14 Dec MED_007

You wouldn’t normally find CJ in Back of the Yards. Typically he stayed in the Cabrini-Green row houses. But this day we found him at his sister’s. He was on house arrest, the ankle bracelet hidden beneath his jeans. Still a juvenile, but just barely.

It was his “last chance”. His sister out, he tended his little niece and nephew. As his niece bounded around the apartment, the baby boy lay on the couch. CJ sat near, messing with his phone. A typical teenager.

For a minute, the bottle, waiting, stood on the coffee table.

The young man on house arrest – his face reflected in the glass surface, itself isolated.


Over time I’ve grown terrifed of my photos. They are things that grow and change on me, sometimes for the worse. Yesterday, this photo meant “juvenile justice system.” It meant “youth interrupted.” It meant “I made a mistake, but I still love, and I am worthy of love.”

Today, I look at this photo, and it looks back, differently. Today, it means vengeance. Retaliation. The cycle, unbroken.

One day since this image was taken, CJ was beaten, badly. I don’t know by whom, some rival clique. His friends rallied to his defense. One of the rivals shot dead. The balance sheet, squared.

And his friend in jail.