I saw a picture today.
Strange... it was accompanied by your height and weight. It was labeled with your name and something called DOB... the date listed was your birth day. Funny, right? Despite the fact that the picture looked exactly like you, the hair color and eye color were both listed as "brown". I knew then that it couldn't be you. Your hair is dark ash. It sticks up all over your head, especially in the back where it is nearly impossible to cut in a way which doesn't cause it to stick out funny, and they didn't mention that. The description would have said that because that's important. Your eyes are something like "brown", but they're a lot more like transparent. What's in there clearly doesn't have a color... or if it does, it's hurtandfightandfearandfuckyouandhugme... but it's not called "brown". Anyone who looked into them would know that. I knew it the first time I looked you full in the face.
That's a lie. I felt it the first time I watched you from behind, struttin down the road, back straight, shoulders squared, head tilted a little higher than necessary on what could only be a newly very tall frame so that nearly everyone would have to ask to permission to see those eyes.
Anyway, he had to be someone else's kid. If he'd been you they would have mentioned that smile that just don't quit with the under-bite and the way you look down a little when you're half-embarassed/half-proud when I'm laughing at how funny you are and how bad I'm beating you at Scrabble.
He wasn't smiling, but he reminded me of you a little.
There are a couple of bruises on that kid's face and neck. I'm curious as to where they came from... it's my nature. You know I always wanna know where things come from... always have 2.5 million questions. Remember that time you were fighting this kid, and he threw that mug at you? Poor white kid, you got that big purple bruise on your arm with that big knot under the surface. You said it didn't hurt, but you flinched a little when I felt the knot. I bet if I touched that kid's face, something sore would be on the surface. I wonder if he would flinch... I wonder if he would let me...
Remember that time you got too angry to be still? Remember how that man called you "son" and something snapped and it was all you could do to leave the room to avoid fighting him? Remember how I put you in the car and we didn't speak and we went to breakfast because I was out of ideas... and we ate pancakes and you spoke about the people whose son you are... and you experimented with syrups and I thought about how close you were to... well, to the mess that kid in the picture's in? How close you were to falling off an edge that would be the fulfillment of everything these people whose son you are had taught you?
I know that you don't remember how badly I wanted to get into that car and drive so far away...
drive until we were in a place with no cell phone reception
where none of your home boys could find you
where DSS stood for "Damn Silly Story" (or something equally descriptive)
a magical place where we could go back in time
and you could magically be 5 years old again
and I could pick you up
sit you on my lap
and hold you
while you told me all about the flowers you destroyed and where the stains on your shirt came from and how you wanted to be Superman and how slippery the tadpoles in the pond are...
where I could make sure that your hair didn't stick up in the back,
and your dreams weren't nightmares faced alone,
and you could play basketball in the yard with friends who didn't know what weed was unless we were talking about dandelions,
and I could make you peanut butter and jelly sandwiches,
and you would get at least some more time before you knew what it felt like to be punched and hurt and dismally disappointed,
and I could take a bat to anyone who even looked like they might make you feel like that.
A place where someone would be able to show you what a real man looks like and how he goes about protecting and defending and representing and providing and loving.
A place where you could grow from that chubby little boy you told me you were into the very tall, strong, generous, smart, affectionate, defender of younger kids I always knew you to be.
A place where there would be pictures of that chubby little boy doing things chubby little boys do so that you didn't forget him when you grew tall like the trees.
Where your smoking of cigarettes and love of curse words really would be my biggest worries.
Where the facial hair that still hasn't grown in would be the biggest of yours.
(That kid doesn't have hair on his face either. See? It takes some people a while.)
I don't know where you are right now. I haven't really heard from you since they put you out for being so mad that you couldn't stop punching someone and too mad to talk and too big for that to be safe... except that time we went to take the SAT in hopes of leaving the college option open for some time in the future when you felt like you could take on a project other than staying alive and then had lunch and you threw bread at pigeons and laughed like someone half your size.
I think about you every day... I think about you like there's some big, dumb hole in my brain/heart the shape of your big, dumb head. I still expect to see you at the library or walking around the neighborhood or asleep on the chairs in my office. You come to mind unbidden at night when I talk to God before attempting sleep. I think about you every day in the breath just before I think about how I'd be out of a job if we could all get the love we need and everyone thought a little more about justice and hugs and education and prayer and training and respect and affection and pancakes and Superman and people who hold you hand when you're scared and a little less about blame and punishment and lessons and entitlement... forget back-flips on the tightrope, wouldn't THAT be MAGICAL. Bring me a circus filled with THAT.
I'm wondering if the people wherever you are know that peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are code for "I love you, and it's safe to stop acting like a time bomb." I wonder if that kid is as disarmed by peanut butter and jelly as you were. I wonder if anyone even tried that.
He really did look a lot like you.
His eyes called my name and "help" and "maybe it's too late" all at the same time, and I had to sit down outside where there was air in a hurry.
Call me. Let's start driving...