He took his own life.
He was 17.
He was that kid.
The kid you tell your own kids not to hang around.
The kid I told my son not to hang around.
The kid everyone's parents told their kids not to hang around.
That kid took his own life.
He was 17.
My son is 17.
He knew that kid. He had been friends with him since the first day of high school. They, and a couple of other boys, were thrust together as a part of the unmotivated, unengaged, academically uninterested, and unconventional learners of the year level - those who had difficult backgrounds, social and emotional troubles, the educationally 'lazy', young thugs and potential future criminal masterminds. At 13, these kids had quite an array of labels already superglued to their foreheads, my young lad included.
We had had meetings at the school regarding my son's relationship with some of these kids, particularly that kid, and often discussed the need for my son to be surrounded by more motivated and positive influences. "Yes. Yes of course", flapped the token lip service of the school. At home, we reminded our son to stay away from that kid. Nothing good will come of hanging around that kid and kids like him. My boy disagreed. That kid was a good kid. He just did dumb things without thinking. In my eyes, and I think in my own words, that bloody kid can do his freaking dumb things without thinking alone.
A call came in the very early hours of one hot summer morning. That kid and my son had done some dumb things and were in some deep, deep, shit. This was my boy's first really dumb thing (that I knew about) but apparently that other kid was already an expert of really dumb things and on first-name-basis with the local law enforcement. His mother, a tired-looking woman with red eyes, messy hair, and roughly pulled on mismatched clothes passed me towards that boy. She said nothing to him. Didn't even look at him. They walked in silence through the brightly lit police station.
"Yep. Could pick them", I remember thinking, shaking my head in my judgy snobbery.
Then it was my turn. I caught a glimpse of a tired-looking woman with red eyes, messy hair, and roughly pulled on mismatched clothes reflected in the glass doors as I walked towards my boy. I said nothing to him. Didn't even look at him. We walked in silence through the brightly lit police station.
Unfortunately, the dumb things with that kid were not a once-off event. But my son soon learned that he was lucky - extremely lucky - that his family was able to help him. He changed schools, completed specialised programs, and his parents could at the time manage the financial burdens that popped up due to his
Over time, my son and that kid grew apart and that kid kept on doing dumb things, his tired-looking mother always waiting on the other side of the revolving door of remand centres and psychological counselling. Nothing worked. And it seemed inevitable that as soon as that bandaid solution wore off, that kid would be back in trouble once more. He was that kid after all.
As the other kids around him grew up, started to think about their futures, understood consequences of their actions, that kid continued to do what was expected of him - to fuck up again. And again. And again. Another bandaid solution, another revolving door of custody, courtrooms and care, another fuck up. Bandaid. Custody. Court. Care. Fuckery. Bandaid.
That kid drifted from friends. His mum was his only ally and provider of the unconditional love a mother has for her son.
A few months ago, his mum died. That kid was alone.
A short time later, that kid took his own life. Alone.
It kills me.
It has shaken me more than I could imagine.
That poor kid.
That bandaided, recurrent bad kid who had been put in the too-hard-basket for most of his life.
I can't help but feel responsible for his death. My son knew this would happen. He saw it coming. He feels responsible. In protecting my son and preventing him from being friends with that kid, I feel I have contributed to his death. Years ago, I judged, I scorned, I swore my fucking head off because this boy - that kid - coerced my son to be part of his dumb shit. In reality, I know he didn't. My child made his own dumb decision to join in. In reality, and regrettably in hindsight, that kid and his mother had been let down by the legal system, the mental health system, the educational system, the community.
I don't want my son to be that kid.
My heart has broken for that lost and lonely boy.
For all those lost and lonely kids.