I owned recess time. I was a star. In elementary school, recess meant sports. Depending upon the season and mood, my friends and I played football, basketball, baseball, or wall ball. I was captain, quarterback, etc. It felt good. I was not shy on the field/court. My upbringing as the youngest of four boys in a sports-crazed family served me well.
Then, things changed.
As third and fourth grade came around, girls came into the picture. And things got confusing. And awkward. By the time of the graduation trip in sixth grade, one of my best friends had a girlfriend. Did they kiss? I dunno know. Couldn’t we just focus on sports? Why talk or consider something other than sports? I understood it, reveled in it, etc. There were girls I liked and those who liked me. I guess. I had no idea how to express such an interest. I was not ready.
By the time I got to high school, some things had changed. Unfortunately, some things had not. I was still awkward and shy. I had a crush on a girl – Shannon – who was in 10th grade when I was in 9th. An older woman. Anyway, we had algebra together, and I sat right behind her. I used to space out and dream of her. My dreams did not get much beyond holding her. Sometimes, I would find myself wandering behind her in the hallways. No, I was not creepy. Anyway, I never did have much conversation with her, though I did enjoy a friendly relationship with the girl next to her.
I lost out because I was unable to overcome my shyness.
This past week I returned to the high school where I work. The inner city high school is located in East New York Brooklyn. It was nice to see some of my colleagues and catch up on families, summer activities, and gossip. However, the talk was much more than I expected. One of my colleagues informed me about the passing of a student who would have been in the 10th grade.
While I did not know the student, I was terribly saddened. I was informed that he was shot, gang style. Someone knocked on his door and shot him in the head. He lingered in a coma for a month before succumbing to death.
Why? Why did this terrible thing happen? Why are kids killing each other? Someone said it was over a girl. Are you kidding me? At 14, kids kill each other over a girl? What kind of relationship can a 14-year-old have? This is not Romeo and Juliet (who did not have much of a relationship either, by the way). Did he make a pass at a girl who was “taken”? Does it matter?
I’m sure there’s a middle ground here somewhere, between me – too shy to have a real conversation with a girl – and those who would shoot someone because he got in the way of a ‘relationship’.
A dead boy, a grieving mother – this should not be happening.