Today I received a letter from social services telling me that my time in foster care was nearing an end. I got the typical aging out the system letter that all 18-year olds get when they’re in foster care up until their 18th birthday.
There was nothing unique about the letter, it went on and on about how it hoped I would have a successful adult life and that there were resources available if I needed it. What a bunch of bullshit! Did Social Services think I thought they cared about me? I was just another kid in a long list of other kids who had been sucked up in the foster care system attempting to survive their horrific childhoods.
I knew this day was coming for a while, and in a way, I had been preparing for my future for the last year. I spent months studying for the SATs and was scheduled to take the exam soon.
My favorite teacher Jeffrey spent hours sitting with me and helping me through the study guides he had found used at a local bookstore. I hated to admit it, but I think I have been crushing on Jeffrey since I started his English class last semester.
Who would not at least be moved by his sensual voice and his charismatic personality? He had a way of reading poetry that touched something ravenous inside me, something so simplistic and animalistic, like a gnawing deep inside my soul. It did not matter that I had a boyfriend.
Don’t get me wrong I care about Jayden, but Jeffrey touched something deeper than physical contact could ever touch. Maybe it was just wishful fantasies spun in my head, but I truly enjoy being in his class.
Dorsey Alternative High School sat on the corner of Church and Allen Streets in the heart of Mexican Land. There were mostly Hispanics everywhere you looked or went. The building itself was a single-story brick building that was a recommissioned library for our school’s purpose.
Classes were from 8:30 AM to 12:30 PM and usually consisted of four classes, except Wednesdays, which was an elective class day that you stayed in for the four hours of school. I chose bowling at Alameda Bowling Alley for my elective.
The inside of the school was divided into classrooms big enough to hold about fifteen students, desks, and the teacher. Upon entry, you run smack dab into the main office. That was it, besides the bathrooms, one for staff and two for students.
The only other unique thing about my school was we called all our teachers by their first names, and most of the time, they called us by our last names. I was used to being called Ms. Giles. It was their way of shortening the divide between students and teachers.
When Jeffery offered to help me prepare for the SATs I jumped at the opportunity to spend quality time with him. I knew nothing would ever come of it, but it was nice to sit close to him, smelling his delicious cologne, seeing his eyes sparkle when discussing the English comprehension portion of the test, and his beautifully structured face with thick arched eyebrows, pale brown skin, and stunning blueish-gray eyes.
I could melt in his eyes. When he looked at me I saw myself the way he did, and not for one minute, doubted I was not as spectacular as he believed me to be. Through his eyes, I saw the possibilities. I saw my future, and my future was bright.
“You know Topaz, I love your poems. They are so raw and real and organic. You should do well on the reading, writing, and language portions of the test. I suspect you’ll get a perfect score, if not pretty close to one.”
“You really think so?” I asked.
Jeffery’s confidence in me was engrossing. He made me feel as if I could do anything, but my inner demons taunted me with vile thoughts of inadequacies. I want to believe him and when I look him in those eyes, I did for that moment. I really believe what he sees in me and I feel invincible.
The time had flown by, the SATs were fast approaching. I felt pretty confident I could hold my own during this four-hour test. I may not have strong math skills, but they were adequate. I usually got high B’s in my math classes, so I would be okay.
Jeffery told me to focus on the English portion because that’s where my strength lies. Whenever I worry about school stuff, I recite my favorite parts of a poem by Maya Angelou written in 1978, that I learned a few years back, Still, I Rise.
Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still, I’ll rise.
Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops,
Weakened by my soulful cries?
You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise…
I know it’s not the whole poem, but those parts really made me think about my life and situation. Those words seem to calm and center me whenever I need to be calmed and centered. Whenever I am standing on legs lacking assurance and a mind racing a mile a minute, I have those words to snap me out of it.
The closer the SATs got the more unprepared I felt. Jeffery reassured me at every study session that I would be fine and do well. I have never gotten anything I want in life. Why would this test be any different? All this test would do is prove how uneducated and stupid I am and I did not need the whole world knowing this about me.
I spent the last remaining two weeks cramming as much information into my brain that it could hold and still it felt like it was not enough. The test was tomorrow. I was out of time and out of options. I could reschedule the test but that would mean having to pay the sixty-five dollar fee again. There was nothing left to do but woman up.
I arrived at the SAT location as the doors were closing, making it in a nick-of-time, literally. I sat through the grueling four-hour exam because I opted to do the essay portion of the test, writing is in my will-house. I finish the test, walk out feeling at least a hundred pounds lighter, happy that this damn test is behind me. No matter what happens next, the test is over. It is finally over! Just as that thought left my brain another more dissatisfying thought entered, no more one-on-one time with Jeffery, and soon no more Jeffery.
The reality was taking hold. I would soon have nowhere to stay, and no Jeffery to fantasize about while I listened to his deep sultry voice recite pose and portions of the most delectable sort of romantic classics. Like most things in life, everything must change, nothing ever stays the same.
Jayden is on time, as usual, to pick me up from the test. I promised I would be a better girlfriend after I got through the SATs and he meant to hold me to my promise. We were going to hang out and celebrate. I am no longer grounded at the group home so my curfew is back to normal. I did not have to be home until midnight. Yipee! If nothing else, I am excited to have my life back.
Hanging out with Jayden is always an adventure. We usually end up in the most interesting places. He has taken me to the Oakland Museum, which I had not been to before. Me being an Oakland native, I am ashamed to admit that, but my life didn’t leave a lot of time for me to explore Oakland and all its wonders growing up.
We have been to the Oakland Zoo, which I had not been to since I was seven years old. Not much had changed in that time. All I remember from my last trip to the zoo is a picture my grandma had of me and my two oldest brothers walking, eating an ice cream cone with ice cream running down the hand and arm holding it.
We would often go to the Castle Arcade and Malibu Speedway in East Oakland near the Oakland Coliseum. Everyone hung out there on the weekends. I always said if you were looking for someone you had not seen in a while, all you had to do is go to the Castle to find them. The flip-side to that is if you were trying to be on the down-low, then you shouldn’t be at the Castle. We had even gone roller skating. I love hanging out with Jayden, he makes me feel normal.
Shortly after me and Jayden’s six-month anniversary, I realized things were changing between us. I no longer felt as guarded or defensive when we were together. I laughed more and would let little details about my not so distant past slip. So the day he approached me about having a heart to heart, I figured why not. It was time for me to tell him my dirty dark secrets. Honestly, it would be a relief to finally get this stuff off my chest. He had stuck with me this long, he deserved to know. Didn’t he? I want him to know I am not the angel he thinks I am, but I am dirty and damaged.
The day we went to Dimond Park to talk, the park was beautiful and shady which is what I needed. There was no need to add extra heat because my body was already on high-alert, and my body was damp, on the verge of real sweat. I am glad he chose this park with its luscious trees and wonderful cool breeze. The Bay Area is not known for extreme weather, unlike other nearby cities. Most summer days feel like spring, but today is a scorcher.
Today, I learn a lot about Jayden’s life and family. He is so nervous about telling me. I think it’s funny. His life has nothing on mine. I have never told any guy I dated about my past. Jayden would be the first, at least I can give him that because all my other firsts have already been used.
He listened patiently, trying very hard not to seem shocked, but I could tell he was shocked very much by the words coming out of my mouth.
“From the beginning until now, I have experienced sexual abuse at least six times in various situations. I’m sure more happened but my mind has blocked it out.” I tell Jayden, watching his every facial expression for clues that this was too much for him to bear.
“Wow, babe. I’m so sorry that happened to you,” he struggled to get that out before I continued.
He did not interrupt me anymore. I think the shock kept him from speaking. What could he do about any of this stuff now? It is a part of my past and when I finish telling him about it, that is where it will stay.
He did not need to hear the explicit details of my sordid past, maybe one or two encounters is all I will tell him about. Before I get to those stories, I tell him about the physical abuse I suffered at the hands of my drug-addicted mother. I tell him about my fourteen foster home placements before coming to Camden House, which explains why I attend an alternative high school. There is so much I can tell him that will destroy my good girl façade, but I did not think I could bear him looking at me through eyes of pity. I just couldn’t handle that, not from him.
While I share my story, I try my best to seem nonchalant about my sexual abuse, not wanting to give these events any power over me or make me seem weak or feeble in his eyes. I did not think I could face him if he thought I was weak and could have gotten out of those situations if I wanted to.
The last thing I need is someone’s pity because pity couldn’t change the past, it can only make me relive all those horrifying events, and that’s not good for either of us.
He only turned away from me one time. I could see he was becoming emotional, but I keep going. When he faces me again, I can swear I see his eyes glazed and a look of indescribable pain on his face. But he nods for me to continue, and I do. When I finally finished, two hours later, we were completely drained.
I knew Jayden hurt with me, and possibly pitied me, and that is exactly what I do not want. I do not need pity. I don’t need him trying to save me or make my life better. I just need him to listen; possibly gaining some insight on why I am the way I am but, not his damn pity. It is not easy for me to share this side of me, but I did because I care about him.
I can tell he is touched by what he learned. He opened his body to me without touching me, letting his body language tell me he is all in. I realize at that moment he does not pity me. Jayden wants to show me that love can be a healer and good for me. Seeing his beautiful molten-brown eyes fill with so much empathy, takes everything in me not to cry.
I cannot appear weak, not in his eyes. I mean, who always gets themselves into situations where they are sexually abused? I should have been able to find a way to escape the trauma of repeated offenses. But being a child, I just wasn’t smart enough or have the type of strength needed to fend off my attackers.
I think overall, he got that and opened his heart even more. I always felt that Jayden has so much love to share, that his heart was enormous, enough to love me unconditionally. For this I am grateful.
Jayden’s open-heartedness allows me the comfort I need to start to love myself again and to be willing to share myself with someone who isn’t forcing me. It takes me a long time to get to this place, and I love him for being patient enough to wait for me to get to where he is emotionally and, Oh Baby, the first time, blew my mind!
I had no idea sex could be so good, so cleansing. Sex with Jayden really did change my perspective about being in love, giving love, and sharing love with another person. He keeps making me surprise myself, Jayden.
Author’s Note: Thank you for waiting patiently for this chapter. I am still deep into revisions and working on them as quickly as I can. I am happy that you are keeping up with Topaz and the changes her life encounters. She’s still got a ways to go.
Please continue to practice social distancing. Stay safe and healthy.
Peace and Blessings – CV Davis
© 2020 | CV Davis, All Rights Reserved
Photo by Leighann Blackwood at Unsplash (Photos for Everyone)