a good kid
Before he met with his aneurism, I came across him at the foot of our stairwell. Seventeen years old and me already feeling the strains of something more rusty than middle age.
My forearms ached from setting down the garbage sacks. The skin of my knuckles lit red from the concrete. The steel of the bins.
Fit as a pit bull under his hooded vest, he greeted me politely enough. Weaved away to sit in the rain. I sensed he had been crying, had gathered himself momentarily, and I could think of nothing comforting to say.
Cold rivets rolled down his bare chest to puddle in his navel. The balls of both fists pressed tight to his skull.
All right, I said.
Halfway to a question.
I paused for a second before starting back up the stair. Unsettled. Awkward. Him only a year or two older than my own son. Intimidated by the sight of him sobbing like a welterweight condemned to take a fall; aggrieved by my inability to engage him.
There was plentiful cause for demons. He had had a rougher childhood than most, I knew. But I was unaware then of the physical pressures inside his head. The scrabbling and clawing which would leave him for dead less than two weeks later.
Passed out in his sleep, a blunt between his teeth maybe.
Even now, I wish I might have said something beyond the banal.
The kid was okay.