Here The Clocks Tick Like A Bomb
Because N. and his dad were stabbed.
Stabbed is an incomplete word of course, because this high school sophomore who struggled so mightily and tried so hard in your class had his chest ripped up, his liver lacerated, a wound that required 25 metal staples to close, and wiped the kid's short-term memory clean in a flurry of repression, laying there in a hospital bed at the end of the hall, too weak to grip your hand, or the hand of the two other teachers who have come, struggling to speak against the tube down his throat.
He says, "Strange things keep happening to me."
He says, "You don't know how much it means to me that you're here."
He says, "I can't remember what happened."
He says, "My dad didn't make it."
And you nod closed-throat at this, because you know that he's lost his second parent now, something the family was waiting to tell him before a doctor blurted it, without preamble or responsibility. He asks you about the wrestling team, is really upset about his chipped tooth, mentions it's a good reason for him to become a dentist. He tells you what events he'll be running on the track team this Spring, and describes how the pain sweeps into him. No one dare write a book about resiliency until they come look into this young man's eyes.
What stays with you all night, and the next morning as you drive in for Saturday Academy isn't the staples, or the choked swallowing, or the look in his eye. It's his (ex)girlfriend, J., who is so clearly in charge, staying there nights, telling you the story in short declaratives, deciding who gets in to see him and for how long, it's this girl, who played on your basketball team for a year without saying more than a few words the whole time, it's the sight of her stoic calm breaking as his tio lays a hand on his forehead and speaks words of comfort, encouragement, and hope. It's the sight of her turning away, the straight line of the shoulders breaking, and her hands going to her face. It's the sight of that, and the somehow more terrible control she exerts, turning back, brushing the hair of her forehead, smiling at you and saying good night.