I saw him again last night.
I found him this morning.
In a very private place, where no one will ever look, I keep a few things of my own. Having been part of a couple for coming on to 39 years, it's very difficult to have something that's just my own. It's beside me now as I type, open to the page. He's there.
Slightly turned looking at the camera, standing in front of the kitchen counter spreading peanut butter onto bread. Even though caught by surprise, his eyes show no shock, no outrage, just a continuing sense of humiliation. Surprisingly he's no where near as fat as remembered, no where near as fat as made out by others. But it's his eyes. Already dead.
It's the only picture of him in the book, other than a frozen smile located to the left, at the back of the class photo. It was put there for laughs, 'fat guy makes self food' what a riot, what fun, here let me look at that again.
He doesn't know that he's a year away from falling in love. He doesn't know he is a lifetime away from who he will become. He thinks there is no hope. He gave up on hope as too painful a proposition. He just works at survival. He's got the message that he's stupid, he knows that he's ugly and, of course, 'worthless' tops the list. But he's only a year away from someone believing in him - and what he'll do with that belief is beyond belief. He doesn't know that there are gentle people in the world, there are teachers who will want to teach him, there are friends who will want to be near him, there are even those who will depend on him.
But he doesn't know this yet.
I put the yearbook back in it's hiding place. I close the cover on his dead eyes. I hold the book to me and try to yell down the corridors of time.
"Abuse will end."
I'm guessing that's why it matters so much to me now.
I want him to hear that.
I want others to experience that.
I never know why he visits me, that guy in that picture. I feel disconnected to him. Disconnected to my own past. But he's there, always there. At the back of my mind, at the edge of my words, in the deepest part of my work.
No one held him then, so I try to gently hold him now.