Catch up on the series: Read past installments.

Trevion: Trevion’s BHIS (Big Headed Idiot Syndrome)

My mom and I used to volunteer as ushers for the Blumenthal Performing Arts Center before all this HIV-positive stuff started. We knew that John Legend was coming to Charlotte and we signed up to usher at his show. I am an aspiring singer/songwriter and have been in love with John Legend’s work since I was 13. As it turns out, I got cancelled to work the show, but my mom being the loving individual she is gave up her spot for me. And that is where it all started.

The show was great. At the end, I was determined to meet him. Against all instruction, I snuck backstage to see him. When I walked into the dressing room, John wasn’t there. At least, I thought he wasn’t. So, in order to look like I was being productive (because I wasn’t supposed to be in there at all), I began picking up trash while absentmindedly singing. And that’s when I heard his voice. “You’ve got quite the voice there.” I turned and there he was — John Legend. I couldn’t stop smiling and I remember my hands shaking. He politely shook my hand and wished me well. And that was that.

I was later fired for “insubordination,” because someone saw me sneaking backstage and told my manager. Later that night, I guess the interaction with John gave me “BHIS” or “Big Headed Idiot Syndrome,” which is a common thing with me. I’m really impulsive. As soon as I got home, I packed some clothes, my song lyrics, some snacks and my iPod. Then I headed off to Atlanta to get discovered, at least that is what I intended. I had no idea that this was the worst decision I could make.

I hooked up with at least five people within an hour of being in Atlanta (with condoms). I felt invincible. That is, until I realized I had nowhere to stay. And, that I was still not discovered. This realization scared me so much that I didn’t sleep at all that night. I wandered the Atlanta streets until I met a man who wanted me to be with him, like get married! I am pretty sure he didn’t know me and I tried to tell him that our “relationship” was going too fast after an hour. Plus, he was just as homeless as I was. I wasn’t attracted to him at all in any way shape or form, in fact, I was repulsed by his appearance. However, he gave off this sense that he knew Atlanta well and that he would take care of me. So I agreed to be his boyfriend. He would protect me, right?  Wrong.

After two nights, we lost each other. Or more like, he saw someone else that was more attractive than me and ran off with him. Betrayal of Trust #1. I started hanging out with a friend of his. We ate at restaurants and ran out on the bill, stole CDs and kissed random strangers. The first night we slept in the rain — that was the coldest, wettest, most aggravating night of sleep I have ever had. In the morning, he too ran off with someone else. Betrayal of Trust #2. By this time, my food had just about run out and I felt desperate. I started prostituting myself for food coupons and money. I wasn’t going to let myself starve.

On a rainy Wednesday night, I slept under this gazebo in Piedmont Park. I was reading a book, minding my own business when I was approached by two well-dressed, clearly educated men. They offered me permission to sleep on their couch for the evening in exchange for sex. This wasn’t unusual at the park; people have had sex there since before I was born. I accepted their offer and we began to walk towards the apartment building on the other side of the park through the trails. Once we were out of public sight, they stopped walking and one of them put a hand over my mouth. Betrayal of Trust #3 — the Ultimate. The other one threw my backpack to the side and ripped my pants down. They both proceeded to rape me, taking turns until they were satisfied.

What I remember the most is that while one raped me, the other tried to comfort me by telling me “everything was going to be okay.” It all felt so rehearsed to me. It was not the first time they had done this. The next morning I was sore and scared, but I was determined to at least look okay. I had some dirty clothes and enough money to wash them. I made my way down to this little shopping center and went into the laundromat. I washed my clothes, but I was still “dirty.” Then a little miracle happened and I  found a card. It was a shelter for LGBT youth. I called, and they came to pick me up within the hour. I called my mom. She rejoiced in knowing I was okay. She is so loving, and I think that’s what really got me through me self-diminishing thoughts about what had happened. By the end of the week, I was on a bus back to Charlotte. My mom came and picked me up. I came home. The next day I went to school like nothing ever happened.

While Atlanta wasn’t the best “vacation” I’ve ever had, I learned more about not being okay, and about how resilient I truly am. With each day, I realized how much of a survivor I am. : :

Norena: Hot-lanta and How Tre Got HIV (maybe)

“Where the heck is he?” It had been at least 30 minutes since I asked Trevion to take the last of the boxes from our old apartment to our new apartment in the same complex. We had been moving for two days and I was exhausted. I had been fortunate enough to be scheduled to volunteer as an usher at the Blumenthal and tonight was John Legend! He is a “Legend” of sorts in our family as Trevion and I often sang to each other, “All of me loves all of you,” mostly in the kitchen for some reason. I was not able to sign Trevion up to volunteer the show and even though we were in the middle of a residential move, we left to the theater. I gave up my volunteer assignment so Trevion could see John Legend. As it turned out, they needed an extra usher and I got to see him too. It was a great concert and we returned home from the show in a quiet content mood. Trevion didn’t have much to say as he seemed a million miles away in his dreams of one day being as famous as John.

“I need your help as soon as we get back to the apartment,” I said to Trevion. “And then you must get ready for school tomorrow — you have got to find whatever you can in all those boxes.” We got to the old apartment and I handed him the two boxes to carry while I finished cleaning the entry floor. As I was down on my hands and knees focused on doing a good job with the tile, I said a little prayer, “Thank you God for my sons. Thank you for all we have.” I closed the door and took the keys to the rental office and left them in the drop-off box. It was a beautiful night. Everything was going to be okay. Losing my job and moving from our three-bedroom to a one-bedroom apartment was going to be a change but a necessary one. We would get through it.

“Tre? Tre? Where the heck are you?” I asked into our box-filled new apartment. Okay. He went on a walk which he was known to do for some “teenager space” to himself. The apartment was a mess, like someone had thrown up moving boxes and plastic garbage bags. I noticed it was 11 p.m. I jumped into the shower. It was 11:20 p.m. now. Where is Trevion? I texted two neighbors at the risk of them hating me for the hour. No, they hadn’t seen or heard from Tre today. Okay. I decided to stay calm until midnight and then if he was not back, I would get in the car and drive around the complex and the immediate neighborhood. Oh, please God, Trevion didn’t run away again. Please God, no, no, no. We weren’t arguing, we weren’t mad, we just had this nice evening, he wasn’t sad or was he? Yes, we moved and maybe he is more upset about that then he led me to believe. A hundred thoughts flooded my head.

Fast forward four months to a hot day in July. A small framed woman with big brown eyes introduces herself as Trevion’s trauma therapist. She explains that today is the day that Trevion would like to share with me what happened when he ran away to Atlanta after the John Legend concert. I look at his face, he is very, very nervous. Half smiles, half blank stares, half “OMG Momma.” She goes on to explain that all that is required of me is to listen. I don’t need to respond or comfort him or do anything but be here right now with Trevion. I think I can do that. The therapist smiles and says, “He’s done a lot of work and this is something he wanted you to know, so you can understand him better and be there for him.”

Trevion begins slowly. He starts by apologizing that he didn’t say anything to me or even leave me a note that he was running away to Atlanta after the John Legend concert. I flash back on the crazy mother I was boarding a Greyhound Bus at the Charlotte bus station and calling his name frantically that night. He is sorry for the worry and pain that must have caused me. Nice mommy wants to say, “Its okay,” but I know I am not being honest. I say nothing as instructed. I keep the thought in my head and nod to acknowledge his apology.

He starts in about Atlanta and how he went there to make it big with his music and figure everything out by himself. Then he got hungry, he had no place to sleep and he had no money. Then a homeless guy stole his iPod, but he was really nice when he stole it. I remember to breathe. This all sounds normal. I feel my body tense up like somebody is about to punch me in the stomach. I am aware of my facial expression. I tell myself that I can process it later, right now it is about showing love and compassion for this precious child. I consciously unfurrow my brow.

“Two men… a park….. Nowhere to sleep…… they held me down….. They raped me….”  I could only take in a few words though I knew I was listening. It was that shock thing again. I tried to breathe. I finally said, “I am so sorry, mijo, I am so very sorry this happened to you.” My internal dialogue kicks in, “Did I do that right?” When I signed those adoption papers 16 years ago, there were no instructions for how to raise this child or how to just “be there.” I just sat. We all sat there for a moment. Trevion said, “Well, that went better than I thought it was going to!” I thank the therapist for her work with my son. Trevion smiles and says, “They have really good Mexican food down the street, I want a Chile Verde burrito!” And now we are on burritos.

For days I reel from what I now know about this trauma in Tre’s life. I never ask him if there were condoms used, I am not sophisticated enough to think of that. I work through my guilt of not believing him when he returned from Atlanta and he whispered in a quiet moment, “I was raped.” I replay that over and over again. I thought he was lying. I didn’t know what to believe anymore. Finally, 10 days after our trauma conversation with the therapist, I break down. I imagine taking my Magic Mom Wand and scooping him up as the 18 months old child I adopted 16 years ago. I hold him in my arms while we rock in the rocking chair until he stops crying and then falls asleep. My tears stream down as I process what has happened to my precious boy. : :

Catch up on the series: Read past installments.

Trevion and Norena Gutierrez

Norena Gutierrez is Director of Development and Communications for Red Feather Development Group, a non-profit located in Flagstaff, Arizona. She is the adoptive mother of Trevion and his brother. Trevion...