Tonight is a night magically alight with stars and snow. This winter night is strangely surreal, yet wonderfully beautiful. From where I lay a cloud of misted breath rises to mingle with icy white flakes.
In our Evergreen city, we are usually perpetually soggy, damp, and gray. We seem forever drenched in the damp and drizzly rain. It is rare to see a truly hot stretch of summer days, or to experience the kind of snow that blankets the grayness in the purest pristine white.
Of all the sights to be my last, this blanket of crystal white snow is by far the most beautiful. It is so cold, so comforting. I can imagine laying here forever frozen in time. Perhaps everything in Seattle will freeze and perhaps in that frozen moment we would be forever connected. You and I, in that moment, could break free from Seattle’s constant distant state of disconnect.
When the rains come and wash away this frozen world, will anyone notice my passing? Will anyone come to mourn my loss? Will they remember me in death, as they forgot me in life? Or, would I just become that nameless girl in the newspaper obituary whose body was found after the rains washed away the winter snow?
I am a foster child in Washington State’s receiving care moved from home to home though I doubt if anybody ever noticed when I was actually physically there. The foster homes are filled with so much violence and lacking with any real care. Filled with brown and black faces. Filled with so much abuse. It was safer to sleep in the park at night. How many times had I come to this park to hide and sleep to be safe?
I was always looking to find safety from those who preyed on us in the homes. Us, the unprotected, us the unwanted, the hood rats, the drug dealers, the druggies, those children left behind, those children unloved, those children victims of parents decisions. Parents for whom we never even knew.
Gangs ran rampant in the homes. They were always displaying their colors. They considering those of us forced to live in the receiving homes as their territory. We became easy prey, we became victims to their violent rage.
Living in receiving homes is a nightmare, one too cruel to be true. In the late hours, the gangbangers all dressed in black with bandanas or masks covering their faces would crawl through our bedroom windows armed with guns or knives.
Laying there helpless, defenseless in the dark, all we would hear was the sickening sound of metal scrapping metal as our only means of escaping was locked.
Our pleas for help would be pointless for long ago we learned that neither the “family” the State placed us with nor the police would ever come. I tried to remember at what point we stopped calling the police, because they never came, but I could not recall. At one point we just stopped trying to call for help, stopped trying to escape.
To me, the police, the “family”, the State were all as guilty as the gang members who crept through our windows. Unprotected, unheard, unloved.
I suppose I was a bit luckier than the rest. Lucky, because one of the gang members took an interest in me. He looked after me, protected me. Why he took an interest, I do not know, but perhaps he saw in me the same desire to escape and be free from the violence, free from the hunger, free from the trappings of an unloving and uncaring world around us.
Away from the receiving homes, we would walk together through the back streets of Seattle. We would walk past the old hermit’s house and past the nightmare horror movie looking house that gave us chills just looking at it. We would walk past all the home owners who pretended not to hear or see us. Homeowners who would keep their shades drawn tight and doors locked. The same “liberal” Seattleites who would donate to causes and profess a desire for justice, but would never take the time to associate with us throwaways.
As we walked we never spoke a word. We just walked hand in hand silently under the star filled night sky.
Together, the further we walked it seemed like we would cross a magical line, a magical invisible red-line, where we would leave the harsh realities of inner city life behind. Finally, we would walk to a playground where we climbed the tallest slide and just sit. There we would just sit side by side, in silence. Escaped. Free of the violence, free of the hunger, free of the fear, free of the pain.
While we were what seemed like a world away from the harsh realities of violence, it was still too close to feel completely safe. Despite the reminders of our world down the street, we sat there until early morning drinking the Old English beers wrapped in paper bags. We sat and talked of dreams, dreams that kids like us are never supposed to have.
We spoke of our pain and of our memories that haunted us. He told me of the father who beat him and of the regret he felt from the failed attempts to protect his mother and baby brother from his father’s anger and abuse. He showed me his physical scars left by an abusive father. He tried to laugh away the emotional wounds as he retold his stories, wounds that were still to raw to heal.
I told him of my mother who had abandoned me and of my father who tried to kill me. We sat and spoke of our wounds both physical and emotional. Wounds bore by us unwanted children. We knew that these words, these stories, these truths were never meant to be spoken, never meant to be brought to light.
I don’t know when this feeling of love began to blossom, but I knew that next to him for once I did not feel so alone. Warmth was born from his kindness, which began to bloom inside my frozen heart. For once, I began to have dreams of a future. A future away from abuse and violence a future that no longer seemed so far out of my reach.
His kindness made me feel like I was walking on air, so much so that I became oblivious to the world that enshrouded us, at least I wanted to become oblivious to it. I wanted to forget that fundamental truth, that kids like us, the throwaways, and the unwanted were never meant to dream, never meant to live happily ever after.
Still, under a gray and cold sky, I became heartened by the warmth of another person.
Shortly after that night, the case manager in charge of my C.P.S case moved me to a small suburb in Kent just outside of Seattle. Before I realized it, I was in a new receiving home under a new set of rules, new gang bangers same terror.
I hated having to leave the one kind person who made me feel human who made me feel wanted.
For weeks, I begged and stole enough money to take the bus back to Seattle, but when I returned he was already gone.
I learned that an opposing gang had laid a trap for him. After school one day, they jumped his brother as he was headed home and beat him mercilessly, savagely. They called him on the phone as they beat his brother. All he could hear was the sickening blows to his brother and him crying out in pain.
He ran to protect his little brother. Blinded by his need to protect to him, the same little brother he was unable to protect from the abuse of his father, he ran straight into their trap.
Two shots waited for him. Two shots to the chest at point blank range. Two shots and he was gone. Life on the streets, gang life, a never ending cycle of an eye for an eye.
His blood washed away in the Seattle streets in the Seattle rain. That perpetual Seattle rain. Another life lost, another unwanted child erased, another throwaway life that would barely receive a couple lines in the Seattle morning paper.
As winter came, his memory began to fade leaving like all those unwanted children who were constantly in and out of foster care. So many lives in and out, passing memories, forgotten names.
When the first snow began to flutter in the sky, it seemed to calm me. The snow seemed to call to me. Tired of the pain, tired of abuse, tired of the new rules at each home. The snow entranced me. White, pure white snow, entrancing me, calling me to die.
In the park, I cut each vein in my wrist deeply wishing to bleed out every last feeling. Is there a god? If a god exist, will this god hear my first and last plea? “Please let this cold numb the pain. Freeze my tears. I don’t want to feel.”
My breath begins to freeze. Crystal white snowflakes gently falling. So beautiful. So cold, so comforting. Our grey Seattle, frozen in a blanket of white. You and I, breaking free frozen in time. Starry sky, calling me. Final breath. I’ve found peace.
Rae Rose (Paiute, Mayan, Japanese) is an Indigenous writer based in the Northwest. Follow her @Rae_Rose