18 In 18—Clark Humphrey
Shar-On will be 18 in 18 days.
Until then, she still has to be “always on” (hence the nickname).
She still has to remain alert and on her guard; wary of cops and of any strangers who could be working for her parents.
She’s learned the hard way about her parents’ tastes in private eyes and bounty hunters.
At her last escape, from a privately owned “teen boot camp” in Utah, she was trailed across at least two states by this bizarre couple with the worst taste in unconvincing disguises. The wife kept showing up at clubs and parties, dressed way too young for whatever her real age was, insisting Shar-On should become her friend and leave with her for wherever.
Shar-On had not escaped from boot camp (once), juvie (twice), and foster homes (three times) just to be willingly abducted back to the mother who would work her to death and the father who would marry her off to the first dickbag who showed up with money. Both of them had routinely “disciplined” her, in so many different “amusing” ways, that she had naturally grown up angry and vengeful. At them, and at the world at large.
Some of her incarcerations and put-aways were for real crimes; mostly looting and petty vandalism. Others were simply imposed in response to her refusing to be a good little princess and accept, nay enthusiastically embrace, everything her parents wished to impose upon her.
So she got away. Even if she didn’t always get her way, she always got away.
The last few months, she’s had allies on the run. She’s been staying in punk rock group houses, traveling at night in the backs of tour vans, carrying a series of professional fake IDs. She’s been to, but not really seen, parts of at least seven states. All in anticipation of her ever-closer Freedom Day.
Before she caught on with this interconnected interstate underground clique, she’d traveled on her own. She’d worn whatever made her look inconspicuous wherever she was (even if that meant a hooker dress and knee-high vinyl boots). She would pretend to be a biker one week, a migrant laborer the next, rough-hewn version of a sorority girl the next.
She has traded sex for a hot meal and a place to stay. WIth boys. And younger men. And older men. And older women. What she felt during these encounters was less like the earth-shattering epiphanies described in the “women’s erotica” novels she’d read, and more like a sense of at least temporary belonging, of being connected with another body and another soul, of being briefly tethered to the world as an interlude within her disconnected, floating existence.
She’s changed during her year on the run. She used to smoke, drink, and pill-pop anything and everything. Now she’s straight edge and doesn’t even eat white sugar.
She’s learned, through repeated trial and error, not to emotionally lash out at people who are just trying to help. Even if they inadvertently say or do something that triggers her senses of fear, anger, and vengeance. She now knows to shrug or even laugh instead of lunging a fist at them.
Soon, she will be able to apply and get a non-fake ID. She can take GED classes under her real name. She can finally begin a real life for herself. She can even relax her constant guard.
But not just yet.
For the next two and a half weeks, she’ll stay safe in her impromptu safe house. She won’t go outside, not even to the front yard. She’s asked her housemates to hold no loud parties in the house, to give the police no excuse to show up.
She’s already been planning a “Shar-On’s Freedom Day” party with her current housemates. It won’t be hidden away inside the house, but outside, in public. Perhaps at a city park. She’s thinking of staging her own version of the teen boot camp, by having everyone worship her boots.