Nat is one of the young men I particularly like. He rarely comes to school, but does extremely well on his tests. Lukie and I seat kids with troublesome behavior near Nat because he calms them down. There's an inexplicable gravity to him. He's not a large kid by any means, but he has a look about him that says "I ain't fuckin' around." Nat tried to wrestle me one day and was confounded when he couldn't move me an inch. "This nigger strong," he announced to the class.
I had at the time never been called "nigger" before, and didn't know how to respond. So I ignored the word and said with a smile "You best remember how strong I am."
One day I shaved my head bald and Nat said "You look like a toad!"
"A toad?" I asked.
"Yeah, like a toad coming out his shell and shit." Turtles, toads--what's the difference?
Lukie and I were in the guidance counselor's office today discussing some students. We mentioned Nat and immediately Miss B got serious. "You need to watch out for him. He killed a man. The police are unable to hang it on him, but everyone knows he did it. The other students are terrified of him. There's talk that he might have two or three kills under his belt." I thought of Nat's mile-long stare, the way other kids don't play when he's around. I was no longer surprised by his gravity.
A fourteen-year-old boy. One (and perhaps more!) of the 250-odd homicides in B'more this year belongs to one of my kids. Makes reading articles about flintlock mustkets and the American Revolution to him in Language Arts class seem rather quaint.
Lukie was devestated. "I knew he was into some heavy shit," she said, "but I didn't think he was black-hearted."
You don't have to be black-hearted to kill on the streets. Sometimes it's just a matter of you or the other guy making it to tomorrow. Nat's in court today but we're not sure why. Could be 5-0 found some new evidence, or it could be they're jacking him up for throwing rocks and bottles at cars, or stealing road signs. Whatever it is he'll likely be back in school next week.