The First Night
I am watching my temporary roommate sleep. The kid is exhausted, that much is obvious. I'm still wondering how he did it, how he talked me into letting him stay here... well not so much wondering how he managed to talk me into letting him stay but rather how he managed to talk me into letting him and his monkey stay here. The strange thing is that it feels right somehow, and that is what I can't understand. I mean, I don't know him all that well, but I still feel this need to keep him safe, not that I'll ever admit to that fact but I can't help it.
Maybe that is why I agreed to let them stay in the first place. I could hardly contain my horror at the sight of that warehouse. It was not fit for human habitation, but the kid never complained, never mentioned it, never even thought that there was something wrong with that picture. The rats were just a fact of life for him, as were the drafts, the lack of heat, the inadequate plumbing and the total lack of security. I wonder about that. Where does he come from? What kind of life has he led that made him find such a situation acceptable?
At first I had assumed that he came from a reasonably comfortable background. I noticed that his clothes were worn, I am a detective after all, but in these days it is hard to tell sometimes if kids wear those clothes out of need or simply to make a statement. The truth is I don't know that many people who have chosen anthropology as a career, but I figured it was one of those professions that appealed to the rebellious offspring of the wealthy... I can just imagine how my own father would have reacted if either me or my brother had dared to make such a choice. I also figured that someone who had to struggle to make ends meet would be more pragmatic when it came to choosing a career, would choose a more profitable field of study. It seems I was wrong about that.
The kid has been hounding me for weeks now, but I realized today that I don't really know anything about him. I don't know where he comes from and I know nothing about his family... all I see is a façade, and even though I can easily see it for the diversion it is, I'm still trying to discover what lies behind. The kid is a puzzle, one that is confusing and infuriating at times, but also one I feel the need to solve.
At first I found him annoying. I did not know what to make of his constant chatter, his flirting with anything female that happened to come within a five mile radius of him, his perpetual motion. Even after he saved my life, that didn't help, it only made matters worse. It was yet another piece that just wouldn't fit in... and those troublesome pieces just kept coming. That has been happening a lot since we met. As soon as I think I have figured him out, something happens that causes me to reevaluate him again. I know he is brilliant. That part has been a constant, but other than that I just don't know. He seems to be so innocent at times, and then he comes out of nowhere with some comments that make me realize that there is a wisdom in him that seems to contradict his years, but that is just the tip of the iceberg. He claims to be a pacifist, he refuses to carry a gun, and his size makes him appear defenseless, and yet when he is put to the test he comes out on top against the most unbelievable odds. Maybe I could accept that bad luck gets him into those situations in the first place, but plain luck cannot explain how he manages to make it out of them alive. He is good... too good, and no one gets to be that good by chance. He may not carry a weapon, but he has been a soldier in his own war. I can see now that he has had to fight to stay alive, of that I have no doubt, only I suspect his battles have been more brutal than those fought by any army, because he had no choice but to fight alone.
I know people say I am defensive, that I have these walls that cannot be breached. I am beginning to suspect that in that regard we are not that different. I know how absurd that sounds. The kid seems to be the most open person I know, and yet I have the feeling that his defenses are truly formidable, he just prefers to keep them hidden. I've built walls around myself, I suspect that Sandburg has dug trenches instead.
I can't help it, the kid has grown on me, and having him under my roof makes me feel better than I have in a while. It's like things are finally falling into place. It is going to be an interesting week, or maybe a little longer. One thing is certain, when he leaves it won't be to go to a place like that warehouse. I think that kid has been left on his own for far too long. In the past few weeks I have managed to catch a few glimpses of what lies behind that exuberant façade, I know he has seen and experienced things he shouldn't have, and it bothers me. He should have been kept safe, but somehow I know he wasn't. He has seen the darker side of human nature, and it left its mark. I know there is a vulnerability and a depth to him that he has learned to keep hidden. If that warehouse he was living in is any indication, I can certainly understand the need.
I wonder just how long he lived there, and I shudder when I consider whether living there was a step up or a step down from previous accommodations. I know that to survive in a place like that you need a thick skin, and I tell myself that, in spite of everything he has been through, the kid made it. I will keep him safe to the best of my abilities, but I know he is not ready to let down his guard. Even though his defenses are not apparent he still needs them in order to feel safe. He still needs his façade, and deep down I must acknowledge that I'm not ready to deal with the scars that I know are hidden just beneath the surface... not yet, so it works for both of us. Even though I wish I could get rid of these walls and trenches between us, for the time being the truth is that I don't want to deal with his vulnerability any more than Sandburg wants me to be aware of it.