A Sweeter Seventeen

| TX, USA | Hopeless | September 19, 2016

(Shortly after entering high school I commit a crime. I do not hurt anyone or anything but the severity of my actions still requires my arrest. Shortly after that I am sent to a juvenile detention center for a suspiciously short amount of time and, afterwards, I cannot help but feel as if I am being neglected or forgotten. My time passes either at home or in various government facilities when I become “too much to trouble to deal with” as I am passed from caseworker to caseworker and probation officer to probation officer. Any attempts to learn more about my situation is met with either another phone call or severe punishment. I learn, quite quickly, to keep to myself as the days turn into weeks which turn into months with no change to the situation and never any answers. I understand the severity of my crimes and that I must atone for them; however, I feel that something is amiss. The following takes place as my mother brings me to yet another probation officer at which point I am fully expecting to be ushered quickly in and out of with the same ol’ spiel of: “You’re a danger to yourself and others.”, “Can’t you see you’re hurting your parents?”, “Why must you continue to fight the system?” and so on.)

Probation Officer: *waving at us without looking at us* “Sit.” *we do as he says* “Name and age?”

Me: “Um, it’s [First Name] and, uh, seventeen.”

Probation Officer: *flipping through my file and still not looking at me* “Okay, well, what we’re going to is just continue with…” *trails off and flips more frantically through my file then suddenly stops and looks at me with a frown* “Wait, wait, wait. You are [My Name] and you committed [crime], yes? Birthdate is [my birthdate], right?” *I nod and he mumbles to himself* “So, what’s going on here?” *suddenly he looks me right in the eyes* “You! What do you do all day? Are you going to school? Are you in contact with your old friends? Do you visit [Town] anymore? What do you do to occupy yourself?”

(At this point in my life I am so unaccustomed to people, even my own family, talking TO me instead of AT me, let alone even acknowledging my existence, that I am completely startled into silence.)

Probation Officer: “Well?!”

(I’ve never acquired the knack of lying to people so I take a deep breath to get over my shock and what I say next is entirely true.)

Me: “Um, well, uh, no. Um, after I was arrested I went to juvie for a couple months and while I was there the school called an assembly of all the parents, teachers, and kids and told them what I did. They didn’t outright say my name but I was the only student to subsequently go missing afterwards so that was rather like adding two plus two. Um, after that either my friends didn’t want to talk to me or they just weren’t allowed. And, uh, I don’t have access to a phone anyway, so I couldn’t call ’em even if I wanted to. We don’t have the Internet or anything like that either, so, um, usually I just hang out in my room talking to me, myself, and I. My curfew is seven but I don’t ever go anywhere or do anything. I just come out of my room every now and again for a bit of food or maybe to go to the bathroom. I have a radio to keep me company but, um, that’s, well, that’s it. I just, well, I just don’t do anything.”

(The entire time I’ve been talking the probation officer has been flipping through my file pausing every now and again to read something. As I finish talking he looks at me with absolute fury.)

Probation Officer: *nearly shouting* “Why are you here?!”

Me: *cowering* “I, I don’t know. I just do what I’m told. I…”

Probation Officer: *cutting me off and speaking in an angry tone* “What I’m seeing is that you have been on probation for two YEARS. During that time they’ve sent you to juvie for a measly two months which is really just a slap on the wrist considering the severity of your crime, they’ve had you on an ankle monitor, and in and out of psychiatric wards for reasons that aren’t solid, you haven’t been in contact with any of your old friends, you haven’t been in trouble with the law since, you’ve moved over 300 MILES away from [Town], and you haven’t been to school in that entire time. Are you f***ing kidding me?! Why are you still here?! There is no reason for this s***! *grabs a stamp from his table, slams it onto my papers, and nearly tosses them at me then with a weary sounding voice* “Charges are fully dismissed. It will be wiped from your record. Just get out. You don’t belong here.” *looks at my mom* “And for god’s sake, get the poor girl back in school!”

(We left and although it took me a few years to fully move away from home and get up on my own two feet I’ll always remember that probation officer as the one who, in my eyes, saved my life even if he took a rather odd path of getting there. I’ve always appreciated what he did and try to show it by being exceptionally helpful and kind to anyone I meet.)

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