I read the story in the newspaper: In a convenience store parking lot on Halloween night, a 15-year-old boy and his father were found bleeding from multiple stab wounds. The father died. TMAO of Teaching in the 408 visited the boy, a former student, in the hospital after the attack.
He asks you about the wrestling team, is really upset about his chipped tooth, mentions it’s a good reason for him to become a dentist. He tells you what events he’ll be running on the track team this Spring, and describes how the pain sweeps into him. No one dare write a book about resiliency until they come look into this young man’s eyes.
What stays with you all night, and the next morning as you drive in for Saturday Academy isn’t the staples, or the choked swallowing, or the look in his eye. It’s his (ex)girlfriend, J., who is so clearly in charge, staying there nights, telling you the story in short declaratives, deciding who gets in to see him and for how long, it’s this girl, who played on your basketball team for a year without saying more than a few words the whole time, it’s the sight of her stoic calm breaking as his tio lays a hand on his forehead and speaks words of comfort, encouragement, and hope. It’s the sight of her turning away, the straight line of the shoulders breaking, and her hands going to her face. It’s the sight of that, and the somehow more terrible control she exerts, turning back, brushing the hair of her forehead, smiling at you and saying good night.
The boy, who’d already lost his mother, is out of the hospital and living with relatives, TMAO adds in a postscript. He can’t remember what happened. Police seem to have no leads.