I smiled and said hi to Julio. He had a small tattoo of an "x"
high on his cheek, near his eye, and knuckles emblazoned with
letters. I don’t recall what they said – it didn’t matter.
I only thought that the tattoos all over his visible body, arms, hands,
face, made him look tough, really tough. He seemed like such a
quiet shy, kid though. He looked down when I shook his
hand. He didn’t look me in the eye. Some of the kids will
look you in the eye. It shows how tough they are. "I’m not
afraid of you." They seem to say, and maybe as an aside to their
fellows, "And I just want you all to know that I’m the big dog
here. Don’t you forget it." I notice, but it doesn’t
matter. I’m neither bigger than it, oblivious to it, or ignorant
of it. I just think it’s irrelevant, that’s all.
Let’s get down to business shall we?
Cesar’s favorite sport is billiards. "Huh, that’s interesting," I
told him. "Most kids here like basketball. A lot like
baseball, but I’ve never heard anyone say billiards. Cool."
Cesar’s innate talent is organizing things. He likes to drive a
fork lift or "finger" as they call them in Puerto Rico, not because
it’s a job, or he likes the fork lift per say. He seems to like
organizing the boxes in the warehouse. He enjoys the challenge of
placing the boxes in the best possible configuration for optimal
packing. I told him that between the billiards (geometry) and the
box stacking (spatial perception) he might just have an unusual and
special brain. "Did you do well in mathematics?" I asked.
I didn’t do too bad in math." He kind of perked up a bit, like he
had just discovered a great and pleasant truth about himself.
asked him if he had finished school. Juan Cesar, 19, said that
no, he’d not finished school. He didn’t know why, just didn’t go
any more. He shrugged, as is the custom of many of the kids.
"You know who Albert Einstein is?"
"No," he shrugged again.
was a scientist from the early part of the 20th century. He
didn’t do too well in school. In fact, he never did well in
school. But his brain was wired differently. He was able to
visualize things in his mind most people could not. He ended up
winning the Nobel Prize, the grandest honor that a scientist can
receive. It’s a worldwide honor."
Julio Cesar looked interested, even if he had no idea who Einstein was.
has anyone ever told you these things before?" I was curious, to see if
anyone had ever connected these dots in his life.
"No, no one has ever talked to me like you." He smiled.
smiled, and my mind raced through an entire dissertation in a
millisecond. If anyone can make an impression on this kid, I
can. I’m this big weird American. I look different than
what he’s used to. I’m from the colonial power, which as
ridiculous as it sounds in the 21st century, counts for
something. I’ve got credibility. To top it all off, I talk
to him about things of which he’s never heard, and make observations
about him that no one ever has. He’s taken notice. Maybe
what we talk about isn’t particularly insightful or clinically correct,
but it’s weird, it’s different, and he might just remember it.
He brightened more and asked me if I was coming back next week. I said yes, that I would be there again on Tuesday.
"I will still be here on Tuesday." He was excited now.
"Cool, then I’ll see you Tuesday. Do you know how to play
chess?" I asked pointing to the chessboard painted on the top of the