Trigger Warning * Violence * Language
The interstate took us to Florida and then up to Tennessee. Nate drove the speed limit and used his blinker when he changed lanes. It seemed like the smart thing to do, since the car we were in was stolen.
Our own car broke down back in Florida, and with no way to get out of town after going out and stealing even more with his brothers, Nate did what he knew how to do best – he took something else that wasn’t his. But it had to be done, because otherwise, he was a sitting duck for the cops. A charge of car theft meant nothing when the list was already so long for both him and Tim, who was with us again.
The stolen car gave out in Chattanooga, though, but he said it was good enough. “No one will come looking for us in Tennessee.” In fact, he believed they would expect us to head west.
I sat in the car and stared at Scott. He was only half a year old, sitting in his first stolen car. The thought was jarring. His first? What made me think that way? Maybe this was his future, growing up with a thieving dad and a mom who basically looked the other way. I never felt like more of a failure than at that moment.
We pulled everything we could carry out of the car and wiped it down, hoping not to leave a single fingerprint. We were at the base of Lookout Mountain, surrounded by motels and restaurants. Nate turned in circles a few times, looking around. “Let’s eat!” he said, grabbing Scott and walking toward the closest restaurant.
We ate and quietly left the restaurant without paying. Another crime. Each time, it almost got easier. I didn’t like it, but on the other hand, didn’t we have to eat? Yes, we definitely needed to eat.
“What now?” I asked when we were far enough away to stop and talk. We had no direction, no plan.
“We’ll get a motel room and figure it out from there,” Nate said, nodding his head toward a cheap looking chain of rooms across the street.
His idea of figuring it out, however, meant a midnight run out into nearby parking lots, checking for unlocked cars. He came back with over a dozen wallets and I couldn’t help but wonder what makes a person stupid enough to leave their cars unlocked when thieves like my husband were everywhere.
“This is you,” he said, handing me some girl’s driver’s license.
“OK, but I don’t look like her.”
“We can’t afford to stay here after tonight, but there’s an efficiency place down the road. You’re going to need that ID to get us a room,” he said. “Just keep your head down. Judging from the looks of the place, and the fact that they have hourly rates, I doubt they’re going to try to match you with the picture.”
Great. That made me feel so much better. Hourly rates? Surely they were going to assume I was a whore, a prostitute, going in with two guys. It’s not like I’d ever see these people again, but the very idea made me uneasy. And how nasty would a place like that be?
Sure enough, the manager of the so-called luxury efficiency apartments barely glanced at me. He did write down all the info on the license, but since it wasn’t me, I didn’t care. I briefly worried about the girl who owned the license, but right now, I couldn’t concern myself with thoughts of her. I needed to worry about me, about us.
Our room was on the backside of the complex. Most of the apartments were actually boarded up and condemned, which did not bode well for what ours would look like. And as we entered, a stench I couldn’t identify hit me, making me want to gag and run away at the same time.
“Someone’s been smoking crack in here,” Nate said, though how he would know what crack smelled like was beyond me.
I looked around, holding Scott close to me, afraid for him to even breathe the air. There was only one bed, the mattress stained, and a hot plate. Luxury efficiency at its finest.
There was just one window and it wouldn’t open, which was probably a good thing. It was, however, broken in just one small corner, and we soon learned that one small corner was just the right size for a hand to come through and steal whatever item you might lay there. Tim’s sunglasses were stolen within the first hour, and we never even saw it happen.
Missing sunglasses were the least of our problems. The sounds of fighting and possible gunshots were much more important. I feared for our lives, unsure of what we could do. I was stuck. How did we get to this place, so far down that it felt hopeless?
“This is just temporary, baby.” Nate said, sensing my fears. “I’ll take care of you.”
He kept saying that, and why I kept believing it, I don’t know.
“OK, you’re going to have to lock the doors when we leave.”
“When you leave? You’re leaving me? Us? Here, alone? Are you crazy?” I cried, standing against the wall and holding Scott, afraid to touch anything.
“He needs formula, doesn’t he?” Nate said. “It’s not like I can risk taking you two to get it.”
But he could risk leaving us here? He could involve us and risk us being there for the big grocery heist in Delaware? Just not here, not now. Why, because it would get in the way of other plans?
“What are you really going to do?” I asked, afraid to know but needing to understand why the baby and I had to be alone in this hellhole.
“I guess you’ll know when we get back.”
They left and were gone for over two hours. I put Scott to sleep in my arms and sat on the floor in a corner, fearing someone would bust down the door. There was nothing to protect us, but I didn’t want to think about any of that. I just needed to concentrate on every sound, just to be sure. The baby’s steady breathing helped keep me calm, despite firecracker popping sounds every fifteen minutes or so.
Nate and Tim finally came back with pockets full of formula, a few new wallets, and a gun. It was the first and probably only time in my life that I was happy to see a gun.
About Angela Giles Klocke – I’m a Colorado-based speaker, writer, advocate, and princess! I am also a survivor of child abuse, sexual assault, domestic violence, and more. I would love to speak to your group, school, or organization. Catch my TEDx Colorado Springs Talk on abuse, violence, and talking about uncomfortable topics, coming soon. Contact me!