aide. Inhaling I headed into the dorm to check in, no thoughts of Jamie or my father. They could rot together as far as I was concerned. True, I had looked afted Jamie, but he was turning out little better than our father.

Head at your feet, fool to your crown
Fist on my plate, swallowed it down
Enmity gauged, united by fear
Tried to endure what i could not forgive

Maybe I am a horrible S.O.B. but I was looking out for number one. Me. Peter Waite. Growing up like we did, only a dollar or two on the 'safe' side of fairly extreme poverty combined with the abuse and our father's alcoholism, is it any wonder I managed to get out at all? Is it any wonder I am not insane? Or socially inept?

I always wonder how I managed to turn out as well as I have, sure I had a few extra years with our mom than Jamie, but I was still only 6 when she left. Right during my formative years. Ah well.

Saw things
Saw things
Saw things
Saw things
Clearer
Clearer
Once you, were in my...
Rearview mirror...

College is hard, I'm not trying to paint a pretty picture of sweetness and light. I've had to work my ass off to get to college and even harder to simply stay here. I think it will be worth it though. Without a college degree, I'll end up back in Kingsport and I can't do that. I have to succeed, I have to prove that it can be done. I can see the headline now when I become a business tycoon 'poor boy makes good'. Oh, that will be so great.

I gather speed from you fucking with me
Once and for all i'm far away
I hardly believe, finally the shades...are raised...
Saw things so much clearer

Until then I have to relive the horrors of my childhood every time I close my eyes. But it's okay, I'll be fine once I've finished college, once I've made it in 'the real world'. I've accepted that nothing will ever be easy for me. Except leaving. Leaving is the easiest thing I've ever done and I have never regretted it.

What's wrong with having a goal and achieving it?

Once you, once you...
Rearview mirror...
Saw things so much clearer
Once you, once you...
Rearview mirror...

I just hope Jamie never finds me because I don't want to bail him out of jail.