There’s a boy I had in a group for 2 weeks. He is a smartass and very small in an unusual way. He walks with a limp. The fingers on both of his hands are very long, strained, rigid and contorted. He uses them when he talks to their limited capacity. His mouth and teeth are ill-formed and make him speak with an impediment. I strained to hear and understand him. He has long greasy hair and a long greasy attitude. When talking about my sensitivity to beauty and where it’s found I said “We wouldn’t kill a lady bug.” he interrupted and claimed he kills them all the time. He contradicted me at every turn and laughed at me. He got the other boys going. He was quite the instigator.
There is something about him I like. I had the boys sit in front of me and I slowly went through my PowerPoint. They were very talkative about the work. They asked a lot of questions. Some were really good questions. When I got to one of the images of a child’s block and quote: “I wish my life was free.” The small tough boy said, “What does that mean?” Is he in a place like this?” Me, “No.” The boy, “Maybe he should come in here to know what wanting to be free is.” I suggested that maybe it was metaphorical. Or maybe his parents are very strict. Or maybe the boy is suffering with something that won’t go away. He quieted. I asked them if they’d like to see the portrait the young photographer Nick Butler took of me and my scars. The two guards shifted in the room so they could see too (I didn’t know they were listening). The small and angry boy was suddenly still. He didn’t make a sound nor did he move. He just looked. Then he looked at me and said, “When I was a little boy I touched the stove and burnt the tip of my finger and it hurt so bad. The pain wouldn’t stop. I can’t think of that. I’m so sorry miss. That’s terrible what happened to you.” He was suddenly different. Instantly different towards me. Gentle and respectful. Referring to my portrait I said, I used to wish my life was free from this. Now, I know this isn’t who I am but it is why I hope to help others. It was time to go and he must have said goodbye and thank you five times as they were lined up, all in orange and their rubber sandals. I heard him yell one last goodbye from the hallway. I will never forget him.