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  It was half a mile from the dormitory to the road, and although he would normally have been in pain after what happened in the barn, that night he felt no pain, only elation, a sense of hyper-wakefulness that seemed to have been conjured particularly for this night, for this adventure. At the edge of the property he dropped to the ground and rolled carefully under the barbed wire, wrapping Colin’s jacket sleeves around his hands and then holding the coils of wire above him so he could scoot beneath them. Once he was safely free, his elation only intensified, and he ran and ran in the direction he knew was east, toward Boston, away from the home, from the West, from everything. He knew he would eventually have to leave this road, which was narrow and mostly dirt, and move toward the highway, where he would be more exposed but also more anonymous, and he moved quickly down the hill that led toward the black dense woods that separated the road from the interstate. Running on grass was more difficult, but he did so anyway, keeping close to the edge of the forest so that if a car passed, he could duck within it and hide behind a tree.


  As an adult, as a crippled adult, and then as a crippled adult who was truly crippled, as someone who could no longer even walk, as someone for whom running was a magic trick, as impossible as flying, he would look back on that night with awe: how fleet he had been, how fast, how tireless, how lucky. He would wonder how long he had run that night—at least two hours, he thought, maybe three—although at the time he hadn’t thought about that at all, only that he needed to get as far as he could from the home. The sun began to appear in the sky, and he ran into the woods, which were the source of many of the younger boys’ fears, and which were so crowded and lightless that even he was frightened, and he was not frightened in general by nature, but he had gone as deep into them as he could, both because he had to go through the woods to reach the interstate and because he knew that the deeper he hid within them, the less likely he was to be discovered, and finally he had chosen a large tree, one of the largest, as if its size offered some promise of reassurance, as if it would guard and protect him, and had tucked himself between its roots and slept.


  When he woke it was dark again, although whether it was late afternoon or late evening or early morning he wasn’t certain. He began moving his way through the trees again, humming to comfort himself and to announce himself to whatever might be waiting for him, to show them he was unafraid, and by the time he had been spat out by the woods on the other side, it was still dark, so he knew it was in fact nighttime, and he had slept all day, and that knowledge made him feel stronger and more energetic. Sleep is more important than food, he remonstrated himself, because he was very hungry, and then to his legs: Move. And he did, running again uphill toward the interstate.


  He had realized at some point in the forest that there was only one way he would be able to get to Boston, and so he stood by the side of the road, and when the first truck stopped for him and he climbed aboard, he knew what he would have to do when the truck stopped, and he did it. He did it again and again and again; sometimes the drivers gave him food or money, and sometimes they didn’t. They all had little nests they had made for themselves in the trailers of their trucks, and they lay there, and sometimes after it was over, they would drive him a little farther, and he would sleep, the world moving beneath him in a perpetual earthquake. At filling stations he would buy things to eat and would wait around, and eventually someone would choose him—someone always did—and he would climb into the truck.


  “Where’re you headed?” they would ask him.


  “Boston,” he would say. “My uncle’s there.”


  Sometimes he felt the shame of what he was doing so intensely he wanted to vomit: he knew he would never be able to claim to himself that he had been coerced; he’d had sex with these men freely, he had let them do whatever they wanted, he had performed enthusiastically and well. And sometimes he was unsentimental: he was doing what he had to do. There was no other way. This was his skill, his one great skill, and he was using it to get somewhere better. He was using himself to save himself.


  Sometimes the men would want him for longer and they would get a motel room, and he would imagine Brother Luke waiting in the bathroom for him. Sometimes they would talk to him—I have a son your age, they’d say; I have a daughter your age—and he would lie there and listen. Sometimes they would watch television until they were ready to go again. Some of them were cruel to him; some of them made him fear he would be killed, or hurt so badly he wouldn’t be able to escape, and in those moments he would be terrified, and he would wish, desperately, for Brother Luke, for the monastery, for the nurse who had been so kind to him. But most of them were neither cruel nor kind. They were clients, and he was giving them what they wanted.


  Years later, when he was able to review these weeks more objectively, he would be dumbstruck by how stupid he had been, by how small his oculus: Why hadn’t he simply escaped? Why hadn’t he taken the money he had earned and bought a bus ticket? He would try and try to remember how much he had earned, and although he knew it hadn’t been much, he thought that it might have been enough for a ticket somewhere, anywhere, even if not Boston. But then, it simply hadn’t occurred to him. It was as if the entire store of resourcefulness he had possessed, every piece of courage, had been spent on his flight from the home, and once on his own, he had simply let his life be dictated to him by others, following one man after the next, the way he had been taught to do. And of all the ways in which he changed himself as an adult, it would be this, this idea that he could create at least some part of his own future, that would be the most difficult lesson to learn, as well as the most rewarding.


  Once there had been a man who had smelled so terribly and had been so sweatily large that he had almost changed his mind, but although the sex had been horrific, the man had been gentle with him afterward, had bought him a sandwich and a soda and had asked him real questions about himself and had listened carefully to his made-up answers. He had stayed with the man for two nights, and as he drove, the man had listened to bluegrass music and had sung along: he had had a lovely voice, low and clear, and he had taught him the words, and he had found himself singing along with this man, the road smooth beneath them. “God, you have a nice voice, Joey,” the man had said, and he had—how weak he was, how pathetic!—allowed himself to be warmed by this comment, had gobbled up this affection as a rat would a piece of molding bread. On the second day, the man had asked him if he wanted to stay with him; they were in Ohio, and unfortunately he wasn’t going any farther east, he was headed south now, but if he wanted to stay with him, he would be delighted, he would make sure he was taken care of. He had declined the man’s offer, and the man had nodded, as if he had expected he would, and given him a fold of money and kissed him, the first of them who had. “Good luck to you, Joey,” he said, and later, after the man had left, he had counted the money and realized it was more than he thought, it was more than he’d made in his previous ten days altogether. Later, when the next man was brutish, when he was violent and rough, he had wished he had gone with the other man: suddenly, Boston seemed less important than tenderness, than someone who would protect him and be good to him. He lamented his poor choices, how he seemed unable to appreciate the people who were actually decent to him: he thought again of Brother Luke, how Luke had never hit him or yelled at him; how he had never called him names.


  Somewhere he had gotten sick, but he didn’t know if it was from his time on the road or from the home. He made the men use condoms, but a few of them had said they would and then hadn’t, and he had struggled and shouted but there had been nothing he could do. He knew, from past experience, that he would need a doctor. He stank; he was in so much pain he could barely walk. On the outskirts of Philadelphia he decided he’d take a break—he had to. He had torn a small hole in the sleeve of Colin’s jacket and had rolled his money into a tube and shoved it inside and then closed the hole with a safety pin he had found in one of the motel rooms. He climbed out of the last truck, although at the time he hadn’t known it would be the last truck; at the time he had thought: one more. One more and I’ll make it to Boston. He hated that he had to stop now when he was so close, but he knew he needed help; he had waited as long as he could.


  The driver had stopped at a filling station near Philadelphia—he didn’t want to drive into the city. There, he made his slow way to the bathroom; he tried to clean himself. The illness made him tired; he had a fever. The last thing he remembered from that day—it had been late January, he thought; still cold, and now with a wet, stinging wind that seemed to slap against him—was walking to the edge of the gas station, where there had been a small tree, barren and unloved and alone, and sitting down against it, resting his back in Colin’s now-filthy jacket against its spindly, unconvincing trunk, and shutting his eyes, hoping that if he slept for a while, he might feel at least a little stronger.


  When he woke he knew he was in the backseat of a car, and the car was moving, and there was Schubert playing, and he allowed himself to be comforted by that, because it was something he knew, something familiar in such unfamiliarity, in a strange car being driven by a stranger, a stranger he was too weak to sit up and examine, through a strange landscape to an unknown destination. When he woke again he was in a room, a living room, and he looked around him: at the sofa he was on, the coffee table in front of it, two armchairs, a stone fireplace, all in shades of brown. He stood, still dizzy but less dizzy, and as he did, he noticed there was a man standing in a doorway, watching him, a man a little shorter than he, and thin, but with a sloping stomach and fertile, swelling hips. He had glasses that had black plastic bracketing their top half but were clear glass beneath, and a tonsure of hair trimmed very short and soft, like a mink’s coat.


  “Come to the kitchen and have something to eat,” the man said in a quiet toneless voice, and he did, walking slowly after him and into a kitchen that, except for its tiles and walls, was also brown: brown table, brown cupboards, brown chairs. He sat in the chair at the foot of the table, and the man put a plate before him with a hamburger and a slide of fries, a glass filled with milk. “I normally don’t get fast food,” the man said, and looked at him.


  He wasn’t sure what to say. “Thank you,” he said, and the man nodded. “Eat,” he said, and he did, and the man sat at the head of the table and watched him. Normally this would have made him self-conscious, but he was too hungry to care this time.


  When he was finished he sat back and thanked the man again, and the man nodded again, and there was a silence.


  “You’re a prostitute,” the man said, and he flushed, and looked down at the table, at its shined brown wood.


  “Yes,” he admitted.


  The man made a little noise, a little snuffle. “How long have you been a prostitute?” he asked, but he couldn’t answer him and was silent. “Well?” the man asked. “Two years? Five years? Ten years? Your whole life?” He was impatient, or almost impatient, but his voice was soft, and he wasn’t yelling.


  “Five years,” he said, and the man made the same small noise again.


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