August 14, 2004

The Dark Night of the Soul

My mother called me today to leave me the address where my young cousin is . . . incarcerated. He's in a juvenile facility for what I would call "knocking a kid off his scooter," and the law called "assault." A felony.

I'm supposed to send him a birthday card. Looking through my records, I realized that I never did write down his birthday—and I've managed to space two others this very week. Obviously, I need a new tickler system that can help me practic assholism-avoidance.

I don't think I've known many people who were in prison. For years I believed my father had been in prison a couple of times, but it turns out it was only jail. (Once, Mexican jail—which probably means a shakedown, but I don't think my mother or either set of grandparents knew that at the time. They were all good Methodists, equally ill-equipped to deal with either my father's shenanigans or corrupt Mexican officials.)

Let's see. Before I turned 18 I was caught shoplifting, but let go without any charges being pressed. I got arrested at the age of 15 for being drunk in public: a friend of mine and I had gone off with a couple of guys we thought we knew, who plied us with cheap wine. I'd always been light, and it didn't take too many to send me into a blackout. My mother took it out on me for a few days, and then she took it out on my brother, in a series of events that ruined his emotional life. Of course, his realization of my mother's rage-aholic nature helped him to see that our mother-daughter conflicts weren't always my fault, and I had an ally after that.

I've always related to my young cousin, in a certain way, when he started rebelling against authority. I've always wished I could help him somehow. He's never been good in school, but I don't set too much stock in that. He's not an intellectual, but he's reliable, steady, and a sensitive kid. (Yes: in a kiddie prison, that last one has me worried.)

And now he's somewhere where I can't reach him, at a juvenile facility where he's potentially being taught how to be a criminal. And there's nothing I can do, except to send him a birthday card that isn't too "cutesy." (Apparently, they have to open their mail in front of the other juvenile offenders, and he got teased because one of us sent a card with bunnies on it.)

I could make one by hand, I guess--

The cover: black background, saying "ANYONE WHO FUCKS WITH YOU"

Inside: "will find themselves ventilated like Swiss Cheese by 40-caliber bullets."

Signed: "Love, your Glock-packin' cousin."

I dunno. It's a bit butch. Might even set a bad example. I don't want my niece, my young cousins, or my younger sister to have to carry—or even necessarily own—firearms (other than the .22 target pistol every person, no matter how liberal, should own). I only want them to let me know who is messing with them. I will buy the appropriate plane ticket, take care of the situation, and either extract a promise of good behavior or dispose of the body.

Civilization and its discontents, huh? Well, we can deal with my anger— and my budding sociopathy—later on. So far, no bodies in the backyard, since my husband doesn't want to have to buy lime. He's so narrow-minded. But, you know: everyone has his little peculiarities.

So why my macha swaggering, here? It comes from a sense of powerlessness and fear. I understand that I'm supposed to surrender, but I have no talent for that. At this moment it's impossible to assimilate the notion that my cousin is almost certainly going to get beaten up at some point over the next nine months, and might get raped.

Given that I'm not going to do any of the things that would serve those kids right if they touched a hair on his head, I'll just ask for you to pray for a scared kid in a Northern California juvenile facility who might come out of this okay, and might become a genuine criminal when all is said and done. I believe in redemption. I believe this could "scare him straight." But my fears go in the other direction. If you believe in any higher power, intervene on his behalf. If you don't, send him good vibes: that can't ever hurt.

He's a good kid who's made some bad choices. Let's call him "William." Do what you can for Will, okay?

Posted by Attila at August 14, 2004 02:49 AM

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