I’ve been mulling over how I could possibly start this post well and have decided to just be direct.
Sometime in the wee hours of the morning of March 21, Chon was shot and killed.
The stories I’ve heard so far differ. I’ve been told this was a revenge killing. I’ve been told that it was probably gang related. I’ve been told that he was just in the wrong place at the wrong time and the men only wanted his friend, who was also killed. We’ll probably never know what really happened, or why. But what I do know is it didn’t have to be like this.
He never, ever would have given me permission to blog about him. I’m trying to figure out how to respect that and simultaneously communicate how much I loved him and what a tragedy this is.
Chon left Proniño about a year and a half ago. The story he told me was that he was going to be punished for something he didn’t do, so he left. I did not fear that I would find him dirty and high, sleeping on a cardboard box in the shadows. This child was smart, saavy and didn’t go anywhere without freshly gelled hair. My fear was of what he would do to maintain that lifestyle. We went to KFC one day and talked about his options. He couldn’t find work. The acquaintance whose couch he was crashing on was ready for him to move on. As though it was no big deal, he told me he’s probably going to go to Mexico. A friend of his wanted him to come along and join the risky and wildly successful drug trafficking circuit up North. I frantically told him that this was dangerous and illegal (as if he didn’t know), that he would be forced to do terrible things, that he couldn’t trust the people he would be working with, that he could die. Sigh. I reminded him that he could go back to Proniño. We talked about his younger brothers, still at the center. We talked about how smart he is and how he would be able to continue school and take advantage of any opportunity that came his way if he worked hard enough. I asked him which life he wanted more. For two seconds, he dropped his bad-ass persona and said that he wanted to go back to Proniño, but to humbly return and ask for another chance would kill him.
Instead of Mexico, he began robbing and assaulting people in town. That I know of, there were three warrants for his arrest and he spent about eight months in jail last year. A lifetime (cut short) of pain over a few minutes of humility.
People ask me how they can pray for the kids. I’m often at a loss as to what to say. I know they can’t pray away the street kid ‘problem’. Nor can they pray away poverty or ill-equipped and abusive parents. But today I can answer that question. Please pray for their pride. (If only Chon could have swallowed his pride… ) It so often prevents them from doing what they know is right and it even prevents them from doing that which they really want to do. This inability to humble themselves for hours, or even minutes, is so destructive. Pray for the right words for those of us who engage in hand to hand combat against this. Ultimately, it is the child’s decision, but we can be a persistent reminder of the better road.
Now to he and I.
After the trip that I first spent a significant amount of time with him, I journaled about this child that was loving and caring, then with the flip of a switch was hostile and aloof. He was friendly, outgoing and confident, but refused to speak about his past, present or future. I prayed after that trip that I would have the patience, persistence and commitment to put in the time and effort necessary to show him I’m not another person passing through his life. I prayed that one day I would break down his well-built walls. The last time we spoke, he told me that he trusts me completely and that the next time we saw each other I could ask him anything I wanted. Next time was supposed to be this week. I was so close.
During that same trip, my best friend was attempting to take videos with my rapidly dying camera. She could only record for half a second before the camera would shut down. One video is a close up of the side of Chon’s face. He looks into the camera, says “Soy guapo” and the video ends. In the .5 seconds he has to communicate anything in the world, he proclaims “I am handsome”. This became his tagline and I would get texts that said only that. ‘Soy guapo’ meant one of four things:
2) Call me.
3) Please don’t be upset that I’m choosing this life over the one you want for me.
4) I’m handsome.
I am unbelievably grateful that I have some of these saved. “I’m handsome. I love you. Goodnight.”
It made me laugh every single time.
I am going to miss him so much. I knew that he was destroying himself but somehow I thought he would be able to maintain the destruction for at least a decade.
Just one more conversation. I just want to see him one more time.
Chon, tu eras guapo. Te queria mas que pudiste saber. Buenas noches.
**The first and third picture are complements of Kelsey Sullivan. Check out her work at http://kelseysullivan.smugmug.com/