Draft number one of this narrative was written not 24 hours after I met yet another amazing young lady named Paige. This draft is number 15, and at almost six months this is the longest it’s ever taken me to finish a single article.
More than two years ago, I wrote about a talented young artist whose name was also Paige.
It seems like yesterday when I met that Paige. A 14-year-old artist who so captivated me with her talent and self-possession at that young age, I wrote an entire article about her. The only other artists I’ve devoted entire articles to were Bill Sienkiewicz and Denys Cowan.
My editorial was a plea for Paige to consider comics and its related businesses as part of what will certainly be a fantastic career in art. She’s a woman, she’s black, and she’s an artist.
A Compton office for the Klan would not be as rare a combination in this industry.
What are the odds I’d meet two black girls named Paige? What are the odds that both Paige’s would be artists, beautiful, and brilliant young ladies? They even look a bit alike – although the Paige I recently met is much darker, they could fool a person or two into thinking they were related.
They have so much in common, share so much, and couldn’t be more different if one was born in outer space.
The original Paige’s story was one of a bright young artist without a care in the world. Her smile as bright as the sun, her story and future a happy one. This Paige’s story is not a happy one, her future is anyone’s guess and her smile is dim and sad.
I talk a lot of smack – some think my smack is spun hype. It’s not. Unfortunately, it’s my life. Those ‘boys in the hood’ survival stories are all true. I’ve survived some shit that people I’ve known for 30 years thought was smoke-and-mirror bluster to underscore my badass image.
Nope – all true. Where I grew up, threats to one’s life weren’t uncommon. Twice someone tried to kill me. I survived mostly by luck and a bit of street smarts.
Compared to Paige’s ordeal, my brushes with death now seem comical.
Paige was raped repeatedly for a week, brutally and without mercy, when she was eight years old. I’m sorry, there was no easy way for me to say that, lord knows I tried 14 times. The attacks were at her school and came from older kids Paige had to see every day.
I survived my brushes with death mostly by blind luck, a well-connected sister, and an incredible mother. I was helped and still just barely endured. Paige not only survived her hell, she beat the shit out of the devil in the process, and up until very recently did so on her own.
Paige, like her namesake, is a remarkable young lady. To be so young and so well put together is rare. Unfortunately, what happened to Paige is not nearly as rare. Most black women (yes, most) I know have had some type of sexual assault committed on their person. Paige fell hard into that category. A horrible and all too-common classification.
Paige’s horror, at the time, did have an uncommon distinction: kids raped her. Eight years later it’s not so uncommon. I can’t fathom in the least the nightmare her 8-year-old self lived. I’ve written about violence against women I’ve known much too often, and always at some point I rant about how I’d like to see the rapists suffer.
I’d like to hope and pray for a time machine, confront those miserable little bastards before they reached the bathroom where the attacks took place, and erase them.
Fuck the space-time continuum.
But are the kids to blame? Yeah, they sure as hell are. I don’t give a damn how liberal I am, kids past a certain age know full well what’s right and what’s wrong. I will concede they most likely lacked the care other kids were afforded, having the misfortune of being born to worthless parents.
How I came to know Paige’s story is both humbling and empowering. Paige’s mom is producing a documentary film looking at the alarming amount of sexual assaults there are on America’s college campuses. For women of color, three out of five will be subject to the violence of rape.
For more than 20 years I’ve been involved in efforts to bring attention and ultimately end widespread violence against women. I prefer smaller venues like high schools and community centers. There’s an intimacy in a smaller setting that never fails to unite the audience. It also emboldens those to seek help or counsel in the midst of a supportive group.
On occasion, I’m lucky enough to do a large event that manages to produce the same kind of closeness. Such was the auction benefiting battered women that my dear friend and idol Harlan Ellison and I co-hosted at DragonCon in 1995. It was with that in mind I accepted a speaking engagement at a large event targeting a vast, ill-informed, and unsuspecting audience.
Think about this for a second – three out of five women of color confronted with violence on a college campus where they should expect to be safe. That’s unacceptable at any level for any woman, black, Asian, white, or fucking green. That should shock every parent of a young lady bound for college.
Before the event, I got to know Paige and we became close very quickly. I’m pretty sure Paige read some of my articles on women in my life. This year I’ve written reams about my mom Jean and my sister Sharon, the real life models for Jean and Sharon Hawkins, Static’s mom and sister. Late last year I wrote a series of articles about my beloved high school art teacher, Mrs. Darwin.
All of the articles deal with loss and pain. All of those incredible women met with untimely deaths – in the case of my sister and grandmother, violent ones. I’m convinced Paige was somehow moved by what I wrote and decided to share with me what she had not shared with anyone else.
“I’m not sure how to ease into this so I guess I will just go for it. It’s taking me a long time to be able to write let alone say these words. Nine years to be exact. Its affected me physically and most of all emotionally. I am not proud of how I used to handle what happened but this is the truth.”
“When I was eight years old, I was raped by boys at my school. It went on everyday for an entire week.”
That’s how my young friend began her letter to me. The rest of the letter is a heart-wrenching description of her torment, which succeeds in doing what I thought impossible. Paige’s account succeeds in making me cry the moment I think of it.
I thought I was cried out from my year of death and betrayal. I thought wrong.
As of this writing, Paige has told her mom she was raped. Nonetheless, she has not shared with her mom what she shared with me and I’m not sharing it here. Trust me, you don’t want to know. I’m panicking some people with my constant balling and that includes myself.
This incredible young woman lived with this gargantuan nightmare by herself for 9 years. Not just any nine years, her childhood years. It’s hard to imagine what kind of strength that takes if you’re an adult, let alone a child.
I couldn’t do it. That kind of pain? Alone? No way. I’m nowhere near that strong. I’m nowhere near that magnanimous. At eight, Paige was afraid of what to do, ashamed of what happened and confused. As she got older, her choice became clear to her: to protect her mom from the realization that would (did) knock her off her feet as hard as a Mike Tyson right hook.
Why am I telling Paige’s story here?
This from a guy who does not (did not) believe in fate, destiny, providence or any ‘outside force’ that dictates my life on a pre-ordained path.
I have no other way to describe the ‘why’ of this and yeah, I tried – 14 times before this, I tried. Thousands and thousands of words later, fate is as accurate a word to describe the chain of events as wet is to describe water. It’s my belief fate intervened and you, dear reader, are just the latest stop on its path.
Paige’s mom starts working on a film about women of color and the epidemic of sexual abuse on college campuses. She had no idea that Paige, at 17 about to enter college, was abused. Paige and her mom were godsends during my dark days dealing with my mom’s death. Paige confides in me, when I had no strength. None.
Yet somehow her trust in me gives me strength, not just for her, but also for me.
What are the odds?
After almost 10 years Paige is moved to unburden herself and thought her mom strong enough to handle it. She wasn’t, she was floored, understandably so. But as hard as her daughter’s revelation hit her, Paige’s decision to go public with her story uplifted her.
Yeah, Paige is going public with her story. Like I said, compared to Paige, I’m a little bitch.
I sent this article to my first Paige before it was published. I wanted to make sure I wasn’t exploiting her uplifting story to try and tell the heartrending story of her namesake. She would have to be okay with it or I would not mention her. The parallels and dissimilarities between the two Paige’s are remarkable and my take on the story would suffer for sure. I know, more than a few drafts taught me that.
She said yes, as I knew she would. She’s cool like that.
She was easy – my job was hard: write, then convince myself what I wrote was worthy of a young lady’s incredible act of selflessness and generosity. Fourteen drafts later, I felt I wasn’t even close. On top of that, I imagine many of you are wondering what the hell this story is doing on a pop culture site where the primary objective is to regale you with news of superheroes. that I’ve got covered: this story is of a superhero, or more accurately, it’s the continuing story of a superhero.
The two Paige’s are as different as night is from day and as similar as Clark Kent and Superman, because the two are the same person. Like Superman, Paige hid her secret identity from her friends and family to protect them. Deciding to fight the almost decade-long battle by herself.
I first wrote about an incredible 14-year-old girl. Then I wrote about a scared 8-year-old child and the 17-year-old teenager. I’m sure I’ll be writing about Paige again – how could I not? She’s my superhero.
All that’s missing is her Invisible Jet.
Or… is it?