He's sitting at the table, crying. He feels bad, guilty. He hates making people feel bad. I try to cheer him up. "Hey, do you guys have Red Dwarf over in England?" His eyes are red and puffy as he nods. I press on. "Do you like it?" He nods again, wiping salt water from his eyes with the palm of his hand. I'm determined to make him talk. "Who's you favorite character?"
"Lister," he chokes out, and with that word I see how vulnerable he is, how we all look when our defenses are stripped.
We're all out at the teambuilding area. The instructor just explained how the kids would need teamwork to remove a tire from a ten foot pole. He was there, smirking. In a swift movement, he launched the tire off the pole, a spit in the face of teamwork. As he grinned in triumph, the tire twisted in midair, sloshing week old rainwater all over him. It was like a story where the theme was clear. Teamwork would out.
The boys are riding in a van, seeing who the director will allow to drive for the kids. The South African is behind the wheel, a fruitless exercise, he doesn't have a state license. The rest of us are in the back conversing. "You know what statutory rape is, right?" We're joking with Him. Kind of.
"Guys," he says. "There's nothing to worry about. She's too young for me. I'm not interested. It's just a little girl crush. I talked to her. She understands. Nothing will happen. Don't worry. Don't worry." They are all lies, told with a smooth liar's tongue. Then he grins a kind grin. He really is a nice guy.
We're at McDonalds, recovering from a nightmare of a night. I take Him aside by a road median and tell him that I know. "I know she's only two years younger then you, but its still illegal."
His eyes are red and I can't help but think of him at the breakfast table. "This is bullshit. Who told you these lies?" I feel miserable.
"It doesn't matter, and I don't know whether it's true one way or the other, but either way, the Directors need to know. I mean, some of the CITs will be sixteen, and if it's ok for you to sleep with Her, then what's stopping you from sleeping with them?"
He's still visibly upset. "I understand." His accent is pronounced. "You must do what you must."
The police come to arrest Him later that same day. The Girl had cracked under questioning, sobbingly admitting that they had snuck out late at night and rendezvoused. It was her first time. No one wanted to think about how horrible it would be for a sixteen year old's first time to result in the firing and arrest of the one she gave herself to. I'm there as they're leading him into the back of the car. He doesn't look me in the eyes as they put him away, and drive off. All I can think of is my last conversation with him.
"Why do you care so much about what we did?"
"Well, I guess I feel responsible for you, because I'm your friend."