If I am nothing else, I am an honest dude, completely transparent. There are a few reasons for this, but the main reason is memory; I haven’t got one.
I mention that because last month I wrote about what water has meant to me since starting the magazine. Well, as I write this, crickets are chirping, water is gently pressing against the grass as the tiny waves feebly attempt to make the shoreline and bullfrogs are serenading me on a warm spring night.
I’m back at my favorite pond with the weight of the small world I have created on my shoulders.
This is a heavy gig. Lots of directions to be pulled in, lots of folks need something from me, lots of places to go. The bulk of the folks I deal with are well established at this point in the game but I do interact with a lot of current foster kids and alumni who haven’t quite shaken foster care out of their hair yet. It’s these interactions that remain the toughest.
It’s no secret: I want to save everyone. I’m completely aware that this is an impossible task. Doesn’t lessen the fire to try. When I can’t help, it crushes me. When the person I want to help is someone I know, it kills me.
Last week I found out some good news followed by some devastating news. Turns out, my very first foster brother, Jaime, had been released from jail. I didn’t know he was in jail, Jaime and I lost touch when he aged out a few years before I did. I liked him. He seemed like a good kid with a bit of badass in him. A lot like me. We got along. We lived together for a few years.
Jaime was sad. Not just sad in the sense that he knew his life was going to be tough but sad in a way you can’t put into words. He’d already been defeated when I moved into his room. Desperate quotes from desperate bands lined his wall. He’d lost his hope.
I can say with 100% certainty that Jaime only smiled a dozen times in our entire time together. We’d found a set of abandoned apartments in the heart of our tiny borough’s downtown. I don’t condone this type of behavior, but I’ve always been a curious person and nothing satisfies the curiosity like exploring an abandoned building. While we explored this apartment that seemed to be left in a hurry, maybe a drug raid, rifling through boxes and drawers to find pictures and cool trinkets, he let a smile slip.
I asked him a few hours later about the smile, what got him so happy? He replied, “Pictures of the family, they looked happy”. That’s about as deep as we got, conversation-wise. He was a quiet kid. Most sad kids are. He had a way of drawing people in though. Whether they wanted to take care of him or just be around him, he had a kind of quality about him. But the things I remember most about him were the sadness and the wanting to be free.
Jaime WANTED to be a street kid. I know a lot of people like this now but back then it was a foreign concept. He didn’t like being told what to do or where he could go. Maybe that’s a life in the system or maybe it’s the sadness but Jaime’s thinking was; if I have to be stuck here, I’m doing it on my terms. He was a cutter, a way to combat all that he couldn’t control. And the scars were everywhere. Everyone tried as hard as they could to reach him. He was grateful but had no desire to be reached,