The youth-written stories in Represent give inspiration and information to teens in foster care while offering staff insight into those teens’ struggles.

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Love consumed me, one inch at a time
Donyaeh Hinson

I never got much attention from my parents. They seemed as though they didn’t care about me or my feelings, so I sought attention from other people. In school I was always the first person to raise my hand. At gym class I tried my hardest in everything because I wanted the approval of my classmates. I just wanted my mom and dad to acknowledge me as a person and their son, but that never came. When I was 13 I went into foster care in part because I was always running away from home.

But since then, two people have really been there for me. One is my foster mother, Marisol; another is Alina, my girlfriend. When it was cold outside, those two were the jacket that kept me warm. Having people who cared for me made me able to calm down from the stressful visits with my birth mom. I felt as though I wasn’t alone.

I met Alina when I was 15. Before that, I was a shy kid who had a hard time making friends. I didn’t really talk about my thoughts or feelings because when I was younger my mom didn’t support me or listen to me. If my mom had acknowledged my feelings, that would have made me feel loved. But she seldom asked me anything or encouraged me.

For example, I love to dance and I wanted to join the dance club in school, but my mom said no without even saying why. Another time, when I was 11, I stayed late at the library to finish a school project because we didn’t have a computer at home. (I didn’t have a phone to call and say I’d be late, because my mom said that I would just lose a phone.) I thought my mom wouldn’t mind because I was doing something constructive. But when I got home late, she hit me with the belt.

Running Away, Again and Again

So I ran away for the first of many times. I tried to figure out why my mom hit me. I couldn’t believe she was mad at me because I wasn’t doing anything bad. I was just at the library doing the project. So I guessed that it was because I’d tried to explain things and she really didn’t want to hear about it. So from that day forward I didn’t explain anything or express how I felt.

Instead I imploded in on myself like a black hole. In space, black holes pull everything in and compress it until no light can escape. That’s what I did with my feelings. When someone asked me if I had an opinion, I would give them what they wanted to hear and not what I really thought, keeping my true feelings bottled up.

After I ran away that first time I did it over and over again because I knew my mom wouldn’t listen to me explain how I felt or the reason I did something. I thought that maybe if my mom thought that she lost me she would begin to care about how I feel because she wouldn’t want to lose me. That never happened; instead she just beat me.

Finally, when I was 13, children’s services took me away. I cycled through three foster homes before ending up with my current foster mom, Marisol. No matter what she was doing, Marisol always found the time to listen to me. I don’t know why I was able to open up to her. All I know is that she gives me the respect and attention that I need to get my feelings out. She turns down the TV when I come in the room and she asks me to sit next to her. Then she listens and gives feedback. She knows what to say to bring my distress level down.

Weird and Beautiful

But I really found the love I’d been looking for when I met Alina. One day I was playing basketball, and she was sitting on the floor of the gym. “Hi, you’re my new best friend,” she said. Her voice hit a high C saying that and her face had the fakest smile. “OK,” I said nonchalantly. Every time I would pass her while playing basketball that day she would wave and smile. She had a beautiful smile.

But she was also really weird. Once I was asking her about homework, and she picked my nose!

“You had a booger that needed picking,” she explained.

“That is just nasty, but thank you, because now I can breathe,” I said.

Another time I was telling my friends about a basketball game: “Yo, guys, I was playing Liberty City when this guy...” and she squeezed my nipples really hard.

“What was that for?” I screamed.

“Your nipples are hard,” she said. One time in the lunchroom, she came up to me, sat down beside me and laid her head on my shoulder and just relaxed there like I invited her to the table. This was all before we even went out. I’d never met a girl who just waltzed in as though she were the queen of everything.

On top of that she blurted out rude things, and it scared me. Once we went into Payless shoe store with her sister, and Alina said loudly, “It smells like poor people.”

I was appalled. “Babe, I know you didn’t just say that,” I said. I was worried about people in the store looking at us funny. I broke up with her twice because she says the wrong thing at the wrong time and it really got to me. Alina liked to say things that were negative, which didn’t go with what I thought was right.

image by YC-Art Dept

Each time we broke up, I missed the weird things she did to me. I even liked that Alina did things to test my patience. It made me feel as though she wanted to know my feelings and my limits.

I missed every little detail of her when I wasn’t with her. I missed how beautiful her eyes looked in the sunlight. How her body felt so right next to mine as though my hands were built to hold her close to me. Every other girl within my optic range was flawed and imperfect. We got back together after each breakup.

We had been together about six months when I really started to think about love. I saw her everywhere, but then it would turn out to be some other person and I’d have to apologize. Love consumes your body one inch at a time. It’s like that feeling when your leg goes to sleep. It’s an intense feeling of amazement and awe. You gradually grow to care for this person. You want them to be happy and well all the time.


She seemed to love me back. She made sure that I knew I mattered to her. She’d call me multiple times when she knew something was up. Or when I was having a tough day she would just sit there and stare at me with the gentlest eyes and listen to every word. We cuddled and kissed. We talked about our lives together. She told me her secrets; I told her most of mine. But there was one big secret I was holding back.

Alina paid attention to me when I really needed it and when I needed her to just do her thing, she would. She knew when to ask if I was OK, as though she had a sixth sense about my feelings. At first I would just lie and tell her everything was fine when it really wasn’t. Then one day I just decided to stop lying and tell her what was wrong.

We were lying on the grass at the park naming what we saw in the clouds and I just broke down. I told her that my mom is very sick, and she isn’t getting any better. Her doctor at the hospital said that her condition was only going to worsen. I told Alina that, despite all our troubles, I love my mom and I really don’t want her to die. Alina is the only person I ever told everything about my mom.

I told her, “When my mom dies, I’m going to have a really hard time accepting it.” Alina hugged me tightly and told me that everything was going to be OK and that we are going to get though it together. Something about the way she said it made me believe her, and I felt better.

My girlfriend helped me figure out who I am as a person. She helped me realize that I shouldn’t wait for other people to do things for me. She wanted to graduate on time but it didn’t happen because she missed two credits. So she went to summer school. In summer school they messed up her classes so she had to go to school until January of this year. She went to school every day and got amazing grades, and now she has her diploma.

That showed me that if one way doesn’t work, then try another approach. My foster care agency, for example, takes a long time to get me the documents I need. Before Alina, I would just wait for them to produce the documents. Now I go get myself things, like my Social Security card.

She helped me grow up. One day I was in one of those moods where I don’t feel like listening to anyone except myself. “What’s your problem?” she asked.

“Nothing. I just don’t care right now,” I said, exasperated.

Making Me Better

“Well, I don’t know why you’re acting like this toward me because I didn’t do anything to you, and you’re not listening to what I have to say.” I knew I was being stupid and that I was upsetting her, so I corrected myself. She’s taught me not to put my feelings on others when they haven’t done anything.

One day Alina came to school with her hoody on and her head down. She put her head on my shoulder. “Babe, you OK?” I asked, worried.

“No, I didn’t sleep last night,” she sighed. Her shoulders were slumped. I knew those sleepless nights all too well. Every time I had a sleepless night, Alina would stay up with me for as long as she could.

We went to the cafeteria and she laid her head on my chest. “Babe, let me go get lunch,” I said, trying to get up.

“No, stay, I’m not hungry,” she mumbled, half asleep. So I ended up watching her drool on my shirt the whole lunch period.

I’m going to marry this girl someday. She’s there for me and listens to me when I have a real problem on my hands like my mom passing. I know that it’s only a matter of time before my mom has to go, but it eases the pain a little knowing that I won’t have to go though it alone. I will have Alina, and that is a very comforting thought. She loves and cares about me. She listens and acts on my behalf sometimes. She betters me as a person.

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