When I look at him even I find myself wondering what makes people think seventeen means you must still be considered a child? He proves that years aren’t everything. He paces through my office, looking much more like a man than a boy, and too full of energy to remain still. Easy to understand how uncomfortable someone like David would be sitting in a chair for hours at a time in a classroom. Even easier to see him standing against the wind and carrying hefty weights without bending. This young man has had to deal with horrific trauma, and domestic abuse and somehow managed to bounce back.
Still, he was seventeen when the events in PULL unfolded. With two younger sisters to care for, the burden David feels must sometimes be overwhelming.
“You’re only eighteen, right?” I say to get things started.
He winks at me. “The magic age, yeah.”
“I know you think you’re a man, David, but legally there are restrictions on you. You can vote and drive, but you still can’t smoke or drink legally.”
His eyes narrow and for a second I’m afraid I’ve set off his near legendary temper. Then he laughed. “You’re one of the people who think calendars rule. Other than years, what does a man have that I don’t? I have a job, responsibilities, a family to take care of and people who respect me.”
“That too. Like I’ve said before, I’m too big to fall between the cracks and end up a statistic.”
By all the rules of logic he’s wrong. But somehow, as I look at his strong body and steely eyes I’m not sure this young man won’t get everything he intends. He is big. Six foot seven, muscular, athletic build and I’d bet the Chicago Bulls would really like to see him in red some day. And he smiles a lot more these days than when he first entered an inner-city school in Chicago.
"Construction is an important part of your life."
"Absolutely." I can hear it in his voice, this is something he loves. "Building homes, offices, making something from a hole in the ground. That's power, that's wonderful. Knowing something you helped raise will be there even after you're gone, there's no way to describe the feeling. It's powerful. That's a feeling I wanted to share in the book about me."
“The book on your life comes out in what, six weeks?”
“Not even. Can you believe, the thing will be on bookshelves in time for Halloween, like someone wants the season to match the school’s colors.”
I’d almost forgotten, his school’s colors are orange and black. Like David said on his first day there, it’s laughable if you’re a Halloween person. Which I happen to be.
“Are you excited?” I ask him.
Like a typical man, he stops in the middle of the room, as motionless as anyone with his high energy could ever be and scowls. “Of course. Can’t you see me jumping for joy?”
I wonder how the women in his life put up with him?
“You still have an enemy at school. Are you worried about Malik’s reaction to the way you describe him in the book?”
“About who?” David tossed his head and waved his hand as if he were brushing away an annoying flea. “The guy’s still a gangsta clown with a capital ‘C.’ Look, do you worry when you say dirt’s full of germs? Truth may hurt, but it is what it is. Any other questions?”
“Where do you see yourself in ten years?”
“Ten?” A slow grin spreads across his face. “I’ll only need five to be king of the construction landscape around here.”
It's all typical male bravado from a brass and boastful youth. Still, when he speaks I almost believe there will be an Albacore Construction company as the number one in Chicago. If ever a young man had drive, that man is David Albacore.
“I want to thank you for sharing your story with the world. I’m sure many parts of it was difficult for you to reveal.”
“I tried to make the story honest. It’s me.” He paused before sighing and said, “I’m just a guy with his own problems and his own way of handling them. My story isn’t typical and there’s not a lot of books, not about guys like me, and not FOR guys like me. Like you say, some of us are just real. Maybe my story will let others know they’re not alone.” He leans forward with his hands on his hips, like he thinks he’s staring into a camera. “Maybe I don’t like school, but I do know reading is important. I want guys to read my book and see a part of themselves. Girls too.” He throws his hands in the air. “Hey, everybody read all about David. You’ll like me.”
“Some people are afraid your choices may send the wrong message.” What if kids read your book and want to follow in your footsteps?”
“They can’t. My future belongs to me. Everyone out there has their own lives. That’s what I had to learn, that a man’s got to do what a man’s got to do no matter what other’s think. My choices belong to me, only to me. Everyone has to follow their own path. If I learned anything it’s that you can’t be yourself by playing follow the leader.”
“PULL was a finalist in Maryland's Reveal Your Inner Vixen Contest in 2009,” I remind him and fight back a laugh when his head jerks. “What do you feel about that honor?”
“Honor?” His face goes blank for a moment. I’d almost call him embarrassed, until he shrugs and says, “Give that one to my girl, Yolanda. She gets the credit for things like that.”
“And when PULL won the Golden Rose Contest in Oregon?”
Now a smirk fills his face. “I’ll take credit for that one. I hear the final judge really loved me.”
He’s young, handsome, ultra smooth and confident so it’s easy to see why.
“Any last question for the readers of this blog?”
For several seconds the corners of his eyelids droop as he remained silent, apparently lost inside his thoughts. Then he nods. “Yeah, I’d like to know what people think about books that step outside the ordinary."