PETER JACOB RUIZ

WINTER PARK, FL

Well I guess we’re gonnaavta start with my first memory if we’re gonna do that. OK ahm. Mostly people talk about their first memories n it’s usually something really cute n kiddish. Aaahm. (beat) My first memory is Halloween when I’m three years old. I’d gotten ketchum on my Barney costume at-at preschool, n go home. Aand, my, ah mother’s boyfriend at the time seeys- sees the ketchup on my costume ngts really really angry. Because ah, we were poor n it- n it hd cost a bit a money- Iwsn’t even like a large stain it ws, really hidden. It was on the arm of the costume n, anyone was that close someone needed to smack them. And ah, took out a lead pipe aend he ripped the costume off of me, and started beating- beating my back with this lead pipe (slight laugh at the end of ‘pipe’). (beat) And, um, thws, n tht’s literally my first memory. N so It’s-it was always odd going ta school when they have those projects, “Tell us your first memory!” I always lied and made up- n made one up. (‘p’ carries on into a very short kind of laugh or ‘phh’ sound) Cause I didn’t wanna- I didn’t wanna be that kid. Ya know whohavta-whohavta share like the horrible story. Ahm, en, it’s only more recently that I started being honest about that being my first memory which’s been met, with a lot of, with a lot of like odd reactions cause I go to a very privileged school.

 

N then, um, same man, would, would molest me, everyday. (softer a bit) Ahm, he, he(p) h(e) raped me everyday until I was seven. Ahe’s also raping my younger sister at the same time. She’s a year young- she’s a year n two days younger than me. N my sister told my mother. That was when he got arrested n everything was put to a stop. The same time ahh, my grandmother, hd been in remission of ovarian cancer. My euh- my white grandmother- Gah-Gram-w-Rose-Gramma-Gramma Rose. An she found this out and her cancer just came back with, euhm, like ten fold-she’s literally in remission. They told her withina couple a months she’d be cleared. And, then, after she found out she died a year later.

 

An, ah that set my mother further over the edge. My mother was already bipolar. Her schizophrenia hadn’t really appeared yet but she’s very very bipolar. And that sent her over the edge especiall- I I remember the exact moment honestly, where I could tell that my mother was going over the edge. N that was it wasn’t at the funeral. It wasn’t when we got my grandmother’s ashes. Itws when the insurance money came in (short ‘hhh’ breath out kind of laugh). Ah, my grandmother had a policy for two hundred n fifty thousand dollars. Something she told me would keep us afloat for a- for a while cause my mother never worked. My mother never worked a day in her life. Maybe - there wasOK- there was a year when she was eighteen where she modeled in Hawaii n that was it. Thaws that was the only work she’dever done. Sh didn’t graduate from college er tht.

 

And she cashes she cashes this insurance check, an she waits three days so she can get it all in cash. An she lays it out ehtih she goes awh downstairs into tha basement ah one day when we r home from school n- Tbasement was where my grandmother was living ah, wstherefr, ah the first six months of her last year. Aend, she laid out all of the money on, on my granmother’s bed n jus left it there. And, I’d say for a day, she jus sat in a chair in stillness and stared at it. She ended up buying a house with the money and didn’t keep any of the frivolous things.

 

So this is the summer before my my freshman year of high school ah, NAME OF MAN molested me and my sister, NAME. He ah, he got- he gets out of prison on parole. N thn he flies down, tseemymother cause they’d started talking I don’t know when they started but they did. Ahnd, he ah, he n my mom got married. While down here. Ah my sister, left the house, ta live, ta live with one of our cousins because she couldn’t handle it, couldn’t handle being his prostitute while my mom was married to him. I felt an obligation ta my little brother ta stay. Which is the only reason why I didn’t leave thewm. Ah the man whomolested me was actually my little brother’s father. Me and my sister have the same father n that was his father. An I wasn’t gonna I wasn’t gonna leave em in that situation so I stayed. (n)he gaaht, he got in trouble for breaking parole for coming down here, to marry my mother eand, so he got sent, back to prison. He wassent taprison near Canada, in New York Ci- in New York State. An so we endedup moving back t’ New York. My mom visited him for about, six months. Fi- I guess something finally, clicked n she came t’her senses (‘to her senses’ with a bit of laughter)

 

And um, t’ be near her father, ah, we flew my sister up, sthatshecould join us now that ahm, na,wwthaum, little brother’s father was out of our lives. An, things got really intense (something inaudible) when we moved t’Pennsylvania. W’lived in this tiny town. Ahm, me n my- menmysisternmybrother. Probly the only Hispanic looking people in that town. Irememr walking intoa a biology class. Nitwas the first day. An it was honors biology class n I was the only I was the only person of color there an teacher just looked at me n said(short burst of a laugh), “Oh look, we have a nigger who thinks he’s smart coming intaour class.” And, (deep breath in) I never experienced that ever I mean, never been in a small town never never experienced that kind of blatent racism. And, it just shocked me. En so, I, I stayedinthe class because it was the only honors biology classthere was and I wasn’t going into regular biology. That would be a waste of my time. But I made sure to get the highest grade in that classa prove him wrong. N so, that happened.

 

N then summer came around again. An (soft ‘an’) I started ahm, self medicating. Tdeal with my mother’s bipolar disorder tdeal with the stress of, raising two kids, tdeal with everything that was going on in my life. I started smoking a lot of weed I started doi-ahIstarted ahm, eah-pretty much, downing opiates of any kind tht-prescription opiates of any kind I could get my hands on. Ah, drinking every night, iwsjus itwasjus a really, really bad spiral. Istared smoking cigarettes. Ah, having a lot of, anonymous meaningless sex with women. And, then ah ahwhen that summer was-right before that summer was over moved back down to Florida. Ah, n I started, I started tenth grade down here. Ahm, I continued with the whole drugs alcohol, women path, tht, that was, those were times that I’m not proud of I I used so many women which is, horrible (‘huh’ kind of laugh at the end of ‘horrible’). Like I, I think about that n the person that I am today n the person who I am today would’ve kicked the ass of the person I was. Aend ahm, ah, iwas probly about, couple weeks inta, my tenth grade year that my mom, had me arrested for the first time, for hitting her which I never did. Ah, thiswsjus thesewere schizophrenic episodes I’d be in school or something she’d imagine that I’ve hit her. N she call the cops n I’d get arrested andIwoudget and I would go to juvie. N so this happened, three times, nthe last time, justwas, the last time was on was on my sixteenth birthday. Got arrested, ah my sister also got arrested. My mom’d never included her in the stories but she included her this time. I don’t know what happened with her schizophrenia that now it was also targeting my sister. But um, we both in juvie, ah fr my sixteenth birthday an her fifteenth birthday two days later.

 

Ahm, this time my mom didn’tdrop the charges. She was very much adamant about having me in jail fr some reason. Ahm (softer ‘ahm’). But, the judge knew abitathehistory n seen tht she’d dropped the charges before n known that she’d had mental problems. So when I requested not to return home, but t’be put inta the system, the judge agreed. An ah, Iws adopted a few- a few days later by family friends.

 

Everything went-was going really well ahm, until senior year in high school. Aend, (slight breathe in through nose) ah the checks she was getting for me stopped coming. Ah, aend, my siblings started being really mean I guess juspicking up the energy that their mom was giving and um, (beat) I’ad chosen I’ad started choosing to do theatre rather rather than physics what was something  everyone thought I was going ta do cause I was really good at physics something that I’ve always done, um in high school. An so the decision to choose theatre over that was kind of shocking ta them. An, two days before, my high school graduation, ahm, my adoptive mom, locked the door while I was- locked the door while I was at rehearsal. And I couldn’t get in. I had nothing but the clothes on my back n, the wallet in my pocket which had, which didn’thave any money in it. En, jushad my i.d. (beat) I justremember knocking over and over again like, and hearing people inside inside the house jus moving around an doing things. Iwslike, “Let me in! SOMETHING INDECIPHERABLE HERE Jus let me in.”

 

Aend um, director of the show at the time, ah let me stay at his place for two days. Jus so tht I could have somewhere to be. N then I went to my school on the second, day, aend, my high school, an there was an administrator who hooked me up with the Zebra Coalition. Which is this local LGBTQ youth homeless shelter. An um (beat) they helped me connect with Rollins which was the school I decided to go to for theatre an, makesureIhad a place to stay until thes- til ahm, the semester started in tha fall n thninthe fall I started living on campus I- Rollinshs really really jus been a godsend. It’s it’s, one of the greatest thingsta ever happen ta me. I (beat then suck through teeth) I found a, i-I found a family at 10:28 in Peter Ruiz 2 not sure exactly what he’s saying I think it’s- inthis whole big system tht is beyond anything I could’ve ever expected. I had this awesome support system in place with the Office of Multicultural Affairs n tha theatre department n things like that n Iws provided a a safety net.

 

N then, summer came around. Aend ahm, Ionceagain didn’t have a place ta stay. N so the Zebra Coalition n the Office of Multicultural Affairsworked tagether, ta ahm, find me a place ta stay n I eventually ended up staying with these two like seventy year old lesbians (laughing as he says lesbians in an endearing way). Ney took me in for the summer n, they were, just amazing. Over that same summer the school sent me to Camp Pride which is an LGBT student leadership conference which, was a life changing experience. It was the first time I was ever actually in queer space. There were like five straight people of a group of eighty people nI’mjuslike, “Oh my god we’re the majority!” And um, it was there that I, thamy identity shifted from being a gay man ta being a queer man. Cause I found queer ta have more of the political connotation that I wanted out of my identity. (turns to side and coughs for a few seconds) Sorry. Aend em, (breathes in through nose to clear it) n then I stared school back up n tso, every summer tht comes up it’s the idea aof, “Oh where am I gonna stay?”Aend, I try not ta think about it during the school year because it’s hard to focus on my academics n my theatre responsibilities n my school responsibilities then Iaftto think about where I’m gonna be stayin over the summer. So it’s more important for me ta get my academics ta a place where I get my degree then it is to worry about where I’m gonna stay over the summer. I have a support system tht tries to start thinking of these things for me. Aend, it’s kind of scary ta think tht once I graduate that support system is gone (pause).

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