I did a quick stint in Juvenile Delinquent Hall when I was in eighth grade. I like to say I was in the wrong place at the wrong time, but I’m finding it difficult remembering when this wasn’t the case in that chapter of my life. We were living in the low income Barberry Village Apartments in Rockwood, Oregon at the time. I recently did an Internet search to make sure I had the name of the complex correct, and found these two reviews: (1) “It Reminds of the Slums you see in those third world country commercials. seriously…” and (2), “Lots of drugs gangs violence here.”
I was hanging with my friend Teresa, who was dating this 18-year-old guy, you know, some charmer who liked to date 14-year-old girls. We had been partying at his apartment all afternoon, a safe place to get high. The thick haze of Quaalude and pot induced stupor abruptly cleared at the violent pounding on the door and the angry voice behind it. It was Teresa’s father, another winner who looked like he should’ve been in Lynard Skynard. I had been around my share of scumbags, but this guy was right up there with the best of them. We had found naked pictures of him in Teresa’s step-sister’s underwear drawer that afternoon when we were searching for pot, a gift to the 17-year-old, I’m sure. He was posing, dick in one hand and a long barrel revolver in the other, as if to say, “I’m a double-fisted mother fucker.” Yeah, I bet. It was sickening and hilarious at the same time. I wanted to post it on the refrigerator, like a cherished piece of art brought home from school, but Teresa snatched it from me and buried deep between a pile of underwear.
The pounding and yelling escalated and the fear in Teresa’s eyes hinted to how this might unfold. I started searching for a backdoor when the pounding gave way to her crazed father with a gun in his hand. Time slows down when your heart floods your veins with adrenaline and even the most minute details become clear. My mind analyzed the scene in a split second; I saw his tan plaid, button up Western shirt, I saw his thick unkempt beard and the wild hairs growing out of his nose, I saw the spittle fly from his yellow tobacco stained teeth and I saw that this wasn’t the same gun in the picture that had burned my eyeballs earlier that day. Teresa’s father grabbed her boyfriend by the shirt, threw him up against the wall and shoved the .45 deep into the tissues of his cheek. Her boyfriend presented much differently with a gun in his face, much more alert and in the moment. His eyes looked like those of a trapped animal, wide, dilated and certain of immanent death. I was neither interested in seeing how this ended nor becoming ensnared like this stupid idiot.
Evelyn Ashford (sticking with the times) couldn’t have caught me. I leapt over the sofa and dove out the sliding back door. Numb from the drugs and violence, Teresa sort of fell after me, much less gazelle like. She had a difficult time keeping up and I encouraged her to keep running- far and fast. We sprinted between the buildings, hurdled over a fence to the adjacent complex and landed at some friends’ apartment. The apartment was upstairs and we could see Teresa’s boyfriend’s building from the small patio off the living room. Soon we saw the flashing lights of the cop cars and as I suspected, once the story unfolded, they came looking for us. It wasn’t but 5 minutes later when the cops came knocking on the door, as Teresa’s boyfriend gave them the heads up as to where they might find us.
Because we were minors involved in a crime they took us to JDH for holding. This didn’t make much sense, I was a victim after all. Within hours Teresa’s mother had been contacted and picked her up, without incident. The cops couldn’t release me, being that I was a minor, and they were having difficulty finding my mother to come and get me. She was presently living under the Burnside Bridge with a group of other drunks and I was having a hard time trying to talk my way out of this one. It was decided that as soon as a spot opened, I would be sent to Waverly House, a holding for foster kids. I knew this wasn’t going to work for me and I started planning my exit before I even got there.