He sat against the wall, looking exhausted.
Circles had formed under his eyes. Stubble had grown on his face.
To his right, his worried mom.
To his left, his bubbly bro.
The three waited in the lobby of the police station, talking about nothing in particular.
A few police officers sat behind a glass wall, ready to answer anyone’s questions. But the three were content in their uncomfortable blue, plastic chairs.
Then two uniformed police officers – one young man with short hair, one old man with gray hair – walked out of the authorized area. The younger officer grabbed the boy’s ID that had been tucked into his belt, and said the boy’s name.
I say boy because he looked like a boy with his long, brown hair stretched in every direction, with his mother by his side. He didn’t look like a man. He didn’t look like someone old enough to be turning himself in for a crime.
The boy stood up.
The younger officer asked him some basic questions, if the boy had any weapons or explosives on him, if the boy had any money.
The boy reached to his back jeans pocket for his thick, brown wallet, his bond money. “Should I give it to her?”
“Yeah, give it to her,” the older officer said.
The boy’s mom grabbed the wallet.
The boy turned around and faced his mother and his brother. The younger cop attached handcuffs to the boy’s wrist and started patting his legs and searching for the guns and explosives. (Apparently, he didn’t believe the kid.)
The older cop started questioning the boy, but not in an annoying, I’m so much wiser than you way. He questioned the boy in a kind, inquisitive way, like a grandfather would or like an older cop who is trying to help an 18-year-old would.
How’d you get here?
What were you on probation for?
This older officer has probably seen the worst because of people’s love for alcohol. The endless domestic violence cases. The fatal drunken driving incidents. The pointless shootings after 2 a.m.
“I’ve never seen anything good come from alcohol,” he said.
The mother said something, something like, yeah, we agree.
“Been sober for one month, 10 days,” the 18-year-old said.
The older officer then seemed happy, content with the 18-year-old’s answer. He stopped the life-advice session. The younger officer ended the uncomfortable patting.
A few feet away from the group, the older brother stood with his cell phone.
“The cuffs,” he said, as he motioned to his brother to turn a little.
The cell phone clicked. Moment captured.
Mom watched her cuffed 18-year-old son walk with officers. She pretend slapped her other son.
“This isn’t funny,” she said.
A backhand to his right cheek. An open hand to his left.
They walked through the rotating glass doors, into the sunny, breezy afternoon.
And I kept waiting for my next interview.
Yet, as I sat there, I didn’t think of the questions I would ask or the answers I would receive.
I thought about what I had just seen: a police officer latching metal bracelets around an 18-year-old kid. A mother watching her son walk into jail. A brother being a brother. And an older man trying to save a young man from alcohol, the most underrated drug we know.
It was all so humbling, so real, so transformative. And it was only 3:45 in the afternoon.