Chris, one of this year’s Lost Causes (Lost Boys?), turned in a final. It’s a gorgeous compilation of writing supplemented with imagery from magazines. The first piece of writing begins, “Due to my lack of creativity the following will be an ebony and ivory gallery.” It’s black and white.

I’m happy but can’t help but think this accomplishment is as much mine as his. I helped Chris one-on-one more than anyone else. I stapled his handouts to the wall so his black hole backpack wouldn’t suck them in. I hand-delivered a manila envelope of rough drafts to his bus. (Not kidding. I stood at the bus turnaround waving the envelope I found on the floor, holding up the line as I boarded each bus, asking, “Is Chris Araya here?” The kids on 56 whooped and hollered, and I walked to the back and found Chris grinning and cowering under the seat and chewing on the chopstick I hid in his hair while he was sleeping that morning.)

I didn’t teach him anything about organization and obviously enabled him, but I couldn’t stand to watch him write a new first draft every day because he couldn’t find the draft he wrote yesterday, and I wanted him to produce something, something polished, just this once. And he did. It’s beautiful. The first piece in the portfolio is called “My Law is Absolute Moral Law.”

It starts: “Things I wanna change: Black will no longer be black but ebony. White will no longer be white but ivory. Every tree will grow a different type of fruit and/or flower. Every day you will have a new name of your choosing. (You can borrow someone else’s but there will be a name transaction fee.) Hamburgers will no longer be called hamburgers but burgers. Grass stays a healthy green no matter the circumstances. Cheese never spoils. All the words I make up must be real words.”

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