Hi, my name is Mary and at the age of 8 years old, I was a very adventurous little girl to say the least. My dad being a senator, I didn’t have to worry about much. At the time, I was very oblivious to the dangers of the world around me. I thought we were all the same. That everyone lived in the same worn brown or beige houses, with loving parents, and food on the table at meal time. Not rich, but happy. Maybe that’s why I felt safe jumping over the fence that day. I remember when I was jumping down I tore a small hole near the hem of my dress. Through the hole, I could see a small drip of blood where the wood had pricked me. I felt the sudden urge to turn back, but I wasn’t sure I would get to come outside again if I ran back. That was when I noticed what resembled the remains of a path leading into a field. The field appear to continue as far as the eye could see, overgrown with grass that went past my thigh. At the very end of the field was one lonely tree. Its trunk larger than my house. When I finally reached it I looked around the back and saw an opening. It was hollow. It almost seemed like fate that I should come upon the perfect spot to play and hide out from my parents. I never knew it would become so much more.
Every day for the next year I retreated out in my trunk as if it was my home, and never once did I forget to run back home moments before dinner so my mother would find me in our backyard where I was suppose to be. On May 21, exactly one year and one day after I had found my trunk hideout, another boy showed up. He was tall and lanky, and his clothes looked worn. He said his name was Michael. That was the day the world changed for me. I offered him a seat beside me squashed away together in the depths of my no longer secret hiding space. He proceeded to tell me his story sharing how he had been a slave for a family of rich white folks down in Michigan. He was served one meal a day, that sized to approximately one third of what I got three times a day. And if he didn’t follow the orders of the day he would be beaten, starved, and shoved in a cellar for the night until the next morning when he could restart another day in hell. His parents unfortunately were too scared to run. Cowards, he called them. And so, he was forced to run away along the underground railroad of his own. He didn’t mention much about his journey, but I didn’t feel I had the right to ask. At this moment, I knew our world wasn’t all happiness and riches like I was raised to believe. There was another half where evil was encouraged. That kept a strict hierarchy of whites on top and blacks on the bottom. In the heat of the moment, the only plan I could come up with to help Michael was to run with him. My parents would never let him into our household, let alone past the entry gate that lead to our front lawn. I took his hand and we ran. Not knowing where we would go, or what we were even looking for, we were stuck on this journey together.
Every day was the same: walking down back alleys hiding behind trees and buildings and staying out of the public eye. We normally ate the scraps of food thrown out by the towns people. I had lost a lot of weight since being on the run, and at the age of 9 I found it hard to hang on some days. I’d fainted on a weekly basis, but Michael was always there to take care of me. He acted like the big brother I had always dreamed of having. And sometimes being. A couple days into the trip he told he was 12 years old. Only 3 years older than myself. After 28 days of hiding and walking looking for an abandoned home to sleep in, we came across a lonely cottage owned by an old aboriginal lady. She appeared to be around 60 years old. I wasn’t sure how she would react having two scrawny kids walk up to her front porch asking for a home, but I was out of options. I stepped slowly towards her and held out my hand to greet her, just like my father taught me. I still miss my parents, and some days I think about running home, but then I remember the reason I left and it’s what keeps me going. The lady doesn’t return my handshake, but she doesn’t appear mad either. After a moment of silence, she invites us inside. We sit for a while waiting for the lady to come back. When she finally returned she didn’t even ask what our story was, she simply offered us a home in exchange for an extra hand maintaining the property. Tentatively, Michael and I nodded in agreement. We made our way down the hall to the cramped bedroom we would be sharing for the time being. It had a single bed that we agreed to swap each night. The next couple days were an adjusting period for us. The lady still hadn’t told us her name or anything about herself for that matter. And we stayed careful not to cross our boundaries. We did what we were asked when we were asked, and stayed cooped up in our room to during our spare time. It was here that I suddenly became aware of how lonely I had gotten since leaving home. Here where I noticed how little I knew about myself, let alone the people I was now sharing a house with. I began to stay up later and later each night. Michael started to notice my change in mood as the nights went on and he comforted me. Instead of swapping between who had the bed, it became something we shared. I began to trust him.
One night I decided to confess to him what had really been troubling me. I felt like I wasn’t meant to be a girl, I felt like we were brothers, and I wanted someone to understand what my mind was going through. It wasn’t that I wished to be a boy, it was that I already knew I was one, just trapped in the wrong body. When I saw my reflection in the window at night I saw the beautiful little girl that the world perceived me to be. But to myself, everything they called beauty, I saw as flaws. I hated the body I was given, with long hair, and girlish attributes. I was hitting puberty and it upset me. Im not sure what the word is for people like me, but I intended on keeping this part of me locked up. A secret only myself and Michael could know about.
It was my 16th birthday, looking out at the sky from the same tiny room I shared with Michael for seven years now. As a gift we had been given a second mattress that we laid on the opposite side of the room. The only floor space left was a small aisle in between the bed and the mattress, not that it made a difference with the increase in chores we have been doing since we were old enough to do more brunt work. Before getting up I look at my reflection in the fogged up window. Ever since I was little I always wanted to know what it would be like to have short hair like Michael. To wake up and brush it once into perfection. So, as my birthday present to myself I finally took out my old house key that I had saved on a chain and slowly cut my hair, watching it as it fell to the floor. My hair looked choppy and slightly messy, but it was short and something about that made me tingle inside. It made me happy. When Michael saw me he didn’t look shocked or even confused. He knew exactly why I did what I did and he never questioned it. My hair was the one thing I had control over and that gave me a sense of empowerment. Things in my life were finally at a high and I wasn’t ready to have them coming crashing down. Not for a while at least. The lady, who I had come to know as Martha had once had a daughter of her own. She ran away the same as I did, and so she took us in the same way she would expect another to do for her daughter. We filled a hole in her heart, and she filled one in ours.
Since day one I had been writing letters of things I might say if I ever got the chance to speak on behalf of black slavery and on behalf of Michael. I slid each letter in a slit cut under the mattress on the bed. The letters were the one secret I still kept from Michael. I intend on leaving one at the foot of every family’s door as until I run out in hopes of someone taking the time to read the letter. Some day, somehow, we as a community can right our wrongs, starting with ethnical equality. It’s my way of paying him back for all his support over the years. I don’t know if I would be here without him. That night, when Michael fell asleep I snuck out our window and ran down the road stopping at every house, as I had vowed to do since I met him in my tree trunk hide-out. What seemed like hours later, the sun started to rise and I had delivered almost 900 letters. With the morning sun now above, I knew it was time to run home. That’s when it occurred to me I didn’t know my way back. It was dark when I left and I didn’t leave myself a trail. At this point I decided to continue delivering every single letter walking up and down long beaten paths to reach every last door. My last stop was my own house. I hadn’t seen my parents in years and I wasn’t sure they would even recognise me anymore. As I placed the letter down directly in front of the door I heard a creak. My mother stood before me. A glimpse of recognition crossed her face as she picked up the letter. She read every last word before calling my father and showing it to him. He looked between my mother, my letter and myself and then he spoke. Words that I would have never expected. Looking me straight in the eye, he said, “You left our home, and with that you have left behind any welcome you once had.” He then proceeded to slam the door in my face.
The next night was miserable. I had lost my family and there was no way for me to find my way back to my only friend. I had left Michael a note telling him where I was going, but strictly stated for him to never come looking for me. He would be better off that way. He’s living with someone he can trust and he has the support of at least 25% of our town. I’ve done all I can to help Michael. And with that I know I can leave. I can feel the depression is taking over and I can’t describe the hatred I have for myself and my physical appearance. The internal conflicts are tearing me apart, and I have no one left to guide me. I looked up at the tree above me and tugged on a vine that hung directly above my head. It felt sturdy, so I tied it around my neck. The pain taking away from all the confusion inside of me. And soon I felt nothing. Death was my remedy, and for once I was at peace.