A few months ago my cousin, N, ran away.
She grew up living with our grandmother as her guardian, even while her father was alive. I always related to N because she was quiet and liked anime and always wanted to wear black. I live in a different state and we rarely go up there to visit, but when we do, N was the cousin I saw the most of.
A few months ago N ran away. She disappeared with a boy she had met online only three month before. She was seventeen and ran away right after her high school graduation ceremony.
Panic and anger could be heard across the states our family inhabited. It was obviously a planned trip, she’d taken her valuables and slipped away with such ease. Eventually she was returned and arrangements were made to have her fly out to our area so she could spend some time with me. On the day of the flight, she disappeared again. We now have unused tickets that can’t be refunded and can only be used in her name.
This time she ran away and avoided the boy’s home, obviously having learned something from the last time the family found her hiding spot. Once my grandmother saw her walking on the street and called out to her but she broke into a run and was gone again. N is pretty reserved and truthfully, I was surprised she had the balls for this sort of thing. This is a girl who couldn’t even do her own laundry.
I spoke to the boy, P, once in an attempt to learn some information. And it was one of the hardest conversations I’ve ever had in my life. With degrees in Psychology, I spent years learning how people work and how to identify different types of individuals. This was a fact he did not like about me, even made a point of calling my degree a pseudoscience (anyone else catch that mental insecurity?).
Even though I had a pretty biased opinion of P before I spoke to him, he was the over 21 year-old who talked my cousin into running away after all. But truly, anyone with that level of unwarranted pretentiousness would be unpleasant. It was obvious he could be charming when he wanted to or when he wanted something.
N is a perfect girl for a guy like that, very malleable and with little knowledge of the adult world. I won’t even begin to describe how the boy’s mother has involved herself. But I’ll say she’s involved herself enough to seek me out on Tumblr and tell me how evil my family is.. that’s a grown woman I’m describing.
N is a shy girl with limited communication skills, so she has few friends and I knew in my gut that’s where she was. So after a great deal of pestering, I got her friend to admit to me that she knew where she was and that she was safe. Through even more pestering, she let me speak to N. I said I didn’t believe it was her and demanded a photo, to see that she truly was safe and to gain a little insight as to her whereabouts. The photo she sent gave me shivers. She sported her pouty smirk with freshly dyed blonde hair.
N had always wanted to dye her hair, usually black or red in traditional emo fashion. But this blonde color was something she would have never wanted. This unflattering blonde color, that washed her out and made her look like another person, was an act of camouflage. A deliberate, purposeful disguise. I don’t remember if I cried when I saw the picture, but I remember how cold it made me feel. How helpless and detached I felt from the situation.
I tried to keep her talking with me as long as possible, trying to be gentle even though I wanted to scream at her. I wanted to stay calm and act as the lifeline back to the family. The words she used confused me. She was using a new vocabulary with words like abuse. When I asked her to describe what she meant by abuse (“since I’m all the way out in Maine”) she recalled having her computer taken away and not being allowed to lock her door. For a good portion of my childhood I didn’t have a door to my bedroom, so I felt little sympathy. I tried to talk to her the way I would want to be spoken to, I tried to use reason and I tried to stay calm throughout the conversation. I even offered my home as a safe place to stay away from the rest of the family, since that’s what she wanted away from.
She hasn’t spoken to me since because I haven’t tried to make contact. It’s been months since she first ran off and she’s refused any help. So I’ve reached a point where I can’t invest any more of my emotions into a person that doesn’t want my assistance. This was a hard conclusion to come to, she’s family and she’s really the only family I ever tried to bond with. Being an only child and living so far away, I have a different sense of family than most people I’ve met. But because I felt such a connection with N, I’m hurt that she doesn’t feel like she can confide in me or use me as a safe haven. I’m hurt for the other family members who have been worrying and wondering.
But I’m ready to move on. I’m ready to stop mourning someone who isn’t even dead. Time to place my energy in a productive direction.