Near the trailer.
Maybe 4 years old? Squatting next to a water faucet. Rinsing. The boy isn't watching what he's doing. But he is practiced in his chore. Rinsing. He turns toward the Instamatic...
Earlier. Parents balling fists. Sending electric pressure through the boy, loosening everything inside of him. He is just a baby. He doesn't understand why there is tension so sore and constant that it makes him mess himself. He's just a baby.
But he does mess and they do react. They make noise and call names that hurt like the belt. And the boy struggles to connect their words to their faces to his life - in confusion and a damp depression. He's just a baby and doesn't know why things are wrong. Only that he is wrong.
And so, this morning he does his ritual washing next to the trailer, under the spigot. The grass has grown tall and green where the water spills. Regularly. And the boy is practiced in his rinsing. Underpants.
His eyes turn toward the camera and the depth of sadness in them is concussive. The profound worry. The abstract humiliation. I look into the eyes and I choke up. Audibly. Every time.
A picture is worth a thousand apologies.
They are not mine to make, but I pray them for him. To him.
The boy grew up and I found him. Together we made a friendship that elevated us both past certain pasts. But his eyes were stained by some echo of that ancient suffering. His eyes rarely cried. But in the perpetual ripples on the shade of neglect. Under the tattoo of the memory of abandonment. In the faded hollows just under his brightness...
...audibly. Every time.