Clinton St. Quarterly, Vol. 6 No. 1 | Spring 1984 (Seattle) /// Issue 7 of 24 /// Master# 55 of 73

from institutions John Bennett is an Ellensburg writer and the publisher of Vagabond Press. V Synanon, like the idea behind Synanon: they’re all for people who are fucked up. It’s not necessary to go to prison first (like Drake did) to qualify. You just have to know you’re fucked up and want to try to do something about it. Get off the streets for awhile. Get out of society’s web. Drake got out of the car and went in to check it out. Wearing those one-way sunglasses, a Winston dangling from his lips, peach fuzz under his nose and on his chin. A bandana wrapped around his head. Mr. Tough Guy. Six-foot-two, 180 pounds, 19 years old. He came back out and got his duffle bag of worldly belongings from the trunk. "You can come in if you want to,” he says. Sandra and I go in. It’s a clean place with a bright atmosphere, located high on Queen Anne Hill. You enter through a corner gate into a tidy complex of small houses. There’s a sandbox just inside the gate with some small children playing in it. Someone with tinted shades is watching over them, one child — apparently his — clinging to his leg. We talk briefly, and he tells us he’s been in the program for 10 months. I get the feeling he’s been deeply wounded, will always be deeply wounded, that the Family House is outfitting him with and training him to use an array of spiritual prostheses. We cross the yard passing young men and women who are all smiling and vigorous. Drake begins smiling too. This isn’t going to be as bad as he thought, he’s thinking. Better than going back to prison at Walla Walla. A boy about Drake’s age directs us into a room with a long conference table in it. He sits down with us. Every instinct in me veers away any institution, and my son has been dragging me through them steadily now for the past four years. It all turned out ass-backwards, who’s educating We're waiting for the director. Ah, sweet Jesus. We’ve been going through this sort of thing in one form or another for four years now — directors, counselors, parole officers, cops and robbers, judges and lawyers — but the shock waves continue to ripple through me; I still can’t believe all this is happening. Every instinct in me veers away from institutions, any institution, and my son has been dragging me through them steadily now for the past four years. It’s all turned out ass-backwards; who’s been educating who? No one educates anyone, that’s one card I’ve turned up. We live, we experience, and if we’re lucky, we perceive a thing or two pretty close to how they really are. The kid who showed us into the room is talking away. It’s the party line. It’s his hope for the future, the alternative that they’re offering him to drugs and ripping off his mother and everyone else who crosses his path. His alternative to prison, where he’s been, where Drake’s been. The kid keeps talking and finally lets a few things slip that make it possible for all three of us to get a glimpse of who it is behind the program rhetoric, who it is, even, behind the drugs and the stealing. Does the program come to terms with that person, or do they run their wiring around him? Will they break Drake or help him? Will they do either? Will Drake be able to handle what they’re going to lay on him and balance it with his inner self, make the two compatible? His inner self that I so brazenly and in my fragility tried to protect 20 years ago like a mother hen doing her dance around her chicks when the snake slithers into the coop? That balancing act that I never stopped trying to teach him? Until now (when the shock of watching him get thrown again and again in his attempt to ride life’s tornado has gone from sharp and piercing to dull and throbbing), I see that I have to pull away from him and let him go it alone. I cut the kid off in mid-sentence, not unkindly, not with anger, just knowing the scene too well, what can and cannot be said, knowing it’s not going to be good, it’s going to be bad to wait for the director to get out of conference and run it all down again, tell us what the kid is saying and much more, knowing how my brain works on Drake’s and his on mine so that it is next to impossible for us to be in the same room (the silent ride over the mountains), when he’s around all my thoughts, words and gestures are in hock and I’m as sure as sure can be that it works both ways, all this tied up with the tattered dreams of 20 years ago . . . I cut the kid off as he’s telling us what Drake will be like in 10 months (he’ll be just like this kid), cut him off and say, “Well, yes, but I think ail this is premature.” He stops talking abruptly and looks at me for the first time since we all sat down. “And I think we ll go, Drake, before the director comes, you know?” “Either way’s ok with me,” Drake says. We all stand up. I hug Drake, Sandra hugs him. The hugs are real; it’s the only way we communicate, the only way we can be reassured that down under all this mind-boggling maze, there’s love for each other. We drive around the block, a fine, quiet neighborhood, and there is a little overlook park with a vis’ta that encompasses the entire city of Seattle and all of Elliott Bay. On a day with no haze, the Olympic Range should be visible, too. From a Washington D.C. tenement to this — not bad, not too bad. Some morning, after Drake’s gone through his first three months of Black Out, in which they attempt to isolate him from all previous connections in life, perhaps he’ll stand alone in this small park. The sun will rise over the mountains to the east and turn the city and the bay golden, and whether he’s come to terms with society or not, the inner man in him will sing out in recognition and shatter time into countless prisms of eternal beauty, making all my dreams come true at last. • Clinton St. Quarterly 9