Holy gods,” Aerk said into the sudden silence, “Did you see his…” and then the rest of the men filled in the blank at the exact same moment.
“Scars?” From Keon, with a raised eyebrow.
“Income!” Said Dimitri, impressed.
“Muscles!” Exclaimed Marv and Jino in jealous tandem. They fenced a lot and were proud of the breadth of their chests.
I had a bunch of kids this last year who were in my room two years in a row. Marvin Wingate was one of them, and his friend Jino ditched honors classes to hang with Marvin. Both boys were playful, honorable, and fun. Jino reads lots of thick books, fast–fantasy adventure mostly, and although Marvin shared his friend’s taste in books, he tended to become passionately involved in one book for a long time. I turned him on to Blood and Chocolate after Chicken read it, and after that, I even lent him Chicken’s copy of Twilight.
He hated the movie adaptation of Blood and Chocolate–both of us did. He did an entire book report poster showing us what Blood and Chocolate SHOULD have looked like–especially if the characters had been African American.
He would have loved the adaptation of Twilight–we would have talked about it for a week.
Jino was the thoughtful soldier, and although Marv tended to act first and think later, he relied on Jino for insight.
Both boys were intrigued with the books–they wanted a part. Absolutely, I said. I need a group of young men, regents, for Bitter Moon II. You guys can be two of them. They were STOKED. Both of them. Fantasy adventure is their THING–but, (of course!) they had to be straight. They knew I wrote a lot of ‘sexually fluid’ characters, and they wanted to make sure the world knew they were straight. (Not that there’s anything WRONG with the other…but no, no, they weren’t… just to keep the record, uhm, straight.)
Marv ran up to Torrant then, his tightly curled hair sticking on end from nervous hands ripping through it.
Marvin had dark skin, curly hair, and a crooked, sweet grin. He tended to wear beaters (tank tops) to show off his body–he worked out, he was cute, and he knew it. He was also a gentleman. He was never disrespectful. He always did what he needed for his grade, but he also enjoyed it. When I asked my Juniors to compare a modern piece of poetry with an older one, he compared Tupac’s ‘Thug’s Paradise’, to William Cullen Bryant’s ‘Thanatopsis’. It was his favorite song, and it just seemed to fit. It was one of my best projects–even if it was late.
“Oi—Eljean—who’s your friend?” Marv asked from a nearby table, and then looked surprised when Jino elbowed him sharply in the side.
Marvin was blunt, and always spoke his mind–Jino very often smacked him or elbowed him or rolled his eyes until Marv got the things that weren’t being said. But sometimes, Marv got those things–he just wanted deeper insight into them. He liked understanding. He liked stories. He loved movies. Did I mention we got along for two years?
I was really looking forward to Bitter Moon II coming out–I wanted to call those boys in and give them a copy to share, to show people that yes, they really were in a book.
And I went into work this morning and read my back e-mail for two months, and somewhere in July there was a message saying that Marvin had drowned, and the service had past and, well, there it was.
I came home and looked up what had happened, and found a memorial clip on youtube–the song used in the background was ‘Thugs Paradise’, by Tupac.
Marvin, you dumbshit kid, I was supposed to watch you graduate. I was supposed to see you go off into the Marines. I was supposed to get a visit from you and Jino sometime in the future when you told me what you’d done for yourself. It was going to be fucking glorious, dude–I had no doubts whatsoever.
I was not supposed to get an e-mail telling me you’d died for no reason whatsoever, under the I-5 underpass in the Sacramento River. If you happen to talk to the Goddess up there, you might let Her know that I’m very upset about this, and that I hold grudges for at least a school year. You tell Her that–tell her that I’m not going to get over this until I watch Jino and Carrie and Megan and Kylie and Alyssa all walk the stage, without you. Because I would have treasured that hug I got at the end–it would have been one of the best parts of my job.
And I’m cheated, and you know that pisses me off. And Marvin–make sure She knows you like pop-tarts and crackers, skateboarding and really good books about werewolves and vampires. And that even if I didn’t know you’d left when it happened, you are going to leave one big fucking hole in my year, buddy, and that’s no shit.
Tell Her you’re in a book, and you’re going to live forever. And that’s all I got for you, and it’s not enough, not even a little bit, not even at all.