I hear footsteps approaching from behind me as I cross the field. Just when I expect the person to pass by me a t-shirt is thrown over my head and pulled tight at my throat. The man orders me to move into the woods. After minimal resistance his hands leave my throat. I immediately double over as I fear he is going for a knife with which to stab me. Then I hear his footsteps racing away. Acting on irrational instinct I begin to chase him as if to finish whatever narrative he has begun. Then I realize I have no desire to catch him.
When they assault Jim he collapses on the ground like a rag doll, a defensive strategy meant to minimize the sadistic pleasure of the confrontation. Chris begins kicking Jim in the ribs. I step up and say “okay, that’s enough.” Chris seems surprised that I am there and then more surprised when he recognizes me. “Yes,” I say. “Your mom goes to my dad’s church.” Chris, feeling exposed, leads his posse away.
She visits me when I am shirtless, nursing a bad sunburn across my chest. I visit her in the hospital following her drug overdose.
“Justin Trudeau is at the airport hugging and kissing refugees, giving them jackets. My people can’t even drink the water. Put that bald guy in charge. I forget his name. The exchange. Some show like that. Look at our cabinet. We’ve got four turbans. What’s that about? We’ve got the best country in the world and we’re giving it away.”
After a long evening spent with the Romantic poets or conceptual artists we’re eager to compare notes. Bottomless cups of coffee and sugary danish pastries fuel us into the wee hours of the morning. Art and consciousness, religion and poetry, love and sex. We end up in his orange VW Bug in my driveway wringing the last drops of insight from the day.
Accosting her in the hall like a drive-by shooting. Phoning her from my parents kitchen like a pre-internet virus. The three girls titter in the hallway while my brother and I sing in the basement. How unsettling to look across the dark street and see the socially awkward young man standing in the doorway of the Tai Hu, staring back.
We hatch a plan to sneak out into the night. He leaves a note on his bedroom window. I sleep through the night and the note is found by his father the next day.
I’m looking into his backyard. The duplex is dwarfed by the enormous satellite dish. We hide packs of Rothman’s in his basement. We lift weights. He steals Drambuie from his father’s cupboard. “How’s it going, Norville?” I gaze up at the doorbell as if I expect to see him sitting there.
Tom is waiting for the fight to begin. Steve charges through the crowd, leaps in the air, and brings his elbow down on Tom’s head. Tom drops to his knees in tears.
They call him Rabbit because he gets hopping mad. We play endless hours of football, running routes past invisible defenders, even in the dead of winter, even at night under the streetlight.
Colleen leaves him. His father dies. He is drinking too much. He calls me one night, clearly drunk. “I need you, man.” Awkwardly I say “I’m always there for you.” But, of course, I’m not.
John’s brother is struck and killed by a bus.
Larry is killed in a car accident along with two other teen boys. His father has visited the site of the accident and is very upset to discover a piece of his son’s skull overlooked by the cleanup crew. He calls my dad about it. Dad goes there, finds the skull fragment, puts it in a pizza box he had in the trunk of the car, and delivers it to the funeral home.
John’s son has hung himself.
I am in the church late at night typing an essay when I hear a knock on the door. I shouldn’t answer it but I do. An unkempt young man is there with a velvet bag in his hand. He tries to give me the bag. I refuse to take it. I expect to find a severed body part in the bag as if I’m in a David Lynch movie.