Once I imagined you might build a life from durable and lasting materials. It wouldn’t be perfect—how could it be?—but still it would be something you could trust, something to carry you through the decades, keeping you and your family safe. I knew this couldn’t be so, that the world did not construct itself like that, but still it felt as real yet mysterious as the scaffolding of bones inside a body.
What I remember most about the winter my son was arrested—at fifteen—is how the sky seemed to open almost every night to snow. My wife and I would awaken each morning to gray ash drifting to the earth, gathering along the Livonia River, which was frozen in February, a white skin covering the land. Memory is not static but evolving, as changeable as the clouds, and so the snow that season—which was not particularly out of the ordinary, not for Michigan—seems to me now like something mythic, the sky trying its best to smother the open yards surrounding the houses crowding the river.
For all his life it had seemed that Dylan had had a room inside himself into which he often stepped, closing the door behind him, pulling down the shades, and sitting there with only the company of his own thoughts. While our younger boy, Nate—he was nine that winter—spoke enthusiastically about the snow, going on and on most days about how much he hoped it would keep dropping and dropping until we all had to go sledding or maybe skiing if we wanted to travel anywhere, including to school, until we needed sled dogs and would name them Boy and Burt and Bobby and Bean and Buster, Dylan sat saying nothing at the breakfast table, sipping the Mountain Dew his mother attempted from time to time to forbid, and gazing out the window and waiting for the school bus to arrive from Morgan Heights.
“He needs friends,” my wife often said.
“I know,” I said.
“We should do something.”
And that was the question, of course. When Dylan was younger, Abby had made an effort to cart him from house to house to play with other boys from school or along the river, and she had encouraged mothers to send their own children over to our house, or maybe to go bowling or to the movies or roller skating. But none of it ever lasted, ever stuck. I watched the boys leaving a space between themselves and our son, making a wide berth as they moved around him. He was different, their body language said. He was not like them.
Continued in Confrontation 120, Fall 2016.