51, Washington, college counselor,
French International School in Bethesda
My grandparents had agreed to host Roger on Sundays one summer as part of their church’s ministry to the inmates from the prison near their home in western North Carolina.
Roger was no older than 30. He wore a light-blue collared shirt and bellbottom pants, his light-brown hair swept to the side. He smoked. He was polite: He paid attention as my grandfather read the Bible; he praised my grandmother’s peach pie. He seemed an unlikely prisoner. My grandparents never told us what he had done.
In October, he asked our parents if we could bring him school pictures. Two weeks later, Roger returned them in frames he’d made from Winston cigarette packs.
I touched the symmetrical interlocking pieces of the frame and imagined how much time, how many cigarettes it had taken Roger to make. I imagined him folding and binding each piece. What must his life be like, if this was all he could be proud of?
Soon after, my grandparents told us that Roger had hanged himself in his cell. I have moved 12 times, going years without looking at Roger’s frame. I’ve almost thrown it out as something freakish. But I have saved it — the intersection of a 10-year-old girl with a young man in jail — because its sturdy, unfaded bands humble me.
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