Portland, Oregon. That was the destination in mind I had when I was 15. I packed the usual bag of underwear and Ramen and made it as far as the edge of town before my mother caught up to me and dragged me into the car and took me home. The bruises didn't last as long as they usually did - my body was getting used to being pummeled. Still, the memory of the beating stayed as a reminder for years to come about the dangers of leaving home without a plan, no matter how dangerous home itself was.
The years went by and I got a bit older, a bit smarter, a bit faster. I learned how to sneak out at night, how to stay after school for hours with study as an excuse not to go home. Anything, anything, dear God, anything not to go home. As 17 crept closer and closer, the feverent thought of "hold on just one more year" began to pale in the daily fear and terror that my homelife was becoming. My hands trailed over my ribcage, feeling bruises that were years gone, and I decided to call Child Protective Services. The investigation pended and they told me to wait....wait through the abuse, the rage, the fear that any day my parents might actually snap and finish the violence they started on every day.
I tried to wait, I really did. And then the last day came and I left. Begged my sister to come with me, we could go somewhere - anywhere - even the streets would be better - and when she refused, I nodded my head and gave her a hug. I was a freshly turned 17 and I was terrified. Terrified to stay, terrified to leave.
"If you try to walk out that door, Teressa, I'm going to break every bone in your body. You will be hospitalized." I stared at my mother and saw sadness on her face. Maybe she knew it was time as well, maybe she knew she couldn't stop me this time.
"I'll be home in an hour," I said. "One hour. I promise." She let me through the front door. Like a bad B-grade movie, it was raining, I was barefoot, with nothing but a skirt and a shirt on as I walked down the street.
I never went back. Luck and God found me on the phone with a compassionate lawyer and soon brought me to a loving foster home to finish out my last year of being a minor. I don't dream of running away from my life now, age 22, engaged and working, living a life weighed with responsibilities but free of terror. I'm only grateful I chose to run away when I did. It saved my life. It is not a good choice for kids who want to stay out past curfew or who fight with their parents over black fishnets and nail polish. But there is truth in the idea that sometimes anywhere is better than home.