Part 4: Because of or Despite


The next day as I get up I am surrounded by girls chatting. They show only mild interest in my presence and I am surprised by that, thinking they would have a million questions like I do for them. The guard tells us not to talk too much as we get ready and then shuffle out the door in our slippers. In the line making our way across the patio, all of us are holding the back of the grey sweatshirt of the girl in front of us.

After an unrecognizable breakfast in silence (not allowed to chat while we eat), the line shuffles back inside. A circle forms on the floor of the bedroom and the daily debrief begins. The girls talk about their behavior ratings from the day before.

A color system is used, green for good days, yellow if there is a small break from acceptable behavior, red for big tantrums or reactions. And blue is exceptionally good, helping another or being beyond our own needs.

Then there is time to acknowledge the each girl is upset about and happy about. Many of the girls complain about something another girl has done recently in the part they are upset about. A knot forms in my stomach and I am thinking oh no what is this place! How am I going to avoid drama here?!

I go to the classroom next and get setup on the online school program, the lessons all seeming too easy. I am constantly making mistakes throughout the day, learning I have to ask to go to pee and a guard stays with me the whole time, learning I can’t ask for anything special, like water in the classroom, or food selections in the cafeteria.

The theme is go along with the plan, follow the rules, don’t talk unless you’re told you can. Man it’s hard. To go from full freedom daily to not being able to choose my clothes, not being able to wear makeup, not being able to pee by myself. Evening comes and I am dying to go outside, I learn I don’t get to go out till two days from then, when the evening activity is planned to be outdoor time. Lots of tears fall on that first day.

I start to plan my escape that night. In bed, I carefully watch for when the guards outside our room change. I get up to pee in the night to scope out the access to the doors, gauging the distance and how fast I could run, if it’s better to run before peeing or after.

The next day goes by in a blur, hope in the background from the hint of freedom in the background. I pull up a map in the classroom time, and figure out which way I need to run. I look out the window during the mealtime and scope out the road and how far it is to the next house where I could be hidden from sight as I gain some distance from the school.

In the evening after our group shower, back in the room I sneak my jeans and some personal belongings into my bed. They have a tricolor rastafari stripe on the side that I hand sewed on there while I was in California. I’m present to the freedom that awaits me on the road again. After our nighttime circle we all go to bed. I shimmy into my jeans and pull my grey sweats overtop. I shove the belongings into my pockets.

The lights go out. A girl is still up crying and talking to the guard, and I am praying she gets back into bed before the next guard comes.

There I am, all ready to go, my heart starts pounding. I am watching the clock minute by minute. It’s nearly the ten o’clock guard change time, I begin to get out of bed.

Then I hear as clear as day a voice say “DON’T GO” and I am frozen. I ask myself is that my intuition? I think for a moment, don’t be silly, Liv of course that didn’t happen. And then I hear it again. “DON’T GO.” It’s a clear command and I don’t question it this time. The tears start to pour down my face and I am overcome by a surrender and a succumbing feeling. The guard comes and the switch happens and I obey. I don’t go.

At that time my faith was very much in question and my spirituality was just starting to blossom. To me that was the voice of God. Right then I start to define for myself what I am going to be committed to while I am there if leaving isn’t an option any longer. I choose staying for the duration of the sentence (at this point it’s two to three months).

I want to repair things with my mom. I commit to doing as much school work as I can. To not getting bad behavior ratings so they hopefully let me go home sooner. And to reading as much as I can to pass the time.

I drift off and peace settles in.


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© 2019 Olivia Pavlov