I had just returned to the property of my young adult overnight shelter in Auburn, Washington, Arcadia House. I remember feeling sad and frustrated, the last few days had been absolute hell for me at the shelter. The place I considered home had become a place I felt extremely unsafe at from my peers and staff alike.
Everyone else was around the front and I stayed in the back sitting on the picnic table. The only thing providing a light was a small light casting a greenish haze above the door, and the golden lights of the streetlights on the sidewalks on the road behind.
I finished looking at something on my phone, and I remember a brief feeling of self accomplishment. A group of about six boys came around from the front of the house. I felt anxious at first.
Are they here to beat me up? Who can I call out to for help? No one, the others could care less, take the beating like a man, are the thoughts that went through my head.
One of them, a tall, black kid wearing a purple, Kool Aid man t shirt approached me, and asked, “hey, can I use your phone to make a call?”.
I hesitated. Something did not feel right. I looked at the others around us, how they looked almost ready to run.
Throwing caution to the wind, I shrugged and said, “yeah go ahead”.
Time seemed to slow, as the urge to suddenly jump onto the kid who I handed my phone to made no move to call someone. I remember he seemed to freeze mid air as he jumped up and over a small bench, and just my whole body trembled from wanting to tackle him in that instance.
There are six of them and one of you, they could beat you up and then where would you be? I thought to myself, and somehow calmed down a bit. I watched as they all took off running with my phone and feeling small.
I had just let my phone get stolen. The phone that I had collected, carried and turned plastic bottles into cash for at Job Corps. The phone that I was using to keep in touch with a cute girl from there, and keeping in touch with people I knew cared for me in general. The phone that a friend of mine had just bought me six months of service for.
I saw them crossing the street and I started walking after them, I was in no position to run as I have never been someone able to run fast. I saw one of the guys look over his shoulder at me, and he said something to others and they all took off down a dark street with little to no streetlights. I started crying and stood in the street trembling for a few moments. I was able to compose myself enough to walk up to the house of Meghan and Kate, two of the sweetest people I had met at Auburn High School, (I had just been transferred to Auburn Mountainview High School that week, and felt overwhelmed with adjusting to a new school in addition to everything else that was going on), and knock on their door. I felt my cheeks burning with embarrassment against the cold wind, I felt terrible but reasoned with myself that I was doing the only thing I knew to do in this kind of situation – which was to get to a safe place to call 911. Someone who I guessed to be their mother opened the front door, woah they look just like her, I thought to myself quickly taking in the resemblances.
“I am so sorry, but is Meghan or Kate here? I know them from school, I am staying at the nearby homeless shelter” I managed to squeak out as tears managed to sneak past the corners of my eyes. Meeting new people was always a cause of severe anxiety for me, and I hate when they have to be under circumstances such as the ones I had just gone through.
“Yes one moment” replied their mother as she left the door open and walked towards what I guessed was the dining room, it looked as though they might have been having game night or something, and I felt even worse.
I was immediately grateful, and relieved when I saw both Meghan and Kate come around the corner. Meghan wrapped me in a warm hug without hesitation, and I felt Kate put her arm on my shoulder. I let myself soak in that moment of pure safety for a few seconds. I felt a bit more anxious as I saw their dad listening from the doorway of the dining room. I pulled away and explained what had happened to Meghan, and asked to use a phone to call 911, to which Meghan immediately handed me her phone and I was able to make a call.
I thanked her, and Kate, and apologized to her parents and walked back to Arcadia House and sat on the bench until night shelter officially opened up.
I decided to not hold my breath that a cop would show up. However, a while later a police officer did come and listened as I described what had happened to me to him. I felt somewhat intimidated but grateful that he was there.
“Do you know if the kids name is Sayvar?” he asked me and I said I was not sure, as I had not recognized him.
“Are you sure?” he asked me. An image of the whiteboard in the Pathways classroom flashed through my head, and focused on a name; Sayvar. A sinking feeling came over me as I realized that he was probably in my classroom, but I was not sure if he was, and I did not want to cause any further issues; Sayvar was black and the officer was white.
“Yes, I am unsure” I said again, before continuing to explain that I had just transferred to a new school and had not memorized everyone’s names yet. The officer proceeded to give me his number and my case number, telling me to call him when I find out.
Fast forward to Monday, the first thing I looked at was the whiteboard and anger flooded through me as my eyes fell on Sayvar’s name.
“Where is Sayvar?” I asked Ms. O’Rourke, later that day.
“He moved to Tacoma” replied Mrs. Sahlstrom, and I let my head sink into my hands with frustration.