Trigger Warning * Violence * Language
“They’re gonna move my parole to Delaware.”
I stared at Nate across the metal table. We practically had to yell at each other to be heard over all the rest of the prisoners and their visitors.
“What does that mean?”
“Just what I said. So you need to get there and get settled in so they don’t change their mind. If you don’t go, they won’t have a reason to release me there.”
I thought about not going. How would I, anyway? Florida is a long way from Delaware, and I was already a little bit homeless. Staying on with Mom was out of the question, especially with social services coming around again, but I also didn’t have anywhere else to go. As usual, I didn’t have any good options for myself and so I let him tell me what to do.
“If you just go, someone will take you in,” he said, and I was sure that was true, but only because of the baby. Different doors opened because of him.
He was right, though. I got to Delaware without calling ahead, believing he’d set it all up, and was met with surprise but also open doors. We bounced through different homes, getting shuffled as usual, feeling more like a problem and less like family. I became live-in childcare for one sister, and I was saving money to move out on our own when Nate let me know his parole would not be moved to Delaware after all, that I’d have to come back home. Again.
That meant a call home to Mom. Again. Asking for help. Again. Once more asking for her to set aside her anger because I kept leaving every time she helped me set life up. What I really wanted was to go somewhere new and start over, just me and Scott. But instead, I did what I was told and loaded up another truck and headed home. Again.
Driving south again over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, I fought to keep the truck on my side of the road. The winds were strong, so I had to be stronger. Still, I’d weave here and there, and soon my weaving caught the attention of the state patrol. I knew I wasn’t doing anything wrong, but I did have a gun, the same one Nate threatened me with back in Tennessee. A huge sign right behind my head clearly stated, “You must be 18 to operate this vehicle.” I was 17.
My heart drummed in my chest because I just knew the officer would know I had the gun. Worst-case scenario: they’d throw me to the ground after snatching my son from my arms, and they’d haul me off to jail. There’s no way to know where the gun came from originally. It wouldn’t matter because it was with me, shoved under the driver’s seat, and I’d have to pay the price for safety on that long stretch of interstate between Delaware and Florida.
All because the wind was strong. All because I couldn’t keep the truck from weaving. All because I was on this stupid highway because I listened to Nate’s stupid advice about stupid Delaware. All because Mom begged me not to go and I was stupid and went anyway.
By the time the officer approached my window, I’d all but given up on my future. I looked at Scott and prepared myself for goodbye, because with a daddy in prison and a mommy off to jail, I wouldn’t see him for a very long time. If ever.
I could tell as soon as the cop saw me, he wasn’t concerned anymore. He ran my license anyway, asked all the usual questions, and then told me it was the weaving, that’s why he pulled me over. I tried not to look guilty, to give him a reason to search my truck.
“We’ve seen a lot of drug trafficking with these moving trucks,” he explained. “I suppose if I open the back of your truck, I’m not gonna find drugs.”
“No sir, just lots of stuff. And toys,” I said, nodding my head toward Scott, who thought this was the best day ever. He loved cops. He had no idea how opposite his views are of his father’s. “And if you open it, I think everything might fall out.” I didn’t want to add anything to sound suspicious but it was true. We were returning to Florida with a bit more than we arrived with, including all the photo albums that were taken a few years before and Scott’s toys from a Christmas spent with so much family.
He let me go with a kind warning to pull over and wait out some of the wind. I wanted to like him for that, for not searching, for not being a jerk, but my experience with cops hadn’t been positive. I’d watched them ignore violence and arrest my husband. It left a nasty taste in my mouth.
As I pulled the truck back onto the highway, Scott chattered away about the flashing lights and the cop who came to our window, but I was thinking about life way before him. Life when officers repeatedly came to our house and left after warning my mother to stop calling them.
I remember thinking that there’s no safety, no one to save us. “He doesn’t mean it, Pam,” the sheriff’s deputy always said. They never arrested my stepfather. He got away with hurting all of us. If the cops didn’t even care, no one would. Over and over, we ran to different neighbors’ houses to call for help, and over and over we watched the guilty one get away with whatever he’d done. It became pointless to bother.
The guilty hardly ever pay, but I knew deep down in my heart they’re going to make an example out of me one day. I knew the clock was ticking and my luck as an “innocent bystander” would end. Glancing over at Scott while that thought occurred to me, I thought about what I could do to stop that from happening. I couldn’t save Nate from his bad decisions, but maybe I could save us. Maybe I could stop making stupid decisions, always doing what he wants. Maybe there was another way. It was a long drive back to Florida, but by the time I arrived, I had decided it was time to start over.
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!