Some stories should be buried deep in our psyches, locked away and hidden from prying eyes, compartmentalized and never acknowledged by their bearers. This isn't one of those stories.
Everything started out normally enough for a tale such as this. I was young enough that being in foster care wasn't such a big shock to me. I was young enough not to know that the woman who 'cared' for me and nine other children was insane.
We were two boys and eight girls. I was the youngest. The other boy and myself slept on the floor in the living room, surrounded by the stench of cat feces and childrenís' messes. The girls slept in another room, also on the floor in similar conditions.
The woman whom we lived with was growing old and frail, and I like to believe that she was once a caring person who took in both children and animals that had no where else to turn. I think I was the only real legal resident. Save for one other girl, all the children spoke minimal English, and instead prattled on in Spanish. I still donít understand why CPS didnít get involved sooner.
I lived in that two bedroom hovel for two years. I was five when I discovered that I had different parts than the older girls that I lived with. The youngest girl was seven, she and I discovered our differences together, rather innocently, but Ms. Brown (Weíll call her that for conversational purposes) was horrified by this. She dragged me into the kitchen, my pants around my ankles and got out a kitchen knife. Castration is a tricky business, especially on an unwilling victim. I fought her off and ran to the neighbors.
I got six stitches in my scrotum and spent some time with a therapist. Iíve been told on good authority that this injury and resulting scar tissue reduces my chances of having children. Oh well.
Iíve since learned that Ms. Brown was sent to a mental hospital and that the other kids were taken to new homes. The twenty some odd cats were euthanized since most of them had FIV (feline immunodeficiency virus, AKA kitty AIDS). The house was bulldozed.
I was sent to live with another young couple who were having trouble conceiving children of their own. I was with them for a year before they were successful through in vitro fertilization. A combination of my noncompliant and confrontational behavior and the fact that they would soon be having a child of their own to take care of landed me in a different home when I was seven.
Some of what Iíve said so far may sound shocking, but the place I ended up in after all of that was much worse. Mr. And Mrs. Hopkins (again, not their real names) had two boys of their own and had taken in four more. Their house, much like their lives, was immaculate. They were deeply religious and home schooled all of us. The extent of the knowledge imparted to me was all religious in nature. I was taught nothing of science or accurate history, nor was I allowed to watch normal television. We attended church services twice a week. I was expected to be well mannered, well spoken and well kempt. I did this as best a child could be expected to.
At the time I left, the ages of the boys ranged from four to fifteen, their own children being a ten year old and the fifteen year old. The four year old they didn't adopt until I was nine or so.
The fourteen-year-old, Trevor, had immeasurable issues. He had all three signs of the Triad (a fabled classifying technique used to identify would-be serial killers in early age.) he had the bed wetting, the animal torturing and the fire setting. He hid all of this very well from his parents, whom were convinced he was a saint.
We were all taught that sexuality was immoral, and to desire was sinful. So Trevor took out his frustrations on me. I was beaten, raped, and made subject of many of his sick experiments. He never left a mark on me that his parents could see and he always prompted me on an appropriate excuse if they ever did discover the gashes, bruises or burn marks.
Trevor could get to me no matter where I was, so there was no use trying to hide from him. His parents often left him in charge while they were out and he always had complete access to me. Over the years I discovered that it was better to do as he said than to be beaten.
During all of this I spent a lot of time in the public library. It was the only place I was allowed to go alone and could stay there for hours. I sometimes read two or three books a day. Sometimes I just picked a subject and read every book they had on it. It was this forbidden knowledge that planted the first seeds of unrest in me. When I was twelve I convinced the Hopkins to let me attend public school.
Everything I learned about human interaction I learned from Trevor and his parents and I applied what I had learned to the people I met at school. The teachers were immediately concerned about my complete submission to the other boys and my general avoidance of females altogether. I started seeing the school counselor and I told him what life was like at Ďhomeí. When I was twelve, I was taken from school one day by a social worker.
I was sent to live in a shelter for abused children for a little while. I didnít want to end up in another home. I snuck out of the shelter with a little money, food and the clothes on my back. I was reading ĎOn the Roadí by Jack Kerouac at the time and the notion of breaking free was appealing to me.
I spent some time wandering aimlessly and met up with some other kids a little older then me. They showed me where they lived under a little bridge and I decided to stay for a little while. It wasnít so bad. They had a little money sometimes and food and most of them looked like they were doing ok. I didnít know at the time that they were prostitutes and drug runners. I didnít know that if I had stayed I would have ended up one too.
My second night I slept on the only mattress under the bridge. It was covered in stains and smelled like rotten food, but no one else was using it. I woke up to a stranger leaning over me and a strange pressure in my side. I looked to see a blade buried in my right side, just below my ribs. Iíll never forget the look on the old manís face. He seemed confused. Whether he was confused about why someone was in his bed, or why he had just stabbed me, Iíll never know. We were both still for a moment, just looking at each other, he holding the knife with his curious expression and me staring up at him, losing my breath. I woke up in a hospital and was told I had an asthma attack and that a pedestrian found me beside the road. I was lucky enough that the blade missed my liver and I healed quickly.
I was sent to another shelter, another therapist and then another home. This one was much better, but still not what most would call ideal. I lived with the Johnsons (named are changed, people) from thirteen to sixteen over which time life was pretty uneventful with them. I did, however, make my first real friends.
Eric, Kane, Daz, Brian and Kara are the best friends I could ever ask for. Eric and Kane are brothers, Eric being the quiet one, Kane being the boisterously rebellious one. Daz is the most popular person Iíve ever met, and the kindest. His sister Kara wants to be a photographer and takes endless delight in following me around with a camera. I relate to Brian the most. Coming from a broken home himself, heís now eighteen lives on his own with a good job and still gets good grades in his senior year. He has scholarships lined up and is handling college applications. All that said, heís a self centered ass, but I think we all need one of those around.
When I turned fifteen, after much persuasion from Brian, I started filing for emancipation. After endless piles of paperwork and the opposition of the Johnsons, my plea was denied.
With the help of my friends and better research I ran away again. I spent a week laying low, keeping my friends in the dark so that they knew nothing when questioned, and then went to stay with Daz and Kara. Everything seemed to be going perfectly until I applied for a job at a fast food place. I was called on my pre-paid cell phone to come in for an interview and found a social worker and police officer there waiting for me.
I would have been sent back to the Johnsons, but they said they wouldnít take me back. That I caused them too much trouble. I ended up with the Stanleys in LA. They are kind, patient, understanding people. Mary is a teacher, and Tim a doctor. They have an amazing house and lavished me with gifts within my first week. I have a TV, a computer, a PS2, an Xbox 360, an extensive wardrobe and anything else I could possibly want or need. They even let me drive every now and then when I got my permit.
I wish I could have been there sooner. Unfortunately for me, everything Iíve been through in my life has made it impossible for me to be happy with a foster family. The only thing that makes me truly happy is being back in SFC with my friends. I want to go to college, work and be self-sufficient.
I stayed with the Stanleys until I graduated from high school as valedictorian. We had discussed me moving back to SFC for quite a while and they accepted the fact that they could either let me go and know where I was, or I would just run away anyway.
I now live with my friends in San Francisco. I have a job, I'm starting college next fall. I'll be double majoring in music and lit. I like to believe that I've done the best I could for myself given the circumstances.
I know that, considering all that has happened, I am lucky and should be grateful for what I have now, but no one will ever understand how I feel. Many people will think I'm foolish for moving out on my own, but as long as I spent my life in the dark, given no alternative than captivity, I had no aspirations for anything greater. But nowÖnow that I know what kind of life is out thereÖyou cannot cage a bird near an open window and expect it not to want to fly.
There is nothing natural about maturity in the physically immature. Maturity comes with wisdom, and wisdom comes with pain. Those of us with the greatest minds have endured the greatest torments.