People like to talk to me. That's been true since I was in grade school, when my babysitter would gab to me about sneaking out to parties, smoking her first cigarette and throwing her no-good boyfriend's ring into the sewer. At some point she'd pause and ask, "Why am I telling all of this to a little kid?" Then I'd shrug, and she'd continue.
I was quiet, asking a few questions to keep her talking, and I was listening, processing and tucking away what she told me, then writing about it in my journal, imagining what my life might be like when I was old enough for braces, prom and teenage angst.
People still like to talk to me, and sometimes the stories are light. But oftentimes the stories are heavy, and well-guarded: the fear of facing an abuser in court, how it feels to slowly go blind, how much she wants a baby, the reason he put four bars of soap in a sock and used it to beat another inmate. They tell me these stories with the full knowledge that I'm taking notes and that those notes will turn into a story that the public will see. I take that responsibility seriously.
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