He was a rare bird. He stopped me at the temporary weight pile outside the school building, lounging on one of the equipment, to say good-bye and talk about investing in the stock market. He is one who makes it hard to leave.
They call him Ladybug, an apt description of the way his shoulders and back hump up around his ears, engulfing his squat neck. Eyes bulge behind his glasses out of a smooth, circular face, causing him to look like he is in an eternal choke-hold. When he first arrived, and no one could remember his name, the staff would say, “You know, the middle-eastern-looking… turtle… the weird-looking-dude.” We would nod our heads, “Oh, yeah, that one.”
At first he caused a stir, one who was forever in trouble for small, immature acts. He preferred the company of those who engaged in other strange activities, and this creeped me out because, unlike his buddies, he had a twisted mind he wasn’t afraid to use. Offenders hinted that my instinct about him was right; then I learned about his more notorious offense.
Hanging out one day with his roomies, they had the bad idea of trying something that has become popular in the adult facilities. Crushing up metal or other hard objects like dominoes, they cram this powder into designs under the skin. This sounds like a bad idea anywhere, especially in prison where diseases spread quickly. These boys thought it would be a good idea to try the process on their private areas. As the Lt. said, “You’re lucky you’re not permanently injured.” Ladybug turned dark in the cheeks. When he discovered that I knew the details of his thoughtless actions, he hung his head and the class laughed at our mutual embarrassment. There are some things a teacher should not know about her students.
We started to see a difference in him shortly after this. His shoulders lowered slightly, he started to gain status, he wasn’t so strange. The math teacher who has more experience said that I was watching someone come to terms with his crime and sentence; I was also watching someone mature very quickly. That’s why, toward the end, he was one I could have a nice, normal conversation with. I sometimes wondered where he came from because his speech pattern and interests were so different from his classmates, even though it was clear he was cut from similar cloth.
Because of the dark, cunning nature of his mind, I wonder how long he’ll make it in society. At the same time, thinking back on the last few conversations I’ve had with him, I see a glimmer of hope. He’s one I would’ve liked to see off to Phase II and III.