I don’t know if I’m going to an actual home, or to a facility.
I don’t know how long the drive will be.
Often, I don’t even know the social worker.
I don’t know if it will be OK, or not.
I can’t say no - I just have to go.
I sit quietly. I don’t even bother asking any questions.
I stopped asking questions a few years ago.
I’m lost in my imagination… For the first half the ride, I’m imagining that they're beating me. I spend the other half of the drive trying not to imagine that they're raping me.
I think about the ways that I might be able to physically defend myself, if they aren’t too big and too strong, or if there aren’t too many of them.
Maybe, I can hit them with a lamp… Nope, that’s an assault charge. I’ll go to jail. I won’t have any proof. It’s probably better to try to lock myself in a room, and yell as loud as I can, until the police come… But, they might get inside, and smother me to death, before anyone even hears my screams. If they rape me, I hope I don’t get pregnant…
Eventually the car stops, and the social worker takes me and my trash bag up to a door.
We are both handed over to ‘someone’.
Maybe that person introduces themselves, as they hold the trash bag with my belongings in it, and maybe they seem nice enough - but, maybe not - the only thing that is guaranteed is that they will take my stuff, and inspect it.
I am told the rules, and the penalties for breaking the rules. Sometimes this information is delivered casually, and sometimes it is delivered harshly. The rules and the penalties are always a little bit different, but generally the same.
Basically: That which is not compulsory, is forbidden.
I listen very closely to the rules, but not to the penalties.
If the rules are broken, I will just get moved again. If the rules aren’t broken, I will just get moved again, so I ignore their penalties.
The social worker begins to talk about me as if I’m not in the room, papers are signed, and then the social worker leaves.
Now, and until whenever I’m moved again - which could be tomorrow, or in a month, or in three months - I simply ‘live’ with these strangers. I live with their rules, and their views, and their smells.
I don’t know the name of the town, or if I will be placed in school or not, or how long I will be there. I don’t know if I will have an actual room, or if I will be on a sofa. I don’t know if I am with alcoholics, or Christians, or both.
I’m asked if I have any questions, and I say, ‘No, I don’t have any questions. I understand the rules, thank you.’
They always seem to like that response best. So, I always say that.
I watch them pick through my trash bag, removing things that they've decided I cannot keep. I’m always told that I will get it back, but I know that I will never see it again.
Sometimes they take away some of my books. Sometimes they take away some of my clothes. It’s always different. I can’t say no.
They inspect everything for bugs - lice, fleas, bedbugs, and roaches - That is the one consistent thing. They always suspect that I’m infested with bugs.
Sometimes, I am.
I’m called ‘Laura’, rather than Lara, and I don’t bother, anymore, to correct their mistake. I just answer to a name that isn't mine. It doesn’t really matter to me. When I’m told their name, I make sure to always remember it, and I make sure to always get their name right. They seem to like that.
Sometimes, they ask me if I’m hungry.
I’m hungry. I’m always hungry. But, I don’t want to be a problem.
I always say no. They seem to like that.
‘No, thank you. I’m fine.’
And for the rest of my time with them, whenever they ask ‘Laura’ if she wants or needs anything, she quietly says, ‘No, thank you. I’m fine.’
And for the rest of my time with them, whenever they ask ‘Laura’ if she has any questions, I say, ‘No, I don’t have any questions, thank you, I’m fine.’
And for the rest of my time with them, whenever they ask ‘Laura’ if she understands, I say, ‘Yes, I understand, thank you.’
Even when I don’t understand… Which, actually, is often… I always say that, because they seem to like that.
I try hard not to break the rules… But, it really doesn't even matter, because very soon, once again, as usual, I’ll be moved.
If they let me, I always keep the remainders of my stuff inside of my black trash bag.
Even my toothbrush, if I have one.
If they let me, I always leave my trash bag by the door.
It’s just easier for me, that way.
That is the only question that I ever ask anyone: ‘Can I please keep my stuff inside of my bag, and by the door, or is that against the rules?’
They don’t seem to like it, but I always do it anyway.
The next time I’m moved, everything will be exactly the same as this time, except it’ll be a different social worker, a different car… and a different door.