You can see in her face that something bad happened.
You recognize that pale distant look.
I remember that look didn't leave me for weeks after my mom died.
Or at least I felt inside that it didn't.
This girl sat with the group in Juvie.
Today we are creating commercials.
She is trying, actually really trying.
Recently I was sitting with a special friend of mine, someone who I don't see often but when I see her, I feel at home.
She is someone I can take my mask off with, someone who I literally have called and started to cry before I could even talk.
I wish for everyone to have a someone like that.
We were sitting eating breakfast and I was telling her about something that recently happened to me and she said,
“What can I take from you that you need to let go of?”
What a brilliant question!
“What can I take from you that that you need let go of?”
She must have seen on my face that I had to let go of something, but, ironically, that something that I had to let go of was very hard for me to give away.
“What can I take from you that you need to let go of?” I ask her.
Somehow those words coming out of my mouth in a completely different situation do not sound as brilliant.
“What the fuck does that mean?” she asks me.
In trying to explain, I say, “It looks like something is hurting. You can give that something to me.”
“Sometimes, Ms., I seriously think you have a problem!
How the fuck can I give you what's hurting me?”
I wonder why it is that these girls take the things I say so literally.
I try again.
“It looks like you have a house on your head. Maybe I can move that house,” I say.
“What are you, fucking Hercules?” she asks.
I'm impressed that she knows who Hercules is.
“No, I am not Hercules,” I say.
“But what can be very painful for you doesn't have to touch me.
Sometimes just saying it out loud makes it better.”
She looked at me and said,
“And sometimes, Ms., saying it out loud makes it too real.”
“That can be true,” I say.
“So what do you do?” I ask.
She looks at me and with great wisdom says, “I wait.”
“For what?” I ask her.
“For the paint to dry.”
She continues, “Like when you tag, you got to keep on guard that your paint dries so no one can fuck it up.”
(Tagging is the easiest and simplest style of graffiti. It includes one color and the artist's name or identifier.)
“I don't think I understand,” I respond. “You want your pain to be permanent?”
“Yeah,” she says.
“My pain is like a kick-ass picture. Each piece of it sits next to the other showing my life.”
The roles are reversed today. She is teaching me something.
“It's not about making the pain go away,” she says.
“It's just letting it find its space.”
I think about her explanation and say, “It’s like it needs to find a place on the canvas of your soul.”
“Yeah,” she says, “Although that is very bourge.” (Short for bourgeois, pronounced boo-zy. Meaning very fancy!)
And then she adds, “Why are people so afraid to hurt? It’s a part of life.
You need to take it and not be afraid.
I guess growing up with pain teaches you that.
Really, Ms., people spend so much time trying to get rid of the pain instead of understanding that they can use it.”
I am listening to her.
She looks at me.
“I get it,” I say.
“I thought you would.”
“You are smart, Ms., but you need to let go of trying to get rid of the pain and just feel it. You know what I mean?”
“Yes, I do.”
She nods her head and says, “Good!”
I put my hand on her shoulder and she lays her hand on mine.
So what I learned today is that the job isn't to make the pain go away, but to just sit quietly next to the person hurting and wait for the paint to dry.
That is not an easy job, but worth it for us to give it a try.