The Quiet Removal of Trevor Dixon
Like most of my stories, this one is true. It's about a boy I went to school with and to protect his privacy, I've changed his name. In this story I call him Trevor, but you may find yourself reminded of someone you know. Really, he could have been anyone. Maybe even you.
The day I saw Trevor being taken away, he and I were both 17, back in 1985 when 17 was a whole lot younger than it is today. We'd been classmates since we were 12 and it was the beginning of our senior year.
He was a scrawny looking kid; mostly forgettable. Messy blonde hair, skinny arms and legs. Maybe 5'7", maybe 115 lbs. soaking wet. He was what we called a Stoner and he spent most of his time in the back row of every class, laughing with his buddies, not paying attention. When he was with his few close friends, also Stoners, they always looked happy. When you saw any of them alone, mixed in with the rest of the kids, they looked scared and overwhelmed.
Trevor wasn't the most popular guy but no one had a bad word for him and he had a quick smile for everyone. A smile that said "I hope you like me" and "Please don't beat me up" both at the same time. And just like every class has its star jocks and beauty queens, maybe every class has its Trevors: the kids who keep coming to school even if they have no hope of graduating. They laugh a lot, aren't on the graduating list, and no one's surprised and then they're forgotten.
It was Fall and I had a free period and was getting something out of my locker. Further down the hall, on the opposite side, Trevor was doing the same. I don't know which I heard first: his frightened voice or the mean clang of him being slammed up against the lockers. It happened fast.
I looked and saw two grown men, both in white hospital scrubs, one on each side of Trevor. The men were both around six feet tall and each outweighed him by about a hundred pounds of muscle. One had slammed him up against the lockers and then they grabbed him, one on each side, and Trevor was all eyes and he was babbling "What" and "I don't understand" and he was begging and then crying, his words all running together, and the two men dragged him toward the exit.
As they dragged him, the men lifted him an inch or two off the ground and Trevor struggled to keep his feet walking in any fashion. They couldn't, and flopped around awkwardly, and the men didn't care.
I ran to the Vice Principal's office. I told him, in a rush, what I'd seen. I pointed in the direction they'd gone. I noticed he wasn't getting up and wasn't grabbing the phone. He didn't seem surprised at all. He folded his hands on his desk.
"They're probably to the parking lot right now," I told him.
And he nodded and told me to have a seat.
It kept getting worse. He calmly explained that Trevor had made some comments that had scared his parents and they believed he needed help. "We arranged it so he could be taken at school, instead of at home. It seemed like the wisest idea," he said.
Those words: We arranged it. I tried to put those words with the picture of the beefy men overpowering the boy and dragging him. We arranged it. He said words so they arranged it. His mom and dad. The school. Arranged.
I asked him what he meant. I told him I'd gone to school with him five years and he'd never been in a single fight. I'd never even heard him raise his voice, not even once. I asked him, had he actually done anything? Had he actually threatened to do anything?
"Well, no," he answered.
My head was spinning, thinking your parents could do that to you. They could make a few phone calls and all the adults would agree and you'd be taken out of your life. Just like that.
I didn't ask any more questions.
Senior year went by, all without Trevor. Football, basketball, graduation. I wondered if he'd ever gotten his G.E.D. I wondered if he'd have trouble getting a job, if he'd have to lie about being in the hospital. I wondered if they'd find out anyway.
Whenever I hear stories on the news about young kids whose words or notebooks alone have made them branded, given up on, and forgotten, I think of Trevor's face. I imagine those kids grabbed and manhandled and treated like dangerous animals. I wonder about their parents, who went from wrapping birthday presents for them to having discussions about where to lock them up.
I like to think those discussions must be tearful ones, but I wonder if they always are.
Two years after graduation, I saw Trevor again. He was at the Pike Place Market, there for the same Michael Dukakis rally I was. From behind me I heard someone call my name and when I turned around, there he was. Same friendly smile.
And it only took a second for it to flicker between us, his eyes to my eyes: you saw me, I saw it, you know, yes I know.
We made small talk, carefully. Tiptoeing around the scene we both remembered, acting like everything was okay. And then he said he had to go, and said it'd been so nice to see me and I said You too.
And then he walked away and was swallowed up in the crowd until I couldn't see him anymore.
Amie Ryan is the author of essay collections GREEN SHOES MEAN I LOVE YOU and STARFISH ON THURSDAY and the Marilyn Monroe biography MARILYN: LOVED BY YOU available at www.amieryan.com