lost and found
When Gus was 5 or 6 maybe he got a red cape for Christmas. A red cape with sequined trim and a lightning bolt sewn on the back. I made it and he loved it. A glorious self-nourishing circuit. He wore it all the time. This was a hard time in Gus's life, all that quicksilver energy meeting with resistance and failure in civilized society with it's expectations of stillness, directness, reasonablness. A quantum child in an algebra world. The cape was good for him. It recognized the superhero in him.
One day Gus and Jake went on an adventure with Tomasa. She took them on the bus, east towards the lake, to visit a friend of hers. Gus had most likely not been on a bus before. He carried with him a backpack full of supplies: army guys, legos, crayons, his cape. When they got off the bus, he left his pack behind. And it was gone. Just like that. Mass transit has that impersonal force of nature pace about it. Gone.
He was bereft. We all were.
Gus is 16 now, and tall, and lean, and still picking his way through a world not shaped quite right for him. With extraordinary grace. He is known among his piers for his resolve, his humor and his most excellent t-shirt collection.
A couple of weeks ago, we were studying Spanish vocabulary. Over the years we have developed a sort of dance of memorization, how you take an abstract thing, a word, a cluster of sound and attach it to meaning and make it stick in your head in some manner that is retrievable. And retrievable not because you are using it, as it was meant to be used: Yo quero helado, may roll off the tongue when you hear the bells of the ice cream truck, but when faced with the word: ice cream on a sheet of paper, how do you reach into your mind and pull out: helado? You devise tricks, you build bonds, you tell stories. It seems most natural to me to remember Salir means to go, because I know what sally forth means. Gus thinks Sally Forth is the name of a comic strip and nothing else. It does not mean knights on horseback setting off across a field to him, as it does to me, and so is of no use to him. Still every time he fails to respond Salir when I prompt: to go, I quip: "Sally forth, sally forth, my good man." Until eventually he throws something at me.
So there we were a couple of weeks ago, Gus stretched out in adolescent languish on the couch, and me prompting him from a long list of words. I came to: To look for, to seek and Gus said, "Oh that's easy. Buscar. I remember that because I left my cape on the bus and never found it."