I had an extremely interesting first ten minutes of the day yesterday. I met Lynette, a smallish white woman with snaggly teeth, brown hair pulled back into a pony tail, and a quiet, likable air. She told me that she's clean now, but had a relapse not long ago. She said that she is working on honesty, and that once she is honest, everything else becomes so much easier. As she spoke, she took off her jacket, and I saw a large, elaborate tattoo of a woman's name, encircled by a heart, on her neck.
'Female lover or daughter?' I wondered. I had the bad feeling that I knew the answer. I asked who the woman was.
"My daughter," Lynette told me. "She was murdered almost five years ago. She was 15 years old." Lynette is not the first woman I've seen with that sort of In Memorium to a dead child. As I murmured a little series of generic sympathies, Lynette continued on about a candle light vigil planned for next month on the fifth anniversary of the girl's murder. She told me that the killers had not been caught, but that police believed three people were involved -- two "shooters" and a lookout. I couldn't think of a way to ask whether her little girl had burned somebody in a drug deal or whether she'd been figured for a snitch, so I just kept nodding and making sympathy noises.
We got back to the subject of Lynette's recovery soon enough, and Lynette told me she realized now how much her own behavior affected her seven year old son. She said that when she was at home and sober, he behaved fairly well. When she wasn't, he acted out. She also told me that he was currently suspended from school. When I expressed my frustration that children so young were suspended from school, she told me that he'd been suspended 13 times last year. "He unplugged every computer in the school. Not the classroom," she told me. "The whole school." Even if the little boy hadn't actually managed to get every single one, this struck me as a remarkably sophisticated prank for a 6 year old even to think of, much less pull off.
"Is he smart?" I asked.
Lynette smiled a bit. "We think he might be. He knows his times tables." Not too shabby for a second grader with a drug addicted, prostituting mother and a school that throws him out as often as it lets him in. "He could write his name when he was two," Lynette added.
Oh boy. YANA client with a genius son, who may have already started down the path of some seriously hostile behavior. Come to think of it, being executed at the age of 15 by a criminal organization of at least three people is pretty damn precocious too. Perhaps I was getting much too far ahead of myself in imagining Lynette's children on the basis of only a few startling facts, but, there we were. I was imagining them, still murmuring praise for the clever son and sympathy for the murdered daughter. Lynette, apparently having chatted enough, moved on to get her donations and then returned to whatever system of programs and groups and part time jobs and appointments that made up her life. I hope we see a good deal more of her.