I was always afraid that I would accidentally call him by his nickname Se-“Gay”-Via after I heard it. Fortunately I wasn’t around when he lived up to this, but it appeared to be common knowledge. I was uncertain if this was a permanent condition, or his way of getting through his stay.
My eyebrows jumped when I overheard him being teased for his ICE retainer. Evidently from a family dominated by Spanish blood, he was as pale as me with blue eyes. I would have believed he came from the northern mid-west, but he was going back to Mexico after his sentence.
Another strange one with even stranger hygiene habits, I let him lurk in the back of my classroom. Even though other teachers complained about him, he always seemed to get his work in, and did well. Occasionally I wondered where his head had gone on particular assignments, but then another teacher remarked he had been a sniffer on the streets. They never fully recover. In fact, they are the most erratic students we put up with because they experience shocking moments of clarity and intelligence only to fall back into murky waters out of which we can not hope to pull them. At those moments it is painful to see what was lost, what could have been.
When Oro was trying to study for the GED the other week, he allowed himself to get distracted by my other students. He talked about how he never managed to earn status in Phase I because of doing stupid things for two years. This led to telling us all how his room mate, Segovia, got dropped two or three levels for “playing with bugs.” I had to ask.
So he told us how they collected a black widow, two praying mantis, and a scorpion. “The Widow was cool,” he exclaimed and went on to describe how they kept her in a jar for two months, catching little bugs during their time in the yard to bring back to her. Then they stripped two cotton swabs, placed them in a criss-cross fashion in the jar, and watched her spin her web. The scorpion, I believe, bored them, but the praying mantis fascinated. One was large and white, the other small and green. I took the occasion to ask if they knew what female praying mantis were known for, and shocked them. “Miss, how do you know so much?” they asked. I stayed in school and listened.
From a security standpoint, I understood why we had to discipline the offender. I wouldn’t have wanted to sleep in a room full of offenders knowing that any one of them could drop the widow or scorpion on my bed. Even though I understand that, I told him I would’ve written the report, and then assigned them to write their own report about their observations for a partial science credit on their transcript. They probably learned more in those two months than their year in science class. He laughed, but I meant it.
Control called for movement, and I just shook my head. Boys. And bugs. You just never know what these guys are going to do next.