This story was something that I really struggled with writing; the idea had been floating around in my mind for years – but I was adamant that I didn’t want to deal with the subject. It’s a difficult and unpleasant thing to write about, but this character wouldn’t leave me alone. For a long time, I ignored her (put her in the back of my mind), until I met someone who told me a story about the abuse they endured as a child.
At that point I realized, that despite my need to live in a world where things like child rape are non-existent – that wasn’t really the case. There is suffering here, in this world, and ignoring it doesn’t make it go away.
P.S. Photo courtesy of this site – I couldn’t find an actual source =(
Should I give up or should I just keep chasing pavements…
Janice took a deep breath and let Adele’s smooth tones, the soft bass and the accompanying tranquility wash over her; she loved music. It was her refuge, her salvation. She cast her eyes downward, scanned the cracked, dirty asphalt and kept walking forward, careful to avoid the wads of old, chewed up gum that littered the surface. She was calm, at peace, walking down a Brooklyn street in the twilight hours with a light breeze ruffling her curls and the world around her moving in slow motion. She pulled her hair into a lopsided bun, adjusted her earphones and kept on walking.
It was her second summer alone, just a few days before her late August birthday. This year, she’d be old enough to drive – if things had been normal, if they’d been okay, she bet she’d have gotten her license and a car. She’d drive to the mall and see her friends, maybe she’d have a curfew, but she wouldn’t care, because that’s what normal families did.
“That’s what they do,” she mumbled, turning down an alleyway filled with dank, stale air. It was a shortcut; the night was coming down and Janice knew that even in the summer the shelters were packed before dusk. She moved quickly, silently down the path, towards the light at the other end of the tunnel. But she wasn’t looking for salvation or even hope; she’d given up on both of those long ago. Long before she walked the streets, long before a half a can of lima beans at the shelter was something she looked forward to, long before she’d cried to her mother about those terrible nights, long before the last time Roy stumbled into her room after dark and made her wish she wasn’t alive. Hope was for suckers, and two years on the streets had taught her to be anything but that.
Janice pushed open the doors to the Providence House shelter, slipping her earphones out and tucking them in the dark recesses of her grey hoodie. Just as she’d suspected, inside people crowded the two-cart buffet; here, the reckless, the dangerous and the pathetic lined up for what may have been their only meal of the day. She grabbed a tray, joined the line and remembered.
The soft thud of his steps got closer. Janice held her breath.
“Not tonight, please, not tonight,” she whispered, hoping that some God, somewhere would hear her.
The footsteps came closer; they paused at her door, then kept on walking. She choked out a puff of air, a breath held a touch too long – relief. She’d be okay tonight.
Janice felt the pressure on her chest, her stomach before her eyes opened. He was on top of her, his grubby hands pushing aside her clothes, the alcohol on his breath stinging her nostrils.
Dammit, she thought she’d been safe tonight; he’d walked past her door mere hours before and left her alone. She’d thought she’d been safe.
She didn’t move, make a sound. It wouldn’t matter if she screamed or she cried, she’d done it all before. It changed nothing. Her mom wouldn’t be home until the sun crested, and ‘til then she was his, nothing in the world would change that.
So she lay still, and stayed quiet, pretended she was dead. He’d leave when he was done. He always did, just like he always came back, night after night after night.
She heard him grunt, felt the sticky heat of him scalding her skin, felt the bile rise in her throat and promised herself that she wouldn’t be there the next time he came.
“You can get porridge or a little rice? Whaddaya want?”
Janice snapped out of her daydream and stared at the serving lady. Between the wrinkles, the bright red hair and the matching track suit, she merited a second glance.
“I’ll take the porridge please.” She watched as a spoonful of something lumpy and grey hit her tray at 60 mph.
She shuffled to a corner, taking her pick of the establishment’s finest – a few banged up metal chairs and graffiti-covered plastic tables. She sat, ate in silence and without a backwards glance, made her way to the door.
Outside the night air had picked up a bit, but it was still cool as ever. Janice let her eyes pass over the moon as she slipped her earphones back in place and started walking. She didn’t mind the memories so much anymore; she figured it never hurt just to remember. She was doing okay; she had a little spot near Church Street, with a couple of other kids life had fucked over too, she spent her days walking the city and her nights tucked safely away with her crew.
Life was alright, better. She was alright, better – safe. Janice pressed a button and anyone within five feet of her could hear a soft bass, and Adele’s hypnotic voice:
Should I give up or should I just keep chasing pavements, even if it leads nowhere.