Thursday, April 9, 2015


Time to get real again guys, perhaps a bit off topic but sometimes I have to talk about the things outside of gaming systems and nerd culture. Some times I feel compelled to post the real deal things rattling around inside my head. This is such a time and this is such a post...

My first friend was a slightly older boy named John, the first time I met him he introduced himself and I ran away in fear to my mom. We lived in an apartment complex and this was my first encounter with what would later be termed “resting bitch face”. Even smiling, there was something sinister about John. It was the eyes, he grew into them though and the last time I saw my first friend I found that he was happily married to my first girlfriend (it’s a small world after all).

Later though, I was enrolled in the head start program where I would meet a lot of boys and girls my age. I would make friendships that would last a lifetime. I even met a boy who lived in the same apartment complex as me, who I still talk to from time to time despite the physical distance that’s somehow always between us. It was there that I met a friend who despite our relatively short time together would have an indelible impact on the man I would grow up to be.

Growing up I was always pretty tall for my age, Corey however was a little taller than me. I remember his smile and the jokes he could tell, no one made me laugh like he did in those early years. We were constantly performing feats of acrobatics and athleticism, pushing each other to strive farther. We got into trouble here and there, we had skinned knees and all of the stuff that comes with such childlike adventures.

I know the popular idea is that girls have cooties, and that all boys go through these early years having nothing to do with the fairer sex. I apparently didn't get the memo. That mentality has never and will never make the slightest sense to me. From the beginning I loved girls. I got in trouble in preschool for kissing girls under the jungle gym, holding hands with another in the sand box. And at that time, the girls liked me in return: for some reason that still escapes me several pulled me into the girls restroom one day. I barely escaped notice by an adult by hiding between the door and wall. Point is, I was interested in girls early and often, a problem my friend Corey seemed to share.

One day I invited my friend to come to our apartment to play after school, by now we were in first grade. It was a good warm day in Spring, and as we got off the bus cheerily talking and walking the while toward the looming concrete buildings where I lived, I mentioned my interest in a particular girl to Corey. This wasn’t anything especially peculiar, he and I shared an interest in girls and he was always my go to man when it came to girls. Additionally, I'd already talked to my mom about her and we were making plans to go to Dairy Queen with her. What can I say, I was smitten in the way that only a seven year old can be (but usually isn't).

The trouble was that the girl in question was different, in the very same way that Corey was different. They are both black, I am not. This difference had never really occurred to me before that day, I realized our skin was different colors but wtf is that important? I probably still wouldn’t have understood that difference if not for some helpful kids I didn’t recognize yelling “Nigger Lover” at us as we walked by (this is the South after all).

I remember it quite plainly, I couldn't help but pause a moment in confusion as these two kids on their bikes rode laps around us chanting the phrase over and over. I asked Corey, “Are they talking to you or me?” but he wasn’t really listening to me anymore. I don’t know if he was actually paying much attention to them either, he was looking past them at something I just could not see.

Shortly afterward the kids dismounted and started collecting rocks, the larger of the two simply saying to the other “Get that nigger!” Corey was frozen in place for a moment, but I saw him start to tear up. The last civil word he ever said to me was “run”.

So we did, I saw the way he was going. I knew he’d be cutting through our secret paths in the brush, he’d go home or somewhere else safe. I yelled for him to come with me that mom and dad would keep us safe. But he was gone, and I was gone. I heard the stones dropping behind me, felt one bite into my leg before I heard feet hit pedals and all else was forgotten, my hands and feet pumping rhythmically until I reached our apartment. I could hear childlike laughter in pursuit the entire way, though who they were pursuing I still don’t know for sure.

I burst into our apartment and told my mom what happened when she asked me why I was breathing so heavy, she was mad in a way I’d never seen her mad before. The following year we moved to another town where that issue would never be a problem again, not because of more progressive thinking but because there were simply no black people in residence. But that wasn’t the last time I’d see Corey...

Later I moved again, then again until finally I was in the school from which I would graduate. A rival of the town where I’d learned numbers, letters, and the most hateful word of my childhood. By this time I was a very different kind of kid, I wasn’t interested in sports (at all) though I was still big. I had problems bigger than scoring more points than the people who lived down the highway from me. Still, I had some friends I liked seeing from the old neighborhood so I’d often go to football games to see them.

One such night I was following a few people around, looking for some girl that had gotten separated from the group before we headed out for tacos. When you’re taller than most people your age you stand out in a crowd, at 15 Corey and I still had that problem. I spotted him near the concession stand and couldn’t help but smile, I wasn’t thinking of the last time I saw him. I was thinking of the boy that ran to hug my mom when she’d pick me up from preschool. The boy who told the best jokes, who gave me advice about girls. The boy who always pushed me to be better.

I made my way to him, we hadn’t spoken in almost a decade. All I could think to do is ask if he remembered me. He glared at me a moment, giving me the fish eye from head to toe before answering “Yeah, I remember you cracker ass motherfucker”. I managed a week “sorry man” and went back to my friends. I didn’t much feel like tacos anymore, but I went through the motions.

That was the last time I saw Corey in person, I heard he went to college and played ball for a while. I was proud of him, and I hope he had a good life. For a lot of years I didn’t know the whole story of what happened on that long ago afternoon, I still don't know anything from Corey's perspective. All I really knew for a long time was the power of a word and that for some reason when I heard little kids laugh a certain way it made me shudder.

I sometimes wonder what happened to my old friend, I’d like to think that if we met again we could be friends all over again. But I’m afraid too much time and too much pain has passed. That forever after we’ll be strangers who happen to know each other in a passing sort of way.


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