Yesterday, I worked a half-hour later than normal because suddenly things happened right at the end of the day that it seemed best to attend to then and there. Then I went to eat at Chipotle after work, mostly because I was hungry, but also because of new and slightly silly influences laden in the whole nature of yesterday.
So these factors combined to put me on the steps up from the platform of Downtown Berkeley BART about 45 minutes later than normal – at 6:30 instead of 5:45.
Racing up the steps, I heard a voice from one of them, a cautious and inquisitive “Storey…?” And one pretty much can’t mistake that for someone calling to somebody else. I turned around to see an older, taller impersonation of one of my old Seneca kids. Smiling at me and saying hello.
Now I have long envisioned meeting Seneca kids later in life – all grown up or at least much older. And most of the time, the picture involves me losing a number of teeth or worse. Most of these visions are in the context of nightmares – not a week ago I was back on the halls of a Seneca house, somehow training someone else and dealing with one of those bedtime blowout disasters that made us all love the place so dearly. But with all the same kids from ’05, but now three years older and still living in a house designed for those younger than they were at the time. Good times.
But here was not only a kid who had been there back in ’05, but one who had specifically antagonized me more than other staff. Actually a favorite of many of the staff, truth be told, but one who always just had it in for me. Granted, he was one of the least violent and troublesome youth and had actually even been placed before I left. But there was none of the torment or targeting, none of the sour glares I recalled from nearly two years in the house with him. Instead, he smiled and asked me where I worked now. I happened to be dressed up, so it was all too clear I wasn’t still at Seneca. And I guess he was still in the loop over there somehow anyway.
We talked for 2 or 3 minutes; nothing major, nothing earth-shattering. It was a little awkward, but a good comfortable kind of awkward that denotes that you both understand the other is authentically happy to see you, that the awkwardness is space and time and nothing innate. We shook hands at the end, and I told him he’d done well. He has. He’s graduating from 8th grade (he proudly noted that “I stayed in school!”), he’s stayed out of the system, he seemed like a “normal” kid, just sitting with friends on the steps of a BART station, waiting on a train.
While still working at Seneca, there seemed to be a network of information about people. One worked so intensely and closely with kids, so personally, and then they were often whisked away to places unseen, never to return for so much as a visit. Yet still, managers would talk to other centers and people would get grapevine updates. But upon leaving Seneca, one’s connection to information dried up. I mean, I’m sure if I’d stayed close with a bunch of people still working there, it might’ve been different, but in all likelihood, they still wouldn’t have been folks in the know. There’s no way of knowing the rest of the story. How did that person grow up? Did that turn out okay? Did they stay or go?
So it’s nice to get a postscript here and there. To come face to face with the past and have it smile back. To think that maybe, just maybe, something turned out okay in this world.
By the time his train roared into the station, I was gone.