After a few months of knowing Chewy, although still naive and too shy to defend myself, I saw through his charming facade. Every second spent near him created a wedge that penetrated deeper and deeper into my childhood.
It was a sunny spring morning. Nothing unusual so far as I prepared myself for school until I heard the phone ring. I sighed as I walked to the kitchen picturing my mom at work calling to check on me. The number on the caller ID did not match any number I could recall. I listened to the ring, stared at the number, and made a quick but hesitant decision to answer. I was already dressed, but still needed to do my make up and eat breakfast. I never understood people who could go all day without food. For a split second, the thought of Chewy crossed my mind while the phone rang as I remembered with dread that I had given my number to him. After our first and only sexual encounter that I was persuaded into against my will, he asked me to take the rings off my fingers. Those rings were given to me and I cherished them. Chewy convinced me to give him the rings. He said he would return them the next time he saw me. He cornered me in a room and threatened to a)kill my boyfriend, b)have sex with him, or c) pay him the money that I just at that moment learned I owed him. All of his nice gestures in the past of giving me hits off of his pipe, were as I learned now, not nice gestures. I chose option b. I didn’t have any money and I didn’t want my boyfriend, Mark, going into a rage because I had allowed Chewy to reel me in to his scheme. He shut the door behind me and I slept with him for drugs I smoked a long time ago. Times I didn’t even remember. I believed he would return my rings, because that’s how untainted I was. He never returned my rings. I know now he traded them so he could get high. I shudder at my innocence.
I answered the phone. It was Chewy. Irritated, I rolled my eyes. Anger filled me as I thought about my lost rings and how he had lied to me. I didn’t have time for this. A minute or two before or after 7:30am turned my commute across the West Seattle Bridge from 10 minutes to an hour. That bridge was the only way out of West Seattle. He explained that he needed a ride downtown. He lived 20 miles north of me. I explained that I could never beat the traffic and make it to school on time. He didn’t care. I finally agreed as saying ‘No’ evaded itself from my vocabulary. I could have just driven to school and I wish I would have. My spirit would have been spared a good beating.
As I drove with the sun in my eyes, the freeway seemed to go on forever. I became irritated. Resentful. I felt robotic as I drove in a trance of obedience. As I approached the apartment complex in Lake City, I grew nervous as the clock ticked. My teacher’s voice rattled between my ears. I attended a Catholic high school for girls on Capital Hill in Seattle, Washington. My attendance and grades were stellar. The girl everyone knew changed into someone unrecognizable, even to myself. Chewy ran out of his apartment as my powder blue Ford Pinto pulled into the huge complex which must have spanned the whole block. He, without as much as a ‘hello’ motioned for me to drive south. He told me I would be dropping him off downtown. I couldn’t wait to get this entitled asshole out of my car. Unlike our previous encounters, his charming disposition diminished. He spoke with shortness as he barked directions. I felt small and lost. Every command I followed betrayed Mark. I drove with reluctance.
When we arrived downtown in the middle of the morning commute, the anxiety to get to school grew. Already late, I pulled up to the curb to let Chewy out. He instructed me to wait, talking to me like I was his property. It was rush hour. I saw commuters running to get to their office buildings, women in dresses and tennis shoes in a hurry with coffee in hand. I knew my location at the time, but I couldn’t take you back there now. Many times I have tried to remember while driving through downtown Seattle where exactly this occurred. Why I would want to have this place tattooed in my memory I do not know. As I looked over at Chewy not sure how much time had passed, observing all the normal people, wondering if I appeared out of place, I felt the urgency of being late.
I should have driven away, but I didn’t.
He walked up to a group of gangster-looking men standing on a corner. Baggy jeans, big white Tee shirts. It appeared as though he knew at least a few of them. He talked to them briefly. I saw one of them turn his head to take a look at me. His eyes pierced me and I shivered. This didn’t feel right. Chewy walked over to the car. He told me that his friend had just been released from jail that morning, and needed a favor. Before I could formulate a single word of protest, a large black man placed himself in my passenger seat. He told me to drive. As he instructed me on which corners to turn, he looked at me. He read my face and knew I had never done this before. He could tell I was afraid. I don’t know what Chewy told him, but my face and body language quietly screamed that I was in uncharted territory. We found a place to stop under the viaduct. I’m sure I have driven or walked along this very location many times since, and maybe even before. I don’t remember it though. The viaduct stretches many miles. My surroundings were not important anymore. Fear overtook me. Stricken with shock, I watched the moment go by, I could see myself from above, and I could not help her. I heard stories about young girls found behind dumpsters due to drugs, pimps, and prostitution. I wanted to cry, but that would have required crawling out of my numbness.
As the man unzipped his pants. I didn’t know what to say or even what to do. He made a motion with his hand toward his not-so-private area. In a robotic motion, I leaned over the emergency brake and did what was expected. I must have been taking too long because he stopped me. He motioned for me to get in the backseat. The original intention did not include sex, but it would be quicker. He took out a condom. I felt cheap and ashamed as I pulled my pants down, but I needed to get to school. Not to mention I was trapped in my car with a large man I had never seen before. With my head pressed against the window and my back wedged against the door handle. I fixed my eyes on something outside the window like people practice in yoga so they don’t lose their balance. I stared until he was done. My mind and body instantly knew how to block this moment out. I believe this is a defense mechanism we all possess, fortunately some of us never need to use it. I assume this is why I don’t remember his face or our exact location. He never made me feel threatened. He acted gentle considering he didn’t have to, which surprised me. His disposition implied an unspoken apology. He could tell Chewy disgusted me. We climbed to the front. He pulled out a sack with crack cocaine in it. In that moment I realized what had just happened. Chewy had sold me. I had just sold myself. He set a few pieces down. He said to tell chewy that was the exact amount he gave me. Then he took out a few more and told me to put them somewhere and not tell Chewy. I guess that symbolized penance for buying a young girl without her knowledge. I could tell he didn’t respect Chewy anymore than I did, a sorry excuse for a man. I guess when Chewy woke up that morning and wanted to get high, I came to mind as he thought of a plan; a plan he easily executed because he knew I could be taken advantage of with ease.
I drove him back to the corner where the wreckage had begun.. I felt displaced. My thoughts were stifled and unclear. The man got out of my now tarnished car. I would never see him again. Chewy took his time coming back to the car with complete disregard. That is needless to say after what the previous hours of the morning involved. His arrogance knew I wouldn’t leave. My brain screamed at my body to stomp on the gas pedal and screech away from that corner and never see, speak or look at Chewy again. With first period gone, and second period well under way, I panicked. With the trauma I had endured, I am surprised I still had a concept of time. I had quickly learned to shut off my surroundings just to remain lucid in my own head.
I should have driven away, but I didn’t.
Chewy came back to the car and my frustration that I did not abandon him on that corner screamed like a lion’s roar in my head. I actually sat in the car with the passenger door left open out of fear and obedience of what seemed like10 minutes, while he was completing a drug transaction with the man who had just bought the rest of my innocence. It was because of me Chewy was going to get high that day. If I would have refused to pick him up, I wonder who he would have summoned next. He continually named one or two girls he had working for him whom I had never seen. Prostitutes he bragged about, without saying that word or title, knowing it would frighten me, He persisted that I became one of his girls. He explained in detail how they never went without and were treated well. I wondered why I had never met any of these girls. This should have been a neon red flag in my mind. In this moment, after all of the time I knew him, I suddenly realized what just happened. I saw who he was without the blinders that hindered me in the past Most importantly I saw the girl I allowed myself to become, a monster whose only appeal was her ability was to be violated without protest. My need to be numb exceeded everything. I needed to forget the sickening image engraved in my memory.
As Chewy and I pulled away from that corner, I gripped the steering wheel just as tight as I gripped the hope I would be at school soon. With anticipation I turned the downtown corners hoping I would soon be dropping off the main character in the horror story I appeared in that morning. After a few city blocks up the hill toward toward my school, Chewy told me to stop. I wondered what he could possibly want me to do now. Wasn’t selling my body for a handful of rocks enough? Where were his other girls he praised all the time? Why couldn’t they do this? Maybe it was because they didn’t exist anymore. Maybe they had been through this with him and he knew better than to ask them anything. He knew he was a pathetic cluck, not the pimp and dealer he portrayed himself. Now I knew.
It normally would have taken 10 minutes to get to school from there, but the morning congestion made it feel like we were going nowhere. We appeared to be in one of those big pay parking lots. I argued with him. I had to get to school. I knew classes were well into the first period. I had never stood up to him until this day, but what he had just put me through overwhelmed me and I screamed with anger. He wasn’t a big man, I should have just pushed him out of my car, but fear still filled me. This morning marked a new low in my life, the first low. Uncharted territory. Chewy ignored my protests. I did as he told me. We stopped so he could get high with the drugs he thought he earned from the man I just had sex with. Those were technically my drugs. But that’s not how the streets operated. The pain worsened with each moment that went by. I was begging him at this point for a hit. Just what he wanted me to do. I need to forget. I felt tormented. I wanted out of my body, out of my head, but I just couldn’t escape. He just kept smoking. Loading the pipe with piece after piece. Lighting it up, taking in the smoke, holding it in, exhaling with a sigh of euphoria. I watched. I wanted to kill him. Just when I thought that morning couldn’t get any worse, Chewy makes me have sex with him right there in the passenger seat of my car. I couldn’t test his temper. I wouldn’t. I didn’t know him well enough. He promised to share the crack with me. It seemed like this went on for an hour. I just sat there, sitting on top of him, not facing him much to my relief, as he smoked and smoked. I was nothing. I couldn’t believe what I was doing. I was worried people arriving in the lot for work would see us, but I stopped caring out of an all consuming loath for myself. I felt ruined. Paralyzed with shame, I managed to climb off him when he was done. I don’t believe I ever got to take a hit. I don’t remember. At least it didn’t hurt in a physical way. Not like the other guy from earlier. He lived up to the black men stereotype. Chewy? Not even. All the drugs he smoked manged to make his penis as small as possible, I couldn’t even feel it. What a joke. He should have been embarrassed, but he was too high to care.
I should have left him there, but I didn’t.
We argued all the way to school. I wanted to get high. I needed to forget what had just happened. He held on to those rocks. It was all I could think about. However small they seem now, they were huge to me at the moment. They signified what I had been through. If I could only crash my car into a pole or run off the road everything would be better. I wanted to die. How do you go on after something like this? 16 years old. I may as well have just given in to the life style and started whoring myself to support my drug habit. None of these loser guys I knew could take care of me. If I could only make myself disappear, make Chewy disappear, if I could only erase the last couple hours. Reality slapped me. I couldn’t make any of this go away.
Chewy wanted to use my car for the day. He said he would pick me up after school. I yelled in protest. I told him that I hated him. So late and exhausted, I surrendered. I made him promise to not forget about the time and not leave me stranded at school. He promised. I knew better not to believe his promises, but I could not muster another fight. Before I stepped out, he found the dope the man from downtown had given me to keep as my own. Chewy proudly confiscated it. I walked away from my car as he pulled away wondering if I would ever see my car again. I had lost so much in a few hours, my car would only be one more thing.
I walked into class with my head hung in shame and embarrassment. I felt naked, like everyone knew something had happened. Could they tell that my spirit had been crushed? I wouldn’t look at anyone. I hadn’t even stopped in the bathroom to see what I looked like. I felt bruised and dirty. I am sure my make up smeared my face. I could feel the grossness in my underwear. Second period neared an end when I walked in. I walked to the seat I sat in everyday. I could hear nothing, just the sound of the freeway in my head, the loud noise of the past couple hours. My flashes imprinted themselves into my memory. Chewy’s face. The man in my car’s face and demeanor. The unspeakable acts. An umbrella of disgust hovered over me. As I sat there, I became incredibly self aware for just a few moments. I hated what I felt. Self awareness. I couldn’t run away nor could I escape her. The painful destiny I had just unveiled deemed itself more than I could bear.
I should have driven away, but I didn’t.
The bell rang after second period. The sound jolted me. The principle, waiting for me outside the classroom, escorted me into her office and closed the door. Another Sister sat waiting. My heart felt heavy. It should have been pounding out of my chest but I was too tired from emotion. I felt dead inside. Whatever words or threats they planned, I prepared myself to receive with humility. Standing in shame would keep me from bursting into tears. The Principal and my English teacher stood in front of me. Expecting an immediate reprimand, they offered their concern with genuine kindness. “We have noticed a change in you, what’s going on?” Unsure of how to answer, I remained quiet. How could I reiterate to Sisters of the Catholic Church that I had sex with two different men over the course of my commute to school that morning. How would they comprehend the loud voice in my head not letting me forget that I had been branded a prostitute. I had nothing to say except “I’m sorry”. They told me if I missed one more day, I wouldn’t graduate. They had already made an exception regarding my absences; they no longer could. My tardiness that morning cued them to pull me aside. I never came to school late. I was either there or I wasn’t.
When the final bell rang, I gathered my things. Nervous about what I would or wouldn’t find, I walked outside and headed toward the street corner where my car sat faithfully every day. As I approached I breathed a sigh of relief. My light blue Pinto. Although ugly and humiliating, it belonged to me. In the passenger seat sat Chewy. My breathing stopped for a moment when I saw my boyfriend Mark sitting in a car behind the Pinto. He must have borrowed it from a friend. He never failed to meet me after school, I felt horrible. With Mark being my first boyfriend at the tender age of 16, my time and heart belonged to him. However, approaching a year together, our drug use created a volatile situation. We fought all the time, mostly he warned me about the path my reckless behavior would lead me. I imagine that after he introduced me to drugs, he wasn’t prepared for my addiction to be different than his. Everyone’s addiction manifests itself in various ways. He couldn’t control me anymore, and that scared him because he felt responsible for me. I wondered why he stayed with me being so frustrated all the time. He didn’t have anywhere else to go, no one else to love him. So I told him I Ioved him a hundred times a day. I remember feeling the actual pain in my heart when I thought of him not being there. I recall begging him to shoot me up with cocaine on my birthday. He had only used a needle a few times, and I wanted to try it. He absolutely would not let me. Because he wouldn’t let me shoot up, I knew he loved me. Now I know the reason. He didn’t want anything bad to happen to me when we were together because he would be the one to blame. However, that morning proved that the worst possible scenario I could get myself into, could and did, happen without him. His mind must have gone over every reason why Chewy, whom he despised, had my car. After everything that had transpired over the past few months, he probably thought I finally caved to Chewy’s advances. He was right. What he didn’t know was that I hated every second of it, that I hated myself, that if I could have made another choice, I would have. A cold rush of fear and guilt hit me as I walked toward the cars. I didn’t know which car, which man to go to. When my eyes could focus on Mark, I saw a look I will never forget. Disappointment and betrayal colored his eyes. I would have rather seen him angry. I felt my heart break a little more. I tried to think of excuses to give why Chewy had my car, but all I could see was confusion turn to anger in Mark’s face. I couldn’t care less about Chewy. I needed to face Mark as scared as I was. It was a warm afternoon and he sat with the window open. He stood 6 feet and 2 inches tall, so the car seat was back as far as it could go. As I approached him, I couldn’t talk. He couldn’t either. We didn’t speak. He looked ahead at my car right in front of him, he looked at me. If looks could kill, I would be dead. Chewy was getting impatient, I walked up to my car, and as I got out of the way, Mark sped off.
I got in my car and followed him. Chewy talked but I didn’t hear him. I wanted to push him out of my car. I couldn’t bear the thought of Mark being so crushed. The story unfolded with no words. Mark wasn’t dumb, and he knew when he saw Chewy in my car what had happened in one form or another. I told chewy I was dropping him off. He told me where he needed a ride to. I didn’t care where he needed to go and informed him I would be dropping him where I felt like it. Why couldn’t I have been this assertive with him six hours ago? My glove compartment was disheveled, papers everywhere. He made a mess of my car and didn’t even bother to clean it up. As he stepped out of the car, I sped away. I headed toward my best friend, Jenn’s house. I knew that’s where would go. I had to get there before him to explain. I didn’t want Jenn to judge me. I was too late. When I pulled up behind the car Mark had borrowed, I saw him sitting on the porch with Jenn. He had his head down; Jenn comforted him. What had I done?
I knew what it looked like to them. They didn’t know that what I had done was really ten times worse than they were imagining. When I realized I couldn’t turn back time, I headed home. I remember the heaviness of myself in the seat. Yet I felt empty. How is that possible?
I shouldn’t have driven away this time, but I did.