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Susan Lewis:

This story is more in line with this blog.

Happy Memorial Day!

Originally posted on Susan's litter box:

Story

Some of you know that I do volunteer work in the field of criminal rehabilitation. For those that don’t, well now you know.

I am currently working with 30 inmates, all via the mail. I do this in the very limited amount of spare time that I have. I’ll usually grade lessons and get caught-up on my correspondence with them during my lunch hour.

I really don’t take a lunch hour. I’m entitled to one, of course, but I always work through it. I’ll grade lessons or write and once in a blue moon, I’ll sit back and get in some additional reading time.

Today I opened a letter from one. Let’s call him Bubba. Generic name and I don’t really know anyone by that name, so I should be fine in using it.

He’s been in prison a very long time and he won’t be getting out soon. I’ve…

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Originally posted on Susan's litter box:

were

And that’s why I never had kids.

It all makes sense now, right?

Oh shit! Is this out of context for you?

Allow me to clarify.

This is what I said to a woman last week who assumed the reason I didn’t have children was because I must have been traumatized or something. Like something horrible must have happened because I hadn’t procreated – and it’s WAY to late for me to even try – and the only reason it could be that way was because something was wrong. Very wrong. Scary wrong with me.

The thought that it had been my own choice never entered her mind.

Nope.

Something was wrong and she was bound and determined to find out what it was.

This amuses me. This is not the first time I had told this story but I was very surprised to see that such a young woman…

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Ironic Sexism Is Still Sexism

Posted: February 11, 2014 in Uncategorized

Susan Lewis:

This resonated with me for many reasons and then – I read the comments the writer had to deal with. Unfortunately, I was not at all surprised she had to put up with yet another man, explaining to her how she should be.

Some people just don’t get it and I have to give the author credit for her patience. If the topic had to do with racism, I am sure the commenters would have agreed with her blog.

But since it had to do with women, oh well then, we are still considered fair game on how we should think and respond and many men feel it is their obligation to explain that to us.

We still have a long ways to go.

Originally posted on shattersnipe: malcontent & rainbows:

All too often, gross remarks – be they racist, sexist, homophobic or otherwise abusive and vile – are excused or condoned on the grounds of irony; that because they were meant to be humorous, they can’t possibly be offensive. And if somebody is offended, then they’re either oversensitive or incapable of laughter – either way, though, the problem is with them, not the joke-teller.

Except that, no: it’s not.

Generally speaking, there are two reasons why people make ironically offensive jokes: either they think we live in such a post-racist, post-sexist, post-discriminatory world that the act of mimicking historical abuses cannot possibly reinforce those abuses, on account of how they no longer really exist; or they secretly think the stereotypes which underlie offensive jokes have some basis in reality, and are therefore funny because they’re true. The former person can be anything from genuinely well-intentioned but oblivious to belligerently convinced…

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I took one last look around. The deal was done. The paperwork had long been signed. My pets were secured and everything had been moved. The house had been cleaned, scoured and every nook and cranny gone through. Twice. Maybe three times.

The house was bare and the only sign that I had ever lived there was the slight crack on the mirror above the fireplace. That was where I had thrown a glass against it years before. It didn’t shatter like it does in the movies. Instead the glass broke, left a small chip on the mirror and landed on the carpet. I had a unfulfilled expression of my justified anger at the time.

Empty rooms and houses have always given me the chills. Now with everything gone, I felt uneasy with standing in the kitchen and looking around. It was cold, barren, deserted and a few other words that all came down to one meaning: void of life.

Even my breathing seemed to echo. This was going to be the last time I walked through the front door and I would never return. That was the plan. That was what I had agreed to. There was no turning back and even though I knew this day would come, and I often looked forward to it, but now that it was here I no longer knew what to feel.

Relief? Sure, if you call losing everything and almost everyone relief that it was now over and you realized you were a big, fat failure.

Excitement? Perhaps, but who wants to turn 50 and have nothing to show for it and be alone and financially destitute? Excitement about what?

Hope? That had dissipated when I lost the house.

I was trying to feel numb. That’s what I wanted. Nothing. No feelings, no sensations, no thoughts. I wanted to be wrapped in cotton and oblivious to everything around me.

I glanced around at the kitchen and saw myself sitting there at my table with stacks of work and the phone in my hand while I sipped coffee and chain smoked as I sold another deal in my pajamas. I turned around and saw myself doing the dishes and laughing as a friend sipped wine and entertained me with her stories. There I was taking a turkey out of the oven as friends and family helped. I could hear the men in the living room, watching football and cheering on the 49ers.

I walked towards the sound of their voices. I came around the corner. The room was empty. The couch and chairs and tables were gone. Their voices were only in my head but I could still hear them. I could see them cheering and opening another beer. I knew it was all in my mind, but for a moment, I wanted to sit down and join them.

I looked in the mirror above the fireplace and stared at my reflection for just a moment. I didn’t want to look too long because I didn’t want to see myself. Not now. Not today.

I walked down the hall and ran my hand over the wall. Yes, it was still there and it was real. I could feel it. I looked in the first bedroom and saw the bed against the wall and on the floor. I saw the desk against the other wall and I saw my friend fast asleep. He was snoring quietly with the covers pulled up to his chin.

I walked into the next bedroom and saw all the shelves full of books and the curtains softly moving in the breeze. I saw boxes to still be unpacked after all these years pressed against a bookcase that was overfilled with books. Books were everywhere. I smiled at my inability to ever let go of a book, even if I knew I would never read it again. There just always seemed to be something sacrilegious about destroying a book, even a bad one. I had a hard enough time selling them to used book stores.

I passed the bathroom. The white tile on the walls and floor had never looked this awful to me before. I shuddered and tried to remember why I had never remodeled such an ugly bathroom.

Walking into the master bedroom was much harder. I stopped at the door and began to turn around. My footsteps had echoed through the house as the hallway was hardwood floors. Only the bedrooms had carpeting. I had always liked the look of hardwood and was convinced that it would be easier to keep the house tidy when the dogs were inside, but that was a foolish idea. It just meant that their shedding traveled faster throughout the house and would end up on the carpet in the bedrooms. Either way, my weekend mornings included sweeping and vacuuming.  I smiled as I remembered them running down the hallway. I often referred to that as “The running of the bulls.”

I turned back around and took my shoes off. I loved the carpet in this bedroom. I walked across it and out of habit, stopped where the bed used to be. It was long gone but the imprints of it were dug deep into the carpet. I outlined a bit of it with my toe and smiled. I had loved that bed and now it was gone. It didn’t fit into the tiny studio apartment I had rented. It was a floatation bed and I could have spent my life in it. A water bed inside a mattress in a large frame with shelves in the headboard and drawers underneath the bed frame. Since getting rid of it, I was once again waking-up with back, neck and shoulder pain.

I looked at the empty closets and remembered how much fun I had filling them up with nice clothes and shoes. I fondly remembered those days when I not only made enough to pay my bills and eat, I could afford to spend money on myself and still have a savings. I missed the Porsche I had driven for many years and hoped the person I sold it to was taking good care of it.

I saw myself sitting on the best bed in the world, putting my new clothes away. Some I tried on again and rummaged through my jewelry chest to find the perfect pair of earrings. I saw myself unpacking the shoes and boots I bought once at Nordstrom’s and not even worrying about being able to afford them.

I sighed and knew it was time to leave. I was fine and had made the best decision possible. I would be alright and pull myself out of it. All I needed was to be able to sleep again, have a fling and get my bearings. I knew it would all work out. I just didn’t know how.

I walked back into the kitchen and picked-up my purse. I took one last look around and then looked out into the yard.

I should not have done that. I knew it but I did it anyway.

I put my purse back down on the counter and walked towards the sliding glass door. I stopped but couldn’t turn around. I had one more thing to do before leaving and it had to be done.

I slid the door open and stepped out onto the patio. The backyard had also been stripped of any remembrance of me. The lawn furniture had been sold (since I now lived in an apartment, I had no use for it) and all the plants had gone with me. I had hosed off the patio and the gardeners had recently mowed the lawn. I took my shoes off again and walked on the grass. I knew I would miss it. Living in an apartment on the second floor meant no longer being able to sit outside privately with my morning cup of coffee and cigarette.

I slowly walked towards the corner of the yard. I don’t know if I could go any further, so I stopped. I peered over and saw the headstone. I knew what it said because I’m the one that wrote the words. It’s the one piece of my life that still lingers here. It’s the only thing that would let anyone know that at one time, this was my house. My yard. My life.

I closed my eyes and I saw him all over again. Running to catch the ball that I threw for him thousands of times. Lapping up water from a bowl that I filled-up countless times. I saw him lying on the grass under the big oak tree during a heat wave. I could hear the clicking of his nails as he walked through the house to investigate some sound that only he could hear.

I could feel his head on my lap and hear his quiet growl to get me to pay attention to him. My hand runs down his face and over his shoulders and I could feel the softness of his fur. I heard a groan from him and I rubbed his ears and felt the gentle pressure of his head against my hand to not stop.

I felt him run by and for a moment, I was happy. I was happy to see him again and then that moment was over and I was back in the yard, looking at his grave.

I moved closer to it. I got down on my knees and brushed the dirt away from his headstone. It had been 2 years since I had buried him but now it felt like I had just placed the last shovel of dirt over him. He was wrapped in plastic and buried with his favorite toy. I still carried his tags on my key chain and kept his collar and leash in a box.

I don’t know when the sobbing started. I was in the middle of it before I knew what had happened. I didn’t want to leave him there but I knew that was an insane thought. I knew he was dead but I never thought I’d lose the space where I had laid him to rest.

This was the worst loss of all; walking away from him. Had I known this day would come, I would have had him cremated and buried with other dogs. It was too late for that and suddenly, everything was too much to bear.

My crying was about everything and nothing. I felt the loss all over again and vowed to never bury another pet in the yard again. I felt like a traitor.

“Good-bye Roscoe. I love you,” I finally said.

It took me half an hour to get up and walk away. I finally allowed myself the time to grieve for all that had gone wrong, for every dream that had been shattered and for all the people I had lost. I cried for what I had become and who I had not. I took the headstone with me and put it in the trunk of my car, buried beneath boxes still to be moved.

It took me 6 months to move those boxes because I was afraid of seeing it again and having another sobbing fit.

When I finally did, I smiled. Somehow I had survived and was beginning to find my way. Throughout the last 6 months, every morning I got up and put one foot in front of the other. I kept going. I got out of bed when it was the last thing I wanted to do. I went to a job that I hated but did the best I could. Every day, I came home and cried and went to bed and did it again and again and again every morning.

Eventually debt was paid off and bills were manageable. I still had a roof over my head and a prospect of the perfect job for me. My family was well and the friends that were left were always there when I needed them.

At some point, happiness had arrived and the sadness left and I don’t know when that happened. It was just there one day when I woke-up, rolled over and saw Maverick staring at me. He began to wag his tail when my eyes opened and instead of an alarm clock, I was greeted with a cold wet nose on mine and slobbering kisses all over my face.

The cycle was beginning again and I was glad.

Best friends

Posted: January 8, 2014 in Uncategorized
Tags: ,

1963

I didn’t expect for someone to be standing there as I climbed over my backyard fence. We had moved in a few months before but most of the houses in the new development were vacant. The Harris’ lived 3 doors down and I had met Jennifer. She and I were the same age and getting ready to start 3rd grade. Polly lived up the street at the top of the hill. Polly, Jennifer and I were friends by default. I liked them well enough, but Polly could be bossy and Jennifer liked to have tea parties in her bedroom with her toy troll dolls and talk baby talk to them.

“Hello. Who are you? My name is Rebecca,” I heard as I hoisted myself up the fence and straddled the middle in preparation of jumping down. I was planning on playing in the yard without the prying eyes of my older brother who had been left to babysit me while my Mom ran to the store. He thought this made him the boss of me. It didn’t but rather than have another argument about it, I decided to go play in what I considered my own personal backyard.

Now someone else was here and I didn’t know why. I looked at her for a moment and suddenly felt as if I had done something wrong.

“I’m Susan. What are you doing here?” I asked as I jumped down. I almost landed on her. She stepped back but continued to smile. She was about my height but thinner. Her hair was so blond it was yellow. She had enormous blue eyes with pale lashes. Her nose was large and her skin was so white it was almost translucent.

She was wearing a starched white blouse that was tucked into her pants. Her socks had lace on them and she was wearing white saddle shoes that didn’t have a mark on them. Her hair had a ribbon in it which matched her shirt

“I live here now,” she said. She began blinking rapidly and her eyes darted for a moment.

“What do you mean you live here now?” I asked. I quickly looked into the living room window. “I don’t see any furniture.”

Her smile got wider. “Oh, that’s because we haven’t actually moved in yet. The movers come on Saturday. We’re staying at a motel until then.”

“I see,” I said as I wiped my hands on my jeans. I wasn’t wearing any shoes and my feet were dirty. I tried to smooth my hair down but it was pointless. It was curly and stuck out everywhere. My Mom gave up trying to comb it so she cut it short and hoped it would somehow stay put.

“Do you live next door?” she asked.

“We moved in here a long time ago. I know everyone in the neighborhood,” I said as if that would mean something.

“Rebecca? Where are you?” I heard a man’s voice call out. Rebecca turned and I saw a man approach us.

“Hi Dad. This is Susan. She lives next door,” she said. He walked over the stuck his hand out. I shook it and hoped it was clean.

“Nice to meet you Susan,” he said. He was tall and younger than my parents. His hair was cut short and his teeth were so straight that I wasn’t sure if they were real or not and tried not to stare.

“Thanks, you too,” I said and pulled my hand away.

“How did you get in the yard? I didn’t see you go through the gate,” he asked and looked directly at me.

This was the second time in 2 minutes that I felt as if I had done something wrong. “I climbed over the fence like I always do,” I said.

“Oh well, please be sure not to do that anymore. This is our house and you should come to the front door from now on.” He turned and looked down at Rebecca and put his arm around her shoulder. He had spoken and I had been dismissed. “It’s time to go,” he said and turned her around. “It’s nice to have met you Susan,” he said as they walked away. Rebecca turned around, smiled and waved.

I waved and walked through the gate. I left it open. I figured if he had such a bug up his ass about it, he could close it himself.

                      1968

It was such a beautiful Saturday morning so I jumped on my bike and pedaled as fast as I could to Rebecca’s house. I had so many things to tell her about my new crush that I couldn’t wait. We weren’t in the same classes anymore and had different schedules. Since she wasn’t allowed to use the phone during the week, the only time we had to talk was on the weekend. Sometimes we would catch each other in the cafeteria but she had new friends I didn’t like.

Rebecca’s mom opened the door. I had parked my bike exactly where they had told me. Everything in their house was always in the exact right place. It was spotless and I often felt that if I moved wrong, I would knock something over and they would banish me forever.

“Good morning Susan,” she said and just stood there. She always did this. I always had to tell her I was there to see Rebecca even though it was obvious.

“Hello Mrs. Monroe. How are you?” I asked and waited. This ritual was usually short.

“I’m well. Are you here to see Rebecca?” she asked.

I wanted to tell her I wasn’t. I wanted to say I was there to visit with her even though I knew she didn’t like me and never had.

“Yes I am,” I said and continued to stand there and wait.

She looked me up and down. I automatically reached up and flattened down my hair.

“She’s upstairs in her bedroom,” she said and opened the door wider. I walked through it and started to go up the stairs.

“Thank you Mrs. Monroe,” I said.

I heard her close the door. “Rebecca has a lot to do tonight, so please be back here by 4:00,’ she said as she walked into the kitchen.

I rolled my eyes but made sure she couldn’t see them. “No problem,” I said as I sprinted up the stairs and into Rebecca’s room.

She was sitting at her desk. She jumped up and hugged me. I closed the door and flopped down on her bed. I wanted to leave as soon as we could. I felt like I was in jail.

“Are you ready to go?” I asked.

She turned around and smiled. “Yep. Let me just grab my purse. You want to grab some food for our bike ride? We could ride up the trail and there’s a bunch of nice spots where we could stop. Angie lives somewhere near the lake. Maybe we could go over to her house…”

“No, I don’t like Angie. I know she’s your friend but I don’t think she likes me,” I said.

“Oh, that’s not true! She does like you,” Rebecca said. Rebecca only saw the goodness in people. She didn’t like it when I said something unkind or mean. She would always tell me something positive. It annoyed me at times but I had grown used to it. That was just the way she was.

Her door opened and her father was standing there. They never knocked. They just walked in. Rebecca never did anything wrong and I wondered if they were like that when I wasn’t around.

He stood there and I saw he was holding a book in his hand. He had a serious look on his face. I looked down at the book. It was “Soul on Ice” and right then I knew I was in trouble.

“Where did you get this book Rebecca?” he asked as he held the book in front of him. Rebecca looked at it and then immediately looked at me. She blushed when she realized that she had just answered his question without saying anything. She looked back at him and then down at her lap.

“Well? I asked you a question young lady,” he said.

“I gave it to her,” I said. She couldn’t lie to her father and didn’t want to get me into trouble. It was easier for her if I just told the truth.

He looked at me and slowly shook his head. “Did you…read this book?” he asked.

I nodded my head. I felt my face getting red. I knew what parts he was talking about. I looked down at my shoes. At 13 years old, much of the book I did not understand but the sex scenes were vivid enough.

“Do your parents know you read this book?”

“I have no idea. It was given to me. I read it. I gave it to Rebecca to read. It’s just a book and a popular one,” I said. I did not like anyone talking to me as if they were my parents.

“Well I may have to talk to them about. I’m sure they would not approve. I think you are both a bit too young for this type of…book. There are parts that are fine. I stapled the pages that you are not to read Rebecca, but you can read the rest of it,” he said and handed her the book. She took it and nodded and placed it on her desk.

He turned and looked at me. “But the next time you want Rebecca to read something you find so…interesting, please give it to me first,” he said and walked out. He left the door open. I got up and closed it.

I looked down at Rebecca. She was still red and was wringing her hands slightly. “Sorry I got you in trouble,” I said and took the book. I started to take the staples out of it. Rebecca reached over and took the book from me.

“You can’t do that! He said I couldn’t read those parts!”

“So what? It’s my book and he had no right to ruin it. If I want the staples out of my book, I’m taking them out!” I said. I snatched the book back and began to pull out the staples and sneered every time they tore a page.

“You can see the pages that had them and if you don’t want to read them, then don’t,” I said and handed her back the book.

She shook her head. “No, that’s OK. I’ll read something else,” she said and got up and picked up her purse.

I took the book with us. We found a place to eat. I read the parts he told her not to read. Technically, she didn’t read them. I just happened to be reading out loud while Rebecca was sitting there.

I never saw her blush so much for so long. It was worth it. From then on, anything I wanted her to read, I kept in my locker at school.

                     1973

I could hear her guitar as I came out of my last class for the day. Her last class for the day ended an hour before mine. She had taken up the guitar and would use that hour while she waited for me to practice. We took the same bus home and that gave us time to catch-up on the day. It was my most favorite time of day except my English class because Ted was in it. I had a crush on him since 6th grade and 6 years later, he still didn’t know I existed.

I found her sitting on the stairs near the girl’s gym. She was in her own world as she sat and strummed her guitar. Her hair was almost to her waist. She was wearing a long dress and boots with a headband and flowers pinned into it. The sun was hitting her back and her hair looked like corn silk. I tried to flatten my hair down and forgot for a moment that it was also long. I wore it pulled back most of the time and I could feel the long pony tail hit my waist as I jogged towards her.

She was practicing “Dark Side of the Moon” by Pink Floyd. It had been the number one song on the charts for a few weeks.  I wasn’t sure if I liked them or not. No one would ever replace The Beatles for me. I walked up and stood in front of her and waited for her to stop.

She looked up and continued to strum her guitar. She was getting better and better. She taught herself much of what she played. She had taken lessons but she had a talent for it. I tried to learn but had no patience. I wanted to pick it up, play it perfectly and refused to practice.

“You ready? I want to have a smoke before the bus comes,” I said. She stood up and walked with me to the parking lot. That was where some of us went to in order to sneak a cigarette.

As we were walking, I heard someone crying. I looked around. “Did you hear that?” I asked Rebecca and stopped. She listened and then we heard it again. We looked around and followed the sound. It was subtle but someone was sobbing.

We saw a girl standing behind the partition in front of the girl’s gym. I had never seen her before. She had her face pressed against it with her hands covering her face. Her body was shaking as she sobbed and tried to be quiet. We looked at each other and walked over to her. Rebecca didn’t know who she was either.

“You OK?” I asked. She jumped back and a slight scream left her mouth. She quickly put her hands over her mouth and nodded her head. She was a mess. Her face was soaked from her tears and they had dripped onto her blouse. Her nose was running.

She was a large girl with hair worse than mine. Hers stood straight up as if she had stuck her finger in a light socket. Everything about her was wrong. She was wearing a pleated skirt that was plaid with a large sweater and knee high socks. She looked as if she had just been transported from the 50′s. I looked to see if there was a poodle on her skirt. She had the thickest glasses I had ever seen and when she looked back and forth at us, only one of her eyes moved. Her left eye stared straight ahead.

Rebecca stepped forward and put her hand on her arm. “What’s your name?”

She wiped her nose on her sleeve and tried to breathe. “Dawn,” she said and attempted to smile. All you could see was a mouthful of braces and she was wearing a head-gear.

“I’m Rebecca and this is Susan. Why are you crying?”

Dawn looked around and then stared at her shoes. She shrugged her shoulders.

I already had a good idea of what happened. She was near the girl’s gym when the cheerleaders came out. I hated those girls even though we had all been friends since 3rd grade. Something happened to some of them during the summer between Junior High School and starting our sophomore year. They had grown-up suddenly and were pretty and thin and popular. Suddenly I wasn’t allowed to have lunch with them or talk to them. My greetings went unanswered or even laughed at as they flipped their hair and wiggled their butts as they walked away.

I didn’t want to hear what they had done. Those girls had turned into demon spawn. Dawn was a perfect target. I grabbed her hand and started walking. “Come with us and don’t worry about it,” I said as I headed towards the parking lot and began to pull my cigarettes out of my purse.

I found a spot to sit where I wouldn’t be seen and could hear if anyone was approaching. I had Dawn sit down between us and lit up. Her face was beginning to dry. She looked back and forth between us. Rebecca picked-up her guitar and started strumming. I leaned back, inhaled deeply and watched the smoke rise in the air.

“What happened to your eye?” I asked Dawn.

She looked at me and I saw a horrible memory pass over her face. I wasn’t trying to be mean or rude but it was like a huge elephant sitting in the middle of a living room and no one was saying anything.

“Some girls picked on me and bullied me for a long time where I used to live,” she said. Her hand went to her eye and she rubbed it. “We just moved here. My dad lost his job, so they haven’t had any money to get me a better eye.”

“A better eye? What does that mean?” I asked.

“This is a glass eye,” she said and pointed to it. “One day, those girls held me down and one of them stuck a needle into it. They laughed. They thought it was funny.”

Rebecca had stopped playing her guitar when Dawn started talking. I looked at her. Tears were in her eyes and her hand went to her mouth. I looked at Dawn as she looked out into the parking lot.

There wasn’t anything left for to say.

I watched the side of Dawn’s face as she gazed at the cars coming and going. Her jaw was tight and her bottom lip quivered. I put my hand over hers and squeezed it.

We were graduating in a couple of months. Rebecca was going off the college. She wanted to be a teacher. I had no plans. I didn’t want to go to school for a while. I wanted to write and be someone. Even then I knew that High School would have a memory that would never die. I sat there and felt the story Dawn had told go into my bones. I knew that it would stay there forever. I would never forget it. I saw what they did to her in my mind and I knew that memory would affect me for the rest of my life.

I was an adult and I didn’t want to be one. I wanted to sit in parking lots and smoke cigarettes and not have to think about what some people did to other people.

I saw our bus pull up. “What bus do you take?” I asked Dawn.

“I don’t. My mom will pick me up in a few. I’m OK now. Thanks,” she said.

I held out my hand and helped her up.

“Rebecca and I meet for lunch under the tree in the courtyard everyday at noon. Be there or be square,” I said.

Dawn smiled and blushed. I chuckled that I now had two friends that randomly looked like beets.

  1977

“Would you like some more punch?” Mrs. Monroe asked me. She was smiling and her eyes were still judgmental. I concluded that she was born that way, had lived that way and would die that way. No matter how old I got, the lack of respect in her eyes when she looked at me would always make me feel inferior.

“No thanks. I’m good,” I said. She nodded her head and walked away. I took a deep breath and turned and watched Rebecca continue to open her presents and chat with the other women. She was getting married in a few weeks. She had not forgotten to invite me to her shower even though we had not seen each other for a few years. She had graduated with her degree. I was proud of her for doing what she wanted. Being a teacher was met with approval from her parents and her entire family.

She was doing what she wanted and would soon be married.

“Are you seeing anyone?” I heard someone ask. I looked around and saw it was Debbie who had asked me the question. She was Rebecca’s younger sister.

I felt my hackles go up. Once again I was about to be subjected to the third degree by women who I didn’t know but yet wanted to know all about my love life. I didn’t like Debbie and she didn’t like me. I remembered her as sneaky and quite often running to her parents to tell them something I had said.

“Yes, but no one you know,” I said. I decided it was easier to lie than explain why I wasn’t married.

“Oh, please, tell us all about him!” she said and moved her chair closer. “Rebecca said you weren’t seeing anyone. Is this someone new?”

I wanted to scratch her eyes out. She knew damn well I wasn’t seeing anyone but now was talking loud enough for everyone to hear. A few of Rebecca’s relatives stopped talking and began to listen.

Debbie had a smug look on her face. I wondered for the millionth time if Rebecca wasn’t adopted.

“What makes you think it’s a man?” I asked and batted my eyelashes.

Debbie looked confused for a moment and then she blushed. I could see the top of her head turn red where she had pulled back her hair. She put her hand to her mouth and gasped. A few of the women looked at each other.

Mrs. Monroe stood up quickly. “Would anyone like some cake?” she said and told everyone to go into the kitchen. She glared at me and told Debbie to come help her.

I chuckled as I watched everyone leave the living room. Once they were gone, I leaned back against my chair and looked at Rebecca. She was blushing and shaking her head.

“What?” I asked and started to laugh.

“I can’t believe you said that! You would think that after all these years, I would get used to you, but I haven’t,” she said and laughed.

I knew our friendship was ending. She vowed that it wouldn’t, but she was getting married and moving away. I had met her fiancé Michael and I didn’t like him. He was rude and abrasive. Rebecca never stood up to anyone in her life. I had not been around for the last 4 years to stick up for her and speak for her when she couldn’t. I never told her I didn’t like Michael. She wasn’t going to teach. After all she had worked for, Michael wanted her to stay home. He wanted a family right away.

“You’re going to miss me when I’m gone,” I said and held her hand in mine. She still looked 8 years old to me even with the shorter hair and breasts. I looked down at her hand and back at her.

“What are you talking about? You’re not going anywhere,” she said.

I wasn’t going anywhere but Rebecca was. She didn’t understand how everything had changed over the last couple of years. We had grown up and gone our own way. She was on her way to start a new life and I was stuck in mine. I didn’t have much of a future but she did.

I no longer fit into her life.

“No, of course not. I’ll always be around,” I said. I stood up. “I have to go but I’ll see you at the wedding, OK?”

She hugged me and then stood back, held my hands and smiled. “Yep. I’ll see you at the wedding! I can hardly wait!”

She had a smile that lit up the room and I was the only one in her life that knew that.

“I just want to go home!”

Posted: October 14, 2013 in jail
Tags: ,

“Yeah, well good luck with that,” I said as I stood over her and watched her sob with her head down on the table.

There wasn’t a person who was incarcerated who didn’t want to go home.

But go home to what? The life they decided on that got them here in the first place?

“Stop crying, wipe your face and quit your whining,” I said.

She proceeded to cry and slam her fist on the table. “It’s not fair!” she said.

“You either knock this off or I’m kicking your ass right out of here,” I said.

She thought about it for a moment. The other students waited quietly. They had never seen me talk so harshly and bluntly to a person before. I had told them all before, I was there to help but would not put up with any outbursts or blaming. They were here because THEY screwed up and it was time to step up to the plate and deal with it.

She kept her head down and continued to cry and protest.

I walked over to my purse, pulled out a whistle and stood behind her. I blew it as loud as I could. Everyone put their hands to their ears and winced. Her head shot up and she turned around and glared at me.

“What the…?”

Steve came around the corner and stood in the doorway. He looked at me. I smiled to let him know everything was OK. I knew he would give me an earful for doing it later. He put his hands on his hips, pointed his finger at me and smiled. He walked away without saying a word.

“Stop talking,” I said. I put the whistle back up to my lips. “Do I need to do that again?” I asked.

Everyone shouted “No!”

She remained sitting up and wiped her face. I held onto the whistle and looked down at her.

“What was one of the first things I told you when you arrived for this class?”

She thought for a moment.

“I’m waiting. I don’t have all night,” I said.

“You said a lot of things…”

“Do you not remember me telling you that I don’t want to hear any type of victim talk? Do you not recall that I said I would not tolerate any bad behavior and that all that was important was today? That the past is gone and what is done is done? Does any of that ring a bell?”

She nodded her head.

“But I’m just so home sick…”

I held up my hand. “Stop right there. I don’t care.”

“What? You don’t care?”

“Nope. Not in the least. You’re the one that decided to do drugs. You’re the one that made the decision to rob and steal. You’re the one that neglected your children and because of you, they’re in foster care and until you own up to the fact that YOU’RE the one that got yourself here, there’s nothing anyone can say or do to help you. And if that’s the case, once you get out, you’ll be right back.”

“But none of it was my fault!” she said and started crying again.

“Get out,” I said.

The room was as quiet as it had ever been.

Suddenly her tears stopped. She looked around. The other women stared at her.

“Your tears won’t work here,” Maggie said. I felt a slight smile cross my face.

“I have to leave?” she asked. Suddenly she was sweet as pie.

“Yep,” I said and motioned towards the door. “This isn’t the right program for you. This is only for women that want to be better people and that means taking responsibility for their actions. No blaming, no finger-pointing and no crying about things they can’t change.”

She stood up and wiped her face. “If I promise not to cry again, can I stay?”

“Nope. I’ve got limited time and resources and this is the 3rd time I’ve told you to knock it off. Three strikes and you’re out,” I said.

I watched her walk towards the door. When she got there, she turned around and glared at me. “You know what? You’re a real bitch!” she said.

Maggie started to stand up to confront her. I told her to sit down. She did so, reluctantly.

“I suppose all of this is my fault, right?” I asked her.

She started to say something but stopped as Maggie started to stand up again.

She stormed out of the room. After class, I wrote up my report about her and handed it to Steve. He read it.

“Some people just refuse to learn,” he said.

“Yes and thank God I’m not trying to save the world,” I said.

“Yeah, right Lewis. You keep telling yourself that,” he said and smiled.

Once she was gone, the class settled down and the fun returned.

Sometimes you have to make hard choices in life and one of the hardest is who to walk away from without looking back.

“What do you mean I can’t be here?” I asked. All I wanted to do was take a class in auto mechanics. I had gotten my first car and figured it would be a good idea to learn how a car worked.

The High School teacher rolled his eyes and walked me to the door. “No, this class is only for boys. Besides, you’ll just be a distraction to them. Now run along and go to your Home Ed class,” he said and walked away and closed the door in my face.

I went to my school counselor and said I wanted to add a class to my schedule. When I told her which one, she laughed and shook her head.

“No, only boys can take that class,” she said and looked at my schedule. “You already have enough credits to graduate, so don’t worry about it. Now, aren’t you supposed to be in Home Ed? Hmmm? Now run along before you get in trouble,” she said and picked-up her phone and started dialing.

I walked to my Home Ed class and sat down. The teacher gave me a disapproving look. I didn’t care. She was right in the middle of teaching us how to make cookies. Cookies. What the hell did I care about cookies? I sat at a table with 3 other girls. They were giggling and talking about boys while they added the exact right amount of butter to the batter. I watched them for a while.

“Susan, what are you doing this weekend? Anything exciting?” one of them asked me.

I perked-up. “Yes. Jeff is going to show me how the brakes work on my car. Then he’s going to show me how to replace them…”

All 3 of them laughed. “What kind of a date is that? Good grief, why would you want to learn that? That’s for boys! Besides, there are mechanics for that,” one of the girls said.

Their giggling increased. I took the 2 raw eggs and threw them into the batter without cracking them open. They gasped and one grabbed the eggs and took them out. She held onto them protectively in case I decided to do it again. The girl stirring the batter moved the bowl closer to her and put her arm around it and sneered at me.

“You know what your problem is, Susan? You don’t understand how things work. You don’t accept your place. You’re not supposed to know how cars work because it doesn’t matter if you know or not. And if you’re going to date someone, do fun things instead of working on his car. Boys like feminine girls and getting all dirty and greasy is not feminine!” she said.

I took a handful of batter and threw it at her. It hit the bowl and she shoved her seat back and gasped.

I was soon back at my counselor’s office. Later, I was put with another group of girls in Home Ed. I graduated knowing how to bake cookies, how to keep brown sugar moist and a bunch of casseroles.

That summer, I applied for a job at a gas station. I still wanted to learn about cars and figured maybe I could while I pumped gas and cleaned windshields. This was in the day when we still had full service gas stations.

The manager laughed when I asked for an application. I felt my face turn red, but I didn’t budge. He looked me up and down and smiled.

“Nah, I don’t think so. I can’t have you pressing your titties against the windshield while you clean them.  You’ll only cause trouble for me. Go home and bake something instead,” he said.

“Give me the God damn application! You have to! It’s the law,” I said. I had no idea if it was the law or not. I was only 17 but it sure sounded good.

“Fine!,” he said and handed it to me. I sat down and began to fill it out. I knew he wasn’t going to hire me, but I felt like annoying him.

The application asked me about my periods and required intimate details. I sat back and thought. Since I wasn’t going to get the job, I decided to write down the most disgusting and gory details that I could. I finished it and handed it back to him.

I watched him read it.

I watched him cringe.

I smiled and walked out.

In college, my Sociology teacher told sexist jokes throughout each class. Most people laughed. I tried to be a good sport but I couldn’t do it any longer.

One day I raised my hand and waited for him to call on me.

“Yes?” he asked while he still laughed about the rape joke he had just told.

“What do these jokes have to do with the subject?” I asked. My voice shook a bit.

“You obviously don’t have a sense of humor,” he said and proceeded to carry-on with the subject.

“And you obviously are an asshole,” I said.

I, once again, was asked to leave class.

After the 3rd time he kicked me out, I dropped the class.

Over the years, so many have told me:

“You need to do something about your hair.”

“You need to lose/gain weight.”

“What’s wrong with you that you don’t have children?”

“You should do as your husband tells you.” This one always made me laugh.

“You should play hard to get. Don’t ever let a man know what you’re thinking.”

“Aren’t you just a bit too young/old to wear that? You should dress and act your age.”

“You can’t write, so don’t even try.”

“It’s up to you to keep a man. You know how they are…”

“You need to behave yourself and stop being so loud and vocal. It’s not ladylike.”

The list is endless.

Just because people say things, it doesn’t make it true.

It’s only true if you say so.

So, disagree…completely and go live your life.

Not theirs.

Well I’m so glad you asked!

But before I tell you, let me clarify a couple of things:

Rights: Things to which you are entitled or allowed; freedoms that are guaranteed.

Human Rights: The rights you have simply because you are human.

Belief: : a feeling of being sure that someone or something exists or that something is true; : a feeling that something is good, right, or valuable; : a feeling of trust in the worth or ability of someone.

            Merriam-Webster

Do you see the difference? Rights are clearly definable and agreed upon by the majority. Belief is just what someone holds to be true for THEM.

I may believe that the moon is made of green cheese. I have the right to believe that, even if there is no proof. I can believe that if I want.

But I don’t have the right to force anyone to agree with me. I can live my life believing that and as long as I don’t attempt to force others to agree, we’re good.

And you don’t have the right to try to change my mind. No, you don’t.

If you want to know what the main problem with getting Human Rights implemented, it’s simple.

Most people don’t know what they are or that they are entitled to them. It’s an amazing thing to watch when someone starts to learn them.

So here they are, in layman’s terms, c/o http://www.youthforhumanrights.org

There are 30 of them, so sit back, grab a cup of coffee and learn. We are all entitled to them:

1)      We are all born free and equal. All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

2)      Don’t discriminate. Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. Furthermore, no distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it be independent, trust, non-self-governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty.

3)      The right to life. Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.

4)      No slavery. No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms

5)      No torture. No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

6)      You have rights no matter where you go. Everyone has the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law.

7)      We’re all equal before the law. All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law. All are entitled to equal protection against any discrimination in violation of this Declaration and against any incitement to such discrimination.

8)      Your human rights are protected by law. Everyone has the right to an effective remedy by the competent national tribunals for acts violating the fundamental rights granted him by the constitution or by law.

9)      No unfair detainment. No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.

10)  The right to trial. Everyone is entitled in full equality to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal, in the determination of his rights and obligations and of any criminal charge against him.

11)  ) We’re Always Innocent Till Proven Guilty. a) Everyone charged with a penal offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law in a public trial at which he has had all the guarantees necessary for his defense. b)  No one shall be held guilty of any penal offence on account of any act or omission which did not constitute a penal offence, under national or international law, at the time when it was committed. Nor shall a heavier penalty be imposed than the one that was applicable at the time the penal offence was committed.

12)  The right to privacy. No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.

13)  Freedom to move. Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each State. Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.

14)  The right to seek a safe place to live. Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution. This right may not be invoked in the case of prosecutions genuinely arising from non-political crimes or from acts contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.

15)  Right to a nationality. Everyone has the right to a nationality. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality nor denied the right to change his nationality.

16)  Marriage and family. Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family. They are entitled to equal rights as to marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution. Marriage shall be entered into only with the free and full consent of the intending spouses. The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State.

17)  The right to ownership. Everyone has the right to own property alone as well as in association with others. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his property.

18)  Freedom of thought. Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.

19)  Freedom of expression.  Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.

20)  The right to public assembly. Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association. No one may be compelled to belong to an association.

21)  The right to Democracy. Everyone has the right to take part in the government of his country, directly or through freely chosen representatives. Everyone has the right to equal access to public service in his country. The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government; this will shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret vote or by equivalent free voting procedures.

22)  Social Security. Everyone, as a member of society, has the right to social security and is entitled to realization, through national effort and international co-operation and in accordance with the organization and resources of each State, of the economic, social and cultural rights indispensable for his dignity and the free development of his personality

23)  Workers’ Rights. Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favorable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment. Everyone, without any discrimination, has the right to equal pay for equal work. Everyone who works has the right to just and favourable remuneration ensuring for himself and his family an existence worthy of human dignity, and supplemented, if necessary, by other means of social protection. Everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.

24)  The right to play. Everyone has the right to rest and leisure, including reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic holidays with pay

25)  Food and shelter for all. Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control. Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance. All children, whether born in or out of wedlock, shall enjoy the same social protection.

26)  The right to education. Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. Technical and professional education shall be made generally available and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit. Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups, and shall further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace. Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.

27)  Copyright. Everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancement and its benefits. Everyone has the right to the protection of the moral and material interests resulting from any scientific, literary or artistic production of which he is the author.

28)  A fair and free world. Everyone is entitled to a social and international order in which the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration can be fully realized.

29)  Responsibility. Everyone has duties to the community in which alone the free and full development of his personality is possible. In the exercise of his rights and freedoms, everyone shall be subject only to such limitations as are determined by law solely for the purpose of securing due recognition and respect for the rights and freedoms of others and of meeting the just requirements of morality, public order and the general welfare in a democratic society. These rights and freedoms may in no case be exercised contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.

30)  No one can take away your Human Rights. Nothing in this Declaration may be interpreted as implying for any State, group or person any right to engage in any activity or to perform any act aimed at the destruction of any of the rights and freedoms set forth herein.

And there you have them.

So before any of us starts heading in a direction that will violate someone’s rights, stop and take a look.

Is what is being proposed helping or hurting human rights?

You’ll have your answer immediately.

WARNING: This is an extremely graphic post about the rape of a 12-year old girl and is the first part of how she was forced into prostitution at an early age. I do not recommend anyone reading it who could be triggered and/or has a weak stomach. These stories are not for everyone.

Please see http://idisagreecompletely.com/2013/09/01/i-dont-see-your-tears-i-hear-them/ before reading this one. These stories will eventually be made into their own page.

Her story. My words.

I knew something was wrong as soon as he came in the door. It was the way he looked at me. It sent a chill up my spine. I looked away quickly and went back to reading my book. I could tell he was still looking at me. I shrank into the chair as much as I could. I heard my father whispering to him. They stepped outside the camper and talked. My little brother was playing with his toy truck on the floor next to me. He ran it over my foot. I jumped up and slapped him on the head with my book. He cried out, stood up and moved away from me.

I was used to people coming to our camper at all hours of the day and night. I didn’t know why at the time. I was told to not ask questions so I never did. We lived in a small camper with my father, mother, my younger brother and sister. Sometimes we would leave in the middle of the night. Sometimes we stayed somewhere for a few weeks.

My father came back in and looked at me. He looked at me and then at the man. The man was smiling at me again and nodding his head. My mother came in from outside and stood behind my father. She was wringing her hands and crying. I was too scared to get up and go to her. I watched them. Finally the man came over to me and held out his hand. I shrank back.

“Andrea! Go with this man!” my father yelled at me. I shook my head. I got up and stepped away. The man smiled more.

“Come with me, little one. Do as your father said. I’m going to take you to get ice cream. You’ll like it,” he said and stepped closer to me. I backed away again. I couldn’t go any further. My back was pressed against the wall.

“Jose, NO!” my mother screamed and rushed towards me. My father pulled her back and told her to be quiet. She stopped but continued to cry. The man turned around and looked at her.

“Don’t worry. I won’t hurt her. I’ll have her back by tomorrow morning,” he said. He turned back, walked over to me and took me by the arm. He led me out of the camper and into his car. I began crying and pulling away from him. He picked me up and put me in the back seat of his station wagon and locked the doors.  He drove off.

“Where are we going?” I asked. I choked on my words. I was so scared. I could still my mother crying and my father yelling at her to be quiet. I had never seen this man before. I learned to look the other way or walk away when men showed up at our campsite. Last year when someone showed up, my mother would rush over to me and lead me away. She often put her shawl over my shoulders and covered me up. Lately some of the men had asked her not to take me away. They wanted me to sit with them. My mother would glare at them and push me away from them.

Now I was in some man’s car, driving through the night to get ice cream. I knew there wasn’t any ice cream at the end of the drive. I didn’t know what he wanted or where we would end up, but I didn’t like it. I wanted to go home and crawl into my sleeping bag and read.

“Don’t worry, little one. You are safe with me. I will take good care of you. You have nothing to fear,” he said. He looked back at me and smiled. I cringed and sat back. I couldn’t get far enough away from him.

He pulled into a driveway and turned off the engine. He came around to the back seat, unlocked the door and opened it for me. I slid away from him to the other side and shook my head.

“Get out of the car. Do as you’re told!” he said.

I shook my head again and reached for the door handle.  Before I knew what was happening, he lunged for me, grabbed my foot and dragged me across the seat. He picked me up and slung me over his shoulder, slammed the car door and walked into the house. He carried me into the kitchen and sat me down at the table. I sat very still. I was too scared to move. He got ice cream out of the freezer and scooped some into a bowl. He put it in front of me with a spoon, sat down across from me and told me to eat it.

I didn’t want it. I was shaking and starting to sob again. My stomach was in knots. I was afraid I would throw it up if I tried to eat it. I pushed it away. He pushed it back.

“Eat it. I told you I was going to give you ice cream and I am a man of my word.” His eyes were harsh and cold. I was terrified of what would happen if I didn’t eat it, so I took a spoonful and put it in my mouth. It was chocolate. I haven’t been able to eat chocolate ice cream since then.

He smiled. When I was done, he put the bowl in the sink and told me to get up. I did. He took my hand and led me down the hall to his bedroom. I pulled away and he picked me up again and threw me down on the bed.

He smiled again as he reached over and yanked my pants off. I started kicking and screaming. This made him chuckle. He pulled off my underwear and told me how beautiful I was. I began screaming louder. He told me if I didn’t shut-up he would beat me and then go kill my family. He yanked my shirt off and ran his hands all over me. I stopped screaming. He put his hand over my mouth and pushed my head down into the bed. He climbed on top of me and pushed my legs apart. He thrust himself in me and I screamed as loud as I could.

I thought I would die from the pain. He thrust himself into me over and over and with each thrust, I screamed louder. I couldn’t help it. I tried not to. I didn’t want my family to die. I thought I would be torn into two. I fought and clawed and screamed. He slapped me across the face and told me I liked it.

When he was done, he rolled over and sighed.  I curled up into a ball, pulled a pillow over my face and tried to die. I tried to be nothing and to be nowhere. I haven’t wanted to be alive since then. I was bleeding and scared. He kept telling me I wanted this, that this was what I was good for and that it was natural.

I was locked in the bedroom with him. I heard other people walking around the house and talking during the night. I got up several times at night and tried to leave. I couldn’t open the door. I banged on it and woke him up.

He raped me again.

No one came to help me. There was blood all over the sheets. It wasn’t from my period.

In the morning, he made me take a shower with him. He washed me everywhere. He cooed and told me how beautiful I was. He held me up when I couldn’t stand. He washed my hair and dried me. He dressed me back in my clothes. He cooked me breakfast and made me eat it.

I could not move. It was hard to bring the fork up to my mouth and chew. I was dead but my brain didn’t know it yet.

He took me home. When he pulled up and let me out of the car, my mom came running to me.

“Your debt is paid…for now,” he said. He got back into this car and drove away.

She picked me up and carried me into the house. She was crying. I started crying and couldn’t stop. She rocked me for a long time. She wanted me to shower and I started screaming again. I still can’t take showers and only do so if I have to.

I didn’t see my father that day or the next. When he finally came home, he didn’t look at me. He didn’t for a long time and then only for a few seconds.

That was the first time I felt shame and it never stopped. Ever since then, no words can get rid of it.

I didn’t realize that tears were running down my face as she spoke. Her story was not as concise as I have written it but while she spoke, each word was branded into my mind. I have never been able to get rid of them.

This was the beginning of her life as a prostitute. She was sold to men when her father could not pay a debt to drug dealers. She was taught at an early age that this was all she was good for.

The actions of the adult always teach the child.

To be continued.

She was so pretty even with the scar that ran down the right side of her face. It was still pink and the surgeon hadn’t done a very good job of stitching it up. I could still see little marks where they had been.

She often ran her hand over it when she talked, completely unaware of doing so. It was as if as long as she knew it was there, that meant she was alive.

“How old were you when it all started?” I asked. Even though I had asked the question, I didn’t want to hear the answer. A part of me hoped she would burst out laughing and tell me they had all played a terrible prank on me and I really wasn’t talking to a prostitute.

A prostitute.

A hooker.

An actual whore. A woman who got paid money to sleep with men. The type of woman I had always heard was beneath me and society. The type of woman men went to for various reasons and who often said they wished all women were whores so they could be properly satisfied.

I could never quite assimilate the dichotomy between respecting a woman and in the same breath wanting her to be a whore.

How could anyone respect or even want to be near such a vile creature? A slut and something worse than a rabid dog.

I waited while she thought about her answer. She was so tiny and petite. Her dark hair was pulled back and hung down her back. She was too thin and her nails were chewed down and ragged. Her dark eyes darted and she rocked slightly in her chair.

“I dunno. I guess about 12 or so. Something like that,” she said and looked down at her shoes. Her name was Andrea. She was wearing a baggy pair of jeans and a sweat shirt. Her hand came up quickly and rubbed her scar again.

“Twelve?” I asked and gasped. My hand came up to my neck. She shrank away from me and bent further down towards her knees.

I wasn’t prepared for her answer. My mind reeled as I thought of myself when I was twelve. I was still in love with John Lennon, played records all day long on the weekends and barely knew what sex was.

“Yes ma’am” she whispered. She was hanging her head down in shame.

I felt horrible about my reaction. I hadn’t meant to make her feel bad. I leaned over and gently placed my hand on hers and patted it.

“I’m sorry. I didn’t expect for you to have been so young,” I said.

She looked up at me for a brief moment, smiled and looked away. “I didn’t like it. It hurt really bad.”

My stomach clenched into a knot and I fought the urge to scream. My throat closed up and sweat broke out on my forehead. I was going to be sick.

This wasn’t right. This wasn’t what I had heard all these years. These women chose to do this, just like I chose where I worked and what I did. They chose to be whores and chose to be used by men sexually because they liked it.

I was better than them. I wasn’t a whore or a slut. Only bad women did these things. That’s what everybody said so that made it true.

But she wasn’t like that. She was sweet, polite and funny. She was a decent and kind young woman.

“So…how…I mean…” I stammered. I didn’t know what to say or what to ask.

“We needed the money, I guess,” she said.

“Who is we?” I asked.

She shrugged her shoulders and brushed her hair back. “My family. My parents couldn’t feed us, so a man gave them money for me.”

I didn’t believe her. I didn’t want to believe her.  This had to be some tall tale to gain sympathy from me. These things did not happen. They were all urban legends. They had to be because if they weren’t, then everything I had ever been told was a lie.

I could hear the anguish in her voice. I looked closer at her face. Her eyes were dry but her voice dripped with tears and despair.

I looked up. Several of the other women were watching me. Jackie smiled at me and nodded. She seemed to know what I was thinking. “Yes, it’s true,” she whispered. Suzanne reached over and grabbed Jackie’s hand and held it.

“You? And you too?” I asked them. Jackie and Suzanne nodded.

“You guys are prostitutes too?”

“Yep,” they both said.

“Nice to meet you Susan,” Suzanne said and laughed. I guess the look on my face earned me her teasing.

“Does it matter to you?” Jackie asked me and leaned forward.”Would you like us to leave because our presence is offensive to you now?”

“No,” I said. “I just..”

“Never met a real live one before?” Suzanne asked. She had a half-smile across her face.

“No, I haven’t,” I said. I felt foolish and judgmental.

“Well, we don’t bite, unless you pay us first,” she said and laughed.

“DON’T SAY THAT ABOUT YOURSELF!” I said and shot up out of my chair. My mind was reeling. All that I had known to be true was gone. It dissipated and I had nothing to hold onto.

Suzanne’s smirk was gone. Jackie sat back and Andrea cowered in her chair.

“Don’t ever make fun of yourself again. At least not around me. I won’t have it,” I said. I stood there, looking at all of them. I didn’t know what I wanted to say but I knew what I didn’t want to hear.

“Yes ma’am,” Andrea whispered. I sat back down, took a deep breath and tried to gather my composure. I had shouted at them and I should not have. It bothered me much more than them. They were used to being yelled at, shoved around, raped and tossed aside as I was going to learn in the weeks ahead. But at that moment, I knew none of that.

As soon as I had raised my voice, they shrank back. It didn’t matter that I was also a woman or that I would never harm them. We were not equals. They were inmates and I was a civilian. I had complete power over them and I could use it to help them or to harm them.

The call was all mine and they had no choice but to take whatever I gave out. One word from me and they could be sent back to their cells without any further explanation or proof. I could make their lives a living hell if I wanted to.

Or I could help them as difficult as it might be.

I had a choice. I had come to a crossroad. A very unexpected crossroad that I didn’t know what to do about. If I turned left, I could ignore who these women really were and carry along with the program and choose to not know anything I didn’t want to know.

Or I could turn right and enter a world that I knew nothing about, that was filled with darkness, horror, pain and evil. If I did that, I had no one in my life to pull me out of it. I would have to go it alone and hope for the best for myself.

“I’m sorry I yelled at you guys,” I said.

“I guess we shocked the shit out of you,” Suzanne said and smiled. Her eyes were kind and the smirk was gone.

“You might say that,” I said and smiled back. It was getting late and I needed to get them back to their cells.

I turned and looked at Andrea. Her head was still down and she was being as quiet as she could be. I placed my hand on her shoulder. She looked up.

“You have nothing to be ashamed of,” I said.

“I keep telling myself that,” she said.

I dismissed the class and told them I would see them again next week. I drove home, lost in thoughts that I wanted no part of. I pulled up into my driveway and cursed myself for not leaving any lights on. My house was dark and I hated that.

I grabbed the mail, opened the front door and turned on the lights while my dogs clamored for all of my attention. I petted them and put them outside. I changed into my pajama’s and sat down on the couch to read my mail.

It had finally arrived. I knew it was coming and here it was.

The foreclosure notice on my house.

It was finally real.

I knew I was going to turn right at my crossroad and turning left had never really been an option.

To be continued as I begin my adventure into human trafficking.