August 04, 2005

Do you remember Walter--

I've had thoughts of a former schoolmate of mine at CultSchool (as my sister christened it). Kyle was a bright boy, exuberant, sometimes it seemed a little too much so. Several incidents in our common history have crystallized in my memory as they often do.

1) I don't remember who was telling me at the time, and it's possible that the pressure of memory has smooshed together several bits of truth into one crystalline lie, but for what it's worth: I remember in eighth grade finding out that some new family from Georgia had moved up. I seem to remember standing out on the playfield being told, perhaps watching Kyle's older brother Russell playing soccer with some of the other guys. I remember being told that he was a very good soccer player, at least. (I'd become good friends with Russell for a year or so later on before it became a more adversarial relationship for the rest of our co-education.) A family from Georgia seemed foreign and interesting to me.

2) To my shame: something Kyle was saying irritated me a great deal. Maybe it was the way he was saying it, I don't know. We were standing in the hallway outside the church bookstore, perhaps on a Sunday morning after Mass. Perhaps before school started. Perhaps on a holy day of obligation even. At any rate, I yanked off his clip-on tie and dropped it on the ground. He picked it up and put it back on and acted completely chipper and kept on doing whatever was irritating me. I repeated. His mother saw me and said something that really, uh, awoke me. I don't remember what it was, but I've rarely felt like such a shmuck. Kyle took it with equanimity and grace, which no doubt had increased my irritation. I found myself withdrawing from the conversation and thinking, "I'm being a bully? What am I doing and what did Kyle do?"

3) At a high-school graduation party for a mutual schoolmate, Kyle was on the periphery of my awareness. I remember Russell and his father discussing speedbikes. Russell was enthusing about him, his father said they'd get him killed.

4) At the funeral home, a Coke bottle nestled in his cold arms. He had turned around in his seat to reach for it some Sunday afternoon. His vehicle had drifted across the two-lane country road he was driving on and collided head on with an oncoming truck. I couldn't really find words to say to his parents.


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