The summer I spent taking on-the-edge-of-trouble kids from cities into the wilderness I had a group from Aurora, Colorado. They were the kind of eighth graders who put up fronts, who have to be tough even if they’re smart enough to know it’s stupid, because they’ve learned to be on the defensive.
They called it Saudi Aurora, and after the first day of freaking out about hiking and animals and heavy packs they started talking to me about their lives, opening up about their neighborhoods, about gun shots in the mornings, the drugs they had done, and their families.
“You’re old. How come you’re not married? How come you don’t have kids?” one girl, who told me her dad was in jail, but had 15 kids with different women, asked me. I was 22 and starting to question whether I really loved the first boy I’d told ever told that I loved. “You can do other things besides get married right away,” I told her.
Those kids were my connection to Aurora, even though I drove through it, past the King Soopers headquarters and the boxy shipping warehouses every time I went to the airport.
Yesterday morning, when I woke up to the news that a gunman had opened fire in a movie theater in Aurora, had sprayed bullets into a crowd of families and kids and people who had dorked out about a midnight showing of a comic book movie, I though about that group of kids from the hood who had seemed resigned to their fate even when we took them out of their comfort zone.