“Mom, I’m gonna rollerblade at the park.”
“Ok. What’s in the bag?”
“Some books and snacks. I’ll just hang out there. The kids are being so loud today.”
“Ok. Be home for dinner. Love you.”
“Love you, too.”
I lied by omission. My bag had books, two peanut butter sandwiches, a thermos of water, three ponytail holders, toilet paper, a change of clothes, and a pair of shoes.
I was running away from home.
But I decided I should actually go to the park for a bit, figure out how I was going to run away with $12. My friends lived in a different city. There was no way to rollerblade all the way there. I only knew how to get there by the highways.
I thought about hitchhiking, but it seemed unlikely that anyone would pick up a pretty 12-year-old girl. They would just call the police. I wanted to actually go to the police myself, but it was out of the realm of possibilities. Too many threats had been made about what would happen if I went to the police.
I spent 4 hours brainstorming, and then decided to just eat my sandwiches and go home. It was a silly idea anyway. If I could’ve gotten to the Daniels’ house, they would’ve called my mom. I was sure of it. And my dad would’ve picked me up. So I was almost a runaway, but failed before the starting pistol even went off.
I didn’t remember until Dave was reading a book aloud to me, and the main character was talking about when she ran away from home as a kid. “Dave, I almost ran away from home. I was packed and everything. I just remembered it. But I was too scared to do it. Thought no one would believe me about the abuse and things would just be worse when I was returned home.” It’s crazy how the suppressed memories return with no warning. No control over them.
I see runaways in the news everyday. Parents begging for help. In some cases, the kid doesn’t like the rules. Wants a later curfew. Wants a boyfriend. Is just immature.
But in so many other cases, that kid is trying to get away from hell. But she doesn’t know what to do. He doesn’t have the tools he needs to communicate his pain. They have been lied to so much about how the police won’t help them. So they run. And I just pray that investigations take place when those kids are returned home. Do they have a stable family? Or do people just think they do? Are they being dropped off on a porch, to an adult who is verbally, physically, emotionally, and sexually abusive?
Several times a week, I see these runaways on the news. And I pray, “God, please let them be found by the right people. Please let the right officers find them. Please let them end up somewhere safe. If that’s home, great. If it’s not, I pray they get the help they need.”
Because I didn’t. And I had to eat dinner, even though I wasn’t hungry. I had just scarfed down two peanut butter sandwiches I couldn’t explain to my mom. The most threats were actually about telling her. And I believed every single one my dad told me.