He had gone along with the show one of my manics was creating until the final five minutes of class. I had had it up to here already and my eyes were snapping before he even took a seat at my table.
I don’t know what he did or said, but I evidently looked him straight in the eye and gave him a sermon about seeing the potential many were blind to. I wasn’t going to be there, I explained, during their transitional phase into the community when they might wake up and realize my assignment meant something. It might not too, but at least I was trying to make my assignments relevant. My voice grew sad as I recalled E., defenseless that morning, his eyes confessing far more than his words: “I dunno, Miss, I’m not used to this…” he gestured to the open space. “I see the fear in your eyes as you go to Phase II. This is just a tool to help you get through that,” I finished. Had I ever used the f-word with them? I tried to remember. We both seemed confused that I had dared say any one of them was afraid. He just smiled cooly, “Naw, Miss. No fear. Not us.”
Then he grew sober and settled into the pen and his paper. Conveniently, class was over before he could begin. He asked to cut his 7th hour class to finish his speech, and the other teacher was happy to do so. We had just finished his second paragraph about his education when his vein started twitching, his eyes grew moist, and couple of other behaviors caught my eye. He was a big guy and I didn’t want him getting upset.
We were talking about goals, how he wanted to learn about the real estate business from his uncle in Las Vegas. He didn’t like that city, the way everyone seemed snobbish, but he couldn’t go back to his home city. Sitting at my desk that afternoon, he claims he was more successful in Vegas, and wonders how life might have been different if he had stayed. I wonder too based on his stories. Nevada doesn’t offer programs like ours that will allow him to remake his life before the age of 25.
Like many others, gangs are a way of life. The gang and the family have become one and the same. They’ve even found a way to integrate and justify their religion into this lifestyle. On Sundays, he informed me, they didn’t discuss gang-related business in the home. He told me a few other rules that boggled my mind, but he can’t see the inherent conflicts.
I hope it works out for him. I only saw him one more time after this conversation. He got caught up in a situation a couple weeks before I left that put him on the verge of getting revoked from the program and serving his full adult sentence. All because of a girl.