I remember when I was a teenager in Washington. We lived in this neighborhood called Gamblewood, it was a decent enough place as quaint as it was. Us teens were a wild bunch. All of our parents were poor, we were hormonal and dumb, confused about the rights and wrongs of life.

One of our friends was Asian, his mother Filipino. Another of our friends was an angry, violent teen…like the rest of us I suppose. He had the kind of home life that we all knew was more than abusive and all he needed was one parent to love him really, not passively or through gifts, but actual care. But, of course, none of us could verbalize something so vulnerable.

At one point we had goaded our Filipino friend to fight our other friend. It was wrong on everyone’s part. We all hoped that the Filipino fury would come out and our racist hearts would be confirmed that all Asians knew kung fu. Instead our friend got a bloody nose and a black eye, neither of which compared to the bruised ego we all left him.

I remember after it was all done, the victor reminded us all that he didn’t want to do that. He offered to get everyone stoned, a perk of having an absentee rich father and a mother who benefited from her child’s pain. Everyone left him, everyone but me. I don’t know why I stayed. Everyone was real mad at me, said I was “taking the wrong side” but I seen both as victims. Both of them just wanted acceptance and if the other one had won and the other lost, we would have been mad at the Filipino fury for not controlling himself.

That summer, my first real crushs’ (some would say he was my best friend, but, I loved him…love him, actually, and you don’t have feelings as deep for your best friend the way I did about John) uncle came out as gay. I remember being so jealous of his courage! Nobody freaked out, he was a badass marine the day before and nothing changed. In my mind he is a hero, was then too. That summer I also hit on one of our other friends, Brandon…God, I still get red from embarrassment.

As I sit here reflecting on those years, I can’t think of a single moment I can look back on and think “I’d do that all over again”. I hate those years. I love my Mother, she was never stronger than she was then and is now. But if I was transported back to those years and seen myself, I wouldn’t offer myself words of strength to endure. I’d say….run. Nothing but pain awaits for you here girl.

With Love
Ruth Utnage

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Name: Utnage, Jeff (though I am legally Ruth)