Saturday, February 9, 2013

A Kid I Knew Is Dead

A kid I knew is dead.

I doubt you read the news story.  And you probably went right by it if you had.  Young man, in his 20s, gets into an altercation.  He has a knife; ends up shot dead.  Probably self-defense.  The kid had a record.  Sure, the police are investigating, but this is very likely what the law calls "justifiable homicide," and we'll all just close the books on this one.

I'd be lying if I said I didn't see this coming.

But I'd also be lying if I said I wasn't depressed about it.

I knew him.  Back when he was a kid.  Back when he was twelve years old, with a megawatt smile and more swagger than he had a right to.  Back when he lived in a group home, and some friends of mine met him while volunteering there, helping the kids with their schoolwork.  Back when my friends stayed close with him, and ultimately became his godparents.  Back when we'd all go to movies, or to plays.  Back when we wanted to get him to question his assumptions, to show him good role models, to teach him there are options.

I knew him back when he was a teenager.  Back when we went to see him play basketball for his school.  Back when he was really good at it.  Back when he was learning teamwork and taking pride is his accomplishments.  Back when keeping that "C" average to be able to keep playing was an achievable goal.  

And I saw it fall apart.  I saw my friends, who were an undeniable force for good in his life, be outnumbered by the forces for bad.  I saw him make bad decision after bad decision -- a smart kid doing stupid things for stupid reasons.  I heard about his first run-in with the law -- not too bad, something he could learn from, an opportunity to turn it around.  And then I heard about the next one.

I know -- I even knew then -- that it was a longshot.  College could only really happen on a basketball scholarship; and, if that somehow happened, he'd have to push himself in academics.  But I wanted it so bad for him.  I wanted to see this kid make the right decision ... and choose the tougher path.  And when he didn't, all I could do was shake my head and hope that maybe the next bad thing would knock some sense into him and he'd decide to make a change.

He'd done good things, too.  Had a big heart.  Left a girlfriend who loved him.  Siblings and other family members who mourned him.  Friends who genuinely cared.  Godparents who had tried their best.

I doubt he'd even remembered me.  I expect he'd be surprised that I'm grieving over his death.  (Hell, I think I'm surprised that I am.)  He was an adult -- an adult who made his own choices and they got him killed.  But I still remember the kid -- the kid who marvelled at a Shakespeare play, the kid who was secretly proud when his godparents were proud of him, the kid who, once upon a time, I thought really had a chance at succeeding in life.

And now he never will.


Wil said...

I am sorry for the loss of the young man, who he'd become and who he might have been. Now we'll never know, will we?

Peg said...

This isn't right. I'm sorry.