One concept/tip that came up in the workshop I attended on Saturday was that we should always be listening for stories. They are happening around us all the time, and we can use what they offer, either now or later. We were also encouraged to write five minutes stream of conscious poems. So I tried doing both of those things today while I sat with Vernon. Usually I try to entertain him, and its getting tiring. But when I realized I could be listening and taking notes instead of interacting with him the whole time, I heard some interesting things. Here are the notes, complete with title.
There’s a new kid on the Monday block
couldn’t be more than nineteen.
It must be his skateboard that I saw in the hall.
His skin looks so smooth, its strange to see skin like that here.
It’s like I’ve never seen a young man before.
I shake my head back from staring.
He reclines only two chairs down
between the old woman who only speaks Filipino
and the one who only screams at random
(not that anyone ever comes.)
A nurse stands between him and the machine.
She tightens a blue rubber tourniquet on his arm,
then searches for the vein. It must be taking awhile.
He looks as if he wants to throw up.
“Don’t look at it,” says the social worker
(who likes to play ‘Like-able Superwoman)
as she pulls up a chair and grabs his hand.
“Look at me.”
The boy throws his sweatshirt over his face.
I’ve turned my back as I don’t want anyone to notice
my disrespecting gape:
He’s so young.
Is this his first time?
I think it might be.
The nurse is still connecting her needle to the vein.
I can’t hear him say a word,
but his panic shoots out through this side of the room
like an atomic wave.
I feel it enter my shoulders and push against my chest.
The social worker has moved in closer,
holding his hand, touching his knee.
Her voice is extra peppy, something is wrong.
“Who are you into now?” She asks him.
“Little Wayne? Didn’t he retire about five times?
Look at me. Kendrick Lamar?
Who do you like? Don’t look at your arm.
Eminem? Take a breath. Eminem?”
The air changes. He’s exhaled.
My back relaxes. I glance over.
Five paper-gowned staff encircle his chair.
Some nervous giggles: (are we friends?)
“What’s that tattoo on your arm say?”
One of them asks.
The boy exhales again, sweatshirt still on face.