names and descriptions have been omitted
or changed in this post
"You do not get out of the car… you understand?" Bao asked me, his face directly in mine, peering into my brown eyes in the darkened confines of the car. His longish hair fell into his face and he smoothed it back with one hand. His eyes, inky black that matched the February night sky waited… without blinking for an answer. I nodded at him. He paused... staring at me, not seeming certain I truly understood the importance of his instructions. He spoke again "You do not leave this car under any circumstances. You do not come up to the house." He reiterated once again to me. I nodded and spoke softly "I understand." His eyes studied me and finally he jerked his head in a nod that affirmed he knew I truly understood what he was telling me and then he added "Stay low… do not let anyone see you in the car."
With that he opened the door, slipped out of the drivers seat and slammed the car door shut… making sure the Supra was locked and then followed Duc who was waiting on the nearby lawn of a dilapidated wooden house for him to join him. I had no idea where we were… we had seemingly driven in circles… I was in unknown territory and yet in some way due to Bao's protective behavior that was probably for the best. Duc's vehicle was parked behind Bao's somewhere in the dark shadows of the street and I slumped down in the passenger seat so as not to be seen… checking in the side view mirror for any oncoming headlights… any sign of a vehicle approaching… but all was quiet. It was early February… and yet didn't feel like it at all. For me, the month of February meant hot chocolate, plaid cozy blankets, maybe a fire and a good book or movie in. But those ideals were far from reality now. At least this night didn't feel like winter, I mentally comforted myself… luckily I didn't get chilly waiting and yet time continually passed by… minutes turned into thirty which turned into over an hour… then more.
The house was lit up inside… a picture frame window revealed enough to show at least a dozen men or more… donning wife beater shirts… milling around… beers in hand and mostly serious expressions minus a few chuckles and a slapping on their backs like men do. The largest of the men wore a snug t-shirt that hugged his bulging midsection and sported an overgrown mess of long hair on his head, gold necklaces gracing his neck and a gun shoved in the side waistband of his pants. He was pacing the room like a caged tiger projecting his authority onto the others in the room.
So what were they doing? My mind wondered. In some areas of the country Asian gangs are one of the primary distributors of marijuana… drugs... was that what they were dealing that night? Or was it related to prostitution? Chop shops? Who knew… I could only wonder. Bao always looked out for me and sheltered me as much as possible from his life. Sunk low in the front seat, time passed on and sleep kept beckoning my name… I tried to force my eyelids to stay open… to stay awake… I felt I had to… because I had no idea what was coming… much of my time with Bao involved increments of sleep here or there… it was never knowing what could… or would occur next and it might require me needing to be alert… the hours they lived were inconsistent and scattered.
After what felt like an eternity, Bao unlocked the door and slid in beside me, his warm presence overwhelming the tiny interior… Duc was already gone, having sped off in his own car leaving us on our own. Bao's scent was the smell of cigarettes emanating from him and he reached for my small left hand giving it a momentary squeeze… "Thank you… you are safe." He smiled..."Thank you for staying in the car." He told me, his accent heavy with relief… I gave him a long look, studying his face and finally asked him quietly "Why do you care so much?" I was curious. I wondered why he would care so much for me… he had always looked out for me… never expecting a thing… with everything he had on his plate his worry was for my well being when he was in the midst of who knew how many threats left and right… he now clutched the stick shift and staring straight ahead into the piercing dark night as we departed from the curb, replied with an odd tone in his voice I hadn't heard before… "Because…" he replied tightly with emotion just hovering under his breath… "Because, you… you are like me… I have no one."
Between 1.6 and 2.8 million youth run away in a year.
November is National Runaway Prevention Month
Runaways are a concern for all of us.
If all of these young people
lived in one city,
it would be the
5th largest city
in the United States.
These figures are staggering, yet the problem seems invisible.
Youth ages 12 to 17 are at the highest risk of being homeless versus adults.
Most youth run away due to conflict between themselves and a parent.
The majority of runaway girls report sexual abuse.
The risk of rape
or sexual favors in exchange for mere basics...
such as food and shelter is common.
The reason for most youth not wanting to return home?
The risk of further abuse inflicted by a parent upon return.
The risk of suicide for
runaways is high.
The risk of not finishing high school
due to running away is high.
The risk of drug use by
runaways is high.
So what we can do?
You may wonder what on earth
you can do
to help with this not often
talked about but huge issue…
As a parent, a teacher, a school nurse, a counselor…
As a friend… an aunt, an uncle, an older sibling, a mentor…
See who is struggling around you…
Who can you spend a little time
with just listening?
Who has parents who aren't around?
Who has parents who are checked out?
Or maybe who has parents that are
doing all the right things
and yet their child is still struggling?
Maybe with depression?
Who can you reach out to today
"I'm here… I will listen. I'm here for you… my door is always open."
Take the time.
It's worth it.
It will make a difference.
Don't let your child be the one
who says to someone else:
"Because I have no one."
© gps-gracepowerstrength.blogspot.com ~ 2014