“One count runaway, one count assault, how do you plead, Nari?”  
              “Guilty, your honor” I said.
              “Guilty? You sound proud of yourself. Your father is a mailman. That’s hard labor in the grueling heat. That is a tremendous sacrifice to assure you have everything you could possibly need. You don’t have to worry about food or clean clothes and this is how you repay him?” scolded the judge.
              I could not stop staring at his pretentious old speckled face in his coffee stained robe. 
               “She always wants to be out in the streets. She doesn’t listen to me or my mom or her mother for that matter. I’m at a loss I don’t know what to do with her,” my dad defeatedly said. 
              “How does six months’ probation sound to you, Nari? How about one hundred hours of community service?” said the judge. 
              “Give her the harshest punishment you got, your honor. Nothing I do works. I might have to send her off to obedience school!” said my dad. 
              “Your honor I will accept any punishment you give me, but please please please I beg you do not send me back there. Do not send me home!”
              “Does your father hurt you?” said the judge.
              “No.” I said. 
              “Does your father feed you?” said the judge.
              “Yes” I said while staring at my feet. 
              “What seems to be the problem then Nari? You seem like a spoiled brat to me who has no respect for authority” said the judge. 
              I wanted to say so much. I wanted to tell the judge the truth, but the words would not escape my mouth no matter how hard I tried.
              “I…” “I…” “I…”  I repeatedly stumbled. “SPEAK YOU STUPID GIRL!”
              “You what? What it is Nari? Is it true, do you just want to be out in the streets? Do you know what kind of people are out there waiting for little girls like you to traffic for sex and exploit or use as drug mules?” the judge shouted. 
              “Do you?” I asked. 
              “You have a smart-aleck mouth, Nari. I can see that your father here needs a lot of help with you. I am sending you home immediately seeing as how you do not want to be there for no apparent reason other than wanting to party or do God knows what. I hope you can learn to appreciate food, running water, and a roof over your head. Being in the streets with your friends isn’t everything. You need to grow up and grow up fast, get an education and make something of yourself. You’re 14 years old you can’t keep behaving like a wild animal,” said the judge. 
              I felt my eyes swell with tears and all of my air slowly escaping my lungs. I was going home. HOME. What the fuck is home? Aren’t homes supposed to be safe? If that is the case I don’t have a home. I don’t have anywhere to peacefully rest my head. The judge doesn’t know a single thing about me. He doesn’t know what kind of horrible people live at my house. He doesn’t know what goes on behind closed doors. All those degrees and he’s completely oblivious. What does he know? He clearly lacks common sense. I can’t believe I have to go “home” after all this time. 
              For the past six months I have been living with my best friend Yvette and her family. I didn’t tell them why I needed to stay with them other than my house wasn’t safe. They didn’t question my motives but made me promise to go to school every day and to be on my best behavior while getting good grades. It wasn’t hard considering I’m not a fucking idiot. As long as I wasn’t home I could do those things with my eyes closed. Yvette’s parents got summoned to court for “harboring a runaway” can you believe that? I can’t believe I got arrested and charged for running away and assault. Upset at the summons but so completely understanding of me, Yvette’s mom drove me “home” to my house that evening. She held my hand and cried with me the entire way there even though she didn’t know what I was crying about. She told me how wrong it was that my own father would press charges on me for running away. She reassured me that I would be okay—that whatever it was that I feared would pass. But she didn’t understand either. None of these adults could ever even fathom what it is that I am going through. The closer we got to my house the more anxious I became. My stomach was filling with acid and the skies were turning grey. I couldn’t even begin to imagine what I was going to walk into. 
              Yvette and her mother each gave me the biggest hug and told me it was going to be okay before they left. After they drove away I could not bring myself to walk inside the house I so deeply feared. I sat on the steps of the front porch reminiscing on all of the good memories I had made there with my sisters and cousins. I remember playing Winter Wonderland when my grandpa put up the Christmas lights and pretending that different trees were different portals into different realms like in the Nightmare Before Christmas. I remembered hanging up tire swings from the mesquite trees and having picnics with strawberries and whipped cream with grilled cheese sandwiches in the summers with my cousins and sisters. “How the fuck did my life get so screwed up so fast?” I thought to myself while I hung my head in between my legs. 
              “¡Venga pa dentro!” shouted my grandma.
                  The hair on the back of my neck stood stick-straight up. I didn’t even hear the door open, let alone hear my grandmas chanclas sliding against the concrete behind me. Before I knew it, she embraced me as tight as she possibly could. I started sobbing uncontrollably. I missed her. I missed her so damn much. I missed the way she smelled like Cloro and homemade tortillas. I missed how safe I felt near her. She grabbed my bags and took me by the hand and inside with her. 
              “¿Quieres café o un taco de frijoles?” she asked me.
              “Neither, thank you grandma” I replied all mocosa.  
              My aunt Mirtha walked into the kitchen looked me up and down and said, “ugh you’re back, everything was to peaceful while you were gone I wish you stayed gone!” 
              I want to scream at the top of my lungs for all of the world to hear to make them understand the anger I felt inside, to make them understand why I didn’t want to be there, to make them understand why I “act out”. I live with my grandparents, aunt Mirtha, my uncle Homero, my dad, and two sisters. It isn’t that my grandparents are bad people and it isn’t that my dad is mean to me. I mean sure, he is an alcoholic and ignores me half the time, but it isn’t that bad—more sad than bad I guess. My aunt Mirtha and my sisters and I used to have a phenomenal relationship before it began but things have gone downhill since. I think they think I misbehave for attention or something. I know they think I’m crazy like my other grandma and they are probably right but that isn’t the half of it. 
              “What’s up, Nari? Long time no see. I’ve missed you” a voice whispered from behind me. I felt a hand touch my lower back and I immediately knew who it was. My skin was on the verge of vibrating off in sheer disgust. My uncle Homero walked from behind me and in to the kitchen. 
              “What’s wrong Nari? Get over here and give your tío a hug!” 
              I stood still. I could feel my grandma and aunt staring at me wondering why I wasn’t doing anything. I moved in to give my uncle a hug and he whispered in my ear that we would talk later. Although I want to scream or faint, I try my hardest not to draw attention to myself. I momentarily mentally transport to a time before things got so screwed up. I thought about beach trips with my mom and dad and sisters when my parents were still married and eating nachos from the elotero’s truck. I think of anything to mask my Uncle Homero’s repulsive presence and that’s usually what I do in moments like this. I transport my mind to the better times in my life. It’s kind of weird because when I am not thinking of the better times I am in a constant state of paranoia always looking over my shoulder to prepare myself for the next creep encounter with my uncle.   
              After the awkward exchange in the kitchen, I walked in to my old room that I shared with my sisters. Neither one of them would speak to me. They both looked shocked or scared or perhaps both simultaneously. I was heartbroken at the fact that my sisters who I practically raised did not speak to me. We did everything together and shared all of our deepest darkest secrets and they couldn’t see that I was hurting. I tried my hardest to spark up a conversation, but they were unresponsive. I suddenly remembered the last time I was “home” and the events that took place in that very room. It was a Friday night and I asked my dad if I could sleep over at Yvette’s house. Of course, he said no, and I didn’t take it lightly. I yelled and screamed and begged for permission and was accused of being a street whore and a callejera. I remember flipping my shit after such an accusation and began packing my bags. It was an event that brought the whole damn house in to the room and everyone took turns scolding me. As I tried to exit my room my grandpa blocked me and told me to relax, but I wasn’t having it. I pushed through him and accidentally struck my grandma in the chest. I screamed I was sorry and disappeared in to the night. No one in my house understood what Friday nights at my house meant. It meant my uncle Homero was going to go out with his friends and get wasted. It meant that he was going to come home afterwards and harass me. It meant he was going to sexually assault me. 
              I felt an immense amount of guilt for leaving my sisters there to fend for themselves but if they knew what I knew they’d pack their shit and leave too. I looked at the both of them and tried to see if they had gone through or experienced anything remotely similar to what I have. But they seemed like pretty normal little girls to me—unjaded, happy, and still trusting of their disgusting Uncle Homero. 
              I felt myself getting more and more anxious as night fell. I could not get what my uncle whispered to me in the kitchen out of my head. I took it as a warning for another assault. I began dry heaving as I stared at my door handle and bedroom window for hours dreading the moment he’d make his way in to the room. I somehow drifted off into sleep only to be awoken by my uncle Homero’s arms wrapped around me and his hot breath breathing down my neck. In shock, I sat up and just as I was about to scream when he covered my mouth. 
              “Shhh! Shh shh ssshh! You don’t want anyone to hear us, do you?” he said. 
              I began to sob. It hasn’t even been 12 hours since I’ve been “home”. 
              “Let’s go somewhere more private to talk, Nari. It’s important.”
              He pulls me out of my bed (which is actually a cot) like a rag doll—like I belong to him, like I’m nothing. He took me outside, looks me dead in the eye, moves forward and kisses me on the lips. Stunned and completely disgusted I puke. “What the fuck Nari? I fucking miss you. What is your deal?” Homero cries. All I want to do is drop dead. I want to pack my shit and leave again. I want to leave and never look back. A jail cell for one hundred years would probably be safer than my house, my “home” I think to myself. I’m lifeless like. a. rag. doll. The humidity is thick, and my breath is heavy. My heart is still, and my life feels as if it is over. 
              “I fucking miss you don’t you care? Don’t you understand I love you!”
              “YOU. ARE. MY. FAMILY. I AM A CHILD! YOU ARE THIRTY AND GROTESQUE!” I shout.
              “You never told me to stop. You never said no. You’ve never said anything before Nari… I love you so much. I haven’t stopped thinking about you since you have been gone. I am so incredibly infatuated with you please don’t do this to me” he said. 
                  The porch light turned on and out walked my grandma. “¿que chingados es esto? My grandma questioned. Again, I am lifeless. “I saw her trying to leave again!” “Nari” questioned my grandma “is this true?”. “No! He’s lying. He’s a liar. He’s a child molester. He molests me!” I scream while ugly crying. “Aye diosito santo! You need a lot of help Nari, I will pray for you very hard tonight” exclaimed my grandma. She dragged me inside and made me hot manzanilla tea while questioning why I made up such outlandish lies. She told me it was the “mugrero ponke” music I listened to and staying up late that made the devil make me-make up such stories about her mijito who would not hurt a fly. 
                  My grandma tucked me into bed (my cot) and went to her room to sleep. I have never felt more enraged at her. How on earth could she not believe me? Does she really think I would leave the house without shoes and bra-less? It was in that very moment that I remembered what my Tía Gloria who is not really my tía said to me once after I got into an argument with my dad at a party. She looked at me ever so seriously and said, “not I who sold out my people but they me” and she said it out of nowhere too which was really freaky. But it suddenly all made sense to me. I realize that I haven’t done anything wrong. Sure, running away is against the law or whatever but I had to leave for my safety. Anyone with half a brain who actually knew me would be able to notice that I went from zero to one hundred-from someone who played with Barbies to a someone who needed to be institutionalized overnight. 
                  I don’t blame anyone for my current predicament necessarily, but I cannot comprehend how no one can pick up on the fact that I am struggling internally. Like? What gives? My dad is too drunk to notice me, my sisters and aunt too young, my grandpa too busy, and my grandma is an avoider. The more I think about it, the angrier I am, they know the truth. They k now I’ve changed. I guess it is hard to come to terms with the fact that they are in the presence of monster for a relative. Is Homero’s bad behavior really worth ignoring? My breath gets shallower and shallower and I am off to dream land. 
              I dream of my childhood and when times were easier (literally 2 years ago). I dream of laughing outside with my cousins and sisters while picking all of my grandmas fruits off of her trees even though she hated it—we made our very special super tart limeade with the unripe limes. I wake up in a cold sweat after realizing that I no longer know who I am—I do not recognize the happy 12-year-old girl in my dreams although I desperately want to. Is it possible for a fourteen-year-old girl to not know who she is? I panic and realize I do not know what the term infatuated means. I scramble to search for my flashlight and a dictionary to look up the term.
in·fat·u·ate
/inˈfaCHəˌwāt/
verb
past tense: infatuated; past participle: infatuated
1.    be inspired with an intense but short-lived passion or admiration for.
       "she is infatuated with a handsome police chief"
       synonyms: besotted with, in love with, head over heels about, obsessed with,                                    taken with, lovesick for, moonstruck over; 
                             enamored of, attracted to, devoted to, captivated by, enthralled by,                                  enchanted by, bewitched by, under the spell of; 
                             informal smitten with, sweet on, keen on, hot for, gone on, hung up                              on, mad about, crazy about, nuts about, stuck on, carrying a torch                                  for
                             "Kyle was hopelessly infatuated with his cousin's girlfriend."
              My stomach is in knots. I cannot breathe, and I feel dizzy. “If grandma doesn’t believe me, then no one else will” I think to myself. Shaking, I walk into my restroom. I stare at myself in the mirror and reminisce over my short life and think about the post-traumatic stress disorder that consumes me. I think about how much easier everyone’s life would be without me. I stare at myself for another 30 minutes. I stare at my eyes and notice that they are empty. My soul is empty. I am empty. I am empty… I… am… empty…
Amanda Tovar-Segovia is a Xicana from the Borderlands of South Texas. She is currently a graduate student at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley and a graduate assistant at the Center for Mexican American Studies where she manages the Río Bravo: A Journal of the Borderlands. Her areas of research range from sexual assault, colonialism, feminisms, decoloniality, liberation philosophy, and healing. Amanda writes short stories inspired by her life for fun.
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