|He came up with the name of "Ghetto Gandhi" himself. We were returning in the car from a trip to the corner store on a hot August afternoon.
"Why do you call yourself that?" I asked, turning the steering wheel on my lavendar blue metallic '97 Cougar around the big curve in the alley to the street to the convenience store. We needed cigarettes.
His friend, Jay, was with us. He described himself as Cabriel's suicidal sidekick. I'd seen Jay six months before, waiting on the sidewalk because Gabriel knew not to bring strangers over to my house. Jay didn't get in the first time he showed up. He looked like a lean and mean trouble-maker from a distance.
Gabriel had been helping me with my house chores since he was 13, and making a regular amount of spending money for himself, helping me clean my house and do chores. He was good cheap labor, and I missed teaching a little. It was nice to have a kid's companionship.
But, I like my solitude at times, my privacy I guess you'd call it. I don't have that many visitors over, to get past the big barking Bloodhound. Gabriel worked his way past the front gate, and into "Elvis's' heart, but his friends had to be approved first. Gabriel showed respect to me, as an older person, that way.
"He was this peace dude, wasn't he?" Gabriel replied looking hard into his brain with eyes closed. His face squinched up. Gandhi had made an impression on the unimpressable.
"Yes, you could put it that way, I guess." I taught the "Classic Comic" of Gandhi in the English as a Second Language classes I taught almost 15 years ago. I'd seen the movie too. It had more impact in America more recently than any history books or news articles. I was impressed with Gabriel's knowledge. I wondered about his wisdom though.
"I wasn't so good in histroy. It was after lunch, and I always fell asleep." Gabriel had ADD, and sometimes took meds that made him fall asleep. There are some things one can't help. "He was that dude in India, right?"
Gabriel,Ghetto Gandhi, was not an academic in school. He repeated seventh grade, and had fallen another year behind by sophomore expectations. He didn't do well in the classroom.
But I was his neighbor, not his teacher. We got to be friends, and then I met his other school friends. Grades and failing didn't mean he wasn't plenty smart in his own way. He just didn't know it yet. We talked a lot.
Gabriel will be 18 in four months. Jay will be a legal person in seven months.
The bonding of teenage boys is a most curious and powerful thing. It must be partially controlled by raging hormones. That's why they punch their best friends on the arms so that they inflict a bruise. The bigger and darker the bruise, the better. That sort of thing happens during the middle school years. Time passes, and things change some.
Friendships evolve. By the age of 17 1/2, some boys have lived enough life to be called men. I consider Gabriel and Jay to be men.
They have figured out that there's no one to be responsible for them. They must be responsible for their own best interests, their own lives. They are their own boss.
Life is a gift given only once. What a world we live in that bounces its progeny off the tettering edge of a terminal cliff! Suicide should never be an option! Suicide is NEVER an option.
They thought it was. So I offered them a ride to the psychiatric hospital where I had gotten help for depression a few years before.
Everybody needs some kind of help, some time. This was their time. I waited with them until they were officially admitted to the adolescent psychiatric unit. Six hours passed in the dark of a warm summer night. The building was well air conditioned.
There were interviews with intake, massive paperwork, correctly and completely filled out by the two, because they asked me to check it over. They asked before I offered. They wanted to get it right. They withstood several separate assessments by a counselor and a physician, and many trips outside the building to smoke, and vent the tension of the moment.
I knew what lay ahead of them. Gabriel had never even seen an inpatient psychiatric environment, although he had been taking medication for bipolar disorder as long as I had known him. He said his family doctor gave it to him. He "has" bipolar disorder.
"Having it" doesn't mean you picked it up off of a toilet seat, or shoplifted it from a store. You're born with the genes for it, like brown eyes. It is not a particularly recessive gene.
Jay said he had been hospitalized 13 times. He came from New Jersey, had lived in California, El Paso, and now Dallas, Texas. He knew his diagnosis of bipolar disorder, and repeated with a creepy precision the wording of, "a tendency towards schizophrenic tendencies." I began to think he was also a pathological liar. His stories didn't always connect.
Jay had visible self-mutilation. He had been burning skin on his forearm with a cigarette lighter all the night before. The blister, that ran the length of his forearem, hadn't burst yet.
Jay had run away from his home six weeks earlier. He said he couldn't live in a place where his mother's girlfriend's opinion counted above his. He'd known his father only briefly.
Gabriel had run away from home for a week or so. Runaway may not be the best term. He left his mother's home for several weeks, and stayed at a friend's house, about two miles away. Gabriel and David knew each other since elementary school. It was staying over, only longer, and longer.
I spoke to David's mother once, a most kind hearted lady. She and I couldn't understand how a mother could just let her child go. If Gabriel went back home, it wasn't because anybody told him they cared. Nobody said anything, as if his absence weren't even noticed.
He didn't want to go back and be beaten by his step-father. No one should have to live under a roof with a situation like that. When weight and height of an embattled father and son get too equal, it's not a proper kind of punishment anymore.
There are things in the United States called human rights. They say kids have them. It's funny the ones some kids know for sure, and what they don't know at all.
The boys didn't understand what anything meant in real life. They just knew the life they had always lived. They agreed the hospital was an acceptable option, so I saw they got there.
I slept like a log, returning home about 4:30 am. I felt safe for them. I knew they would be in air conditioning when the temperature was 105 outside. I knew they would be fed, and get evaluations and meds.
Needs to go to next part: ???
((They were just settling into bed after the strip search of them and their things, and the urine collection., when the doctor with the Indian accent came in to see the boys, who manager to bunk together in the adolecsent ward of Timberlawn Psychiatric Hospital, in Dallas, Texas.))