Tuesday, July 21, 2015
That boy I went to high school with—the one who stabbed his father fifty times—the one found not guilty of murder, by reason of insanity—the man committed to a hospital for the rest of his life—Jonathan—
He recently got permission to leave the grounds, unsupervised—and what can I say—I'm glad for him.
Maybe, if you'd sat with him in honors English—captained by the supremely competent Mrs. Thompson—you'd feel the same. He was so smart, you see. Not book smart, like I was, but smart smart, like that entire first row of upper-class aces. He was the rare kid who thought for himself. (Which begs the question: when did the thoughts start thinking for him?) But he was also unassuming and shy, which if you were a teenage girl, you could sort of take and run with. (For instance—I once had a year-long crush on a boy who never opened his mouth—I saw him the other day, and smiled).
But this wasn't shyness. It was something else. Something so silent and creeping that none of us saw it for what it was—certainly not us second-rowers, with our heads-down balk before Shelley and Shakespeare ("Jonathan, could you help us out here?" Mrs. Thompson might ask, after a pause, perseveringly).
My friend, half in love with him, dubbed him "Legs," for short—she especially enjoyed watching him run track—he was a middle-of-the-pack, middle-distance sort—and how does that seem like the strangest part of this whole, strange affair?
The valedictorian and the murderer. Both overflowing with that youthful, bright magic we mark as potential.
The valedictorian, my friend, whom I haven't talked to in twenty years—but who I know, thanks to Google, is now a primary care doctor with a master's degree in public health—has not come back to our little town. Saving the world makes one busy. Yes, Jenny met her destiny, chin to the stars.
But once, we were all huddled in that English class, haltingly discussing our Ozymandias and our Lady Macbeth, squinting at the tissue-thin pages of the Nortons in front of us, skimming the text for examples of symbolism and foreshadowing, ticking off syllables to grasp a mysterious force called iambic pentameter.
Our hearts in the grip of such fear and hope.