Letter #1: CW

I remember you running a mile in less than seven minutes. And having difficulties listening and following instruction. I remember your skin tone, a kind of pale olive, and your chiseled, almost American Indian facial structure. I remember you trained for running with weights on your legs; I found it particularly irritating. Your hair had a bounce to it, a tremble. It made you seem edgy. You were edgy. Even standing perfectly still you possessed an energy that vibrated. You seemed to want to do bad things. You were out of control. I remember you were the first person in grade school to use the word ‘fuck.’ You shouted it during a recess basketball game. Everything went quiet. I remember my brother was once hurt—he’d fallen from the tire swing—and instead of helping him (the gravel was fine and cold with frost on its undersides) you began kicking him on the bottoms of his feet. He was lying face down.

I remember finding very little redeemable about you. Your anger at the world, and your unpredictability, turned you into someone other people did not want to spend time around. My father was our basketball coach in third or fourth grade, and I remember you wouldn't listen to him. At times, you were so insubordinate that he lost his temper with you. You were the first person – barring my brother and me – at whom I'd seen his temper aimed. It made me very happy. During a practice you were deliberately sabotaging everything and he eventually screamed at you to get out of the gymnasium. I remember the way you walked out, the mixture of pride and shame. You'd won and lost.

I remember your speech patterns. You would speak too fast, with a spit-filled mouth, and then stop, unexpectedly and abruptly, off beat, and then begin again. This in turn made it hard to listen to you, to follow your thoughts, which must have exacerbated your own frustration and anger.

But I also remember years later, in high school, how you used to walk around with a bible on your chest, arms folded, eyes serene, millions of miles from those halls. I remember how that gesture inspired pity in me. I remember thinking: that poor guy, all those years of struggle and pain inflicted on others were probably the interior manifesting itself outwardly. I didn’t have anything bad to say about you after that.