Barbed Wire Love
My mind doesn’t work right in the mornings. I almost never woke up before my alarm went off. What was special about this particular morning? Maybe I was still stoned from the night before; maybe it was some kind of premonition of what was going to happen, regardless, when I saw my parents sitting in the living room in front of two duffel bags at four a.m. it didn’t strike me to be out of the ordinary at all. I smiled, said, “good morning” and went back to bed with a cup of water. The next time I woke up there were three strangers standing over my bed. Two of them looked like they might be brothers. They were both a little smaller than me and had short black hair. The third was tall and fat with red hair and had a look about him that said he knew how to handle himself. They told me to get dressed, that they were taking me to Montana. Suddenly it clicked. I knew exactly what was happening. A month or so ago my mother made a comment in the midst of one of our arguments about sending me to a “boot camp” to force me to get my shit together. I wished her the best of luck getting me there and she retorted something about hiring someone else to do it. Somehow I never thought she could go through with it. I was wrong. I rose from my bed and sized up my opponents. I could take the two smaller guys, but the big one was going to be a problem. A fight wasn’t going to get me anywhere with him so I decided to wait for a better opportunity. Silently and without breaking a burning stare into my mothers moistening eyes I slid into my clothes on and lazily walked out the door. My mother stayed behind. I turned the corner towards the front door where my father was already fighting back tears on the doorstep. I looked him in the eye and told him that after I escaped he would never speak to me again.
In the driveway there was a white van waiting. I took a seat in the back and lit up a cigarette. “What the fuck do you think you’re doing?” asked one of the smaller guys. “Fuck you!” I replied with a look that said I wanted to kill him. Silence. We began driving towards the freeway. I had already started planning my escape. Looking for weaknesses, and waiting for an opportunity. I mashed the cherry of my cigarette into the cloth seats, burning a small hole in the upholstery, then lit up a second. Not long after we left the house we stopped at a grocery store parking lot where I was told to get into a different car. This time it was a sedan. The two short haired guys got in the front. The big guy said goodbye and drove off in the van. Now I had a chance. We began driving again. The driver wasn’t wearing his seatbelt. I began taking up the slack of his shoulder belt. I figured that if could gather enough slack without being noticed I could slip it over his head and choke the shit out of him until he stopped the car. I glanced out the window and realized a fatal flaw in my plan. We were already in the middle of nowhere. Even if I succeeded in escaping we were too far from anything resembling civilization where I could get to a phone and call for help. Curiosity started to take over my racing thoughts. I began to wonder what I was capable of. I wanted to see this place they were taking me. I wanted to find out if I could escape and make my way home on my own. I wanted to test myself. Nothing would say “Fuck you” better than a phone call from some boot camp Nazi calling my parents to tell them I was nowhere to be found. I decided to stay cool for awhile and see where the desolate roads would take me. I knew I would escape, I just didn’t know when or how.
Nine hours later we arrived at the “camp”. There were only two guys there when I arrived. A quick interrogation revealed that they had been there for quite sometime. One was from Colorado and the other from Utah. The first told me that he was only intended to be there for a couple months and it had been nearly a year since he left home. Whoever ran the camp had convinced his parents time and time again that he wasn’t ready to return home. I could already foresee this happening to me. My parents are easily swayed and could definitely afford the costly bills of keeping me there for as long as they deemed necessary. Shortly there after the rest of the guys showed up. Suddenly the rules were much stricter. We talked when we could but the general rule was no talking. I was pleased to learn that there were no fences around the area and we were only five or so miles from some railroad tracks. I began planning to sneak off in the night and jump trains until I made my way somewhere I could get a hold of my friends. I knew I could count on them to help me. “Home base” was to be a teepee in the middle of a big field on a lonely ranch property. This was supposed to be our living quarters for the next few months. No hot water, no toilets, no nothing. There was no way I was going to stay. We were told we’d be leaving in the morning for a ten day backpack trip into the middle of nowhere to help maintain forest service trails. Just before bed one of the administrators pulled me aside to ask how I was doing. He told me that I was one of only two kids to come there against his will and asked me if I was planning to run. “Go fuck yourself.” These were the only words I’d spoken to anyone but my fellow detainees since my arrival. Did they really think I’d be stupid enough to tell them about my will to escape? I planned to leave that night but was caught off guard when they collected our shoes before bed. Again I decided to wait for another opportunity. The next morning we woke up early and ate a hastily prepared breakfast followed by a three mile run. This was the first real chance I had to talk to some of the other victims. Coincidently the first guy I talked to was the one who had been kidnapped like me. I’d been trying to figure out who he was the whole time. If there was anyone to help me run I knew it would be him. I was right. He introduced himself as Kevin and told me he was going to try to get out of there too. From then on Kevin was the only person I would talk to. He and I had a lot in common. In addition to being the only guys there involuntarily we both had similar interests, and similar pasts.
Just after the run we packed up our backpacks, piled into a van and headed out to who-knows-where. (They wouldn’t tell us where exactly we were going) A few hours into the drive Kevin and I caught our first break. The van that we were in began to overheat forcing us to pull over and wait for it to cool down. We spent a few hours sitting along the highway. Kevin and I began exchanging ‘war stories” (which was strictly against the rules.) Ironically we had both just gotten out of bad relationships which we later credited for our present misfortune. After one of Kevin’s stories I realized how crazy he was and confirmed that he was the perfect person to help me escape. Our conversation was interrupted by news that our van was broken worse that they thought and we’d have to camp along the roadside for the night. I knew if we were going to run we’d have to do it before the van was fixed. Kevin and I talked it over and agreed to go that night after the Gestapo fell asleep. It was then that Kevin revealed he had managed to smuggle a little crystal meth with him. Crystal meth is an amphetamine like speed. The plan was to get out on the highway, imbibe the meth and run or hitchhike all night and through the next day.
Just after dark one of the Gestapo asked for our shoes again. I gave up mine willingly so as not to arouse any suspicion. I didn’t care if I had shoes or not. I was getting out of there no matter what. Kevin on the other hand wanted to keep his shoes and got in a fight over giving them up. Our plan was exposed. Somewhere in the middle of both of us cursing and damn near throwing a few swings we decided to up and leave. We didn’t know if the administration could physically restrain us or not so we decided to try our luck. We picked up our packs and headed out to the road me still without my shoes. Followed closely by the head Nazi who was trying his best to talk us into staying, he had some good points; we were in the middle of nowhere, I didn’t have shoes, and even if we made it home it was our parents who sent us here in the first place and they probably wouldn’t welcome us back. After four or five miles of walking and arguing with no shoes and a 65 pound pack on my back the administrator finally called the cops. A few minutes later a squad car showed up. It took a good half hour to explain to the officer what was going on. The officer tried to talk us into going back to the camp. In fear of being caught with the meth Kevin agreed to go back. I held firm. “You can take me back to the camp if you want to but you’ll be called back ten minutes after you leave because I’m not staying.” Not knowing what else to do with me the officer decided to take me back to town and let me sleep in the jail until we could figure something else out. Town turned out to be Missoula, Montana, A place with one good quality; Interstate 90 cut right through the middle of town. This was a straight shot to Seattle and would be easy to hitchhike. After buying a drink and a sandwich for me at a local gas station and retrieving my shoes for me the officer decided to call my dad. I was thrilled to hear the sound of dad’s voice from the back of a squad car as a Montana state patrol officer woke him up at three in the morning. “Oh shit…” was all I heard him say. Dad knew how stubborn I was. He knew I wouldn’t go back. He knew I could manage to make my way home. Worst of all he knew that when I got there I would be mad enough to throw what little bit of a relationship I still had with him and my mother out the window. His plan had failed and I emerged victorious.
With a little coaxing, the officer managed to convince a local “attention house” to let me stay there. An attention house is a place for kids who have no place to go. Most of my companions there were fresh out of jail, runaways, or on house arrest. I spent my first night there with little sleep. In the morning I met my acquaintances. I quickly made friends with a cute girl named Tonni. She was tall and slender with long blonde hair, and at only fifteen years old she was crazy as hell. Tonni was from Montana and had been arrested outside of Spokane on a stolen motorcycle with three pounds of marijuana. She was fresh out of jail and currently on house arrest. For the remaining days, if I wasn’t on the phone with my dad arguing about what was to become of me next I was with her. The a-house was funded by the community and in an effort to give back to their contributors the kids staying at the a-house did regular community service projects. While I was there the project was picking up trash along the interstate. I didn’t mind this at all. The weather was great and aside from giving me an opportunity to take off my shirt and chat with Tonni, walking along the freeway gave me a chance to think. Filling bag after bag Tonni and I were moving considerably faster than the rest of the group and after awhile found ourselves back at the van waiting for everyone else to catch up. We broke into the van with a clothes hanger we’d conveniently found on the roadside and sat there waiting for a short while. When the group caught up they informed Tonni that having been out of site (with me in the van) was a house arrest violation and they would have to report it to her probation officer. This was her third strike which meant if they reported it she would go back to jail. I may never know whether or not the time I spent with her wound her up in jail. The next day all the kids at the A-house took a trip to the local library. Toni and I snuck away from the group and managed to find a computer secluded enough that we wouldn’t be seen using it. (We weren’t supposed to have contact with the outside world.) I got online and sent a message to everyone I could find telling them to call a few of my friends and telling them what had happened to me. Within minutes every one of my closest friends had dropped what they were doing and were online talking to me, trying to figure out where I was. Six different groups of friends offered to get in their cars and start driving to Montana to come rescue me. I’ll never forget how overwhelming it was to see how much so many people cared about me. The mix of emotions finally hit me as a tear tricked down my face for the first time through the whole ordeal. Help was finally on the way and I could finally think about what to do next.
As far as I was concerned my life was over. I had no home, no parents, no bed to sleep in and probably no job as no one told my work what happened to me. I had no clue where life was going to take me now. I didn’t care. All I wanted at that moment was a cigarette. I looked over at Tonni who was now crying too. I asked her if she wanted to break out with me and come back to Seattle. It is impossible to describe the emotions we were feeling. Both of us were in situations we’d never dreamed of, completely lost, and alone. When you’re dealing with that much pain, stress, and fear anything seems like a good idea to keep you from being alone.
That night I learned that my dad had already left to pick me up and would be there the next afternoon. Alone in my room I decided to run. I wasn’t ready to see my dad. I didn’t trust him. I didn’t trust anyone. Just as I was opening the window to escape Tonni came in. We got to talking about our separate situations and ended up falling asleep crying and cuddling.
The next day my dad arrived in Missoula. I’d been dreading this moment for days. Part of me wanted to hug him and apologize, to cry in his arms, to tell him how much I really cared. Part of me wanted to run away. Part of me wanted to break his fucking nose. I saw him from the other side of the room where I was sitting with Tonni. A lonesome tear made its way down my face as I hugged her goodbye. I’ve never seen or heard from her since. I remember the look in my dad’s eyes when he saw me. I could see he was fighting off tears himself. I threw my heavy pack over one shoulder and walked past him through the door without saying a word. We climbed into his truck. He looked me in the eye and simply said “I love you son”. The long drive home was silent and awkward. “I know I made a mistake, I’m sorry, and I hope someday you’ll be my son again.” I’ll never forget those words. I still didn’t trust him though and plans to stop back at the boot camp before going home to get my things only added to the distrust. How could I be sure he wouldn’t leave me there? When we pulled into the camp I waited for him to get out if the car first and when he wasn’t looking I slipped his phone into my pocket before I got out myself. If he left me there at least I’d be able to call for help this time. I went to get my bags and was greeted by one of the camp Gestapo. He said something along the lines of “was it really that bad?” and informed me that in the years of the camps existence I was the first person who had made it out and stayed out. I laughed at him, made some smart ass remark and walked away with my things.
The weeks and months to come were rough. I slept with a knife under my pillow, a bat hidden in the corner, and whatever weapons I could find hidden all over the place. I slept fully clothed. My wallet was always stuffed with cash and never left my pocket. I was constantly ready to run. I had a backpack packed with gear that I took everywhere with me. I listened to my parents phone calls and went through their computers and files and cars. I didn’t trust anyone in the house. I was like a grenade waiting to explode. As the months went by I began to realize why my parents had been so afraid for me and I began to forgive them. They later told me how scared they were of what I was doing. For years I didn’t talk to them. I’d come home every few days hung over or high. Sometimes I wouldn’t come home at all. I was failing school and when they would ask me what was going on I wouldn’t say a word. What were they supposed to think?
If I could go back in time I wouldn’t change a thing. Through the fighting and the pain I got to know my parents for the first time. I came to love and understand them again. Eventually I even began to trust them. Today I am closer to my parents than I’ve ever been before. Through the pain, anger, and mistrust love introduced itself to my family.