Once, seeing me hurt, a guy I knew dragged me out to the parking lot, tucked me into his red, 2-seater, death trap and took off, flyingup Hayfield Road. Driving with one hand well above the posted limits, digging a roach out of the car’s ashtray with the other hand, Fred assured me that laying he cause of my pain on a staircase and jumping on his knees would solve everything.
All he needed was name.
I don’t know that I’ve inspired such ferocity in anyone since – and I don’t really know why I did in him, really, as we weren’t that close. Touched even in my current state of hurt (and fear) – I still was able to recognize that his wasn’t exactly a healthy, much less normal response. I only remember bits of the rest of the car ride, and believe I spent it trying to calm him down and prevent life-long orthopedic injury to the person who hurt me that day.
Fred returned me in one piece, and while I never gave him that name, it is his threat that returns to my head when people I love are wounded in the same way. Fred was abandoned by his parents, left on the streets when he was in grade school, in and out of foster care, eventually returning to
live out most of his adolescence on the streets of Baltimore. Abused his entire life in virtually every possible fashion, Fred believed in violence. Not as a solution, he was too smart for that, but that it gave temporary relief to the mounting pressure in both head and heart, there was no denying. He told me that day, that he believed he had nothing left. All the feeling had been beaten, starved, belittled, or neglected right out of him. All he had left to offer, Fred said, was defense of those who could still feel. He wanted to save in others what had been stolen from him. There was no dissuading him of his belief that he had nothing left, I tried for all the years I knew him and there was never a flicker of hope in him. This was maybe the saddest thing I have ever seen.
He disappeared from my life almost as quickly as he appeared.
This morning I got to thinking about Fred. I wonder if it was easier to never have any expectations, except possibly to expect the worst of people, than it is to have expectations dashed, to be disappointed in those who do the dashing? Would that be easier to live with? I realize I’ll
never know the answer, unless I find another Fred in the world, because at least for me, hope may take the occasional day trip, but it does indeed always return.
I think of Fred more often than seems necessary, and often wish I knew where he was, or if he’s even still alive. Some part of me knows that if he never found hope for himself that is likely the very thing that killed him.
*Fred worked as an auto mechanic, once when he had my brother's car, he painted polka dots all over his engine block. It's the only memory I have of Fred doing something not out of anger.