When I Was Stolen

When I was fourteen, I was stolen, twice. I didn’t think of it that way at the time, I was sure I knew what I was doing, but they were adults. Now that I am a parent I know it was abuse, even if I considered myself complicit.
If I had a loving home and support from both my parents would I have made those choices again? No. I don’t think so.
I get hazy on the details, which might be a blessing.
But I ran away when I was fourteen, to be fair, I ran away at twelve and thirteen, too. I ended up squatting, nearly right away this time, in a suburb close to home.
I was in an abandoned apartment. There were no tools for survival or cleanliness besides running water and heat. There was some half eaten chicken that I recall, and I can still remember the smell of it- which was not pleasant. I don’t know if I ate any. I might have been vegetarian.
His name was Mike. I don’t know how I met him, but somehow I ended up in this abandoned apartment with him and then we got into a beat up old truck and there was another man in there named Tom. Those are their real names, though they sound made up and generic. It was really cold out, and it was the middle of the night.
We went to a house in the city that a couple with a new baby had just bought and were renovating. They let us stay a few days, it wasn’t bad, Tom and I babysat and Mike did odd repair jobs and it all seemed fine.
But after those few days it came out that Mike, a felon from Leavenworth, had a pistol. I think also he figured out Tom and I had been intimate. The couple in the house did not take kindly to unsecured firearms around their baby and Mike did not take kindly to my involvement with Tom and there was a fight on the front lawn. Very civilized. I sure can pick some winners.
Tom, outsizing Mike by quite a bit, won. Mike left, and I think he took his gun with him.
Days later Tom “borrowed” the couple’s older car out of a snowdrift and drove the two of us to Canada, right after I had given my age to the young mom, who had assumed I was an older teen until that point. I did not realize he was stealing a car. I had his ex-wife’s security number memorized with her birth date and we got through customs without issue. I passed for an adult. We were nearly to the first city over the border (about 120 miles in) when he turned around and brought us back, because he realized he had no work permit. Maybe he realized he had just committed international kidnapping. Not sure if he was smart enough to keep such a thing to himself. I spent a lot of time hiding in the car, though, so perhaps it had occurred to him.
We returned the car and of course were kicked out of the house for stealing it in the first place. We had been gone three days.
We went into Uptown and ended up sleeping in the back of a movie theater (they had an unused hallway on the side of the building) for a few nights before they realized we were in there and started checking for us at lockup. Tom got a job working under the table at the pizza shop next door and sometimes we slept there, but other nights we slept at a squat at 37th and Garfield.
There were tons of kids at the squat, one punk, and some crackheads. The heat was on, the water was not. The upstairs was not too bad, but the basement was awful. It was not a well maintained squat.
This was where I spent most of my time away from home during that run, on the streets in Uptown and sleeping in that squat.
My mother’s wife spotted me on a street corner there and mentioned it to my brother, who knew someone who knew someone who knew someone in my squat. So he had me arrested.
After they let me out of jail I asked to go back to the Bridge, a home for runaways. My mother had found a letter from Tom and read it at the hearing. Tom might have been there, I don’t know. I suppose I must have known him for a long time, as it was a twelve page letter, but I can’t remember how. Maybe I ran away to him, a second time, and am confusing the two as one. It seems telling to me that I cannot remember. Like my brain is trying to protect me. I spent a few weeks there at the Bridge before they sent me home.
I didn’t see Tom again as a kid.
He called on my eighteenth birthday. He described the cars in my driveway and asked who was in the house with me. I knew, right then, that this was not going to go away. I only had a two weeks before I was back out on the street but I wanted to nip this in the bud.
I invited him to dinner. At a restaurant. I invited every one of my friends over eighteen and every one of my brother’s friends that I could find-even the ones who couldn’t stand each other agreed to come. I think a dozen people showed up and they all knew the deal.
We all had breakfast (yes, at dinner, what’s better than all day breakfast?), with this bastard sitting at one end of the table and me down on the far right and all my friends in between being loud and obnoxious and laughing a ton. He never called my mother’s house again and I never spotted him after that, but that doesn’t mean he wasn’t there. He had been there for four years I never knew.
I had some very good friends. I still owe them.

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