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Life wasn’t always like this, hollowed out and broken. There was a time when shelter existed. Food and water was abundant. And my toes sensed warmth. My life’s simplest pleasures were gone within a small lapse of time. One day I woke up to the chirping of the robins, and the next we were awoken by the beeping, and honking of rush hour.
The life of a runaway started out relatively glamorous. No school, no parents, no rules, and most importantly no curfews. Christopher and I were living the life in New York City. As siblings we trusted each other and could read each other’s minds in eerie situations, which seemed to follow us like our shadows in the midday sun.
Nothing can prepare a person for the life we chose. We could’ve easily stayed at home and watched our mother get into fruitless brawls, with our step dad Steve, and witness her acting oblivious to the fact that, she would always take him back. No matter how many restraining orders she filed against his soulless existence. Maybe she could put up with his psychotic behavior, but after a summer of torturous planning, I arranged a scheme to finally embark on a new life with my brother. A life full of parties, friends, and complete undeniable independence. It was going to be perfect, and nothing in the power of my mom and step dad could interfere with this.
At the time of my departure, my good friend Christina also converted to the life of a runaway, she was my second motivation to leave. My main motivation to leave was because of Christopher. He was only sixteen at the time, and I only eighteen. I couldn’t allow myself to leave my innocent brother to the life of a delusional mother. I just didn’t have it in me.
I confronted him about my idea to runaway during the last week of summer break.
“How would you like to embark on a new life with me?” I questioned, in which he was taken aback, considering he was hypnotized by his graphic video games. He somehow found the strength in himself to place his video game controller on our worn out mahogany coffee table, filled with Steve’s cigarette butts, looked me in the eyes, and muster “Huh?” As if I told him the meaning of life (in which I am in the process of figuring out.)
I responded “yeah, a new life.”
“Holly, did Steve touch you?”
“What are you talking about?”
“Well you came into the living room and asked me about embarking on a new life, so clearly someone must’ve damaged a couple of your brain cells.”
“What I’m trying to get at is, do you want to leave this decrepit life, and experience a life without Steve and mom constantly fighting? Because to be truthful, I am sick of it, I am tired of waking up at three in the morning to them droning on and on about their problems. I am done with their lack of parenting, and I believe that we should start a new life without their existence,” I told him this with as much ease and persuasion as I possibly could, in the hopes for his agreement.
“It took you long enough,” he said nonchalantly.
Giddy with joy and my head spinning with visions of Christopher, Christina and me “living it up” in the big apple, I responded “Get packing we’re leaving tomorrow,” and with that I left him and marched up the stairs. With every stair, I felt as though I was leaving behind negative pieces of my past, and overcoming them by placing one foot in front of the other, until I finally reached the top, summating to the second floor, representing all that I have overcome, and all that life has yet to offer Christopher and me.
I furiously yanked my black and white polka-dotted suitcase out of my closet and then partially dismantled my dresser drawers. I dumped out my underwear drawer first, then grabbed my track suits from my closet, jeans were next, shirts, sweaters, jackets, shoes, and lastly my favorite dresses, and crazily stuffed it all in my suitcase. After a quick breather, from ultimately destroying my room, I casually went into the bathroom, in case mom or Steve happened to pass by. I grabbed my toiletries and headed back to my room, only to hear my phone beeping from a call.
“Hey Holly is Christina, have you talked to Christopher yet?”
“Yeah I talked to him, and I think we might even be able to finally live with you in the City, because I can’t take my mom and Steve for much longer.”
“How about you and Christopher meet me, and a couple of my friends, outside of the Black Cat tomorrow, it’ll be sick.”
“Sounds like a plan, I have to go Christopher needs my help packing. Ciao!”
“Don’t forget to bring the cash that you made from babysitting.”
“Okay I’ll have it. Bye!” and with that quick conversation, my life was finally moving in the right direction. Or so I hope.
With the help of my alarm clock I was able to wake up at four o’clock and quietly wake Christopher up, and probably have my last meal until I see Christina at Black Cat. I also left a little pink sticky note near the coffee pot stating “Dear mom and Steve don’t worry about where we are, or who we are with, and we will do the same, love Holly and Christopher.”
It was almost an effortless task, leaving the house that I spent my entire life living in. But I refuse to hold on to the past. I refuse to live out a life in an unstable environment, in which my younger brother and I have to suffer in. So, I have no choice but to let go.
I did not look back.
It was a warm, dark morning in Irvington, New Jersey. The presence of cars was minimal, and the drive to Manhattan was a breeze. It was about five thirty when my cell phone started buzzing, because Christina texted me. I handed the phone to Christopher sitting in the passenger seat and he read the texts.
“She asked ‘do you have the money?’”
I responded in a quizzical tone “tell her I do,” as I silently am thinking “didn’t she already remind me last night?” Hmm, maybe she thought she forget that she reminded me, and is simply just looking out for me. Well that’s what friends are for, I suppose.
“So where is our new life headed?” Christopher asked in an insouciant tone.
“Our life is headed in a direction that only God knows. For now we will live in the moment, and allow life to take us wherever it chooses. Whether we start a band, or open up a quaint café on the upper eastside, nothing can stop us. We are in control of our own destiny.”
“Speaking of coffee,” Christopher added. “I think I might need one for the long day ahead of us.”
“I could use some caffeine too,” I stated as we pulled up to a generic coffee shop across from Central Park. As I inched my way out of my obsolete, paint chipped car, I noticed the sun rising in the gaps of the aged, monstrous buildings. I silently hoped to myself that the beauty of this sunrise would be an omen for our life in New York City. Because frankly, I’m trying to convince myself that our lives are headed in a better direction then the lives that we left in Irvington. It has to be, right?
We sat ourselves down in a tight booth by the window of the shop and just collapsed from sleep deprivation.
“I’m thinking of getting a black coffee, so the caffeine can slap me in the face” Christopher said half awake.
“I think I’ll I just stick to the usual hot chocolate” I said glancing over the plain, monochromatic menu, as our eccentric waiter sporting a mohawk hairstyle, extensive facial piercings, neon sneakers, and an apron covering the rest of his body took our order. By the look of this man I’m excited to finally be in New York City. I’m ready to experience the life of people in this famous city.
Our waiter came back immediately with our drinks, and we simply enjoyed our savory beverages and smiled at each other. We shared a silent moment of happiness. Who knows when we will share another peaceful moment, in our new thrilling city.
We spent our day wandering around the concrete paved streets filled with pigeons and unfortunate homeless people passed out on the sidewalk and covered in oily stained cardboard for insulation and cushion from the solid, cold ground.
It was ten o’clock at night when we stumbled upon Christina at the Black Cat. She came up to us with a fake ID for Christopher and me, and demanded that I pay her fifty dollars for each.
“Holly I went out of my way to get you and Christopher these fake ID cards for tonight. I could’ve been caught, and then what? I can’t believe you aren’t thanking me right now!” Christina said in a screeching tone. She didn’t seem like herself for some reason. She used to have luscious cascading blonde hair that had the ability to make men swoon. Now she has jet black hair and random tattoos. What happened to the simple Christina that I went to Church with as a kid, because her mom felt sorry for my life at home?
“Christina calm down, here is a hundred dollar bill, okay? Now can we just have a fun night and party until dawn.” I said in a tone that would hopefully make things less awkward, because she had about five guys behind her ready to beat my brother and me up for not cooperating with the “new” Christina. That Christina lives and thrives on the streets of New York City and can get away with buying fake ID’s, and God only knows what else she is capable of.
“Take the stairs around back,” Christina spat at us. “And I’ll meet you inside after I finish a deal.” So Christopher and I quietly strolled around back pretending as if there was nothing to be afraid of and that Christina is just in a bad mood.
“This place is sick!” Christopher exulted when we got into the club with our fake ID’s. The club was decorated to look like a haunted house from a horror movie in the 90’s.There was black cats locked up (or maybe animatronics) in cages meowing in menacing, yet harmonic and rhythmic tones. The DJ played off of those beats and made a symphonic techno mash up of songs that my ears couldn’t get enough of. The crowd was already getting wild and it was still “early” in the clubbers world.
It took ten minutes for Christina to show up, although she was posse-less, she seemed much more relaxed then when I saw her outside for some reason.
“Those guys you saw me with are pretty cool, dontcha think?”
“More like pretty scary.”
“Well they’re my friends and they help me with my business.”
“Oh, I see.” I reluctantly murmured
“So, how do you like this joint?”
“I could get used to it.”
“Well you guys are going to have to because you’re both working for me now.” She said with a sense of pride and superiority.
“What are you talking about Christina?”
“I’m saying that you and Christopher are officially part of my crew and you’ll never have to worry about money for as long as you’re working for me.”
“I’m really sorry Christina but I don’t want to work for you. I came to New York to start a life with my brother that doesn’t involve the kind of business that you are in.”
“Well that’s just too bad.”
“Huh?” And before I could say another word my face was covered in what felt like a blanket and I was being lifted, and draped over most likely a very muscular man’s shoulder, and out of the club and into the summer air. I couldn’t see a thing; I was freaking out, kicking, and screaming at the top of my lungs, begging to whoever this sinister person is to just let me down. I could not even breathe properly because the blanket was wrapped so tightly ,and cut off my supply of oxygen. I gradually slipped into unconsciousness.
I woke up in what seemed like a dilapidated warehouse, my hands were tied behind my back, and to the uncomfortable stool I was sitting on. There was a window to the far left, which allowed minimal light to shine through. I couldn’t exactly see well, although I could make-out the shadow of another human figure directly in front of me. It seemed like it could be Christopher. Oh dear God, I hope it is Christopher!
I screamed “Christopher!” at the top of my lungs, dismissing the dryness leftover from last night’s suffocation. The figure shifted slightly, it was wearing jeans and a battered white tee, similar to the one that Christopher wore last night. Although a white tee is common, and the figure did not answer. “Christopher!” I cried out in an agonizing voice. Suddenly as if the person was electrified they woke up and seemed startled.
“Who are you?” the person said in a hoarse voice. “What have you done to me?”
“I’m your sister Holly! God Chris, what’s wrong with you!”
“Who’s Chris? I’m Josh. Where are we!?”
“Oh dear Lord,” as if on cue the metal trimmed door slammed open against the plain white walls, and Christina came pouncing in.
“Oh look at what we have here! Now this is the kind of party I enjoy.” Christina said in delight.
“Where’s Christopher!?” I screeched.
“That’s not important my dear.”
“What’s your problem!?” Josh and I said in unison.
“My problem is that the two of you refused to be part of my business. Now I’ll make a deal, either you guys join me, or I’ll leave you out on the streets to die.”
“If I help you will I see Christopher?” I asked in hope.
“If I help you will I see Emily?” Josh asked wearily.
“If the two of you agree to work for me then I will reunite you with your siblings, as for now you must both show that you’re capable of helping my business. If you can’t, then you’ll never see your loved ones again.”
I bitterly agreed to her little game and made a heartfelt prayer to God that Christopher was in better condition than me.
She forced us to sell illegal drugs to people, all types of people, Blacks, whites, Latinos, rich, poor, males, and females. Her definition of doing a “good job” was by profiting in the thousands every night, making sure the customers were happy, and most importantly not getting caught. This lasted until the teeth chattering month of December.
I am thankful for her giving me and Josh our basic necessities, but I am truly done. I cannot bare to spend another night out on the dangerous streets of Manhattan selling drugs in the lingering hopes of eventually seeing my brother. It was mid December when I finally confronted Christina.
“If I don’t see Christopher by next week, then I’m going to tell the cops on you.”
“You wouldn’t dare! Don’t you get it!? I’m the only person who knows the whereabouts of your lovely little brother. So don’t you give me an ultimatum, missy. I’m the boss around here.” That infuriating conversation gave me enough strength to leave.
I left Christina and I left the hopes of ever seeing my brother again. I am a useless pig. I am a homeless beggar, and I have nothing to show for my life. I am poor, cold, and hungry. I mean nothing to this world. I am now forever shunned to a life of walking the dull streets of Manhattan forever in search for my brother, and forever in search of another chance.