My Sister’s Promise: Deception Pass Bridge
In the slight exhale before her words form, resolve overtakes defeat.
“I promise you, my little sister, one day, I will take you away forever.”
I was 13 years old in the summer of 1987. My big sister, Maria, and I drove onto Deception Pass Bridge, the structure that crosses a deep and turbulent channel and connects Whidbey Island and the mainland towns. Though it’s one of the scenic wonders of the Pacific Northwest, the bridge was, to me, the indestructible byway back to my dad.
Driving her boyfriend’s red and white convertible Stingray Corvette, Maria had Prince wailing from the cassette player. With the volume high, the music was our trance. Maria held my hand. My head rested on the seat and I stared at the blue outside. Neither of us spoke; we just felt this temporary freedom.
As we drove onto the bridge, I wished we’d never see Deception Pass again. I wished she could drive us away, somewhere, anywhere, just keep driving forward. My sister had a strength that hovered over me when she was near, but in two days, I’d be without her.
I was being forced to move again. This time the move would be from Whidbey Island to Las Vegas with my dad. This was the last drive with Maria, away from reality before I left. Later that night, she’d turn around and take me back, across the bridge, back to him.
We listened to Prince serenade us with “When Doves Cry”, and with my hand, Maria shifted the gear to slow down. Families strolled along the pedestrian passageway, holding hands, taking pictures, laughing. A mother grasped her little girl’s hand tight.
I peered down and saw the choppy water below, fantasizing about the finality of a jump—the only solution my stunted thoughts could conjure up to get away from him. Because with this next move, I wouldn’t even have my sister.
I lowered the stereo volume and spoke my futile plea.
“Maria. Please just keep driving. Please. Can’t you? Just me and you forever.”
My sister’s locked jaw and fierce gaze forward said, Yes, yes, I will keep driving. I will steal this car, take my McDonald’s paycheck and we will run.
But then I see it. Her eyes set on the invisible reality before us. Our circumstance defies our hope. It’s not enough. He will find us. We don’t have enough time . . . money. . . anything. . . to get away.
My plea to her was rhetorical really. I knew she couldn’t.
But then in the slight exhale before her words form, resolve overtakes defeat.
“I promise you, my little sister, one day, I will take you away forever.”
At that moment, I was certain she would. And although I’d forget her promise during the years to come, she never would.
It took her three attempts over seven years, but my big sister kept her promise.
Her first attempt was six months later. She came to Vegas, back in the vortex of my dad, because she heard the helplessness in my voice. I had been forced to leave Whidbey Island and live in Vegas with my dad because I loved a woman, five years older than me. My parents found out and tore me away from her and to the edge of suicide. So, my sister came to me. She couldn’t take me away from my dad, but she could lay next to me, stroking my hair at night as I cried myself to sleep.
In her second attempt when I was 15, my sister, newly married, and her husband became my legal guardians, ensuring I never lived with my dad again. But although she took me away from his physical presence, she couldn’t take me away from the emotional and mental effects of his abuse—only drugs could.
José pokes my leg with his knuckles of the hand that covers the pipe. It’s a sign he has reloaded the pipe with more rocks of cocaine, ready to light up for me. But holding the pipe back, he motions to my speedometer with his tilted head, speed up, his motion says. Not to race but to stop looking so suspicious. At 2 AM, a teenage girl, 18, with an older man in his 30’s, driving a bright red Trans-Am 45 MPH on I-95 Tacoma, WA freeway might as well be racing 100 MPH it is so noticeable.
José didn’t speak English. I didn’t speak Spanish. But we didn’t have to exchange many words to get what each wanted. He and his crew came to my apartment every few months to transport cocaine from somewhere to somewhere else. They’d stay for two nights and I got, and stayed, high the entire time.
Driving José somewhere else, I am so high and delirious from an empty stomach and no sleep I grip the wheel in the 10 and 2 o’clock position, tense, quiet, jonesing for the next hit of crack.
Keeping my hands on the wheel and my eyes straight ahead, I lean the right side of my body and gaunt face into José’s hand, as he steadies the pipe to my mouth. He lights the rock with his right hand, holds the pipe with his left, my eyes straight ahead on the road. The sizzle of the rock burning and its unquestionable smell tell me to inhale. I exhale only after the rush hits me—the longer held the better—all while my foot on the pedal maintains the unnoticed speed of 65MPH.
When I was 20 years old, I could no longer sustain my addiction and my pain. I chose to end my life with a needle and my last crystal meth fix. But moments before, my sister fulfilled her promise, her third attempt, because I chose to let her.
Seven years earlier, the day my sister and I drove over Deception Pass Bridge, I thought I was asking her to take me away from dad forever. But what I really needed, and what she did in her third and successful attempt to fulfill her promise, is to take me away from my hopelessness and desire to die.
In the slight exhale before her words form, resolve overtakes defeat, “I promise you, my little sister, one day, I will take you away forever.”
The promise she made on that drive, was so much more than a geographical distance from my dad. She promised to give me a chance to live.
On April 22, 1994, I chose to pick up the phone when my sister called instead of killing myself. It was this first choice that set off my 25-year journey from hopelessness to enduring success. That day, my sister fulfilled her promise to me to give me a chance to live, and by picking up the phone, I also gave myself the chance to change and to grow.
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I came across just a little while ago and I want you to know that it spoke to me and touched my heart. I’m so thankful that you are doing well and also for Maria being there and look where you came in your life. I’m so very pleased to have been friends with you both beautiful women.
Eya I ya ya
That still fills my heart! I’m so grateful you know Maria and the love there. Xo
Wow. Never realized how bad Trish’s life was.😥
Trish your life, with all its challenges, gives so much hope to the many people who have suffered childhood abuse. Thank you for writing to the thousands who have experienced this same abusive childhood, and for sharing with parents and others giving them encouragement in their struggles with loved ones. You bring hope to those who are currently suffering from drug addictiion and see no rainbow at the end of the tunnel. Many don’t have a sister who will welcome them into their homes, giving them a place of loving comfort , safety, and a place for gradual healing. I am looking forward to reading the coming chapters in your life’s journey. I pray that you will be blest in your.life at this time because you are sharing your intensely
difficult path from childhood abuse.
How blest we are today, because of the
technological advancements, that you
can reach such a wide audience.
Maria was my hero. I don’t know if everyone needs a hero, but I know we can each BE a hero.