“What do you do for fun? I mean, did (for fun)?” I asked. He’s as placid as he appears observant. I’ve never seen him make a move he didn’t have to, sometimes becoming so still in his seat I thought I’d yawn. Surely there was more to him than met the eye.
He seemed taken aback by the question, but answered honestly, “Nothin’ really. Drink. Drugs.”
“When did you start?”
“I was 12 when I started drinking with my brothers,” he answered.
I returned to my first question, “What did you do before that?”
“I remember reading that in one of your essays. You showed up high to practice, if I remember correctly,” I trailed off, leaving him to reply. He confirmed my memory and said he didn’t really care that he missed out on soccer. Neither did it bother him that he let down the team and his coach. I care so much about the things I get involved in, I can’t relate to this level of nonchalance, so I just shook my head. “When did you start smoking weed,” I continued.
“About a year after drinking. I took some behind my brother’s back,” he told me with a sly smile at the memory.
“Oh! Your brother didn’t want you to?”
“Naw, Miss. He told me not to.”
“Did he find out?”
“Well, what did he do?”
“He beat my @%&.” His face said that this was not a pleasant memory.
“Good for him,” I said, a little stronger than I meant to, “but he didn’t beat you hard enough it sounds like.” He smiles shyly. He’s getting better with direct eye contact, very un-ganglike of him, but he looks away now. We both know he’ll be doing drugs when he goes back to Mexico.
“Why did you continue? Was it to be an adult? Was it glamorous? Why?” I am still amazed when these guys defy the advice of their brothers, cousins, and others they look up to.
“They all told me not to,” he tried to explain, “but if they were going to, I was too.” I could see that. It was his style of defiance.
It was the same story, the same cycle, I had heard before. Now he was another link in the cycle. When, or if, he told his sister, his nephew, his anything, not to do this or that, they would do it anyway. This guy didn’t seem to care. But then, he doesn’t care about anything.
I had read his essay about his plans when he first gets out. When he serves his sentence, ICE will drop him off in Mexico and tell him to stay there. He came to prison before he was 18, and will leave as a 21-year-old; he came as a child, and must leave a man (whether he is one or not). You can see the stirrings of this reality in him, but it’s not yet real, so he imagines he can get out and relax for awhile before taking life seriously. At 21, he imagines relaxing means parties, and I know this means girls. When I asked him about marriage, because many of my students think that 21 is old for marriage, he shrugged and said he wasn’t anxious about this. What if he fathered a child? He was non-committal about this too, even though he acknowledged the likeliness of him doing so, and I reminded him about his own painful upbringing as a fatherless boy. (His dad lived with another woman, with their children, before getting shot to death). Conversations like this just leave me baffled, with my hands spread out. Who wants to perpetuate the pain they themselves experienced?