My friend Chris died when we were in the 7th grade; he shot himself playing Russian roulette. He was a very talented artist, he could draw anything you asked him to and he was a great friend. He would come to class bearing gifts, drawings of Winnie the Pooh or Elmo for me and he always made me smile when I was feeling down. His head half shaven with the top half gathered in a long ponytail grazing below his shoulder blades would swing back and a playful glint would appear in his eyes as he turned to me to relay the latest joke.
As I walked out of class and converged with my girlfriends, Liz came up to us and told us – Chris is dead. Sometimes words can’t describe the finality of such a statement for someone you know. Sometimes when you’re that young and you’ve already lost a handful of friends to gangs, beatings, and drugs you don’t know how to grieve; it seems part of life, another day in East L.A.
I couldn’t cry, part of me didn’t believe it – I half expected him to walk around the corner, his stocky frame in his daily uniform: baggy gray courdoroys and a gray sweater that was three sizes too large, his near empty backpack skipping off his shoulder. But I never saw his gentle boy face again.