A few moments from the life of Chris Pollet, the young boy shown in "Born Bad".
By Lynne Hoffman
It was early evening and the residents of the center were impatiently awaiting furlough. The worn vinyl chairs hadn't been comfortable for years, if in fact they had ever been comfortable. One of the guys was standing on a chair flipping the channels on the old television that was securely mounted high on the wall.
"Hey Chris? Whaddya want to watch? C'mon man, pick something." Aaron Singbeil called to one of his co-detainees.
Chris Pollet looked up to see what was on, "I don't care man, just quit flippin' the channels. No. Hey. Stop there."
"The news? C'mon Chris, whaddya want with the news?"
"Quiet!" Chris commanded him sharply and Aaron turned the thing up louder. Chris stared at the TV for a minute before turning to his buddy, "That's the shithead that sent me here." He pointed to a still picture on the screen.
"I know him too. Ben Stone-head. The jerk. What's he doing in the news? Somebody knock him off?" Aaron flopped down into one of the empty chairs under the set.
"Shut up." Chris clenched and unclenched his fists as he tried in vain to listen to what was being said about the man in the picture, a gesture that wasn't lost on Aaron.
"So wise guy, you gonna hit me?" He challenged Chris. Chris took a breath and spat on the floor at Aaron's feet. Then he stepped backward, laughing and sat down almost next to Aaron.
"You prick. What did you do that for?"
"Sorry." Chris looked back at the screen but the sports scores were on now. He got up again and began to pace. Saying'sorry' was new to him. He usually just lost his temper and let the chips fall where they may. It was his temper that had been responsible for his being in detention as it were. His temper and the man whose face had just been gracing the TV screen. Benjamin Stone. One of the E.A.D.A's. of New York county. Chris glanced back at Aaron and shrugged.
"So, he's responsible for you being in here, huh? Me too."
"Wanna know something Aaron? I used to hate him. I mean really, really hate him. Him and Helen."
"Helen? Who's Helen?"
"My jerk attorney. You shoulda seen those two in action. What a farce. She's arguing that I committed my crime because it was in my blood ..."
"In your blood? I hope you've had a blood transfusion since then." Aaron snickered.
"He's a real jerk too. He was arguing that I was just plain bad. The psychiatrists couldn't make up their minds. He's standing there trying to tell my mother to have an abortion so she wouldn't have anymore kids like me."
"Well, yeah man. That would have been a disaster. Two Chris Pollets. Ugh." Aaron bravely thwacked Chris in the shoulder. Chris snorted.
"You're brave here you jerk. You wouldn't be so brave outside." Chris answered him, with a tone that told Aaron to back down. Though Chris was doing much better controlling his temper, teasing tended to make it difficult for him to keep it in check.
"So, what did your old lady say to him?"
"She didn't care. She hated me anyway. Ever since my old man went to Attica. Like that was my fault or something."
"Yeah, my old man liked to blame me for everything too."
"Ah. They made me sick. Finally I told them to give it up already. I wasn't going to sit through anymore of that crap. I told Helen I'd go to jail."
"You wanted to go to jail?" Aaron looked at Chris incredulously, "Are you nuts?"
"Well, yeah," Chris wrinkled his brow and looked around the room, "Isn't that why we're here?"
Aaron cracked up, "You know what I mean man."
Chris leaned over in his chair and dragged his knuckles across the floor laughing, "Yeah. I'm turnip salad." He straightened up, still laughing and leaned against the back of his chair.
"Why did you want to go to jail?" Aaron prodded him.
Chris sobered, "Well, with Helen trying to convince everyone that I couldn't help being bad and Stone trying to say that even if I could I wouldn't care I figured I might as well quit fighting and go to jail. It wasn't that I really wanted to go. I just didn't want to sit there and keep listening to the two of them go on and on about how bad I was."
"So, how'd you end up here, in 'residential treatment', if you decided you wanted to go to jail?"
"It was Stone's idea. I didn't understand it then. I thought he was crazy. I mean they had been spending day after day trying to convince the jury that I deserved to be locked up, that I was never going to be 'normal'. Helen wanted me locked up in a mental institute. She kept trying to convince people that I wasn't guilty because of my genes. She said I couldn't help being the way I was and that I wasn't guilty by reason of mental defect. Stone argued that I was guilty period. He didn't buy the bad genes bit."
"So, Helen won?"
"No. I'm not in Bellevue." Chris offered Aaron another smile, "Stone saw the light or something. Got a case of the guilts. I dunno. I'm ready to plead guilty when he says they want me incarcerated in a juvie facility. They want me to get therapy. He says, 'we're trying to save your life, son.'" Chris stopped his commentary. Aaron looked at him and noticed a wet streak on Chris' cheek.
"I'm gonna grab a coke. Want one?" Aaron got up and headed to the canteen without waiting for a response, leaving Chris in silence.
Chris angrily wiped the tear of betrayal from his cheek. How could he possibly feel something for the man who had sentenced him to this place? 'Son'. Stone had called him. Yeah, well he knew Stone hadn't meant it in the conventional sense but still... He couldn't remember the last time someone had called him son. He couldn't remember the last time someone had ever said they cared about him. He'd actually asked the man that in court after Stone had asserted that they were trying to save his life.
Stone hadn't answered him but here he was, sitting in a treatment facility, getting daily therapy and slowly coming to understand his psychological problems. Stone had done him a favor. A big one. He was learning to control his temper and finding constructive ways to express his anger. He was slowly learning to behave like a normal citizen. He owed Stone a very big 'Thank-you'.
Tomorrow he'd ask his therapist to help him write the man a letter. Tomorrow he'd let the man know how grateful he was slowly realizing he was. Thanks to Stone, Chris thought, he actually had a tomorrow.