We sat us down on the bench, quiet without saying anything. I looked at the boy, but he wouldn’t look back at me. He was about 11 years old. I could tell that I had seen this boy before, but I couldn’t remember where. I then asked,
- Hey, boy, do you know Alalay?
The kid looked at me with a firm smile on his face without saying anything at all. He was dirty after working the whole day as a shoe shiner, and he was about to go to sleep. I could tell that I really knew this boy. Without a doubt. After a few moments of silence the kid looked at me saying,
- Yes, I know Alalay, and I know you as well.
- How long have you been in the street?.
- About a week, he told me.
- And why did you leave Alalay?
- Because I want to earn some money...
- Money? I repeated.
He just looked at me, smiling. I continued asking him about what he thought about returning to Alalay. He said:
- Returning? Well...I don’t know.
- You don’t know? I said.
- No, I don’t know. It’s just that I like to earn some money. I don’t like being in the street, but returning...well...I don’t know.
I then used about five minutes explaining him what his options are. How his future can be, but that it is all up to him. I finished telling him that we can go right now, and that he could sleep in a warm bed already this night.
- What do you think? I said.
- I don’t know, he answered. Really, I don’t know.
Then two guards came over to us, asking us what we were doing with the boy. I explained everything, and finished asking them what they think the boy should do. If he should go with us, or sleep in the street. The two guards hold a little speech for the boy. Trying to help him to understand. Once again the boy said:
- I don’t know, maybe...I don’t know.
Then another man came over to us. A man who was living more or less in the street. A man with a past almost impossible to imagine. He was now living his life by making poems in the street. Earning a few dollars a day. He sat down on the ground looking the kid deeply into his eyes. He started,
- I know what I am talking about...you see...I live in the street, and I now how this life is...look...this people here can take you to a place where you have a future. A place where you can study and become a man with a great life. Here in the street you don’t have any future at all.
He continued talking with the kid for a few minutes, ending like this,
- It is now up to you. It is up to you to choose what you want to do with your life. It is your choice. Choose the right one.
The kid looked at me once again and said,
- I don’t know, maybe...
We were sitting waiting a few minutes, in silence, until he told me that he would go tomorrow. I said,
- Okay, meet me at my office tomorrow morning.
- Great, he told me. There I can play with the computer and everything.
- Yeah, you can. And you can take a shower and clean you cloths. See you tomorrow!
- Okay, see you tomorrow, hermano Esteban.
We left him there in the street, hoping that he would come tomorrow...
...He never came...
Pictures are for illustration only, and have nothing to do with the actual event.