It’s the end of the school day, and I’m sitting at the table watching the middle school kids walk by on their way home. They’re so loud, all the sound they’ve had to keep tight inside all day let loose. They walk by, texting and talking, never missing a step, never stumbling. I see S in the alley, picking her way slowly home. I’ve heard from several kids that S gets beaten at home. She cuts now, J tells me. So does L, my son says, even though she has, like, the most perfect family ever. We don’t know what happens in other people’s homes, I remind him. Oh yes we do, he says. I’ve met her parents and they’re awesome. Plus they’re rich. I am silent in the face of all the things he doesn’t know. R and C hang out in front of the gas station, sucking down energy drinks and popping Skittles. Their parents don’t care when they come home, my son says. R has in-school suspension every other week, and he’s failing half his classes. Every time I see him, he asks, “And how are you today, Elisabeth? I hope you’re well.” One of the teachers tells me she hates to see my son hanging out with R, he’s such a trouble-maker, he’ll lead my son down the wrong path. And I think about that “And how are you today, Elisabeth? I hope you’re well.” He always waits to hear my answer.