May 21st, 12 years ago, I snuck out of my moms home with only my phone and charger, a pair of underwear, socks, one outfit and pajama pants. I had nothing else to my name. No form of I.D., no personal belongings, no hygiene or personal care products. Only what little I could quickly grab into a plastic bag before running out of that house, in fear they might return.
I was 16. Pregnant. In a relationship with someone who was only juggling girls and parties, while I was 3 months pregnant trying not to have a nervous breakdown after being torn down mentally by my parents.
Earlier that day, I had told my school social worker, a woman I had come to trust and respect, that I was pregnant and needed help. She then told the principals, the nurse, and then called my parents; the same parents whom had abused me for years and she was well aware of. I was given a ride on a small bus home, a short ride that I normally walked.
My mother and stepfather lost it. They were in disbelief. Sure, it must be terrifying and crazy to hear your 16 year old say the words "I am pregnant."
And as a former teen mom, having been asked this question over a million times since that day by others, my own reaction to my daughter telling me these words at any age or situation would be to comfort her and help her. In fact, I would already know my kid inside and out. So it would be no surprise if I had already know her life leading up to those words.
This woman and I could have been strangers. Fellow tenants. She did not mother me. She did not know me. She spent her time as a workaholic and an alcoholic, two terms she never faced and no longer grasps as a main component of our broken relationship.
No, I did not get any form of understanding or comfort. Inbetween my shaking hands and broken breathing, I could barely explain myself. Or the boy I had dated for two years that she had met many times but barely remembered. The family I had lived with for a month after she had attacked me, only a few months earlier. What she felt in that moment had to be shame. Embarrassment. Fear.
But she said the worst thing she could to me. "Go on, go tell your father."
So I did. I slammed that door. I walked on a hot summer day in May, two towns over by foot, as my feet blistered and my nausea caused me to spit up on a parking lot pavement. I marched with a fucking purpose. To the last job I knew he had on the books.
My dad was my hero as a little girl. After the divorce, I spent a lot of time with my dads mom and him since my mom worked alot, even though she had custody. He was the one who talked to me. Put me through camp. Put me into art classes at 8 because I had already become passionate about sketching and drawing with charcoal. He was the one who said my mom was crazy. My mom was an alcoholic. And he looked sober. He was funny. He was silly. He took me places. To parks. To 7 11. To Starbucks. To work with him.
I knew this job if his, because I had been there for a few years attending truck rides to different places. I learned how to drive a car there. I practiced driving an 18 wheeler car carrier. My dad was so cool.
And the 5 months I lived with him just TWO years prior to this day had proved it. My dad took me in after CPS had taken me out of my moms after a very bad event. And he provided for me for those months. He let me buy whatever clothes. Dye my hair. Listen to loud music. He took me out really late. I was allowed to walk a town over home from school to his place and with my own key get in. I took the train over an hour into NYC and he thought it was cool. I rode buses anywhere I wanted with the spare change in his drawer. I hung out with friends wherever and whenever. I bought our groceries. I budgeted and taught him about it. He let me eat anything I wanted and even let me do the laundry.
I had no idea what I was marching for. It was a mixture of anger and sadness. I was so overwhelmed at the idea of facing him again. He had stopped visiting me months before. Almost 8 months at that point. First, he had slowed down his visitations. Then he stopped answering calls. He said it was because I had changed. That 15 year old me had no longer wanted her daddy. 15 year old me wanted a boyfriend now. Someone else to see. To talk to. He said I barely listened on the phone when he called and only talked about this boy. So he was done.
I knew something was wrong. It was wrong for a father to be jealous of a boyfriend. It was wrong for a parent to go back on his promises, to reject me.
When I finally reached the tow truck company I had once loved to visit, everyone's faces were of shock. The 4 brothers who owned the place all had daughters around my age. They always greeted me with open armed hugs and laughs. Like uncles, both happy to see me and ready to poke fun. The flat faces that stared at me as I made my way through the dirt road up to the garage made me start to sweat. I was worried I walked all this way for nothing.
I asked for my father, but the receptionist said he was out. She was cold towards me. This woman used to glow when I came in, but now had zero enthusiasm of my presence as if I had personally done something to all of them.
Then a truck pulled up to the front of the shop and I saw his face as his lifted himself out of his truck, onto the pavement and around the side to meet me. His face got tighter and angry as he glanced at me and walked right past me, saying nothing. My heart sank.
I remember next saying a bunch of things outloud, in a nervous panic. I finally said the big, heavy thing I had walked over an hour in the sun to say. Dad. I'm pregnant.
That man slammed his things around, stomped his feet, and sloppily passed right by me again heading towards his truck. Now I remember shouting. Wanting him to respond.
Instead, he got into his truck. He started the engine. I ran out in my plastic ballet flats back onto the dirt road and positioned myself a few feet ahead of his bumper, my arms out in desperation. STOP.
He started to drive forward. At me. His green eyes did not look familiar to me as he glared with anger at my face through the windshield. He looked wild. He looked unsettled.
Out came 2 brothers, and owners, shouting for him to stop and get out. They had to scream and negotiate for him to stop the ignition and get back out. I remember next that someone grabbed me and pulled me to the curb. The receptionist. And she hugged me. Tight.
What happened after that is just a series of flashes now for me. The brothers took him in the back. Screaming and crashes. He stomped out after me and told me to follow him. I listened. We got into his old 63' impala. I sat tight, shaking, hands between my thighs together.
We drove silent for 15 minutes, me knowing the curves of that drive back home even with my eyes closed. When I opened them, we were at my mothers home.
Jean Soto, mother of 3 and wife, is a writer + artist in the Hudson Valley, NY community.
Content mention of Rape, Abuse, Neglect, Addictions, Mental Illness, Kidnap, Molestation, Child abuse, Teen Pregnancy, Abortion, birth, body image, gender/identity dysphoria, sexuality, personal trauma, domestic violence and other extremely personal stories. Please practice caution. I am not a licensed physician or mental health professional. No medical prescribing is provided on this site, Only personal insights, experience stories, and advice; All stories published have had prior authorization. Questions? Contact Jean at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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