I was lonely, and wanted a hug. I thought the blonde Puerto Rican boy was so cute. Looking at him made me forget where I was. I mean I was grateful to Covenant House for the shelter, but they couldn’t stop the pain. He could. Things stopped hurting when we were together. I didn’t even want ‘home’ at that point. I’d rather be out there, there was a better chance at getting loved, of being around people that hurt so badly that they couldn’t help but FEEL and CRY. I felt normal and accepted around the kids at Covenant House, They were amazing and I trusted everyone. I was young and very naïve. I hadn’t ever been to a birthday party, not a dance, no sleepovers, no afternoon playdates. I was an only child, and the only two people I was ever around were my parents. I didn’t know anything about the outside world. I didn’t understand that people faked who they were, I had no idea people used each other. Nope, I was naïve. I adored Laura Ingalls and The Brady Bunch and Shawn Cassidy. I lived on PBS, the only channel I was allowed, which was a blessing and a curse. A blessing because PBS surely expanded my impressionable mind, awesome, curse because I didn’t know shit about the world, and that got very dangerous quickly. So, there I was, an exposed bundle of needy nerves, trying very hard to be something I was not. I was rocking confidence like nobody’s business. Yea, it was fake, but mostly effective. It was our weekend out of covenant house, 2-week limit, then we could come back in as a new intake all over again. We had nowhere to go, it was a small group of us. someone suggested the abandoned Trailways and Greyhound bus depot around a block from Covenant House toward 9th avenue. Kids draped across a few seats, we had a bathroom in the back, it was warm. Good shit. The next day, coming back from getting cigarettes, we went into the bus station, no one was there. It was just him and I. We were kissing… going fast. I got nervous when his hand went down my pants. I was a virgin. I was sitting in a double seat with him, side by side… one thing led to another and I was trying to push him off of me. I couldn’t breathe, I got scared. He didn’t listen. I went numb and was brought back to awareness by pain. I still had time. More pain, burning hotter, feeling as though my skin was being ripped apart. I knew something was ripping inside of me. Excruciating pain, is this what love is? Is this all that life has? I left to get away from pain. I trusted him. I had thought that people hurting each other was normal. I don’t remember why, but then he started hitting me, and wouldn’t stop. Eventually I pretended to pass out. I was lying on the floor of a dirty greyhound bus, I can’t even for the life of me remember how I got on the floor, I was in shock. I pretended to be unconscious as he pretended to be concerned. As I was opening up my eyes he started hitting me again. I don’t remember how, but we were outside. I picked up a coke bottle and broke it in half on the light post next to the deserted bus in an abandoned bus on the block of the runaway shelter. I couldn’t cut him, I couldn’t hurt other people, I thought the street was emotionally safer than home. I cut myself, he had stopped hitting me as I waved that bottle around. Fifteen times across my wrist, I don’t think I wanted to die, I’m pretty sure I didn’t, but I wanted him to stop hitting me, so I cut myself. It gets pretty hazy after that, I remember him kind of dragging me to the Port Authority Youth Division. There was a man there. His name was Police Officer Joseph Gonzalez. Both he and Covenant house saved my life out there. He had a heart for kids, and treated me like his own. I didn’t cry while writing through any of this until I got to this part. Willie got me to Gonzi (that’s what I called him), and just left, he just left me there like crumpled garbage. Gonzie took me to Bellevue and sat with me. I said nothing. They transferred me to Elmhurst General Hospital in Queens, NY. He stayed with me there. I still said nothing. I should have asked him if he had to. Was it his job or did he really care? I think he really cared. They admitted me into the B10 ward where I stayed for two weeks. My aunt had been in that same unit a few years before me, our bond was so deep. I was in Elmhurst General Hospital for two weeks, in a room by myself. With no voice, I couldn’t say anything, I’d open my mouth but nothing would come out. They released me two weeks later, for Family Court, to get placed in another group or foster home. I had lost my voice that day in the bus depot. I thought it was my fault. Over the years that followed I thought that was love meant. Then, I learned that it was never my fault and NO ONE deserves that. There is nothing that the darkness loves more than to grow and fester in silence brought on by shame and blame. I am shining light on my dark facets. I believe if each of us do that, we understand that we were not at fault, it was something that happened to US, then we can shift the collective from darkness to light. It’s my honor to go first.