Diary of a Teenage Runaway

A three part story of... Nah, won't spoil it for you guys. Have a read. A depressing read. Originally from Violent Acres:
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I’m standing in the middle of my cheap, already furnished, efficiency apartment that sits on a busy street just a few miles from the ocean. There’s a cop standing in front of me. He’s got broad shoulders, dark hair and a face that looks like it’s made of play-doh. Tears are streaming down my face, my cheeks are red and swollen, and snot is dripping from my nostrils…I have never been a pretty crier. My knees are shaking like those of a newborn colt. My eyes dart around the room, nervously flitting back and forth from door to the window. Both seem like they are a million miles away.
I am only 15 years old.
The cop is angry and he asks me yet again, “Is your name V _____?”
I shake my head. I point to the state ID sitting on the nicked up nightstand. It fooled my landlord. It fooled my boss. It doesn’t fool him.
“What kind of a fool do you take me for?” His voice is measured and firm. “I know your name isn’t Susan! So how about you tell me who you really are?”
Again, my eyes dart around the room. One of the dresser drawers is open. I can spy my clothes inside. Three months ago, those clothes were packed up by my little brother in makeshifts bags made of sheets while I stood in the kitchen getting dinner plates smashed over my outstretched hands in punishment. He then lowered those bags outside of my bedroom window to my waiting boyfriend with a pair of jump ropes. My little brother was already in bed, feigning sleep, when the last dinner plate shattered against my knuckles.
The scars aren’t so bad.
Now, my boyfriend is standing outside of my apartment talking to another cop. This one is a muscular black man with a neatly trimmed mustache. The cop says to him, “Son, do you know you can go to jail for harboring a runaway?”
My boyfriend says, “I am only 17.”
Right next to the door of my apartment is my backpack. It is full of textbooks and all the schoolwork I never turned in. Three months ago, I was wearing it when my Mother dropped me off at school and watched me walk in the front door. I was also wearing it 10 minutes later when I walked out the back door and got into the car with my boyfriend. It was sitting on my lap when we drove to a pay phone and called my boyfriend’s Mother.
My boyfriend told her, “No one saw her. Make the call.”
Then, my boyfriend’s Mother called my school secretary posing as my Mother and informed her that I would be staying home from school sick that day. She did this so the secretary wouldn’t call my house and ask where I was.
The cop standing in front of me suddenly flicks his fingers in front of my face. Startled, I focus on him again.
“I am losing my patience with you, young lady,” he warns, “So how about you tell me your name?”
Outside, I can hear my boyfriend. “You don’t understand!” he tells his cop, “She will be in danger if you take her back there!”
Against the right wall of the room, there is a piece of shit desk with a wobbly leg. Inside that desk drawer is all the money I have in the world. Three months ago, we drove from the pay phone to the bank and waited outside until it opened. Three months ago, at around 9am, I withdrew what was left of my raped college fund. I added it to the money my friends had all pitched in to give me. Now it was all sitting in that desk drawer, hidden under the holy bible.
My boyfriend suddenly starts yelling, “If you don’t believe me, call my Mother! She can verify everything I’m saying!”
Earlier today, my boyfriend had attempted to drive down to visit me. He was bringing me another calling card, a stack of books, and letters from all of my friends. We had planned to take a ferry ride and have a picnic. It’s the same thing we do every weekend.
Only this weekend, my boyfriend had been followed. Normally, he watches for things like that, but an uneventful three months can make people careless. He was followed over three state lines. When he reached his destination, a phone call was made to the police. They showed up on my doorstep minutes later after running his license plate number which was flagged in some fucking database.
The cop in front of me suddenly softens his voice.
“Listen sweetheart,” he says, “I think I can help you. Did you know that in this state the legal age to leave home is only 15? That means we can’t make you go home unless you want to go home. All we have to do is take you down to the station and call up Missing Persons. We tell them you’re OK and that you’re not missing anymore. Then, we let you go.”
I look at him hopefully.
Outside, my boyfriend is shrieking, “CALL MY MOTHER! JESUS FUCKING CHRIST WILL YOU CALL MY MOTHER?!”
My cop continues, “All I need to help you is your name. Now tell me the truth; are you V ______?”
Slowly, I nod. “There,” he says, “Do you see how easy that was? Now all we have to do is go down to the station, make a phone call, and I’ll bring you right back here.”
Finally, I speak. “C-c-can’t we call from here?”
“No, we have to call from the station. It’s standard procedure. But we’ll come right back, I promise. Just come with me.”
I follow my cop out of my apartment, past my boyfriend, towards his squad car.
My boyfriend says, “Hey! Where the hell are you taking her?!” He is crying now, too.
The black cop tells him, “We’re going to need you to pack up her things.”
I ask my cop, “Doesn’t he know I’m coming right back?”
“Not yet,” my cop tells me, “But I’ll tell him. Also, I’m going to need to put these cuffs on you.”
“W-w-why?”
“Standard procedure.”
The cop cuffs me and helps me into the back of his squad car. I glance over at my boyfriend who is furiously waving his arms around. The black cop is pointing at my dresser. I hope they don’t make a mess of my apartment.
After a short drive, we pull into the parking lot of a brown brick building. I can see the hint of a very tall fence towards the back. There is razor wire at the top of this fence.
It doesn’t look like a police station. It looks like a prison.
The cop leads me into a foyer and turns me over to a severe looking black woman with short, curly hair. They remove my cuffs and the black woman leads me by the arm down the hall. I look back at the cop who is talking to someone behind a counter. I am wondering when we are going to make my phone call.
The black woman pushes me into a side room. “I’m going to need your mug shot and your fingerprints,” she tells me.
Too confused to argue, I oblige. Then she says, “Now we’ve got to get you a shower. Follow me.”
Finally all of the little things that weren’t quite right added up into one great big wrong. I ask, “But I thought I just had to make a phone call? Then the cop said he’d take me back to my apartment.”
“Is that what he told you?” she asks.
I nod my head. She laughs.
We head down to a shower room and the woman orders me to undress. She tells me that she’s got to watch me, but trust her; she doesn’t like it anymore than I do. Once I’m naked, she tells me to open my mouth. When I do, she puts her fingers inside and probes under my tongue. “Don’t bite me,” she warns.
“Now I’m going to ask you a question and I want the truth,” she says, “Do you have any drugs or weapons hidden inside your vagina or anus?”
Horrified, I say, “NO!”
“I’m going to check anyway,” she tells me as she reaches for a box of latex gloves, “And if I find out you’re lying, you’re going to be in a world of hurt.”
“There’s nothing!”
“This is your last chance to tell me,” She urges, “This is your last chance to remove anything inside of your vagina or your anus yourself.”
“There’s nothing there! I swear!”
“Bend over.”
After my search she hands me a bottle of shampoo.
“I don’t have lice!”
“It doesn’t matter. Use it anyway.”
After my shower, she hands me a pair of khakis and a navy blue t-shirt. “The boys wear orange,” she says. I’m not sure why she thinks I’m interested in that particular piece of trivia.
After I’m dressed, she tells me the rules. “You are not allowed to talk to the boys. No love connections here. And when you walk, you must keep your hands clasped behind your back. Letting your arms swing is called ‘traveling’ and will get you in trouble.”
“How long do I have to stay here?” I ask.
“Until your Mother picks you up. Probably around tomorrow afternoon.”
I’m not sure what I said next because I was hysterical, but I’m pretty sure there was plenty of fruitless begging involved. And struggling. And screaming. And people coming to help restrain me. And finally, vague acceptance of my situation.
I was brought in on a Friday. Every Friday is pizza day and the other kids were already in the process of eating when I joined them. I was taken to a table with another girl about my age, maybe a little younger. She was a chubby thing, with greasy mouse brown hair and terrible acne. She was picking at a piece of pepperoni.
“I’ll bring you a slice of pizza,” the warden said to me. This one was a guy.
“No thank you,” I told him, “I’m not hungry.”
The girl at my table interrupted us, “You can bring me some aspirin!”
“Now you know I can’t do that, Stacy.”
“But I have cramps!” she wailed. “I’m bleeding! I’m clotting! The clots are killing me!”
The warden rolled his eyes, “I can bring you a heating pad.”
She wailed again and slumped over in her chair clutching her stomach, “My insides are falling out, but I guess it’s better than nothing.”
When he walked away, she sat up straight and looked at me. “What are you here for?”
“I don’t want to talk about it, really.”
A few minutes later, the warden came back with a heating pad. Stacy slumped over in her chair again. “The clots! The clots! I am bleeding great, big, killer clots!”
He rolled his eyes again and walked away.
I looked around the room. It was huge and would have resembled a high school cafeteria if you could imagine one two stories tall. On the first level, 3 of the 4 walls were lined with small cells with metal doors that each sported a single square glass window. Against the fourth wall was a room made almost completely out of reinforced glass. There were a couple of cots in that room. On the second story, against the wall directly opposite the glass room was another window with an office behind it. The wardens looked down on us from that office. The other 3 walls on the second story were simply more cells.
Later that evening, while all the other kids were being lined up in front of their cells for bed, Stacy and I were taken to the glass room. We were assigned a cot and locked in for the evening. I watched all the other kids as they were locked up for the night as well.
Then I sighed and said to Stacy, “Don’t we get any pillows or blankets?”
“Not in here,” she said.
“Why not?”
“I don’t know,” she shrugged, “Probably because we might hang ourselves with them.”
I shook my head, confused. “Whatever,” I told her, “Turn off the light then.”
“We can’t turn off the light in here.”
“Why the hell not?”
“Because they can’t watch us all night if the light is off,” she replied as she pointed upwards to the office window.
“How come they don’t need to watch everyone else all night?” I asked.
“Because everyone else isn’t on suicide watch,” she answered.
“We’re on suicide watch? Fucking A.”
“Yep,” she giggled, “But I think I can get out of here anyway. How hard do you think I’d have to bash my head up against this glass to make it break?”
Suddenly, I understood completely why the warden had kept rolling his eyes at her. “Pretty hard,” I said, “Considering that it’s pretty thick. Besides, even if you broke it, you couldn’t get out. Look at it. It’s got like a little metal fence embedded inside of it.”
“Oh that is no problem. I am a reincarnated butterfly. Once the glass is broken, I can shrink down into a little bug and fly out.”
“You know,” I said to her, “I’m starting to think you’re a real fucking wacko.”
She started laughing hysterically. I groaned and covered my eyes with my arm. She didn’t want me to go to sleep just yet, so she started singing ‘Mary Had a Little Lamb’ at the top of her lungs.
I thought to myself, Maybe if I beat her up, they’ll let me stay. Maybe if I hurt her enough, they won’t make me go home.
I was too exhausted to do more than think about it, though. So I closed my eyes and went to sleep.
The next day, after breakfast, they gathered everyone up in the cafeteria-like room again. A motivational speaker was there to talk to us. He went around the room and asked us all who we thought of as our hero. One kid told him, “Kurt Cobain.”
The speaker said, “Isn’t that the musician who killed himself? Why would he be your hero?”
“Because he had a hottie wife, a kickass band, and $5000 a day to spend on heroin and I ain’t got none of that shit.”
I’m not sure who I told the motivational speaker my hero was, but I hope I said something profound.
Shortly after the class, a warden came over and whispered in my ear. “Your Mother and her husband are here to get you now. Come on.”
“Her husband?” I whispered back, “When I left three months ago, she didn’t even have a boyfriend.”
He ignored me.
My Mother didn’t say much to me as we left although she did introduce me to her new husband. Apparently, his name was Gene.
My brother was outside waiting in the car. I slumped down in the backseat really close to him.
“You OK?” I whispered.
“Yeah,” he murmured, “She’s been so pissed at you that she hasn’t paid much attention to me at all. I’ve been spending a lot of time over at Willie’s house.”
“I thought she’d be glad to be rid of me.”
“Yeah, probably. But you took that money. Also, she told the new guy she had a daughter before she realized you were gone. After that, he kept pushing to meet you. She was pretty fucking embarrassed when she finally had to tell him you ran away.”
“What are they going to do to me?”
“I think you’re safe as long as that cheese dick is around. She still tries to play ‘Nice Mom’ in front of him.”
“He won’t always be around, though.”
“No. He won’t.”
“You know V,” Gene called back to me, “In my line of work, I’ve have a lot of experience with girls like you. You don’t know this about me, but I’m a police officer.”
“Security guard at a shopping mall,” my brother whispered.
Girls like me?” I answered, “What do you mean by that?”
“You know….pregnant….on drugs….”
I looked over at my brother, shocked. He shrugged.
Very forcefully, I said, “I am not pregnant or on drugs. I am a virgin!”
My Mother sighed, “Gene, in your professional opinion, how often do drug addicts lie?”
“All the time,” He answered.
“Look!” I said, “If you’re a cop, then you know how to go about getting me tested for drugs, don’t you? I can pee in a cup and prove it! And I’m sure you can take me to a doctor and he can tell you that I’m not pregnant!”
He and my Mother exchanged a look.
“Here!” I said as I ripped out a couple of strands of my hair and held it out to him, “Can’t you test my hair? For drugs? Test it! You’ll see! I’ve never done a drug in my life!”
“Young lady,” Gene said, “Do you really expect me to believe that you were able to afford an apartment for three months without selling drugs?”
“No,” I sighed, “I expect you to believe that I was pushing heroin on the mean streets of suburbia.”
My Mother turned completely around in her seat to face me. She smiled at me; a lazy, smug, evil grin that still wakes me up sometimes in the middle of the night. Then, she turned back around in her seat.
“Don’t bother with him,” my brother whispered to me, “He’s hopeless. She could turn around and cut your throat right in front of him and she’d convince him it was self defense.”
“What do I do?” I asked miserably.
“Maybe you can jump out of the car the next time it slows down?” he offered, “Or, when we stop at a rest stop or something, you can take off when they’re not looking. That’s my advice. If I were you, I’d run.”
I looked out the window. We had to be going at least 70 miles an hour, so jumping out of the car right now probably wouldn’t work. But the rest stop idea wasn’t a bad one. I mulled it over in my head.
“You can do it,” my brother encouraged, “You’re fast.”
-------------------------------------------------------
I am lying in the middle of a hot, dark, empty room.
Wait.
I take that back. The room isn’t completely empty. I am in here, after all. And over in the corner is a bucket–that’s where I’m supposed to go to the bathroom. A couple of feet away is one of those two pound containers of cheesy goldfish crackers—my breakfast, lunch, and dinner respectively. Everything else has been removed from the room–including the light bulbs.
My clothes are filthy and stained with sweat. My hair is limp and greasy. The hair under my arms and on my legs has grown out and I am itchy all over. I feel like I have just swallowed handfuls of cotton, my teeth feel like they are all wearing little sweaters. I can’t stand the stench of myself.
I have been laying here for two weeks.
The very worst part is the thirst. It claws at the back of my throat. I quit eating the crackers simply because the hunger is easier to deal with than the feeling of my tongue, swollen and dry.
Two weeks ago, I was sitting in the backseat of a car listening to my brother urging me to run. I had planned to, but I never got the chance. My Mother watched me like a hawk and when we reached her destination, she brought me here.
Now, I see her once daily. She comes in every afternoon and dumps my bucket. Sometimes she insults me, sometimes she kicks out at me, but most of the time she ignores me. I used to ask her for water, but now I just lie on the floor and stare at her shoes. She wears a different color of high heel every day.
I only stand up straight once a day, when I hear the click of tiny pebbles hitting my window. Then I go to my window and my boyfriend throws me up a roll of toilet paper. I stuff my pockets with handfuls of it and throw the roll back down to him. Then, he throws me up a bottle of water. It is always lukewarm, but I guzzle as much of it as I can anyway. It tastes delicious. Sometimes, he throws me up a candy bar and I take a few bites and throw it back down. He used to throw me up books and I would throw them out the window every time I heard a noise outside of my door, but that just got too tiring.
Directly beneath the window is flat pavement. Otherwise, I would have jumped. But jumping seems kind of pointless if I only end up breaking my leg.
A couple of yards away from my window are some rosebushes. Every time I use the bucket, I wad up my toilet paper and throw it out my window aiming for those rosebushes. Later, all the neighborhood kids I used to sit for will come by and pick up those wads of toilet paper before my Mother sees them.
My boyfriend says they are figuring out a way to get me out.
I used to say ‘I know.’ Now I just change the subject.
I ask my boyfriend where my Mother’s husband is. How come he isn’t living here if they’re married?
My boyfriend tells me that Gene is waiting to move in after the lease on his apartment expires. My brother told him that this won’t be until the first week of September.
“Months,” I say, “Months with no food or water or shower or toilet.”
“She can’t leave you up there that long!” my boyfriend insists.
I laugh and say, “Don’t you understand, Derrek? She says I’m not worth the energy bills anymore!” I laugh and I laugh.
It seems like I’m always three seconds away from hysteria these days.
I tell my boyfriend that I am tired. I’ve got to lie back down. I don’t understand why I’m so sleepy all the time when I spend my days doing nothing at all, but I am. He tells me he will be back tomorrow. I tell him to bring more water.
One night, my door slams open. The hall light is on, so I can see my Mother semi-clearly. She is holding a bundle and she’s obviously in a rush.
“Stand up!” she snaps.
She thrusts a sweater in my direction. “Put this on!” she orders.
I go to take my shirt off, but she stops me. “Just put it on over what you’re wearing!” She holds out a hairbrush and hair clip. “Brush your goddamn hair and put it back in this clip!”
I immediately start brushing. “When I call you, you come downstairs right away,” she orders. When she walks away from me my door is slightly ajar.
My brother peaks in my room.
“What is going on?” I whisper.
“Someone called the police,” he says.
“Derrek’s Mom?”
“No, they won’t listen to her ever since she helped you run away. I think it must be the parents of some of those kids you baby-sit for…”
I crane my neck so I can hear what is going on downstairs. My Mother is saying, “Why, that’s just ridiculous!”
I can’t make out the answering murmur, but I do hear my Mother say, “Of course you can.” Then she calls my name.
I think, Oh thank God.
There are two policemen at the front door. Obediently, I stand beside my Mother. She says, “See? Does she look abused to you?”
“How are you?” they ask me.
“Fine,” I answer, but I try to widen my eyes in such a way as to communicate to them that I am not fine.
“Ma’am,” they say to my Mother, “We’re going to have to interview her alone for a minute, if that is alright with you.”
All confidence, my Mother says, “Of course.”
A police officer leads me outside towards the sidewalk. He says, “We’ve been hearing some pretty interesting stories about you….”
I say, “Listen, you’ve got to help me. My Mother has got me locked up in a room—
He says, “Sounds to me like you’re grounded.”
“No,” I begin again, “It’s not like that. You see, there is nothing in this room—
He interrupts me again, “Yeah, when I ground my daughter, I take away her television set, too.” He smiles a little.
“Listen,” I demand, “It’s not like that at all! There’s a bucket—
“You know what I think?” he interrupts again.
I say nothing.
“I think you’re a spoiled brat.”
“Huh?”
“Look at that sweater you’re wearing,” he continues, “Isn’t that one of those expensive sweaters? That thing is probably worth more than my daughter’s entire wardrobe.”
I am incredulous. “This sweater? It’s not even mine! My Mother….what she is doing is abuse!”
“I don’t see any bruises on you,” he says, “All I see is a spoiled girl wearing a fancy sweater who needs to shape up and listen to her Mother and quit making up stories to scare the neighborhood kids.”
I am speechless.
It is hopeless.
When the police leave, my mother holds out her hand. She wants the sweater back. I give it to her. She wants the hair clip, too. It’s all hers. Then she leads me back up to my room.
I lay there for two more weeks.
My Mother quits emptying my bucket every day. It is pointless, I barely go anymore. But when I do, the stifling heat makes the entire room reek of piss and shit. I am so filthy; I want to claw my own skin off.
I hear the click-click of pebbles hitting my window. I am too tired to get up. The pebbles are insistent, though, so I drag myself to the window.
“V!” my boyfriend says, “How about we get married?”
I stare at him silently.
“I’m serious!” he insists, “This is your Mother’s idea!”
“Wha…?”
“She says that she is thinking about letting you get married. She says it’s the best thing for the baby!”
“But I’m not pregnant,” I say. The wad of toilet paper currently jammed in between my thighs is proof of that.
“I know that! Jesus, you don’t think I know that?” he says, “My point is that’s what she’s been telling her husband! And really, who cares what he thinks as long as you’re free!”
“I’m only 15. You’re only 17. Isn’t that…illegal or something?”
“In this state it is. But if we go to West Virginia, we can get married as long as we have parental consent.”
“Your Mother,” I remind him dully.
“She said she’d do it! V, if we’re married, your Mother loses all of her legal rights to you! You will never have to see her again! You won’t even have to hide! You can go back to school! Your Mom is supposed to ask you about it today!”
I was starting to warm to the idea. It seemed too good to be true. But then he said:
“And V….I really do love you. We can make this work.”
Those two sentences told me all I needed to know. My boyfriend wasn’t going to view our marriage as a sham, something convenient we did simply so I could escape. He was going to take it seriously, like a real marriage that would last all of our lives. He loved me enough to want to be with me forever…or at least he thought he did. I loved him too (Because who wouldn’t love the boy who tried so hard to break you out of prison?), but I did not love him enough to seriously marry him. I did not love him enough to want to spend my life with him.
Because I was too young and immature to communicate my fears to him thoughtfully, I simply said:
“No. I won’t do it. It’s not right.”
Then I walked away from the window so I could lie down.
Sure enough, my Mother opened my door a couple of hours later and said, “You know, you can stay here for the rest of the summer. Or you can marry Derrek and get the hell out of my life for good.”
I said, “If you let me go, I’ll leave forever anyway.”
She said, “No, it doesn’t work that way. I’d still be legally responsible for you.”
“I won’t do anything wrong. I won’t get you in trouble.”
“I don’t believe a word you say,” She sneered, “If you want out of this room, marriage is the only way to do it.”
“No,” I said.
She slammed the door.
I lied there for two more weeks.
Every day she’d open the door and offer me marriage. The first couple of times, I would verbally refuse. But after awhile, I quit bothering to answer. Instead, I would just stare at her shoes. Every day, a different color high heel.
Early one morning, she opened the door and just stared at me. After 6 weeks without a shower, I must have been disgusting to look at. My hair was falling out.
Finally, she said, “I told Gene that you’re having trouble in rehab. Perhaps they won’t let you out this summer after all. Maybe they’ll keep you in for 6 more months. It’s a pity that you’ll miss school, of course, but we’ve really got to get you well.”
I said nothing.
“But then again, maybe you’ll turn your life around. Maybe the baby in your stomach will inspire you to stay clean.”
I hated her.
“Maybe you’ll decide to straighten up. Get married. Settle down and be a good girl. For the baby.”
Dear God, please give me the strength to kill her.
“Marriage or 6 more months of rehab….I guess it’s your choice.”
“Can I have a shower?” I croaked.
“Absolutely,” she said. “And a fresh change of clothes, too”
“Water?”
“I’ve got a cold bottle right downstairs in the kitchen. Hell, I’ll even order you a pizza.”
“Ok then.”
“I want your word.”
“I promise I’ll do it.”
She smiled suddenly and slammed the door. I heard the lock click. I should have known it was all a trick. I went to sleep.
A couple of hours later, the door opened again. “The arraignments have been made,” my Mother told me.
I stared at her dully.
“Come on, get up. Go get your shower. I’m sure you remember where the bathroom is?”
Tentatively, I got to my feet.
“I’ve still got a couple of phone calls to make,” she said, “You can take care of yourself.” Then she walked away again. Only this time, she left the door open.
I crept down the hall to the bathroom. On the sink, there was a fresh toothbrush and a cold bottle of water waiting for me. A new pair of shorts, a shirt, and a pair of panties were neatly folded and sitting on the toilet. There was a fresh towel on the towel rack.
It was like staring at a mirage.
The first thing I did was snatch at the bottle of water. I drank the entire thing in a couple of gulps. Then I ran the water from the faucet and started slurping more water out of my cupped hands. I drank and drank and drank until my stomach felt like a water balloon about to burst.
The second thing I did was brush my teeth. Once. Twice. Three times. I brushed my teeth until my gums bled.
Have you ever had a shower after spending a significant time dirty? If you have, I’m sure you know that it is the ultimate luxury. There is no greater feeling in the world than standing under a steady stream of water, a bottle of shampoo and a new razor blade within easy reach, holding a fresh bar of soap, washing away layer after layer of filth.
No. Greater. Feeling.
Because of this, I stood in that shower and I sobbed…big, choking, heaving sobs that doubled me over and almost brought me to my knees. I gasped and shuddered, I writhed and I wailed; I clutched at my eyes as if I were trying to push the tears back into the ducts.
This felt too good.
And what I had I paid for this? I was preparing to break a boy’s heart, lie to his face, use him as if he weren’t a person with feelings of his own, but a means to my end.
All that…for a shower.
It wasn’t right that it should feel so good.
It was at that precise instant that I quit believing in God.
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I promised my Mother I would get married on a Friday.
I was married by Monday afternoon.
Late Sunday night, my Mother drove us all to West Virginia to get the job done. My boyfriend’s Mother rode shotgun and my brother, my boyfriend, and I all crammed into the backseat. I wore a pair of jean shorts and a purple tie-dyed t-shirt. Not exactly the stuff weddings are made of, but that’s life.
The only time I smiled during the whole thing was right before the vows when the judge made us all raise our right hands and swear that my boyfriend and I were not of blood relation. Can anyone from West Virginia verify if this is proper procedure? Or was the judge just making a joke?
During the actual exchanging of vows, I bawled my little ass off. I just couldn’t get over the fact that I was just using the boy next to me. I was using him just like my Mother had used the men in her life, over the years. I just couldn’t get over the idea that this marriage was proof that I was just like her. So I stood before the judge with tears streaming from my eyes, cheeks red and swollen, and snot running freely from my nose.
I have never been a pretty crier.
When it was done, my new Mother-in-law tried to take a picture. I wouldn’t let her. I didn’t want photographic evidence of that day…although I do still have my old marriage license.
My new husband and I sat on a bench and waited for our parents to get some paperwork in order. When they were finished, my Mother waved my brother over to her side. I heard her tell him that they would be driving back alone. His sister and her new family would be renting a car.
She walked away from us without a word to me, without looking back, and with a gait that was both purposeful and brisk. The sound her shoes made as they clicked against the marble floor echoed throughout the room. I noticed her high heels. That day, they were black.
That was the last time I ever laid eyes on her.
Thus concludes what my friend would refer to as one of my good stories.
And now that I’ve told it, how do you feel? Do you want to shrink away from it? Close your eyes? Or perhaps you want to deny, deny, deny that it ever happened?
Do you want to ask me, ‘How can this possibly be true?’
A long, long time ago, I would have answered you with a shrug of the shoulders. I would have told you that if you met my Mother before I told this story, you would have liked her. She was pretty and smart and so very charming. You would have wanted to be her friend.
I would have also told you a truth about human nature. That is simply that people see what they want to see. Take, for example, the cop who visited my house that night long ago. He didn’t see my greasy hair. He didn’t see my cracked and bleeding lips. He didn’t see the funny way my clothes hung on my emaciated body or how too much movement made me dizzy. He didn’t see those things because he didn’t want to see them.
What he saw was a spoiled girl in a fancy sweater who was making up stories because she was on drugs. That’s what he wanted to see. He wanted to see this because no one on God’s green earth wants to believe it is possible for a Mother to hurt her child.
A long, long time ago I used to get into arguments with my friends. They would tell me that abused children don’t necessarily end up ruined.
They would say, “Just look at how you turned out, V!”
I always had to fight the urge to ball my hand up into a fist, slam it onto the table and scream, “YES! THAT’S EXACTLY MY POINT! LOOK HOW I TURNED OUT!”
But my friends would have only blinked at me, confused. When they look at me, they see a smart girl who toughed it out and eventually made a life for herself.
They don’t see the alcohol or the pills or the chronic insomnia. They don’t notice my obvious discomfort with physical affection or the way I tear up very suddenly sometimes for reasons unknown even to me. And that way I panic and claw at my face should anything even come close to covering my nose and mouth? Why, that’s just a funny little phobia!
People see what they want to see.
After my explanation, I would have asked you to fucking spare me the claims of what you would have done if you were in my position. I would have told you to kindly shut the fuck up when you insisted that you would have made someone believe you. You speak as an emotionally healthy, grown adult. You don’t speak as a scared little kid who has spent her life reaching out to people only to suffer the consequences when she was once again left alone with her abuser.
But now if you ask me, ‘How can this possibly be true?’ I won’t say any of those things.
Instead I’ll laugh and tell you, I told you so. I told you it would be too bitter to swallow! I told you it would be easier to treat it all like it was some made-up fantasy bullshit! I told you I wouldn’t mind if you looked at me with suspicion and distrust!
I didn’t write the story for you, anyway.
I wrote it for the teenage kid reading from a dark room somewhere who is nodding silently to himself. I hope it does his heart some good to read something real for a change and not that Good Will Hunting bullshit.
Good Will Hunting. What a fucking joke.
Should you ever meet one of the kids who read my story and nodded to himself, all I ask is that you be careful before you pat him on the head and tell him, “There, there.” Most of them fear your pity more than they fear facing what happened to them.
Before I end this and move on to discussing more lighthearted things, let me take a moment to discuss the permanent damage.
1. I very adamantly disagree with a legal system that gives any parent totalitarian control of a child at the exclusion of the other parent and all other adults. When a child is isolated from other adults, the adult in control loses all accountability. People like my Mother do what they do because the legal system treats them as if they were omniscient.
2. I cannot stand the sight, smell, or taste of goldfish crackers.
3. For the most part, I fucking hate cops.
Also, I ask that you not condemn me too much for believing in God for as long as I did. I want to believe in God because I want to believe in Hell.
Without Hell, my Mother will have gotten away with every bad thing she’s ever done.