Hello! My name is Alexandra. Most people call me Alex or Alexis, but I prefer Alexandra. No one really cares to ask me my preference, so I gave up on correcting people long ago. I want to tell you my story. I have heard my whole life that I am worthless and that my mom should have done away with me. The woman, whom all I can do is thank for giving me life, since that is all that she ever gave me. All I know of my father is that he was one of many in a long line of affairs. I am not even sure if the man’s name on my birth certificate is real. “David Miller” may as well be “John Doe” as far as I am concerned.
For whatever reason my mother decided to carry me to term, in a world where doing away with me would have been easy. She gave birth to me in some alley in SW Washington DC. She had been high at the time. An older homeless woman found me lying in the snow. My mother had left a trail of blood as the only remaining evidence of her existence, in what would be her last appearance in my life. She survived, only to overdose 10 years later.
The old homeless woman dropped me off with some sisters who would feed her hot meals a few times a week. Unfortunately, the sisters could not keep me. As happens with most homeless children in this country, I was placed with Child Protective Services. I passed from foster home to foster home; 23 in all before the age of 13.
That last home did a number on me. It was where I lived the longest. There were four other foster kids in the home with me: two boys and two girls. The boys were 16 and 11 and the girls were 8 and 6. The foster parents were raging alcoholics who also dabbled in various drugs; meth being their favorite. Occasionally they would leave leftover meth lying around, when they were too high to know the difference. That is when, Chad, the 16 year old taught me about the power of meth, and eventually, he taught me about sex. Neither seemed like a big deal. Why not get high and have sex? They told us that it was natural at school and the school nurse had gotten me on the Pill when I was 11. She said I would have sex sooner or later anyway. I guess she was right. Eventually, Chad turned 18 and wound up in prison for jacking our “parents’s” car. That was the end of him in the story, but drugs and anonymous sex would dominate the next 8 years of my life.
At 15 I got tired of living with my foster parents and ran away. I lived on the streets. I had to avoid shelters because I did not want CPS to find me. They caught up with me a couple of times when I got arrested for shoplifting. I usually stole food and beer.
I had a few relationships, the longest being with my dealer. He used me as a mule for his political clientele. He told me that I was pretty enough and willing to do favors when necessary. Why not just get paid for sex too? Let’s just say, I know which Congressmen like young redheads. Occasionally I got an expensive meal and a night in a luxurious hotel. It beat sleeping in Bobby’s dingy apartment.
Bobby finally took up with some 18 year old and kicked me out. I was back to living on the streets. I was 23, homeless, and had fully turned to prostitution to make my living. My rich clients stayed with Bobby so I was back to sleeping on the cold, hard cement and eating only when I had some money.
One spring evening I was wandering through a college campus. I thought that I would blend in, not realizing the state I was in. I must have looked pretty bad because an older man wearing all black, except for white at his collar, gave me a sandwich, 20 bucks, and a business card with an address of a nearby shelter. He then ran off towards an enormous cathedral with a blue dome. The Church was lit up and people were hurrying in. I wondered what people were doing there at 8pm on a Saturday evening? It was warm enough to sleep outside in the open, so I found a place to sleep in a nearby cemetery. It was one of my frequent sleeping places during the warmer months. I would sneak in and hide until they locked the gates.
I spent the next few months in a booze and drug induced haze. I walked the streets in search of clients. I never had any problem finding one: young men, middle aged, even older men. All lonely and lost in their lust. I gave them what they wanted and they gave me what I wanted. We then discarded one another and went onto the next.
One night the tragedy that had been my life up until that point, came crashing down. It was autumn. The nights were starting to get colder. The shelter I usually stayed at was full for the night, and I would never make it to the nearest one before they locked up for the night. I honestly do not remember too much about that night. I was too messed up to know the difference. I don’t remember where those two men came from. I barely remember them taking turns on top of me. When they had had their fun, they left and I curled up in a ball along an alley. I heard church bells chime in the distance as I passed out for a few hours.
Days passed by in a blur. I never really thought about what had happened. I figured that was normal. That is all men need me for anyway. Why not take whatever they want and leave? I continued on my usual path.
One night in December, I hit rock bottom. Yeah, the actual bottom. I had scored a sandwich, of all things, and was just about to eat it when out of nowhere someone knocked me to the ground. They kicked and punched me. When I could not fight back anymore they took my sandwich and ran. These things happen when you live on the streets. It’s called survival of the fittest.
So, there I was lying in the snow, yet again. I was unconscious as snow flakes fell softly on my lifeless body. The only softness I had really known. I came to for a split second to see billows of white and black cloth blowing in the wind. Black shoes and running. And, then, I slept.
I awoke in terror. Pain and deep depraved ache had taken over my body. I screamed out as two women held me down. The agony was unending. The terror, soul shattering. I tried to claw my way out of the bed. I heard one woman say that this would be the worst of it. The other asked if it would be good for the baby. Baby?
Days passed by until I awoke one bright and sunny January morning. Sitting in a chair across the room from me was the most beautiful man that I had ever seen. He was holding a leather bound book and his head was bent low. He was mumbling to himself. He wore all white, and a black cape like object hung over the back of his seat. He was probably about 30, with a strong square jaw. He had dark black hair and the lightest blue eyes I had ever seen. He had a strong, but gentle voice. His eyes were full of light and serenity. A peace and joy that I had never seen before.
He closed his book and looked up at me with a radiant smile. I immediately wondered what he wanted from me and I put my guard up. They always want something from me. He introduced himself as Father Gabriel Moore. Father, I thought. Who goes by Father? You did not think that there were people in DC who had never met a priest before, or had dealings with a Catholic, or the Church. Let’s just say, we don’t run in the same circles.
He then told me that he had found me unconscious in the snow on his way to Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve. Given the state I was in, he wanted to get me help without also getting me arrested. He called a woman from a local parish who was a nurse, and a former addict. She had nurtured me through detox. Her name was Mary New, and her daughter, Theresa, had also been there helping me. He then said that he had to leave, but that he would be back frequently to check on me.
Later that week Mary came to see me so that we could talk about what had happened. I had a headache, my back hurt, and I felt fat. Mary asked if I knew who the father was. The father?, I asked. Of your baby?, she said. It was then that I realized with horror that I was pregnant. I spiraled into panic and confusion. She tried to comfort me, but I just screamed for her to get out. All I could think about was how I had no money, no job, at least not a licit one. I could not have a baby! The father could be any number of guys. Then it hit me. The deep crushing realization. That night in October came back to me in a haze. I had been without my birth control for a few days. I was going to the health department the next day. One of those two men was the father. One of them. I curled up into a ball and rocked myself to sleep. Eventually a restless sleep enveloped me.
I did not speak for days. Mary brought me food and checked on me regularly. I laid in bed mulling over my options. Father Gabriel came to visit me daily. Whenever he entered the room, this warmth and safety would wrap around me. I would blush and shy away. But, as I got to know him my confidence grew.
As I got stronger, I started to think about what I should do about the baby. The other girls on the street found ways to get abortions. I was sure that I could figure it out. This seemed like my best option. I just cannot have a baby! I have no way to care for them. I don’t even have a place to live. I told Mary of my plans. At first, she was silent. She asked me if I was sure and I said yes. Teresa came in and sat down with us. Mary then told me about her days as an addict and her three abortions. She had run out of an abortion clinic, half doped up, when she decided to keep Theresa. A group of sisters in the area had helped her and she converted to Catholicism. It saved my life, she said.
I told her that I did not need anyone to tell me what to do. She smiled and she and Theresa left to make us lunch. They continued to feed and shelter me. I thought about her words. I had even taken a walk to the closest abortion clinic. My belly now obvious for all to see.
I did not want my child to have the miserable life I had. It was better to kill them. After all, my foster parents had repeatedly told me that my mom should have aborted me when she had the chance. But, I never could bring myself to walk into that clinic. I saw groggy women leave with their boyfriends. At least they had someone to support them, I thought.
One spring day, as I was out for a walk, I heard church bells. They sounded vaguely familiar. I walked down the street a couple of blocks, until I stood before a stone building with a cross on top of a steeple. For some inexplicable reason, I felt the urge to go inside. As I opened the door, my eyes were met with darkness. As my eyes adjusted, I walked into the empty sanctuary. It was silent. A silence so deafening that I did not know how to deal with it at first. The light poured through stained glass windows. The golden rays warming abandoned pews. A single red candle burned next to a large, ornate golden box. It was beautiful. I ran my hands along the smooth, cold marble pillars. A faint scent of incense hung in the air. A statue to the right of the altar was of the most beautiful woman I had ever seen. She held a small child, who looked down at me. He was holding up two fingers.
I sat down in one of the pews. It creaked and groaned. I sat there for a good while. I enjoyed the quiet, warmth, and peace of that place. I was happy, until for no reason that I could understand, fear grabbed hold of my heart. I could not breathe. I had to get out of there as quickly as possible. I ran out, nearly knocking the parish priest over in the process. He asked me if I was alright, but I ran out into the street to breathe in the city air.
I did not belong in there. Me?! I do not belong in such beautiful places. I belong in the gutters, not among beauty. That woman, whomever she was, was the exact opposite of me. That child was hers. The one that I carry cannot be mine. This child will go to some family. If I cannot kill it, then at least it will go to someone who as an actual home. I will risk them ending up like me.
The next day Father came to see me. He would go for walks with me sometimes. I was getting quite big, but still needed the exercise. I greatly enjoyed our time together and I felt things for him that I had never felt for a man before. It confused and excited me.
I had learned a bit about his life. He explained some of it to me, but he was patient in his explanations of the Church. What he talked about intrigued me, but deep down I knew that I was unworthy of such a life. What I knew, was that I loved him. And finally on one of our walks I could not contain it, and I kissed him. He gently grabbed my wrists and sat me down on a nearby bench. I protested. He then told me about his vow of celibacy. Celibacy?! You mean there are men who actually can give up sex? But, I love you. He told me that he loved me too, as a great friend and sister. Isn’t that what every woman wants to hear? He then asked me to walk a couple of blocks with him if I could.
We ended up standing in front of the stone building that I had run away from. We walked inside. Silence. Deep silence. He led me to the front of the church. He pointed up at cross with a man hanging from it. It was strange in its beauty and power. He then said that you are not in love with me. You are in love with Him. For you see, my life is His. He dwells in me. I was hurt and confused. He then told me that he had left a gift for me with Mary and he would come see me in a few weeks when the baby was born. He left. I felt utterly abandoned. Another man leaves. I did not understand.
When I got back to the house, I found a gift bag on my bed. Mary had gone to work at the hospital. Inside were two leather bound books. One was smaller and said The Gospels on it. On the inside it said, “Start here, Father”. The other book was a beautiful Bible, my first. I placed it in a drawer and began to read from Matthew.
I read all of the Gospels in one sitting. I read with awe, confusion, wonder, and a very deep skepticism. What does Jesus of Nazareth have to do with me? What does that man on the Cross have to do with the likes of me? This is the 21st Century.
Weeks went by. I kept reading over and over again those words that bewildered me and gave me something like hope. But, I still did not understand. Then the agony of labor hit. Mary got me to the hospital. I labored for hours. I wanted to give up. I was ready for the baby to be with someone else. Finally, a brand new scream broke out into the world. I was stunned and exhausted. The nurses worked to clean her up. Tears streamed down my face without my realizing it. And out of nowhere I asked to hold her. As they placed her in my arms, the most amazing thing happened. I felt love. I knew love. I chose love. A love unlike anything I had ever known. I had the deepest gratitude that I had ever experienced. I instantly loved this stranger. It was then that I knew I could not give her up. I could not let her go. And I haven’t.
My understanding of what Father was trying to tell me was slow going. I felt hurt and unwanted. I was exhausted from the duties of being a new mother. He came to see me a couple of weeks after the baby was born. I had named her Hope because that is what she gave me. He encouraged me to continue reading the Gospels and told me to consider attending a Mass. I was unsure.
I finally agreed to go and I sat in the very back pew holding hope. She slept. I felt self-conscious and guilt ridden. Once again my whole life told me that I should not be there. I spent most of Mass fighting the urge to flee. Then, the strangest thing happened. The priest said the words of what I now know is the consecration. I had read the Gospels over and over again for months trying to see how they applied to me. Then it hit me. Jesus is here now. He told me so in John. He is calling to me. Me?! Me. A nobody. A former prostitute, drug addict, throwaway. My whole like I had not known love or compassion. Or so I had thought. Then I remembered: the nuns who had saved me as a baby, the church bells, the older priest at the campus, Father Gabriel, Mary, Theresa, and now Hope. That was Love on the altar. He had been calling me all along. This nobody, was somebody to the Creator of the Universe.
Being a mother has not been easy, but it has saved my life. Choosing to abandon my old ways and follow Christ is a daily struggle, but it is the only struggle worth making. My life, by the world’s standards, should have ended with my mother killing me. I lived in emptiness, loneliness, and forsakenness for most of my life. I used people and they used me. I was raped, beaten, a prostitute, and a junkie. But that is all over now. I am a new creation.
So, was my life worth living? Even knowing the pain and despair that I endured? No life is beyond salvation. No life is not worth living.