Tall and painfully thin, Bryan sat hunched over miserably; looking down at his hands as he endured the job interview. It wasn’t much of a job I was offering him, just twenty hours a week in a government-funded program paying minimum wage. But to Brayn it must have looked like a life and death opportunity-which he apparently felt he was blowing.
You see, Bryan had just turned eighteen and for the past two years he had been living in the woods.
What? Why didn’t I mention we were talking about a third world country? Well, because Florida is not usually considered a third world country,that’s why. But then the center of the state is a whole different world than the snazzy parts along the coasts. And we were smack in the center of the state.
Bryan had come home from school at age sixteen and no one was home. He eventually found out his mother had been arrested, but nobody came for Bryan. He was just a kid; he stayed in the apartment until he was thrown out and then he lived in the woods. Sometimes he did odd jobs, particularly for a local motel owner, who let him shower and sleep in a real bed in return for data management tasks. For, you see, Bryan was one of those natural-born Geek geniuses.
Some folks sort of took him in after awhile and I learned later he had borrowed the clothes he wore to the interview. I have four kids of my own, so I had figured an eighteen year-old boy would be hungry. We held the interview over lunch, but Bryan could not eat. His hands were shaking too much. I wanted to be professional-AND I wanted to hug him and say, “It is going to be all right, please eat something.” It was hard, but I did not do that. I did, however, hire him.
He was great-made us two websites lickety-split. I helped him learn to speak in public, at least a little bit, and everybody loved him. He was bad sometimes. On a training trip to Orlando he got drunk the night before with other young folks and overslept. He sometimes did socially unacceptable things. I was eighteen once. I did those, too. I had to leave that place and always wondered what happened to Bryan, for the job market in that county was lousy-and then the crash of 2008 hit.
I heard rumors; worrisome rumors. Last night as I struggled with a Geek problem, my daughter said, “Ask Bryan.” But I was afraid that if I tried to find him, I would find him in jail.
Not so. I tracked him down and he said he will be glad to help me on weekends, but he’s quite busy; working full-time for a software development company.
I was so happy to hear this, I may have cried.
I may be crying now.