Thursday, October 05, 2006

Requiem for a Schoolmate



EZ was one of those guys growing up that I knew, but didn’t know. We were in the same grade and did the boy scouts together for years, but we weren’t really friends. He had a tough streak to him, an edge that would pop up when you least expected it and would leave you wondering just what the hell was going on.

Truth is, there were times when I hated the guy. He could be a real jerk, but he was familiar, and in a town as small as Rochester that counted for something. After I stopped doing scouting we didn’t have much to do any more. I know he didn’t graduate, but I’m not really sure when he went away. He was a part of the periphery, someone who you didn’t notice was missing until you looked directly for him.

My mom’s great at the total bluntness thing. She helped out with scouts quite a bit, and every now and then she’d ask him, “EZ, you pick out your prison yet?”

“Not yet, Mrs. F, but you’ll know when I do!”

Yeah, typed out it sounds horrible, but that was always mom’s way. He never took it badly—he knew that she cared and really hoped he turned things around—but EZ was one of those kids that you looked at and knew, just knew, that he wasn’t headed for a happy ending.

I hadn’t thought about him in years until he came up in conversation with my mom the other day for some odd reason. It made me wonder, so I googled him.

He’s dead. Would have guessed jail, but dead had pretty good odds going too.

The obituary said that he left behind a wife and three kids, age 6, 4, and 2. No cause of death listed, just that he died unexpectedly.

I had to mull that around my head for a while after I read it. Thinking that something might happen isn’t the same as wanting it to happen, and there’s no way I wanted that to happen to EZ. At his best, he could show you some glimpses of truly amazing things, and it saddens me that never happened for him as long as I knew him.

It also makes me think of some of the kids I know today. If I went to our small-town middle school I could probably fine you an EZ. Someone who at the age of 12 or 13 is already pointed down a path that can only end in tears. The reason why doesn’t matter, though reasons are legion; it’s knowing where they’re going that hurts to the very core.

And you think of the kids you save, and the kids who get their lives turned around, and you wonder why it worked for them and didn’t work for him. EZ had adults in his life who wanted things to work for him, he had caring teachers who tried hard. What happened?

RIP EZ. I hope that you found your happiness there in the end.

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