Words and Photos by: Keala Reeverts
“Look after my girl, I don’t care if she ends up with someone else, I want her to be happy, but just make sure she’s okay.”
That night Clark promised that while his buddy was locked away he would keep an eye out for the 17 year old girlfriend the best he knew how. Some time passed and Clark had gotten word that she had been knocked up by a 26 year old heroin dealer who wasn’t ready to be a daddy, and the man had ended up taking a baseball bat to beat her.
Clark arrived at the hospital where he found police officials and the offender discussing the girl who lay helpless on her hospital bed. “Go home and don’t do it again,” said the officer to the dealer. Clark couldn’t believe his ears, how were they not doing anything to bring this guy to justice? It was his duty to take matters into his own hands, and keep his promise. Later, Clark broke into the heroine dealer’s house with a custom made 10 pound hatchet in hand, that later found itself in the side of the man’s head. He then proceeded to tape him from head to toe “mummifying him” where he was later found barely alive. Clark left the house with everything he could sell in order to help pay for the poor girls hospital bills.
Clark (although not his real name) is now 36 years old with a buzzed hair cut and an infectious broken smile that reaches all the way up to his eyes. Years ago he had run into Doyle when he was just 17 at Skyline Park, a couple years before Sox Place was an actual place and before he ever went to prison. Every fiber of his being urges to take care of those around him and he’s ended up serving a life sentence of trying to discover the difference between love and vengeance.
His first case had landed him in prison facing 198 years being charged with everything from aggravated armed robberies to violent crimes. Through a series of court dates and judges, Clark was released after just six years back onto the streets. The first time he was released from prison in 2005 he ran into what is now known as Sox Place. This is where his friendship with Doyle all began. However, he had no idea what that would mean to him so many years down the road.
Lounging on the graffiti covered skate ramp sitting in the corner of the warehouse that is Sox Place, his tattooed hands rest underneath his head as he stares up at the ceiling. Although it appears he is relaxing, Clark sports an ankle bracelet that he has plugged into the nearest outlet, awaiting for it to be fully charged which takes about fifteen minutes.
“When Sox first showed up downtown, the way he was dressed and being an older gentleman, we thought he was down here to kidnap us,” said Clark, “Hell, I was only 17 years old. And most of the kids down here were still younger than me. Once we realized that he was down here not to cause us harm, but to help us, I think that’s about the time that I felt like I could begin trusting him,” said Clark.
Originally he found himself thrust into street living in the summer of 88’ when his step-dad had beaten up his mother one night and Clark tried to kill him. For the same reason that he avenged his friends girlfriend. “To me, I was doing the right thing, my logic was, if you put your hands on her, then I will put my hands on you,” he said.
Where the world is dark and the justice system seems more like a threat than a source of protection, it’s common for street kids to take matters into their own hands. Helping someone usually means hurting someone else, even if it’s themselves. The lines between being a giving person and taking vengeance are blurred, and often times they mean the same thing. “I’ve done things that I do regret but, theres things that given the chance, I would do them again,” he said with a sigh, recalling scene by scene the time he got a ticket for stripping himself naked in order to give someone else dry clothes. “I’d rather help somebody else than myself. Some people tell me that’s what my downfall is, that I don’t try to take care of myself, I try to take care of everybody else first.”
It’s hard to know what a good person is, and what a giving man looks like when you’ve never seen one. Many struggle with not having someone real to look up to or learn from, forcing them to base it off pop culture or what the world tells them. That is, until they meet someone who is willing to show them.
Clark approached Doyle a little while ago asking about a drivers license. “I walked up to him and said ‘If I go find out what I have to do to get my license back…’ he didn’t even let me finish my sentence and Doyle said, ‘yeah let me know what I can do to help you get it back.’ That just shows me that there is good people and Sox and Jordan are how I want to be. I want to be where I can help people like they do. They’ve done so much for me, I want to do it for other people. I talked to Sox the other day when I stayed late and that was the first time I told him about what my uncle did to me. I saw in his face and his eyes how hurt that made him feel.”
Pain, he saw it in Doyle’s reaction just like he saw it all over his mothers face when he broke down at eight years old and told her about what had been going on. “After a couple months of my uncle shooting me up with meth and molesting me, he started bringing friends in. For two years I was passed around from him to his friends to their friends, the whole time I was high as a kite and didn’t know anything. I didn’t know what was going on or that it was wrong, and I didn’t know to tell anybody. As I got older I realized that it wasn’t right. I tried to kill him,” Clark spoke coldly about his uncle.
This resulted in a 30 year long drug addiction to meth and an open door to all the other drugs that he could get his hands on. To be introduced to a drug of that strength at such a young age steered the entire course of Clarks life. At one point he was holding down 15 hour day jobs in construction “I was doing that on drugs like normal people would drink a cup of coffee to go to work,” he said.
Clark has been a slave to drugs for almost all his life. Brothers gone. Sisters gone. Friends gone. Wife gone. They too were slaves, and they died at the hands of their master. Seventeen months clean, but back on the streets, Clark’s eyes are open to the destruction drugs like meth has caused in his circle of friends. Anger, frustration and a lack of hope plague his body like a disease.
“I see people I’ve grown up with and people I consider my family and the shape they’re in because they’re still doing drugs and it breaks my heart. It breaks my heart to see them that way, it makes me want to slap the shit out of them. In the middle of things Sox and Jordan are down here too. They don’t do this for money, they do it to help and that does make me feel a little bit better. There wasn’t shit like this when I was a kid. Now there’s a bunch of young kids here and they’re doing the same stupid shit we were doing, but the only difference now is that they’ve actually got someone down here trying to help them. And yet, they’re disrespectful,” Clark shakes his head that is covered by a black hat with a white superman symbol embroidered on the front.
Drugs and death run rampant among his friends and family, and he feels responsible for the lives of those that are close to him. One of the most devastating realities he has had to face is that no matter how much Clark puts himself last and his friends first, there’s a good chance that drugs will always win. Most of his life he’s dealt with conflict by fighting fire by throwing himself into the fire and sacrificing his happiness for those around him. Attempting to live like the superman symbol that runs across his hat stands for.
“I’ve made a name for myself down here for being the one who doesn’t care. If you do something wrong, you’re going to know. I’ve been talking to Doyle and what I’ve realized is that it’s not worth being like that anymore. Sox has helped me by sitting down and talking to me and helping me get clean and wanting to stay clean,” said Clark.
Clark has always been trying to do the right thing for the people in his life even if it’s not something that he knows how to do. He’s someone who has felt the backlash of trying to be a hero for the hurting. What he needs is a way out of the way that he’s always used as his way out. He needs hope. He is searching for what is means to be a man, and to be a hero without sending him to prison.
After years of people telling him he can’t be apart of something greater, he’s grown skeptical of the world. Even his relationship with Doyle has found itself hanging by a single thread at times. But it hasn’t ever deterred him from having a deep respect for Doyle and Jordan, instead it’s presented a model of what it looks like to be a giving man. He’s watched for years how Doyle and Jordan have helped so many others and for the first time Clark has someone that he can look to.