Day before yesterday I ran into Picasso as he was coming out of Joey's house. I had been out walking the baby for the previous two hours or so since it's one of the few sure-fire ways I can get him to sleep in the daytime at the moment.
Picasso and I stood in the twilight in Joey's front yard near the wrought iron fence and talked for a bit. He says his grades are good except for one or two classes--he didn't say which ones. He likes his American Lit teacher this year much better than he liked his freshman English teacher. The way he smiled when he said school is good made me believe him.
Then I went for it. "Try to stay out of trouble, OK?" I said with a knowing smile.
He smiled back, embarrased. "I'll try."
Just at that moment, a police SUV pulled up and flashed the spotlight on us. The baby stirred in his carrier. "Are you waking up, buddy?" I asked my son, jiggling up and down on my toes. The cops turned the light off and drove away.
"That's trouble," I said to Picasso. "Listen, if you get picked up and you need help, call this number: 1-800-LAW-REP-4."
"Law Rep four," he repeated.
"They give free legal help to teenagers who get picked up by the cops. If you get picked up, make them your first call. And let me know if you ever need anything," I said, and went in the house, thinking about how I wish I could do more and yet being OK that that is all I can do for Picasso at this point. He's not my kid. I hope to God nobody ever has to say stuff like that to my son.
Picasso was a good boy when he was in fifth grade, sixth grade. He still is when he's not screwing around. He knows how to be polite and respectful. He's still the same bright young man, with artistic talent to boot. But he's in deep trouble and I don't know how to help him through and out. Dawn and I were talking last weekend about how we both thought when he and Joey started to hang out that he might help Joey stay out of trouble. Looks like it went the other way. This is the kind of thing that makes me afraid of staying here when my boy is a teenager.