To escape the others and yawn-provoking classes, Jerry found a small room at school, too small for a classroom but larger than a closet, by the wood shop. Mostly it was used for storage—boxes, heaps of paper, a few old computer monitors. With a forged a hall pass, he snuck off there when he could. One spring afternoon when Jerry walked in, he found Steve already there. They started talking, first about music, then about The Royals—Steve grabbed Jerry by his lapels and pointed a knife at his back.
“Make a sound and I’ll kill you right now,” Steve said.
Jerry was lanky and slight, like a white straw. Steve had bulky arms.
“Why are you doing this?” Jerry asked.
“I want someone to die with me.”
“I don’t want to die.”
“I don’t either, but what we want doesn’t matter.”
He grabbed Jerry’s shoulders and started twisting. The knife cut through his green shirt with PUMA written on the front. Jerry turned quickly and slipped free. Steve turned the knife on himself. Jerry ran out to get help, but it was too late.
Jerry faced interviews with school authorities, cops, Steve’s parents, and a battery of shrinks. Few, other than his parents, believed he had nothing to do with Steve’s death.
“Were you and Steve having sex?” a pennyloafered shrink asked.
“No, I haven’t had sex yet.”
“Did you just let him die? Did you want Lara that much?”
“No, she bores me, but less so than most of the others.”
Jerry wondered if another kid had walked in, would Steve have done the same to him? Or did he single out Jerry? Answers got mopped up, disinfected. Steve hadn’t said ten words to him before it. Why him? This was no Romeo and Juliet scene or a double Romeo scene, just one minute that determined his life.
Kids vandalized Jerry’s house, spiked the wheels of the family Kia, scrawled obscene messages on the front sidewalk and set Facebook ablaze with plots.
His family moved. To another state. The sophomore became a Junior. A Senior. A graduate. A college graduate. An employed middle class man. A married man with two kids.
He didn’t kill himself. He went on. And on. Like a button rolling down an icy mountain, nothing to stop it. Ever. Many saw the button and never stopped its journey. An airwave rolling deeper and deeper into space. Into the cold depths. LS