In her new memoir "Never Let Me Go", Utah attorney Nicole Lowe tells a story of the unlikely path that lead her to where she is today.
Nicole Lowe’s memoir is a snapshot of gothic culture in 1990’s Salt Lake City.
A 14-year-old Lowe and her friends ditched school to roam the streets, taking shelter in abandoned buildings and parks, often under the influence of psychedelics. They were regulars at a gothic dance club in Sugar House called Confetti Club. But it wasn’t just typical teenage rebellion. Lowe’s feeling that she was invisible in her Mormon home lead her to join what can only be described as a gothic cult she referred to as The Charade.
“What we believed is our souls were from this other world,” Lowe says. “And they somehow got wrenched out of our bodies there and we were placed here by some magical force.”
In this alternate world, Lowe was a princess who was going to save her people and bring her divided nation back together.
“So I felt like I was this important person, which is what I was lacking in my everyday life,” she says. “I felt totally accepted and protected and loved when I was with my coven.”
Lowe’s brother Jason was also part of The Charade.
“We had some really good times hanging out downtown and tripping on acid and eating mushrooms and just laughing for hours and hours and just having a good time,” he says.
But those happy moments came with a heavy dose of reality.
“Getting stuck in storms outside, when it’s cold and miserable. Don’t have shelter to go to. Those were some pretty hard times,” Lowe says.
Lowe sometimes stayed in Memory Grove, a park tucked in a small canyon just east of the Utah State Capitol.
“We slept really close together like little sardines in a can and we had trench coats that we would wrap up in,” she says.
Lowe takes me to areas of the creek where she bathed, a meditation chapel where she performed ceremonies and the foundation of an old house, where in her book she describes waking up in the rain, screaming from a nightmare. Nights like those were common after she was sexually assaulted by a man she met at a club.
“He had alcohol. So I left with him,” she says. “And he took me back to the paint factory that used to be on 21st south and 3rd west. And that’s where he raped me.”
Lowe never went to the police. She sought comfort in drugs and her friendships on the street. Her boyfriend used the assault to justify controlling her with violence. The abuse eventually led Lowe to steal a car and flee Salt Lake City to California and then Oregon, with another man who would become the father of her first child. When she gave birth at 17, she knew her life had to change.
“I held him in my arms and he was so tiny. I couldn’t take him out there,” Lowe says. “I didn’t want that lifestyle for him. I didn’t want him to hurt like I had hurt and to be hungry like I had been hungry.”
It’s all a stark contrast to the life Lowe lives today. After working for The Utah Department of Child and Family Services for three years, Low went to law school and became an assistant Attorney General in the Child Protection Division for the state of Utah. She also runs a free legal clinic out of Volunteers of America’s Youth Homeless Shelter downtown.
Low says things are different for homeless youth now than they were when she was on the streets. Kids can get housing, substance abuse treatment and a way back into school or work. Lowe’s job is to help them remove legal barriers that could keep them from getting jobs or housing.
Today she’s talking to 22-year-old Gabe Estrata.
Estrada says a bad experience on meth scared him into finally getting help after years of drug abuse.
“It kind of clicked in my head,” Estrada says. “I pulled my head out of my behind. My daughter was the main thing too as well.”
He was reassured when he found out about Lowe’s past. Estrada says Lowe made him realize that everyone has a story.
“Not a lot of people see that potential of ‘use what you’ve been through to make you stronger’. I did not do that for I would say three and a half years. I did not do that. I let it weaken me,” Estrada says.
Lowe says her Memoir isn’t just a shocking glimpse into her former life, it’s a way to inform families and the justice system about why young people make the decisions they do and how to reach them when they’re slipping away.
“We all see potential in these kids,” she says. “And we have to wait for that to grow. We have to wait for them to find their one reason and I believe they all have this one thing they have out there that will motivate them to become who they can be. Who they really want to be.”
Lowe was never the dark princess she once believed herself to be. But her reality today, clearly has roots in that fantasy. In addition to her memoir, she’s currently working on a fantasy book series based on The Charade.