Saturday, February 23, 2019

You are not.

You looked at me with this bored expression. You yawned, folded one elbow behind your head and scratched your ashy torso with the other. "I'm a lost cause," you said. "Some people just like to get high. Me? I'm worse than those kinds of people. I LOVE to get high." When I didn't say anything, you laughed out loud. Hard.

I did not.

"I just keep shit one hun-ned." You shrugged. Then you laughed again. This time harder.

I did not.

There was such unapologetic resignation in your face. You meant what you said, believed it even. You spoke of all the people who had come in front of you, trying to convince you to quit.
"Sobriety is for who want it, man. I don't want it. I want to get high. As much as I can."
"I appreciate your honesty," I said.
"I'm always gon' be that. You can call me a junkie. You can call me a addict. But what you ain't never gon' call me is a lie, though." You chuckled once more.

I did not.

It started with some pills after an injury. You broke a bone and they gave you Percocet. Then they gave you more. At some point, you felt sick without it. And lucky you, you were down with somebody who knew how to help you not feel sick.
"You scared of needles? It involve a needle," your friend told you. You said, "I just don't want to feel sick." After that, it was a wrap.

Over and over again, you called yourself a junkie. Such an old school word coming from someone so young.

"I'm a lost cause, man. Don't waste your energy." You laughed every single time you said that. And every single time you did, I made up my mind to not join you.

So you kept talking. And I kept listening. You kept laughing, too. The whole time you did. I did not.
At some point, I reached out and touched your hand. You jumped a little. Then, for the first time, you looked into my eyes. You were genuinely surprised by my gesture. I closed my fingers tighter in response, ignoring the confetti constellation of needle marks and scarring. I was stunned that you let me.

Me: "You keep saying you're a junkie. And a lost cause. That's not what I see."
You: "Oh yeah?"
Me: "No. I see a smart, beautiful, black son."
You: *holding my gaze*
Me: "I know you like to get high. But little brother . .you are so much more than that."
You: "No I'm not."
Me: "Yes, you are."
You: *silence*
Me: "YES, YOU ARE. You ARE."

What happened next surprised us both. You started crying. Hard. And as soon as you did, I couldn't hold it in. I cried, too. Right then and right there. And the whole time I was squeezing your hand and you were squeezing your eyes as tight as you could to hold back those tears.

They came anyway.

This didn't end with you promising to never get high again. Or with me safely delivering you to a rehab center and all of us rejoicing in the hallways singing mumma-say mumma-sah mu mah koosah either. But you did let me hold your hand way longer than I thought you would.

After I left your room, I stood in the hallway weeping. My shoulders were shaking and my fist was balled up and held to my mouth. I shook my head and kept saying out loud, "I am so, so sorry, little brother. I am so, so sorry." My whole team was standing right there for all of it, too. And I didn't care. The part inside of your room and the part outside in the hallway, too.

"Do you think this could get him to stop?" my student asked.

“I don’t know," I said. "But I do think just like mean stacks up so does kind. So I keep trying, you know?"

She nodded in response. I meant every word.

Dear little brother,

You are not a lost cause. 
You are not a lost cause.
You are not a lost cause. 
You are not.



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