What must go through his mind when the three pair of tennis shoes that dangle ominously from the telephone wires at the end of his street are nicer than the ones he wears on his feet?
I begin this piece not really knowing how it is going to end. Or even if it has to at all. But I feel it is one that I must write. A story that I must tell. See this is not one child’s story, but many. And it must be told. So I’ll begin.
He wakes up tired from having had a poor night’s sleep. Maybe he is sharing a bed or maybe the sofa is where he spends his nights. And yes, we all have shared beds and we all have slept on sofas. But every night?
I wake up each morning to the sweet aroma of freshly brewed coffee. Somehow it magically makes its way to my bedroom each morning and it gently whispers. I’m waiting, come on down when you’re ready. And I do. When I’m ready.
I am certain his transition isn’t as gentle as mine and I doubt he ever hears any whispers. In fact, many mornings he has to wake himself up. Get himself ready. If he feels like it. Usually it’s just easier to wear the clothes he slept in. The clothes he wore the day before. And maybe even the day before that.
Rush to the bus stop. Where he has to worry about who he may have upset the day before. Or on days he doesn’t make the bus, he must decide whether or not he walks to school. It’s rarely worth it. But he’s done it before. And when he does, they make such a big fuss over it that he tells himself he’ll do it every time he misses the bus. He knows he won’t though.
Once he gets to school he must make it through the gauntlet of sneers and jeers. This is just to get the nurse’s office, where he must swallow that awful pill that makes him feel. Not quite right. He was hungry when he woke up and yet now he is not. His body is forced to make it on what he was able to scrounge up the night before. Sometimes it’s a bag a of chips. Sometimes it’s cookies. Sometimes it’s…
Well, let’s just say many he goes to bed hungry.
He gets teased when he wears his glasses. So he doesn’t. Which means that not only does he get a headache, but that he can’t follow what the teacher is doing. He hears a grumbling noise and realizes that it is stomach. Now he’s hungry. But lunch isn’t for another two hours.
Not able to see, focus or relax he does the only thing he can think of. Weighing consequences doesn’t even cross his mind. What does it matter? Anything would better than this. His teacher does all that he can, but in the end it is not enough and must call for help.
Help for whom?
Even though he puts up a fight, he’s happy to be anywhere else.
At least now he gets to talk to one, maybe two people. That have the time to listen. Yet he realizes that at this point he’s not quite sure what to say.
He did hit that boy who wouldn’t leave him alone.
At the bus stop that morning.
But that was two hours ago.
What was his excuse for …
He doesn’t care anymore. He’s tired and hungry and he’s not even sure if he likes what he ordered for lunch. At least he has a whole bag of chips waiting on him when he gets home. That is if his brother doesn’t finish them first.
The noise in the cafeteria only makes his head hurt worse. Someone bumps into him, causing his milk to spill all over his pizza. No! No! No! He finds who he thinks bumped him and bumps him back. Somehow the teacher only sees him and now he is forced to eat his lunch all by himself. Since it’s soggy he doesn’t even want it now.
His brother better not eat those chips.
Because of his “bad choices” he is told he has no recess. What’s he have to lose now? That was the only thing he was looking forward to all day. And now…? He tires to keep still, but he can’t. Which doesn’t make sense because he has had nothing to eat all day. His body is running on anger now. Anger, stress and frustration.
When they go back inside the teacher says it’s time for Math. He enjoys working with his team. One of the girls always sneaks him a piece of candy. Which he devours in less than a second. As he looks up, he notices that there are only fifteen minutes left in the day. He can’t wait. After he packs up, his teacher asks if she can speak with him.
She reminds him that he is serving an after school detention today and that his mom called to say that she will be picking him up at 4:30.
No words. He is so tired he just wants to go to sleep. He tells himself that he’s not doing the work. He’s just going to put his head down until his mom comes to pick him up. His teacher doesn’t push it.
4:26, 4:27, 4:28, 4:29
Then it hits him!
He throws his backpack across the room. Now he has his teacher’s attention. He says something to him, but he doesn’t hear a word that is coming out of his mouth.
When he gets home he sprints to the kitchen, only to see the empty potato chip bag sticking out of the trash can.
He stomps upstairs. Lies down in the bed, that he shares with his three-year old brother. And tries to fall asleep. He hears gunshots down the street. He’s gotten use to them.
He falls asleep, but does not dream.
They died long ago.
He wakes up the next morning more exhausted than the day before.