He stands, feet solid, a man, a boy, boisterous and what seems arrogant, disrespectful. Shouting and causing a scene is so easy when you are boy, if only they saw and knew, felt pain and felt sad.
I realised when I met him, not through the scars or the obvious self-inflicted abuse but through the intricate figurines on the mantelpiece, a man and women hold hands, a child at their feet looking up, fine colours and smiles painted to evoke memories and belonging. I wondered who gifted this to him. A few cards were decorating his windowsill, Christmas and birthday cards, one with yellowed edges, creased and folded was wedged between two Christmas cards.
I picked this up to straighten it and find it a place of its own, it had a lovely picture on the front of a vase with flowers sitting on a windowsill of a cottage in a far away place, I read the inside of the card, it said,
“To mum, you are always in my thoughts, I miss you very much and love you dearly. Happy birthday. Love you always and forever”
I wondered why it was in his room, did he forget to send it, was it something he salvaged from his mother’s home, long gone.
Then I turn and find a photograph in a shiny silver frame, its old, I picked up the picture and studied the boy, he is young, with dark hair that has been permed at the top, brown flared trousers and a mustard shirt with a red stripe running through the middle and across the sleeves. The boy has one arm around a women, older, dark hair also in a perm, she is laughing at the camera, one arm on her hip and the other holding the boy close to her.
He looked happy, I concluded the women was his mother. I wondered what the occasion was, the picture did not give me any signs as they were both stood on grass, no trees, no other person, or buildings, just the blue sky, just them two – happy.
I wipe a tear as I put the picture down on the bedside table, he looked so happy and fine, just smiling a smile a son smiles when his mum is near. I thought to myself, warm and cosy never lasts and a picture hides a thousand pasts.
His mother had a thousand dreams for her son, I knew before I entered his room that he was no use. Thrown out by society, no family, no friends, just drug dealers keeping him up in the night and care workers filled his hours with questions of the night before in the day.
I finished cleaning his room, it was immaculate anyway, he found me in his room, unplugging the hoover, he asked me to leave it and that he does not like people touching his stuff. I leave and a staff member tells me that he is back early today – its 7.30 AM, he is high on god knows what.
We hear a bang and he shouts, screams and throws items around his room. We check on him and he is lying on his bed, we crouch and touch him, gently, ask him if he is OK. All the residents here can come and go as they please, he is the youngest at 55, he is dressed in track suit and cap, he looks 25. The drugs have not harmed his skin yet, that may come later. He talks like a 25-year-old, and says “i’ll be right, ta loves, can I have a bacon sandwich please”. We left him to his self, he smashes something else behind us but we know he is OK.
I realised when I met him, you are just a boy who never grew or expressed himself. The drugs help I guess. At the end of the day you are just a body being cared for, I couldn’t tell if the drugs were working at this stage in his life but he no longer beats women up. His mother does not visit anymore, I felt a sadness for him.
Those with hardened hearts will say, what was the point of acting hard and causing a scene, we are not scared of you screaming now that you are not the hard man, just a body being cared for.
I felt sadness.
He cannot stand solid on his feet no more, he feels pain and numbs it with whatever he can find on the streets, disrespecting himself. Causing damage to your self I thought is so easy, if only others saw and knew, felt pain and felt sad, maybe they could help you.
24th September 2016