My dad called to tell me that this kid I went to school with is dead. Let’s call him D.
D. was and is the reason I have little sympathy for the “small town” way of life. Because that dude never, ever had a chance. And now he’s dead.
On the surface, if I told you about D., you wouldn’t like him. The truth is, I didn’t like him. He gave me the creeps like you wouldn’t believe and my parents were always pushing me to be nice to him and he always wanted to stand too close or lean in too far and he was weird as hell. After we moved, he was accused of molesting one of his sister’s friends and everyone I talked to kind of assumed he did it, though I never heard if anything came of it legally.
But I keep thinking about how, from the time I moved there until the time I left, everyone in that whole damn town–not just the kids at school, but the teachers and the other adults who should have stepped in to stop it–hounded that kid mercilessly. I mean, back then, you always joked abou who the kid was who was going to come back to the reuinion with a gun to settle some scores, and we all joked that it would be him. Because we all knew he would have been justified in it.
From the time he was a little kid, they just ran that poor fucker down. He was beat up and spit at and taunted and pantsed and hit and laughed at and I can remember in grade school kids calling him “Chester the Molester” even though I doubt we even knew what a “molester” was, just that it was bad and creepy. His Boy Scout leader was a really slimy fucker, too. He taught our Sunday School class in junior high and after about three weeks, one of the moms or another would come in to “help” just to make sure that he wasn’t doing anything weird.
No one told him he had to stop being a Sunday School teacher though, or a Boy Scout leader, for that matter, even though it seemed to be an open secret that he had some predilliction towards kids. He, of course, took D. under his wing. I don’t know if anything happened, obviously. But my point is that everyone thought that dude was a total freak who probably molested kids and no one stepped in to protect D.
And I bring up the molestation thing, too, because D. really had such a shitty life, with a ton of evil pointed at him, that it is entirely plausible that someone decided to spread the rumor that he was molesting that girl, just for kicks. I mean, they already accused him of everything else they could think of just to see what kind of trouble it would get him in.
But dude was probably pretty fucked up by that point, too, so who knows?
What bothers me most about D., the thing that haunts me about him is not the kids who made his life such a terrible hell. I mean, sure, that sucks. And not just the adults that piled on him. That is, of course, terrible. But I still think of how many adults there were who knew from the time he was very little that everything was going wrong in that kid’s life and who could have at any moment stepped in to help him themselves, but who didn’t.
I don’t know.
Shit, it’s depressing.
I found his obituary online and I noticed they’d closed the comments. It made me wonder if folks in that town couldn’t even let the dude die in peace.
Anyway, I have to call my dad and tell him it was an accident. We both assumed he’d killed himself.