Read Part I here.
Read Part II here.
The only good thing about the Reggie situation is that I get to see Carlos more. Have I mentioned he looks like a Latino Johnny Depp? A tall, broad-shouldered Latino Johnny Depp. Plus, he’s a gospel singer so when he speaks to you with that buttery voice of his, you can’t help but get mooey-eyed and weak in the knees.
Anyway, the past week my office e-mail inbox has been flooded with increasingly panicked missives from social workers about Reggie’s possible placements since his arrest. The transitional home that had been prepared to take him has now nixed him because of the potential for violence. Reggie can’t stay at our facility and he refuses to go the lockdown facility located up the hill on our campus.
Carlos and I were discussing Reggie’s dismal prospects during a break at a training last week. I told him about the upcoming pow-wow with the social workers and the staff from our facility and he said he would come.
“I haven’t given up on him,” said Carlos. “I’ll never give up on him. But he’s got one foot in the street.”
* * *
Yesterday Reggie sat in my office, in the chair he always sits in, the one next to my desk. He wanted to know about the new school he will be attending as of next week.
“I don’t know much about it,” I lied. My boss Sharon had told me it was the worst, scariest school in the city. The school that takes the kids no one else will touch.
“I’m going to turn over a new leaf,” Reggie said. “I’m going to do good there. There won’t be the same kids irritating me, like the ones here.”
“There are always people everywhere who will irritate you, Reggie,” I said. “Let’s review your coping skills. Just in case you need to use them at your new school.”
Reggie recited the usual, generally useless coping skills: breathing, counting, walking away, stopping to think about the consequences of his actions.
He looked at me for a minute.
“I think Stephanie thinks I’m evil,” he said.
Stephanie is the worker who pulled the plug on the transitional home.
“She doesn’t think you’re evil. She just can’t place you in a home with other people if she doesn’t know whether or not you’ll hurt someone.”
“I have another coping skill,” Reggie said, apropos of nothing. “I like reading mysteries.”
“Yes. Because I know where half my anger comes from. From my past. But the other half, I don’t know where it comes from. It’s a mystery.”
“I see,” I said. “When you talk about your anger, do you imagine it living inside of you?”
“Yes,” he said, in that soft voice of his.
“What if you thought of it as being outside of you? Kind of like someone who visits you and convinces you to do things that you know work against you.”
He blinked at me.
“Because if anger lives inside of you — and I don’t believe it does — then you can’t get rid of it. But if it’s a force that’s outside of you, and comes to visit you, you could talk to it and maybe convince it to stay away. Whaddaya think? Could you try that?”
“Remember that when you’re at your new school, and you feel like someone’s making fun of you, and Anger comes to visit you. Anger might come in the form of kids at your new school. So remember that it’s not inside you, and you don’t have to listen to it.”
“Okay,” Reggie said. “I’m gonna do good at my new school.”
Like a lamb being fed to the lions, I thought, but smiled anyway.