Monday came on in a quiet soft way. I waited at the gate on the far side of the playground where I stand most days to greet the kids as they come. No one, however, had come just yet and I as I looked down the hill, I could see nothing stirring. Then, from the streets just down the hill, I heard a familiar whistle. A sweet little melody that bounced off the walls of the housing units. I knew who the melody came from, too.
In a minute, I saw Ziggy, a skinny little boy, whom I could spot on and off as he bolted through the alleys. His joints, his jeans, and his over-long fabric belt hung on him like someone else’s clothes. He wore a borrowed and shredded shirt – no coat or gloves even on cold days. His hair capped it off – an explosion of black and brown and blond that wafted and bobbed with each skip.
Buoyed along by his self-made melody – I saw a boy who could turn a quiet start like today’s into a sunrise grin.
I didn’t know a lot about him. He had been on my roster. He didn’t come to my school anymore. Then on the first day of school, he whistled to the gate, turned left, and kept on whistling. He didn’t arrive to class that day or the next.
I requested an investigation, but facts were few. I found out only that his mom drove a truck. She was on the road most days leaving Ziggy with aunties, uncles, friends of friends. People fed him, gave him a floor or a sofa.
On this Monday, I could follow his path by listening to the looping notes he weaved. I could see him going door to door, stepping inside one apartment, then popping out the back door of another. A moment later, I showed up at the corner store, hanging and bumming a hit on what these young men smoked or taking a swig from their brown-wrapped bottles.
I want my school to have a place for every child. But every child can’t fit inside this school’s fences. When a one-of-a-kind comes, he can get tagged with a name: a homeless kid, latch-key, truant, a sad story. But I want the upside to show through. How would I talk of the great big world if I looked out from within Ziggy’s heart and mind?
One of the neighborhood aunties expressed a wish that this child would find himself, that his mother might park her truck and get her life grounded – that they would both find a right way for themselves. She wished without hope that the boy’s life might be other than a short one. Ziggy met these wishes with whistling. I got a persistent mystery that evaded disclosure in the way a pocket of air can hide inside a pair of cupped hands.
Time to turn away from my vigil. Kids began to fill the yard and I snapped back from reverie of roads, wrecks and wandering. Ziggy would be that boy able to travel in places I have never been. What if? What might? Who might? All moot. Here I am, standing, taking care of those who come, able to ask where they might go.
A look at my watch showed just seconds until the bell. Once again, it would be time to line it up.