This is contributor Jessica Hall’s weekly column, in which she interviews the street and homeless people she meets around the city.
I met Jackie on a cold and rainy evening. We were both standing at the edge of the park; I was admiring the golden leaves and dark drama of dusk when I noticed her standing next to me. I asked her if she was homeless and she said no, but she used to be. She agreed to an interview, so we went to a diner to talk over some hot tea.
Where are you from?
I was born and raised in Clifton New Jersey. It’s between Passaic and Patterson.
Where do you live now?
I live in the Bronx. I left home when I was 14. I was abused as a child, so I had to leave, you know?
Do you have siblings?
I’m the only child. I was living with my Mom. My Dad died when I was 14. He was HIV positive and so he died. I’m not HIV positive, thank God for that. But he did some things in his life which caused him to have HIV, but he didn’t deserve it. No one deserves to have HIV.
I couldn’t deal with the severe beatings. I was sexually molested when I was with my babysitter. My babysitter raped me. My mother started beating me. Her intention was to make me be good. I used to crank call the fire department when I was age 7. Instead of telling me to go into the corner and put my head down she would beat me. She would take a wooden bat and beat me up. I used to have black and blue bruises on my back and legs. She chipped my tooth and hit me with a flashlight.
One day I pulled the wooden bat off her hand and broke it and when I did that she bought a metal bat and started beating me.
How old were you?
I was 8. The reason that I got beat up, this is the crazy part, I started masturbating. She told me, if you keep doing this you’re gonna end up being a hooker but I couldn’t stop. I was a kid, you know? I would do it every night. I went to catholic school — at that time they used to hit you with rulers. I peed in class and they beat me up really badly. I humped this little girl and they threw me out, and my mother, that day, I’ll never forget that day, when we got home my mother beat me up brutally and when I ran out the door she kicked me down the stairs and I sprained my right elbow and my right ankle. I got a concussion and forgot who I was for a month. When I snapped back to place I told the doctors and they told the state and they came to my house. They told my mother, â€˜We think we should take your daughter away from you; you’re not a responsible parent.’ My mother fought it and she won. They didn’t take me away.
How old were you then?
9 years old. I had the problem till I was 11, the state wanting to take me away from my mother.
Did you have to go to court?
I didn’t go to court. My mother just fought; she said, â€˜I’m not abusing my child. I was raised that way.’ You don’t raise your child that way. Till this day she hits me.
You still see her?
She sees me. She comes over to my apartment in the Bronx. She comes all the way from Jersey to see me. I’m just waking up and she doesn’t even give me the time to get up. She curses me out, â€˜I come all the way from Jersey and you can’t even get up!’ and she slaps me so I kick her out.
I don’t really speak to her that much. She’ll come unexpectedly. I mean, I forgive her, but you can’t forgive her all the time. It keeps going and going. It never stops.
How did you leave home when you lived with your mother?
I made a map, where I’m gonna go first, how I’m gonna get there, and I experienced something I never thought I would experience. I almost got raped five times in one day. I’ll tell you parts but not detailing.
From Clifton I walked on the highway, Route 21 and then I walked across Route 3 and ended up going to Newark. Then this guy in a pickup truck picked me up and said, â€˜Where do you want to go?’ I said, â€˜New York City.’ He said, â€˜We’ll figure this out, get in.’ He pulls out his dick, I’m like, â€˜yuk’ and he says, â€˜Suck on this,’ and it smelled really bad and I licked it and threw up on him and he beat me up in the truck while he was driving, and, while he’s driving, he kicks me out of the truck. I fell on my back, ripped my skin, I’m bleeding. I get up. I’m crying. I have my backpack on. I’m in so much pain.
As I’m walking, there’s this hill, and I meet this old man, and he starts telling me this story of all these women he had sex with. He’s a disgusting old man; dirty, with a cane, practically like he’s pregnant, brown beard and dirty greasy gray hair. I told him I need $3 to get to New York. I didn’t even know how much it cost to get to New York. He says, â€˜OK, let’s go over here.’ It’s weird; I really had nightmares for like a week after. I think he’s gonna help me. He lays me down (at this point Jackie asked me for a pen and paper so she could draw a picture of the hillside and bushes he dragged her into) I think he’s going to lay down next to me. He lays on top of me and takes out his dick and starts shoving it at me. He tries to pull down my pants and breaks the button on my jeans. He puts his dick under me and he comes and says, â€˜Here’s your 3 bucks.’
I keep walking and I get to Hoboken and I meet this black guy and right about then and there I was just completely beat. He takes me home with him, to this room, I’ll never forget how it looked, that’s the strange and weird part (Jackie drew me a picture of the room) He takes me to this apartment, his wife is right next door to this room that looked like an attic, he takes me and lays me on the bed. I’m so exhausted and bleeding everywhere. What does he do with me? He tries to rape me and I’m like, fuck, everyone I meet wants to fuck me. He’s naked, he gets on top of me and starts shoving. I can’t scream, he has a rag over my mouth. Then he falls asleep and starts snoring and I’m like, I never win, and he wakes up again…
I’m like; I’ve got to go. So I go, then I realize he’s got my bag and I go back for my bag. He opens the door and puts a shotgun to my head. He throws my bag at me but it’s empty. He took all my stuff.
[Suddenly, Jackie puts on her coat and stands up.]
Are you leaving now?
Yeah, I have to go. It’s time for me to go. If you want to talk more, you can find me in the park. I have a lot to talk about, I do. My story is not the same as anyone’s. It will never be. I know that for sure, no one will have a story like mine. I’m lucky to be standing here right now.