the 2nd time that i ran away (successfully), i was how old? 13 or 14, i think. i was tired of alternating between being screamed at and fed or going hungry and ignored all the time. we had just moved to a new town, a small town. i had already tempted suicide and fate in various ways, tho none serious enough to warrant the attention of my guardians beyond chastisement for being so weird. in either family i was the outlier, the weirdo. a friend has a piece of writing entitled “home of the constant weirdo,” and this sometimes pops into my head at the strangest times, like now, recalling that life.

even at church, the most forgiving and accepting environment i could find, i was a weird. a queer, pro-choice, atheist…mormon. i kept all those things inside, bore testimony like an actor at the academy awards. church was safe space: food, shelter, music. any yelling was a chant about god and righteousness, never in anger. even the cliquish cruelty of the popular kids was stayed by fellowship in our common mormon-ness, tho they never called me their own (wise of them, really).

had i been raped yet? it’s unclear. there was a boy who claimed to have done so while i was sleeping, but when i confronted him (what a brave little thing i was!) he recanted with the ever-popular: i was just trying to impress my buddies, i swear nothing really happened. was he telling the truth, or did he know that i would rustle up a posse and hunt him down (this was in one of my old neighborhoods, where i had allies). there were other things, the creepy boundary-crossings of my father that did not quite register at the time. it didn’t matter if i had been raped yet because i already knew the weight of my worth in the world–and it was little, so little that i was surprised anyone noticed my absence at all.

that morning i walked most of the way to school and kept walking, on and on, up the highway at rush hour, thru the morning and afternoon. i hid in the bushes and changed clothes to throw them off my trail, tho later i learned no one had been able to remember what i was wearing and they had given the cops a completely made-up description of my outfit. we had lived in town only a few weeks (at most a month?), and for many of my classmates the picture being passed around when i was declared missing was our first introduction. i did not leave a note. why should i, most uncared for of things, most alien, leave a note? i was convinced everyone would be better off. i was tired of watching my father beat up my step-siblings and get away with it, apologize, call a family meeting and pray, and her come back to him (again). i cut to relieve the tension of bearing witness (and the guilt of not taking his fists in their stead), but unlike others i hid my marks carefully, changed quickly or skipped gym altogether. made sure not to cut too deep so my mother wouldn’t question the scar when (if) i visited.

i had learned by some source that there was safe(r) space for runaways to be had in the city. if i could only get to it, there would be freaks and queers a-plenty. i knew that it was dangerous to be undocumented in the way that runaways are, that i would probably get hurt or killed. i just wanted (needed!) a chance at autonomy, and i knew if i didn’t run now i might not survive until i was legally given that right (well, as much as anyone is, under capitalism & the state, hey-oh!). the only way i could figure on surviving was dumpsterdiving, sleeping in alleyways, squatting, shoplifting, and prostitution, and i felt strangely well-prepared for all of those things, despite having never really done any of them before. i knew i couldn’t possibly be the only one, there were kids at school who were constantly in and out of juvy and rehab, who had already started to fight for their autonomy and survival–some who had never had much of a choice to begin with, practically born with fists flying.

[there’s more story here when i get to it, but suffice it to say i got Judas’d by a ‘friend’ who didn’t get it and dragged home by the cops. maybe i’ll finish writing that later]


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