Robby hated himself. In fact, he still wished he were dead. He had been shackled and hauled over to the courtroom with a bunch of other kids for yet another hearing when nothing happened. He hated the disappointment on his grandmother’s tired face, thoughts of jail to deal with and the humiliation. He thought about that awful day all the time, but he couldn’t really piece it all together.
He and the other kids loaded into the van at the courthouse sally port to be taken back to the detention center. They all walked single file into the intake area. The cuffs and shackles were removed and the officers singled out the lucky kids to be released. Robby and the others returned to their modules.
As he passed by the supervisor’s office, Robby noticed a CD of Beyoncé on her desk. He thought the supervisor looked a little like Beyoncé, with her long hair and dark skin. One wall of her office was covered top to bottom with photographs of other kids. He didn’t recognize any of them. The supervisor saw him looking and invited him to step inside her office.
“Are these pictures of kids who made it out of here?” he asked in a hopeful voice. Maybe going to jail isn’t the only way...
“No, Robby. Those are boys and girls who have passed through this door and are now dead.” She moved closer, brown eyes fixed on him.
“Did they all kill themselves?” he whispered, feeling almost lightheaded.
“Some of them killed themselves, some were shot by street gangs. And, some died from fighting with police officers. They died in different ways. None of them good. They didn’t give up the lifestyle that brought them here and now they are all dead.”
I wonder if I’ll be the next picture on the wall. “Why do you have their pictures on your wall?”
“To let the kids who walk through this door know that if they don’t turn their lives around, they could end up like these kids, leaving behind families with broken hearts and victims with broken lives. The penalties for crime go beyond what the judge gives you, Robby. Unless you make the commitment to turn your life around, the consequence could be your life.”
He nodded, but before he could say anything else, his morbid thoughts of those pictures were interrupted by an order to join the boys in the module.
He shuffled along in silence, thinking about what the supervisor said. He thought about the judge with the blonde hair. And he thought about his grandmother who was really going to miss him. Who would help her now?
The sun felt nice on his back as he walked through the outdoor courtyard to his cell. He tried not to look at the high fences topped with barbed wire. Truthfully, he was just plain old terrified.
Most of the boys had a roommate. One other kid slept alone. Robby had heard the boys teasing that kid about touching his sister’s private parts. He definitely didn’t want to room with him, but some company would be nice.
Robby lay down on his cement cot. His bedding had been put away for the day. A metal toilet by the door and a narrow window to the outside completed the room. The window was so scratched and dirty that he couldn’t see outside. Tears started flowing down his cheeks. He wasn’t injured on the outside, but he felt so much pain.
An officer brought the detention therapist to see if he needed to remain on suicide precautions. He wasn’t even sure himself.
“Hi Robby, how did court go?”
The therapist looked a little like his mother, at least how he remembered his mother, with short curly brown hair and a flower print shirt. No needle tracks on her arm, though.
Robby’s cheeks were wet with tears and he couldn’t speak around the lump in his throat. He didn’t answer her question.
“I know this is a lot to take in, Robby. One step at a time,” the therapist said softly.
“There’s nothing more to do. I can never go back to my old life,” he sobbed. “I wish I was dead. There’s no other way.”
Though she continued to speak to him, her words didn’t seem to make sense. He felt pressure inside of his head, his chest. He just wanted to escape the pain inside him and all the pain he’d caused so many others. He began to rock back and forth on the cement slab.
Mary took the call. “Dr. Visconti, this is Michelle Baxter over at Juvie. I am going to initiate a Baker Act for Robby. He’s deeply depressed and I’m concerned he may be going into shock. He is focused on death as a way out of the situation. He stopped responding to me. It was like he saw and heard me, but didn’t understand the words.”
Mary wasn’t surprised. A Boy Scout locked up with delinquent kids? Robbie probably thought he was losing his mind. Losing his life would be a minor thing in comparison.
“I think that’s a good idea,” she told the therapist. “I’ll give the Baker Act unit a heads up on his history.”
Robby thought the hospital was an improvement. He could look out the windows and all the people were very kind. He didn’t feel like a wacko kid who tried to kill a police officer; he felt like a wacko kid who really needed to talk to someone. Right after dinner on the first night in the hospital, his grandmother came to visit him.
“Hello, Gram,” he said without looking at her. What could he say?
“Hello, Robby. Are you doing okay?” she asked.
He felt the tears, but the crisis team said not to worry about the tears. They were healthy. They would help if he’d just let them go. When he raised his eyes to hers, Gram’s eyes were also filled with tears.
“I’m okay, Gram. And I’m so sorry…”
She pushed her wheelchair beside him and held out her arms. When he bent for her hug, she held him tight and whispered that everything would be all right.
Three days later, he was ready to leave the mental health facility. He’d spent time talking to therapists. They were thinking of starting him on antidepressants. His grandmother visited him there every day. And, he was feeling somewhat better. Life was not going to be the same, he knew that. There would be no military academy in his future, if there ever would have been in the first place. But maybe he could still have a life. At least he knew that his grandmother didn’t hate him for what he did. She still loved him.
He heard the doctor on the unit talking to Dr. Visconti on the phone. He couldn’t make out everything being said, but it was something about him needing a different type of sanction.
The ride back to the detention center was quiet but he knew what to expect now. He felt a little more in control of his emotions.
Maybe he wouldn’t end up as a picture on the supervisor’s wall after all.