We all have our refuge. We can all find our salvation -- in a place, a face, a state of mind.
Jack would never say it, but his has always been the real Refuge. Even under the tyrannical rule of Snyder, Jack has never felt more singularly determined than in those late, lonely hours stretched across a narrow bunk. He's been in and out more times than any of us can count -- not that most newsies can count very high -- and even when he hates it, he calls it home. Whenever he's on the verge of losing it, whenever he's dug a hole so deep that not even his impenetrable charm can save him, they cart him off to the Refuge and it's like he finds himself. Just like a moment of clarity, he sees the kind of guy that he is and the kind that he wants to be. It has nothing to do with the daily prayers and the bible readings, it's just Jack inside his own mind and when he comes back he's all the happier.
Racetrack finds his refuge in the alleyway craps games, at the horse races and, every now and then, in the confessional. And even though he leaves the church to go find his next big win -- which never comes, no matter how hard he prays -- he feels good about doing it. He says that he figures God's probably okay with it as long as he's not sneaking around behind His back, that he and God have an open relationship. Maybe that's what refuge is, too -- a way to assuage your guilt.
Kid Blink lives for New York. When we all wrinkle our noses at the smell of the docks or scream ourselves hoarse trying to be heard over the rest of the crowd, Blink saturates himself in the feeling of New York. The way so many boys long to be elsewhere -- off the streets, in a bed, with a full stomach -- is the same way Blink feels the city deep in the pit of his stomach. He wouldn't dream of leaving, couldn't imagine a day without ink-smeared hands and a grumbling belly. New York has been a refuge as much as it's been a terror, a dream as much as a nightmare, like heaven and hell in one big, smelly place and he just lives in it.
Mush is a wildcard, but I would guess that he finds his refuge with the rest of us. Brotherhood, camaraderie -- hell, Mush just wants to be looked after and finds his refuge in the few people that can offer it. No, it's not a mother and father tucking him in at night, but it's a family at least, a group of ragtags he can call his own.
Skittery finds his refuge in the bottom of a liquor bottle and my little brother finds his in our mother's arms and there are others whose refuge is somewhere deep, dark and personal.
I've spent the better part of my life trying to find my refuge and I think that I finally have. It’s in those eyes that have never failed to appraise me, that mind that has never ceased trying to win me over, those fingers that keep reaching out for something I have to give, those lips that speak my name so strangely, sometimes reverently, sometimes dismissively.
He's never been stable -- never will be -- but there's nothing about salvation that says it has to be permanent, everlasting or even advisable. Refuge is what you make of it -- it's your own peace of mind or heart or body, it's your own happiness and wellbeing over anyone else's, it's that miniscule slice of perfection that you call your own, that little thing you can hold onto when everything else is slipping away.
All I know is that, when so much of my day-to-day relies on ration and making sense of things, there's refuge in holding onto one physical, near-perfect thing I can find. And who cares if it's a boy who's having to learn not to go looking for trouble?
Sometimes, you don't find refuge, but refuge finds you, and the way that one boy says, "David" when we're alone, like it's a prayer and a sin all at once, makes me feel safer than I've ever cared to feel.
Jack Kelly shouldn't be anyone's refuge when he can't figure out his own. But I think that I can help.