Friday, June 24, 2011

Addled

I want to leave [the street], but not today”, JV confides over a milky hot chocolate in the diner opposite the bus terminal. His hollowed-out cheeks and tight leathery skin give his eyes a bloated look. The manifestations of crack.

Our short conversation is cut short by a woman - covered in filth - who barges towards him and demands that he hand over the money in his pockets. He instinctively recoils, but then hands over a few folded notes and some loose change before leaving with her.

I know where he is”, says another twelve year old confidently, while rolling what appeared to be a perfect joint and then proceeding to smoke it in front of me. He is with me, in the centre. I can take you to him.

Such dialogues - after two years of working with street kids week in, week out - still make me uncomfortable. Dialogues encountered while searching for W and R’s brother. The one born in between them.

Trying to put the jagged pieces of their family’s self-destruction together, earlier this week we went with W to his old school in the South-West of the city and witnessed a rare scene indeed. As we went to leave, the headmistress hugged him tightly and tears began to well in her eyes.

He was loved here. A good student, they say.

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