There’s an altered sense of propriety. They are so casual when they talk about their lives. I want to tell them that it’s outrageous, fascinating, absurd or damaging. I want them to know that it’s important. Book are written about lesser traumas, and yet these children nonchalantly recount the adultery, abandonment and assault that has defined their lives.
A sweet girl, Amy, is new to the school. She fell in love with a boy in class in the first month, before he broke up with her and she moved on to a bilingual boy who has a reputation for winning fights. They were caught after school one day, having sex in his apartment, and his mother came to school furious. The boy had already fathered one child over the summer, and she wasn’t prepared to handle him fathering another so soon.
Amy told me her story one day in advisory. She told me that no one had ever wanted her, that she’d never had a home. Another girl was talking about how she hated her father, and Amy said quietly that she didn’t hate hers, he just didn’t want her – no one did. When she was a baby, her young parents left her to be raised by her grandmother. This was a plan that worked, until her grandmother got a boyfriend who she would rather be with. She left to live with her boyfriend, leaving Amy with her uncle. For 6 years her uncle sexually assaulted her, until finally is was uncovered and she was removed from the home. This is how sexual assault is dealt with in the Bronx – take the child away – don’t punish the offender, punish the child. Amy has been in foster care, split up from her brother, and moving from place to place for the last few years. She says that she has no home – that she has lived in 14 homes and been enrolled in 7 schools in the last 2 years alone.
This heartbreaking story is told to me and a few other students in the advisory group, with an air of broken indifference. There are bestsellers about the lesser tragedies that have shaped their lives, and yet to most of these kids this isn’t even a story. People spend millions on lifetimes of therapy to recover from smaller wrongdoings, and these kids don’t even realize they’ve been hurt. They can play ball with the kids around them, one-upping one another.
G’s dad has 23 kids with different women and her mom drinks too much. A’s dad has 10 kids with 4 different women. They call him Harry, not dad. T’s dad has 7 kids and cheated on her mom her whole life until her mom left him. K’s mom was 15 when she had her, and dropped out of school. M’s mom was 14 and his dad is a dirtbag, he tells me.
It’s absurd. This isn’t group therapy, it’s 8th period, and these are just a random sampling of the students in the school. They are kids, and have no power over their own lives or circumstances.
They talk endlessly about why they don’t believe in marriage – why they’ll never get married.
“No way. It’s not worth it. You should see what my mom goes through,” The girls all agree. As soon as you get married you just start getting hit. It’s not worth it. They speak from experience, but it’s another dream that they have lost. Another thing that girls dream of and picture for themselves that they long ago let go of. And they don’t even know that it’s a loss.