It was Tuesday’s letter that socked my hope in the gut. It wasn’t my letter, I should add. He told me about it a few days later.
“I have to go home, Miss,” he declared. Noting that I wasn’t going to respond to his change of plans in the three minutes we had left in class, he pressed on, “I got a letter in the mail. It looks like an ordinary letter, but,” he wasn’t sure how to continue. I wear blue after all, I’m a “cop.” The invisible showdown of the doppelganger over, he risked, “but there are… codes. And I have to go back or they’ll kill someone.” He couldn’t continue.
I’m not sure where I found my tongue, but I managed to croak a one word question, “Family?”
“To make sure you show up,” he offered by way of an explanation.
I knew what that meant. I also knew they wouldn’t want him to show up if they hurt his family. Think mayhem.
I was left to resent the letter in silence after they called movement. The declaration, “I have to go back,” ringing in my ears, casting a shadow over everything. Surveying my class the next morning, I had to resist hating them and all they stood for. Anything that so much sniffed of a gang outraged me.
Only when one would ask, “Hey, Miss, come help. What does this mean?” would the spell break. I didn’t hate this one or that one; he wasn’t responsible for the sick feeling in my belly. Even so, I was starting to wonder if I could look at them with the same measure of grace and forgiveness as before?
He assured me to some degree that my research over the weekend was true. Most gangs in the area are social in nature without the demands of the hierarchy he now faced; and most of the inmates I saw on a daily basis were members of those nominal gangs. Time perhaps would ease the pain of the moment.
He had real dreams and real plans we had worked months developing. I was as excited for his future as any teacher. I might be upset now as I watch the porters take out my trash which contains his dreams (poof–gone with the will of the gang); I might seriously question why God wrote him into my story; but I must revive my Hope that one of my offender-students will do well, once the stars have stopped spinning.