We’re all laughing. Car full of boys, literally boys, none older than 18. I’m driving them to the carpool for the reading tonight. We’re having a blast. I know these kids. I’m as much as part of this supergroup of kids as you can be at 25. When we get there we have more than enough time to shoot the shit before we have to organize into the cars and head out. There’s precious few drivers, three tonight including me, all together the group ranges from 12-20; I get to ferry everyone to the drop off point. I chose to, I’m not doing anything else and it makes me feel alive to have a community. They call me Charon, but they pronounce it char-ON instead of KAR-on. I’ve given up on correcting them; I’m happy that they know the reference in the first place. I don’t even know what I’m getting myself into.
When we get to the café there’s enough time to order drinks and sit down. The lights dim, spotlight on the stage, and the kids start going up. The happiness and the excitement from when we were dividing into the cars is gone, but the vibrancy of these kids is undimmed. There is no list, no predefined order, they just go up when they know its their turn. They go to the mike and they unburden themselves of their pain, their troubles. The pour themselves out in word and song, rhyme and instrument, rarefied for it. So much pain… I can’t help crying after one particular poem:
And it hurt, and it hurt, and it hurt
until it became math,
until it became
Pain became numbers at some point.
It became “I have lost this much.”
The crying is cathartic, helpful. Other go up, and these kids nod and sympathize. The group takes on the burdens of the individual and as a whole purges them. It is beautiful and bittersweet.
My friend comes up to me afterwards, she is the organizer. She is holding a notebook to her chest, the cardboard back covered in pen illustrations. When I ask her about it she tells me they are doodles that she was drawing while the kids performed: an abstraction of their words. The drawings are intricate, detailed, impossible to conceive she could have done them in the span of each performance. I praise her skill and pull out my phone, I’ve made notes of each of the performances, quick typed one-liners to remind me of the pain these kids bear…