This experience took place in a darker part of my life when I was seventeen, that is still hard to look back on. At the time my home life was beyond hell. My parents had separated when I was ten and as soon as she walked out the door the abuse began.Dad's excuse in half hearted apologies was that I was too much like her and such a spirit had to be broken.
He was convinced that my rebellion and rage was all due to being like my mother. What he didn't know was that every time he came against me he was fuelling my flame like fire and gasoline. One night when things got really bad I had finally had enough.
I waited until he went to sleep and grabbed my escape backpack from the back of the closet, left my phone on my bed and I snuck out the front door determined to never look back and started running. I didn't care where I went I just knew that I had to get away.
After what felt like hours a car with what looked like three young adults stopped and asked if I wanted a ride to which I quickly accepted wanting to get out of the rain. The driver was a young man with red shaggy hair and two girls that looked to be close to the same age were with him. He stared at me his face going pale. "Are you alright kid? You don't look so hot." I nodded and asked him to drive.
He looked confused but started down the road. "So where you want me to take you a hospital, the police?" The girl in the backseat sitting next to me shook her head and stared out the window, trying to hide her sniffles between tears. My mind went blank, I hadn't planned that far ahead.
"Just to the closet bus station, I will figure it out from there."
"God kid, you don't even know where your going and the first time you get spotted by a popo their going to ask questions."
I looked at my reflection in the window and saw what he meant, a large bruise was on the side of my face and my wrist was cut pretty bad. I didn't remember doing it but the deep straight cut screamed self inflicted.
I grabbed my bandana from my hair and tied it as tightly as I could around my wrist. From that point everything is a blank space, kind of like when you get really drunk in one place and wake up somewhere else all confused. That's about what it felt like but there were no booze involved. Next thing I knew I was waking up to sunlight and the girl next to me shaking my shoulder, oddly enough my bandana had been replaced with a bandage and tape, I had on different clothes and so did the other three in the car. How you may ask I haven't the slightest clue.
The guy turned around and forced a smile. " we're here kid, get out. I rubbed my eyes trying to fight the haze and asked where we were. Florida, nothing like the sunshine state to get a new start right? He handed me a wad of cash and opened my door, "You don't know us we don't know You. Just try to take care of yourself'" and with that I was on my own.
And so the roaming began, I had nothing but my bookbag, $100 dollars, and the sun on my face. It all didn't feel real and somehow I wasn't afraid, Just confused, tired and hungry. I stopped by a gas station to grab something cheap to eat and found a hotel for the night. I had to think of a game plan because eventually I would have to settle, I needed a job, a license and a car. It was then that I realized that I would have to wait awhile because I didn't know if dad had put out a missing person's report or not. I would just have to lay low and try to survive, but how?
Before I knew it two weeks had gone by and I was getting low on money. I had only eaten sparingly and had to get creative on ways to stay invisible. Some nights I slept under a board walk near a beach others I walked going no where in particular just thinking and trying to stay busy.
I had noticed a few people that seemed to be homeless too, often hanging around in groups, some walked alone. All I knew was that I was really glad that I had packed a knife. One night I was hanging out at a beach watching the waves crash and the sunset when I saw two younger guys walking up to me.
The first one was a short Hispanic with medium length black curly hair in a baggy tee-shirt and jeans, the other was a tall Caucasian with long brown hair and a scar going from his eye down the side of his face wearing similar clothes and a light denim jacket. I got up, grabbed my bag and was about to leave when the Hispanic called after me.
"Hey shorty wait up, we just want to talk to you a minute no worries."I'm not sure why but I stopped, watching them walk down the beach whispering back and forth until they reached me. The Hispanic offered me a cigarette and smiled. Smoke for your time, I had never really smoked much but I accepted it and he passed the lighter.
"So we've noticed you around quite a bit lately, you out here alone? "I studied him carefully trying to decide how to answer, the taller one rolled his eyes and flicked his cigarette, "come on we don't have all night." How much could I trust a total stranger?
The Hispanic elbowed him seeing I was getting frustrated and extended his hand, "ok, let's try again. I'm Jax, what did you get saddled with?" I remembered that I had thought of a fake name a few days ago so nobody would find out who I really was. "I'm Jhae", I said quickly, probably too quickly. One of my best friends in middle school had the name Jhaelon and I always thought it was beautiful so I shortened it to Jhae.
He laughed pushing his bangs from his eyes, "well, Jhae," he said doing air quotations " this is Ringer, he never goes by his real name he explained and we've been watching you and we think you would be a good add on to our group you want to join us?"
I could tell Ringer wasn't to fond of the idea but Jax didn't seem to care. "Of course you will have to prove yourself but I think you can handle it."
" H-how am I suppose to prove myself?" I asked nervously.
"Relax it's not like you gotta kill nobody. We just need to know you can make some money and help hold your own. You want to give it a whirl?" I hesitantly nodded my head yes.
Jax laughed, "alright newbies on our team'" he ran back down to where they were sitting before and came back with a computer bag and a cloth guitar case. You have a guitar, I asked smiling I have always loved music. He put the cloth strap over his shoulder yep Rosa goes everywhere with me, he said patting his case. Now come on we gotta make some money.
We walked into the center of town where most of the small tourist strips were and Ringer went a separate direction but I didn't ask questions. He opened his case, set it at his feet and began playing. Some people walked by giving dirty glares telling us to get a real job, some stopped long enough to throw in a dollar or change and some just stopped and listened.
He had a beautiful voice and could play guitar pretty good too.
After about two hours a police officer walked by and told us we had to leave, so we packed up and started walking again. After awhile I asked him how I was suppose to prove myself, he opened his guitar case and counted the money. All together he had made $15 bucks, he looked a bit disappointed and grabbed a cigarette from his pack. "Well I don't know yet, what are you good at?" I racked my mind and couldn't come up with anything that would be useful out on the streets and shrugged.
He passed the cigarette and grinned, "don't worry we will think of something but until then we gotta make some more money." It was then that it hit me, I may not be good at much but I did have some cash on me. I mulled it over in my head, I could help him out but how would I know that he wouldn't take the money and run? I had a little over $20 left and it was all I had.
I reached into my pocket, "well I can help with that but you got to promise your not going to run off with it. We got to stick together."
He wrapped an arm around my shoulders, " and you just proved yourself worthy. Besides everyone needs somebody, shorty. I got your back if you got mine." I smiled and handed him what money I had left.
From that point on we were a trio,Ringer,Jax and I. Whatever money we made we split three ways or brought together for food, sometimes we would manage to stay in a cheap hotel for a night. We were almost like a little family.
Though one night changed everything, Ringer hadn't been around all day but that wasn't unusual for him, he was a floater. Meaning he knew people that would let him stay at their house for a night or two but then he would have to come back to the streets.
We had names for different kind of people.
Street: You live strictly on the street, with no real help or anywhere to go you lived and worked there.
Civies: People who had a place to live but worked on the streets selling drugs, prostitution, or pan handled sometimes selling things that they made or art they drew or painted.
Floater: Someone who mainly lives on the street but has friends that let them stay or had a public job.
Street Babies: Younger kids between the ages of 10-13.
Locos: The ones who have been on the streets so long that they went nuts or were already that way when they got there.
We walked down to all of our hang out spots looking for him and he wasn't there. As we were walking around trying to find a bite to eat and a place to settle for the night a guy walked up behind Jax and grabbed him by the shoulders yelling about something in Spanish. I froze in my tracks not knowing what to do as the guy swung at him, I tried to stop the fight by getting between them but it didn't work instead I ended up with a blow to the face. The other man pushed me out of the way and drew a knife. Jax backed up putting his hands in front of him.
"Run shorty, I promise I will come find you." I stood there motionless as the man lunged at Jax with the knife. Jax stepped back stumbling off the side walk into traffic I reached for him but it was too late a red truck didn't slow down in time and hit him. I rushed to his side and held him, his eyes were weak as he clutched his side. The man had managed to stab him and ran, the woman who was driving the truck got out and ran to our side.
Get help I yelled at her,he's bleeding. She called 911 on her cell phone, shook her head and said she was sorry but she wasn't going to jail over someone like us. Got in her truck and drove off, I reached into my bag and tied a shirt around his side. I will always have your back Jax, no matter what just please don't leave me please. But before the ambulance got to us he died.
The Emt asked if he had any family that they could call, I shook my head no knowing that all that was left was his Dad and a brother and I didn't know where they lived none the less the number. He was later buried in a near by grave yard but with no headstone. Ringer and I were the only ones that showed up.
We found a big rock and placed it at his head, Ringer spray painted Jax on it, put his guitar pick on his grave and walked away.
Eventually I went to a shelter and got some help got on my feet and started over. Turns out that Dad never filed a missing person's report and I ended up moving back to Missouri. A few years later I met someone and had a little girl. One night as we were laying down for the night I kept feeling like someone was in the room with us when a bird hit our window with a loud thud.
We got up to see if we could find it but there wasn't one. Completely confused we went back to bed, and once again felt as if we were not alone.
I got up and found my daughter asleep in her room, I checked the locks and tried to go to sleep. When I felt a hand on my shoulder, I rolled over startled to find Jax standing beside me. I will always have your back Shorty,always.I smiled back at him and watched him walk into our hallway and disappear.
Jax still comes around and I know that he watches over me just as he promised.