I immediately began to cry, feeling every eyeball in the room pierce my soul. I was probably the most skeptical person I knew when it came to believing in people or accepting their excuses. When the current scenario flashed before my eyes and all of the evidence was staring at me in the face, I stumbled over every word trying to make a believer out of everyone giving me the same look I’d have when listening to the excuses of a liar.
“It, it wasn’t me!” “I, I don’t know how that got there!” “I, I swear!” “I, I promise!”… In the midst of my scattered reasoning and “it couldn’t have been me’s” the girl let out the biggest crocodile tears and began shouting at me. To be honest, the dialogue I was giving had me questioning my own truth.
I had never been in a situation where I was 100% innocent and someone had all the evidence to feud that innocence. I was filled with self doubt, with anger and with complete resentment towards the universe. I remember thinking, out of all the lies, theft and stuff I’ve been an accomplice to in my life, I’m seriously gonna go down for something I’d truly never done? I mean, go ahead; lock me up for distracting cashiers as my mother stuffed packages of socks into her oversized purse! Throw me to the wolves for standing in front of bank clerks as she cashed stolen checks or refilled opioid prescriptions in the Pharmacy drive through! But this? Fake justice? Really?
After a few minutes of tears and stutters the girl and I were separated. I was left in my room and the girl was taken to see a counselor as her hysteria ceased to settle. About half an hour later there was a knock on my door and a counselor I’d never met with opened the door to greet me. My hands were sweaty and I felt as if death row was in my future… Well, that; or a knock to level 1.
The counselor was sweet, she didn’t start out with an accusing tone so I was immediately confused, and skeptical. She went on to explain that this girl had a history of manipulative tactics and in no way did any of the staff, or herself think I had stolen the bracelet. I was overcome with relief and satisfaction, the universe had been on my side after all! I was still a level 6 superstar and my rapport was still in tact. Thankfully the girl and I were separated but unfortunately she was the one that got to keep the room to herself and I was forced to move back to a room that housed 5+ girls at a time.
My streak with level 6 was still in full affect but I assume like all the other “good” things that happened in my life, something just had to put a damper on that too.
During the first couple of nights in my new room I’d made a friendly companion that seemed genuinely interested in my friendship. Like with the bracelet girl, we’d stay awake whispering to each other but this time, also being hushed by the other girls after “lights out”.
One night after everyone had fallen asleep, including myself, my new friend “Jessica” woke me up from a deep sleep. She said she couldn’t sleep and asked if I would stay awake with her, of course I obliged but that’s when things started to get weird.
I had always been uncomfortable with the idea of undressing in front of anyone, let alone someone I’d known for just a few days so when she started to remove her pajama bottoms I was immediately flushed and embarrassed. Seemingly noticing my uncomfortable body language she let out an innocent giggle and said “don’t worry I’m just a little hot”. In just her underwear she removed her top to reveal a black, skin tight tank. I understood that she was a little warm and that it was normal for skinny girls to wear tank tops but instead of putting on a pair of shorts or a more light weighted pant she took her shirt, put both legs through the head hole, pulled it up to her waist and made it into a kind of skirt. I was again weirded out as she explained she “did this all the time”.
Still uncomfortable I looked at the clock above our door and wondered when the next random check from the staff would be, willing it to be soon so this awkward situation could be interrupted and I could go back to sleep. Jessica seemed to read my mind as she announced that they had just done a check before she’d woken me up. I accepted as she tiptoed her way to my side of the room, jumped up and landed cross legged at the end of my bed. Feeling quite “off” I was uncomfortable but didn’t know how to express this without sounding like a creep myself.
She took my hand and explained that she knew how to read someone’s future by feeling the crevices of their palm. Again, trying not to make this awkward situation more awkward I rested my hand in her palms. Before she could read my fortune the door popped open and a staff member looked at us with surprise. Jessica’s back was to the door and instead of popping up like the check was unexpected, she looked over her shoulder with a smile. Guilt and disgust overtook my face and I knew exactly what the staff member thought was happening.
We were both escorted to the eating area located just outside of our room. The staff questioned why Jessica was wearing a T-shirt as a skirt and I immediately piped in to explain that she was “hot”. Jessica shrugged her shoulders and we were moved to opposite sides of the room. After watching the staff huddle and discuss what might have been happening I was again filled with anxiety and disgust. I felt like I had done something wrong, and I don’t mean partaking in the dark magic of fortune telling if you know what I mean.
A few moments later the same staff member approached me and sat down in the chair next to mine. After explaining my side of the story she told me that she knew I didn’t do anything intentional but regardless of my intention, I had broken one of the most important rules at YESS; no touching of any kind. I felt gross when she said “touching” and I assume she read the emotion on my face adding “any kind of touching is prohibited, even an innocent high five would be grounds for a level dockage”.
She went on to say that she was disappointed, as I’d been there longer than most of the youth and should have known better. Her voice lowered almost to a whisper as she informed me that the girl I had become friends with had stayed at the shelter multiple times and each time, she would find a way to take advantage of someone. Turns out, I wasn’t her first victim and she had nothing to lose as she only stayed at YESS for a few days at a time. After hearing this I was engulfed with disbelief. In my head, before that night, Jessica and I were friends and she had no reason to do this to me. She knew my story and I couldn’t fathom why anyone would on purposely ruin someone’s life like that.
Being at level one was the most embarrassing experience and not something I was used to. I couldn’t talk to anyone and they even took away the nightly hugs me and my brother were accustomed to. Feeling even more alone and isolated, I had a lot of time to reflect…
I’d only ever had personal experiences with one side of being taken advantage of in situations like these; the instigating side, which my mother was a pro at. I however, had never been on the receiving end and the change of perspective would affect and mold my way of thinking for years to come.
I knew after these incidences that I needed to come to terms with a few things indefinitely;
1. I could never fully trust anyone.
2. I would live to please anyone who had the power to punish.
And most importantly
3. There is always an ulterior motive.