You can see it at the back of his eyes. He's been broken. The two with him, care for him, they carefully tell a story, so commonplace that we've all forgotten it should be shocking. Instead of shock, instead of outrage, there is just the sad acknowledgement that this happens too often, and today, we learn, it happened to him. Viciously and violently abused by his mother's boyfriend, he and his brother begin the tour of homes. Foster care placement after foster care placement. I don't need to tell you details, because you know the story, it's told often. We are numb to the meaning of these stories. Numb to the point of paralysis. Sad it happens, but happen it must it seems. Some times there is no where safe for children.
But little boys grow into young men like this who lives with pain at the back of his eyes, pain that seeps out from the tiny break in his soul. He stays with us as his story is told. Others, when I've heard similar stories, just vacate their eyes. Their bodies stay but they go somewhere else. He still reacts to the story he hears, tears still find their way to the corner of his eyes. Hurt radiates in the set of his shoulders and the cast of his face. He is still fully human, his emotions not yet calloused up.
We are alone. I want some time to talk to him. I only have a few minutes. He says, nervously, "Are you going to ask lots of questions?" I tell him that I will ask some, but when he's tired and wants to stop, I will, it's under his control. He looks like he doesn't believe me. I don't think much has ever been under his control. "I want to tell you something first, it won't help much, it won't fix anything, but I want to tell you something first anyways."
He looks at me, wanting to be interested but, trust in others is a concept that's hurt him before so he is wary, "I was hurt too, as a kid, and the only think I want to say to you is that it shouldn't have happened to you. No one should have touched you that way. No one should have hurt you that way. It just shouldn't have happened. I'm really, really sorry that you've been living with what someone else did to you." I couldn't keep the emotion out of my voice or the tears out of my eyes. You see, I was talking to me too. He put his hand up, sheilding his eyes, "OK, but stop."
We went on to other things. I asked about his brother, they'd travelled part of life's journey together then, because of a decision of someone paid to care, one went left, the other went right. We talk about his mother, he told me that he will never see her again. That it's his decision. That it's a firm decision. He was arguing with me as if I was arguing back. But I wasn't, I was just listening.
I asked him at one point a silly question, already knowing the answer, "Why don't you want to see your mom."
"You want to know why?" he said with faint hostility.
"Yes," said simply.
"Because she didn't ..." he searched for words to finish.
"You don't need to say more," I said.
We talked a bit more and he told me I was an OK guy, I told him that he was an OK guy. It was time for the others to come back.
"She didn't ..." two of the most condemning words that a child can speak about a parent.
At the end of the day, I never want anyone to say of me, "Dave didn't ..." I don't want my legacy to be that "I didn't ..." What a simple and powerful condemnation.
I will see this young man again. He is resiliant. He's angry. He's yet hopeful. I have no doubt he will learn to control anger, he will learn to bring his feelings under his control. He will become his own master. His past will affect him, always, but control him never again. I believe he will heal.
All but the break at the back of his eyes.
That, I'm afraid, by the evidence in my own, is a permanent.