Plan B

Recap: Dina has run away from home, flying from Boston to San Francisco, hoping to find love and peace and somewhere to crash in Haight Ashbury.  But on the day she arrives, she finds that not only is San Francisco enveloped by a freezing cold fog, but the whole city is enveloped in a riot: America has bombed Cambodia, igniting protests that erupted into violence across the country.  Haight Ashbury was not an option.

It was time for Plan B: Call Stephanie.

I had met her at a summer arts camp the year before, and fell head over heels in love.  She was my first female crush.  5 foot 8, long blonde hair, fascinating hazel eyes that were set slightly asymmetrically, enough to fascinate and still be beautiful.  She had luscious breasts and showed them off in black lacy pushup bras, which nobody got to see except me, because we spent hours in her dorm room talking, and it was hot….very hot.  We had stayed in touch through the following school year and vowed to see each other again.  And it was happening!

Stephanie lived in Santa Cruz, which was farther from San Francisco than I had thought.  Somehow I had envisioned California being about the size of Rhode Island, with everything being within easy bus riding or thumbing distance from everything else.  Instead, it turned out to be this huge, long drawn out state where things were hours from each other, and where, I was to learn, things were either blistering hot or freezing cold and not much in between.

I went to the pay phone and dialed the number I had written in my little spiral notebook.  It turned out to be long distance, so I had to ask to reverse the charges, and hoped like hell that Stephanie would answer and accept the call.  She did.

She was delighted to hear that I was here, and marveled at my resourcefulness at managing to get to San Francisco on my own.  I minimized it, and said that I had just come for a visit and to see the place, since I had heard so much about it.  Neither of us mentioned the fact that the school year was not yet over.

She told me the number of the bus to catch to Santa Cruz, and that either her mother or her father would bring her to pick me up at the bus station.  I was to call when I arrived.  They lived up in the mountains, and it would take them half an hour to drive to the bus station, which was actually just a stop in front of a cluster of shops.  I could go in and look around the shops while I waited for them.

The bus ride to Santa Cruz from San Francisco is Highway One all the way.  I had never seen such dazzling vistas!  Once we were well out of San Francisco, we drove out of the fog that sat upon it like a big fat toad, and all was blue sky and sunshine, just as I had imagined.

What I had never imagined was the incredible Northern California coastline, with its dramatic cliffs draped with succulent plants bearing beautiful pink flowers, and poppies lining the roadsides, and the breathtaking beaches spreading out mile after mile, ever changing and ever more majestically beautiful.  Tears of joy and gratitude filled my eyes.  I was here!  I was in California!  This was it!

Finally the bus rolled into a quaint little town.  The bus driver called out “Santa Cruz!” and I got off, shouldering my leather bag.  The sunshine was deceiving:  it was still chilly, and there was a biting wind.

As Stephanie had said, there was a cluster of little shops: boutiques, really, full of all sorts of hand made items.  It all looked very familiar, since I had been raised with only handmade items.  We never had a thing in the house that was manufactured, except things like toilet paper and maybe some pots and pans.  Even the silverware was hand made by a friend.

So I went in and browsed around, looking for a warm wrap.  I found a beautiful Peruvian ruanna.  I knew it was a ruanna because just the year before there had been a visiting potter from Peru, and she wore a ruanna.  My father had been enamored of the word “ruanna” and liked to pronounce it, rolling the “r” dramatically.  A runanna is a poncho with a split front, so you can throw one side over a shoulder.  It’s warmer than a poncho or serape, being made for Andean winters.

This ruanna was made of alpaca wool, woven in a unique way so that there were two layers of wool woven together.  I mean the wool itself was woven two layers thick.  The outer layer had a simple pattern of stripes, using the natural color of the alpaca wool, light gray and dark gray.  The inner layer was a flat weave of solid light gray.  It smelled of alpaca.  I fell in love with it.  It did not cover my head, this is true, but it was warm and cozy and beautiful, and it had its own kind of mystique.

How much was it?  I asked the woman who kept the shop.   Thirty five dollars, she said.  I looked rueful, as I had just spent five dollars on the bus ride and another ten cents calling Stephanie from the phone booth outside.  I didn’t have enough.

How much do you have, asked the woman crossly.  I have twenty five dollars, I said conservatively, not wanting to risk absolutely everything.  OK, I’ll take it.  She took my money, wrapped up the ruanna in tissue paper, and stuffed it in a brown paper bag with handles.  I stepped outside the shop, took out the ruanna and put it on, threw out the tissue paper, and folded up the shopping bag and stuck it in my leather bag.  It would come in handy later.

Stephanie and her parents arrived in an old red pickup truck.  Steph jumped out and grabbed me.  We stood there hugging for a long time.  Her father finally came over and said jovially,

“OK girls, you have all day to catch up.  We need to get up the mountain before it gets dark.”

 

Head In The Clouds

My stomach was all in butterflies.  I looked out the window:  we were deep inside a cloud, and all you could see was white.  You could tell how fast we were going by the shreds of cloud within the cloud, whipping by the window so fast they blew into sight and blew right back out again before you could get a good look at them.

Finally the huge machine started making groaning and scraping sounds, which I knew to be the beginnings of the lowering of the landing gear, which finished with a bump.  The craft itself was doing some bumping around, apparently due to some turbulence within the cloud as we got to the lower elevations.  All of the stuff within the plane started shuddering and shaking as if it would all be shaken to pieces.  I was very glad I had not had more wine.  I tried wrestled my fear to the ground.  It was a skill I had learned, that served me well in many situations.

I kept my eyes on the clouds outside, expecting them to clear at last as we descended, but the atmosphere out the window stayed pure white, even as the pilot threw the engines into reverse and the rear wheels touched down, bouncing once, and the plane was on the ground.  We were in a pea soup fog.

HaightThe plane taxied around, and I wondered how the pilot knew where he was going in that impenetrable sea of white.  At last the plane came to a halt, the lights went on, and the male attendant started talking over the intercom about Welcome to San Francisco, be careful to look around your seat to make sure you weren’t forgetting things, overhead luggage, and that the temperature outside was 48 degrees and raining.

48 degrees!  I had left the East Coast on a May morning in short sleeve weather, and had not thought to bring anything warm.  California is the place of sunshine, isn’t it?  It is in all the pictures.  You never see anything but sunshine in California pictures.  I did not know what to do.  I thought about it for a minute, and decided that I would go straight to Haight Ashbury and buy a cloak with a hood.  I had $35 left after paying for my ticket.  That should be enough to buy a warm cloak.

I had no luggage to get, so I asked the agent at the gate where I could get the bus to Haight Ashbury.  He looked at me strangely, and I hardened my gaze, looking him right in the eyes, and he gave me directions to the bus.  I went off in that direction, leaving him looking after my receding figure with that same strange look.

I found the bus stop OK.  I stood outside in the cold in the bus stop shelter with my teeth chattering for a good hour until somebody asked me which bus I was waiting for, and I told them Haight Ashbury.  Oh, they told me, that bus service has been suspended for today.  Haven’t you heard?  We’ve invaded Cambodia, and there’s a huge demonstration.  The whole City is in an uproar.  You can’t get anywhere on public transportation today.

Oh great.  I’ve come all the way across the country, pulled an enormous horror show, spent nearly all my money, and I can’t even get into the City.  What will I do now?  I went back into the airline terminal to get warm and think.

It didn’t take me much thinking, because there were not many choices.  I really wanted to see Haight Ashbury.  I didn’t really care about the rest of the City because Haight Ashbury was where the Hippy scene was, and that was what I was after.  It was what I was all about.

Problem was, I couldn’t get there.  I did not have money for both a cab and a cloak, and it was obvious that I would need some warmth and waterproofness, and soon, if I were not to become ill from exposure.  So a cab was out.  I could hitchhike, if I knew where I was going, which I did not;  and the fog was rather off-putting, since I could not even make out the overhead traffic signs above the road in front of the airport.  Even though I had taken the huge risk of getting on a cross-country flight without knowing exactly where I would go or what I would do, I did not want to put myself so directly in harm’s way right off the bat.

And I  really had not bargained for this cold rain and fog.  And if all of Haight Ashbury was one huge riot right now, how could I count on somebody with love and peace in their eyes coming up to me and inviting me to crash at their place, as I had envisioned in my fantasies?  Now that wasn’t likely to happen.

Breakfast At Jane’s

Runaway_seatedDina waited for Joe outside the coffee shop.  She felt too shy to go in by herself.  She spotted Joe’s car as he found a parking spot half a block away.  She felt a flood of relief, watching him saunter up the sidewalk grinning at her,

“Hi, little girl, how come you didn’t go in?”

“Um, I just, like, wanted to wait for you.”  She studied the cracks in the sidewalk.

“OK, whatever, come on in.  I’ll introduce you to Jane.  She always takes good care of my friends.” Joe lead the way into the coffee shop, ducking to avoid bumping his head against the low doorway.

“Hiya, Joe!  Whatcha bring me?” sang out a cheerful soul with a tie dye kechief  tied Indian style over her brow.  A box of Marlboros were rolled up in the left sleeve of her blue tee shirt.  A cigarette burned itself up in an ashtray.

“Whoa, Jane, what kind of speed are you on today?” joked Joe.

“Don’t need no speed, Mr. Big Shot Social Worker Pot-head,” Jane chortled.  “I’m high on life.”

“Right on,” said Joe.  “Jane, I want you to meet my friend Dina.  She hails from the East Coast.  She’s doing some traveling.”

“Oh, taking a vacation, are we?” said Jane, knowingly, throwing Dina a wink.  Dina was not so sure she liked this whole scene.  But she was game to stay on board with it for a while, to see how it played out.

“Come on, Dina, let’s not waste any more time with yon rascally woman,”  Joe quipped, guiding Dina to a booth and easing his bulk into one side.  Dina slid in the other side.

Suddenly Jane was all professional, cruising up to their booth with a waitress pad and a tray.  She slid an ash tray onto their table and got herself a new page in her order book. “What’ll it be, guys?”

Joe had been perusing the menu while Dina closely examined a sugar packet.

“Well, Jane, I’m mighty hungry this morning.  Let’s have the Big Hungry Breakfast, eggs over easy, sausage, home fries, whole wheat toast–Dina, all the bread here is home made and super yummy–orange juice, and coffee.”

Jane scribbled the order into her book.  She looked up at Dina.

“And for you, miss?”

“She’ll have the same,” said Joe, before Dina could open her mouth.  She slumped back in the booth, half relieved and half ashamed.

Jane brought them each a steaming diner mug of coffee, and set the stainless steel pitcher of half-and-half on the table.

Pouring cream into his coffee, Joe began, “Dina, little girl, I know you want to be independent.”  Dina waited for him to go on.  She wasn’t sure where he was going with this.  Her head felt hollow, and everything sounded far away.  She stared at the table.

“OK, let me be straight up about this,” Joe said.  “You can’t stay on the streets.  They’ll chew you up and spit you out out there.  You had a taste of it last night.  Is that how you want it to be?”  Dina shook her head slowly.

“Well, what are your ideas?” Joe asked.  Dina stayed quiet, trying to shrink even smaller than she already was.

“Look, do you think your parents would send you some money so you could get an apartment?  It’s summer break, and there are hundeds of apartments open.  You could get one, or share one anyway, for fifty bucks a month, I bet.”

“Really?” Dina sat up straight.  “Do you think I could get my own apartment for fifty bucks?”

“Well, you’d probably have to have a roommate.  Why don’t we go down to the campus housing bullletin board after breakfast and have a look?  If we find anything, we can call up about it.  I can give you a reference.  Everybody knows me!”  He gave a deep belly laugh.  Dina’s tension evaporated and she found herself smiling.

Jane returned with a tray laden with breakfast.  The toothsome aromas nearly knocked Dina over.  She hadn’t realized how hungry she was.  The two of them set to work eating, and nothing was heard from either of them until the last of the egg was sopped up with the last of the toast.

Joe paid the check, and the two of them slid out of the booth and thanked Jane for the magnificent breakfast.  She beamed, and they trooped out into the California morning.

Chapter 5: So Close I Can Taste It

Dina couldn’t justify staying in the shower a minute longer, so she turned the water off and stepped out of the stall.  Steve was waiting for her with a towel in his hands.

“Let me dry you, Lady.” There was a note of wistfulness in his voice that caught at Dina’s heart and struck her cold with fear.  She walked shivering into his waiting arms and he wrapped her in the warm towel. He grabbed another one for her dripping hair, whch nearly reached her hips; and expertly wrapped it onto the top of her head, as if he had done this many times before.

Then slowly, tenderly, he dried every part of her: hands, the webs between her fingers, face, neck: every single part of her, as if she were a newborn baby.

She stood still and let him do it, unable to move or speak because of the catch in her chest and throat.  She thought she would die of love and pain.

After he’d dried each part, he kissed it, brushing it with his lips like the kiss of a bee gathering nectar.  She shuddered at these kisses, somehow familiar, as if she’d dreamed them long ago.  Slowly she slipped from the reality of it, as if from a cast-off garment, and pushed it far from her.  It wasn’t real.  She knew it wasn’t for her.  His love was not for her.  She wished in her agony that she could just relax and revel in this lovely dream; but something in her could not accept a gift meant for another.

“What’s the matter, Lady?” Steve looked up, concerned.  “You’re crying again.  Come.  Come here to me.” And he gathered her in.  She sobbed on his shoulder, pouring snot on the soft white towel.  “It’s OK, Lady, you just cry.  You’ve been through a lot, I know.”  This made her cry harder.

Steve took her hand and led her out of the bathroom, wrapped in a dry towel.  “Breakfast is almost ready,” he said brightly, changing the subject.  “How do you like your eggs?”

Dina got herself together and sniffled through a wan smile, “Over medium, please.”  Steve grinned broadly and said, “Coming right up!  How about pouring us some coffee?  I take mine black and sweet: three sugars.”

“Holy mackerel!” cried Dina.  “I’m surprised you have a tooth left in your head!”  Then she felt stupid, because he actually did have quite a few gaps in his mouth.  He grinned, showing a couple of those gaps and sticking his tongue out.  He turned his back to her and flipped the eggs.

She brought the steaming mugs of coffee out to the dining room and saw the table, set with fine silver plate and English bone china.  Bacon heaped a serving dish, and Steve brought out a hot plate full of hash brown potatos in one hand and Dina’s eggs in the other.  He returned to the kitchen and retrieved a dish piled with toast and his own eggs.  He pulled his chair up to the table, spreading the damask napkin in his lap.

“Dig in,” he said, “let’s not be formal around here.”

Dina needed no urging: she helped herself to some of everything and as soon as Steve had done the same, she pitched into her breakfast as if it was the last food on earth.

After the initial frenzied breakfasting had died down to grazing on the remains and sipping the second cup of coffee, Steve cleared his throat. “Uh, Dina.”

She snapped on guard, her senses suddenly laser-sharp. “What is it?” she whispered.

“Um, Dina, like, my old lady’s coming back.  You remember I told you she was home on summer vacation?”  Dina nodded slowly.  Everything felt suddenly hollow and distant.

“OK, well, it’s like, she decided to come back early.  Like, today.  She’ll be back this afternoon.”  He flushed deeply, which accentuated the pockmarks on his face, making them look , Dina thought, even more like the craters of the moon.

“Yeah, OK, I understand.” Dina shifted her gaze to the fine china plate in front of her.  “I’ll get my stuff and go.”  She stood up, pushing her chair in carefully.  She struggled to keep her breathing slow and even, her face a blank mask.

Her thoughts were racing. Yes: this is why we made love on the floor and not in their bed.  I’m nothing to him.  I’m just a summer fling with an underage chick, a thrill.  It was all a joke.  And I’m the sucker.

“Please, Lady, don’t take it so hard.”  Steve stood up from the table, rattling the china, bumping into the chairs trying to reach her.  But she had her bags packed, and was at the door, silent and already gone.

 

 

Human Trafficking Month: Dina Leah, Survivor of Sexual Exploitation Speaks Out – Thoughtful Women

I am interviewed by Ruth Jacobs on Thoughtful Women!

Human Trafficking Month: Dina Leah, Survivor of Sexual Exploitation Speaks Out – Thoughtful Women.

#A Runaway Life

teenage-runaway1  Writing my memoir is hard.  Really, really hard.  I’m working on a book proposal, which involves doing synopses of all of the chapters.  Well, I hadn’t really thought too much about chapters, so here I go making chapters, seeing where the scenes naturally divide themselves, start and end.  And they do, you know, the scenes of our lives just naturally divide themselves up:  now we are cooking, now we are eating, now we are making love.  And it all just flows.  There might be some awkward scenes, but that’s natural too.

Mainly, my jaw is dragging around on the floor that there are so many, so so many, scenes in my life. So many just trying to keep alive, trading some kind of commodity for some other, just to get a place to spend the night out of the elements, or a hamburger.  Jeez, most of them are pretty gritty.  Heh, she thinks cynically, maybe that’ll sell more copies.  Ugh.

Meet Dina Leah, Survivor of serial rape, homelessness, survival sex and PTSD

Remember when serial adventure stories were printed on the sides of breakfast cereal boxes?  I used to think they were called “cereal” stories.

This is my story, but it won’t fit on a cereal box so I will tell it here, in bits and pieces.

It’s the story of my life.  True, I am a grownup now, as much as child survivors of the horrors of the street can grow up.  Much of the time, I’m still down there in the gutter, duking it out with a life that I thought I chose, which turned out to be anything but the glamorous life of a California hippie in the 1970’s.

My story is not glamorous.  In fact, it’s horrifying.  It’s the story of a naive and innocent 16 year old girl who ran away from an abusive home in the year 1970, expecting to find love and light and flowers and incense.  What she found instead was a world of predators and perps, cold-hearted people, rain and snow and hunger and cold.

I want you to know the whole story.  My next post will begin at the beginning.  Let me warn you now: it is not pretty.  It is ugly and violent.  As much as I want to share my story with as many people as possible,if you have issues with PTSD triggers around sexual violence, I warn to to proceed with caution, or you might not want to read it at all.

Till next time,

Dina Leah