Marlene Kurtis Copout #1

Marlene Kurtis

St. Petersburg,Florida Straight 

March 1988 to September 1989

 Before ending up in Straight in March of 1988, I had never heard of Straight Incorporated. I was an out of towner from Titusville Florida which was 3 hours away. I was not the type of Straightling that didn’t do much to deserve being put in there. I was a terrible teenager.The drugs I did before ending up at Straight are Pot, Alcohol, acid and uppers. I was drinking Jim Beam in mass quantities, smoking TONS of weed. My parents knew I had tried pot, a neighbor’s parent had ratted me out. They asked me about it all the time and I lied to them. I drank heavily too. I got caught stealing a bottle of Bully Hill from the grocery store. I ran and drove away but they got my license plate information. I sold my horse and was dwindling the money away out of my bank account that I got from buying pot. I was skipping school all the time and finally dropped out. My mom had me drug tested but I put a put a packet of salt in the urine specimen and it came out negative!

I had dropped out of Astronaut High School on 800 War Eagle Blvd. It is not a high school for astronaut training. It is a normal High School located on the Space Coast. I also ran away from home twice. Once to Oklahoma and the last time to California. I was 15 when I ran away to Oklahoma and was there for a few weeks. I went with 2 other girls and one of them had a friend out there we stayed with. We were drinking pretty heavily. California is another story. I was 16 and with 2 other girls again, different ones. Driving across country from Florida to California was insane and we encountered many close calls. We stayed in Jacksonville, Florida for about a week with a band getting high then started out on our cross country trek. We would steal gas by gassing up the car and speeding away from the gas station. We were chased by the cops once doing that and got away by driving through deserted country roads. We slept in the car. Everything was just dandy partying and driving until we hit Arizona. That’s when everything went awry. We were tired…. hungry…. We ended up partying with 2 truckers and one of my friends lost her mind. She got really upset and drove off! Myself and my other friend thought she had left us for good and so we jumped in the truck because it was headed for California. We hitchhiked the rest of the way. Finally a truck driver we were riding with learned about our story and convinced me to call my mom. She in turn convinced me to left her come get us. She also talked to the truck driver and cut a deal with him to get me to the airport. Without our other friend, we had no car and maybe $100 bucks. And so, when I finally arrived in California, I was taken directly to the airport by the truck driver where my mom was waiting.

My parents had talked to me about a “girls school”. They talked to me several times during the year leading up to this incident about putting me somewhere. They got me back from California and I knew I was going away. It wasn’t even a discussion. They told me I was going to Straight and I went. Someone that worked with my mom at the Space Center told them about it. It`s funny though because no one else in Straight was from the Space Coast area of Florida. NO ONE.

My parents were scared to death. I can honestly say, I do not blame them one bit. They were trying to save my life. Part of me still believes that lingo about ending up dead or institutionalized. I wouldn’t have made it out of adolescence without some sort of intervention. I blamed myself all these years and lived in fear and guilt. I always thought I deserved what happened to me in Straight. Not until another Straight Survivor helped me realize that I needed help, I did not deserve Straight, no one did that I allowed myself to really feel the pain that I had stuffed down all these years.

My memories of Straight are still not always clear. I remember certain things vividly but the day to day stuff is lost to me. I clearly remember my copouts and certain other things that were authentic to me. Specific raps and open meetings are a haze. There is only 1 OMR I actually remember that had a significant emotional issue. EVERYTHING that was not “me” I cannot remember and that is the majority of the time in straight.

Forced to SIT in one place. Not just sit, but sit in a very specific way or have a fist thrust into your spine. No movement, no slouching, no crossing your legs, no eye contact, just sit while complete craziness surrounds me every second. I cannot respond for fear of being slammed to the concrete yet again. Any false move would result in extreme consequences. My body aches from the rigidity and my mind is screaming for any sense of normalcy or authentic emotion that is not being shoved down my throat against my will. I have learned my lesson too many times and so I sit quietly and do what they want me to do. There is no escape yet ALL I think about IS escape. They keep me in a high state of anxiety and fear but I’m always waiting for my chance. There are people placed at the exists, there are straightlings everywhere. They are on all sides of me just wanting me to try something…

I would guess I had been there about 2 months. It was early in the morning and most of the oldcomers were at school or work. A weak junior staffer was sitting in the tall chair front of the group. There were only a handful of second phasers, a handful of misbehaviors, the first phasers that were halfway washed enforcing the group because they are trying to prove something so they could go home and then there were the rest of us. Just a bunch of scared first phasers feeling desperate, we were the majority on this particular day.Out of nowhere someone on the guys side of the group makes a run for the door. Several people chase him, others follow and chaos ensues… I take my shot and run through the mayhem toward the double doors to the front right of group in the back of the building. Some people are in front of me and others are behind me. Probably 4 that were actually trying to cop out and another 10 chasing us. Everyone was running either trying to get away or trying to catch and drag those copouts back to group. It was hard to tell who was coping out and who the enforcers were. First phasers were dragging people back to group! To my surprise I made it and pushed through the double doors into the sunlight. I hadn’t seen the sun in months, it almost blinded me. Squinting and running, I didn’t know where I was going but I was running for my life.I kept going into the woods just past the building. The brush was thick with pine trees and palmetto bushes. I needed to hide quick, they were everyhere… all around me and coming fast. I noticed several thick low pine trees with years of pine needle build up under them and I dove for all it was worth. I pushed the pine needles to the side, scrunched myself into the fetal position and pull the pine needles back over me. I literally buried myself under that Pine Tree!

I heard them coming. They were calling out and screaming my name. My heart felt like it was going to explode. It was beating so fast and sounded so loud to me. I was gasping for air and I tried to calm my breathing down. At that moment I heard the crunch of feet in the brush around me and then I saw a foot step right next to me and again heard my name being yelled as loud as anyone can yell. I thought they found me for sure, but the foot steps kept going! This went on for 20 minutes listening to them calling out for me. I wasn’t moving and barely breathing.

The voices finally faded and the movement ceased. I still couldn’t move. I laid there buried under that tree for several hours too paralyzed with fear to move. When I came out, I crawled through the woods in a far enough radius to clear the building and the Straight Inc. corporate office. Then I was faced with Gandy Boulevard, a high speed 4 lane divided highway. There was no turning back. I stared at the road for a long time waiting for a break but there is never a break in traffic on that part of Gandy. I figured I would rather be dead than go back the way I came so I went for it. I ran and hurtled the guard rails dodging 50 mile an hour traffic in both directions…

I made it across Gandy and through the adjoining neighborhood to the gas station next to the mall. I went in and promptly stole a pack of Virginia Slims. That’s back when they kept displays of cigarettes by the cash register. I pretended to busy myself with the magazines and slipped them into my pocket. Then I nonchalantly asked the attendant for a pack for matches. This was a huge success and worked like a charm.

Sunlight and a smoke never felt so good in all my life. At that point I started to push my luck. After smoking half a pack of Virginia Slims, I went to the mall and was directly arrested for shop lifting makeup from Walgreens. I had my priorities backward. I hadn’t planned out what to do once I got through the doors. I was not from the area and had nowhere to go. This was a lesson that would prove helpful down the road for next time. I would need a plan to get myself half way across the state… NEXT time.

The cop was nice under the circumstances, I complained about the cult called Straight that I was forced into. I tried to explain it and beg him not to make me go back but I came up short in my efforts. How do you explain it? He allowed me to smoke a few more cigarettes and booked me. I was back in group before the sun went down.Does everyone remember Marlene? While she was gone she smoked cigarettes and got arrested for shoplifting. With a roar I heard the chant of a hundred straightlings that still haunts my mind “Hi Marlene, we love ya Marlene.”

BRILLIANT ~ I was so close, I actually made it and then blew it. I was gone for 8 hours. Just another day at Straight Incorporated! Stay tuned for Marlene`s copout #2