It doesn't snow much in Portsmouth, Virginia. I guess I was eight or nine years old when I saw my older sister walking home through the snow with her friend and with some guy. School was canceled because of the snow. It was a great snow too. Any snow that stuck and accumulated on the ground and accumulated on the streets and caused school to be canceled - was a great snow. I was out playing in it. As my sister and her friend entered the yard followed by that guy, I think I probably threw a snowball at them. My sister quickly told me to quit it so I did. My sister and her friend went inside. I was still in the front yard, and this guy was standing there. I didn't know who he was or what his story was. He was older, maybe my sister's age or older. I guess I must have thrown a snowball at him. It probably seemed like the natural thing to do. I guess the natural thing to do, from his perspective, was to start throwing snowballs back at me. So he did. But his aim seemed a little bit off. Not only that, his whole throwing motion seemed a bit ungainly and awkward. I didn't know whether he just couldn't throw very well or if he was missing me on purpose because he was older.
Suddenly my big brother burst through the front door. "Get out of here!" he shouted at the guy. "Bobby, stay away from him." It took a few harsh shouts from my brother (who could be quite a fearsome-crazy-badass) - it took a few yells from my brother for it to register with the guy that he should carry his ass, and finally he did, he walked away down the street. My brother told me that the guy was a weirdo...or...that he ain't right or some kind of description like that. He said the guy was a like a crazy person...or...just: never talk to him or never go near him ever. I don't remember exactly how my brother put it, but he put it in a way that made it perfectly clear. Apparently the guy had followed my sister and her friend to our house...like...uninvited. I can't remember the guy's first name, only his last name, but I won't use that here. Instead I'll just call him David Sheppard. Why it was that my brother didn't just forgo the talk and forgo the warning and walk straight up to David and just start ripping pieces off of him, I don't know. Maybe my brother felt sorry for him. He didn't pity him enough to be kind to him, but he pitied him enough to not whip his ass out there that day. Maybe he waited until later, I don't know.
I don't know why I am telling this story. This story does not end well. For some reason I was thinking about these events this morning. Maybe if I type this out, I'll never think about it again which would be just fine with me - and this is a phenomenon that I actually read about one time - a phenomenon that a for-real writer once described about memories: that once you write about them, they are gone, they separate themselves from you and they become their own things, and they yank their roots and strands out of your brains and draw them up into their own selves and they separate from you. Maybe that's writer bullshit (probably it is), but I do think that writing up a memory alters it. Maybe it has benefits. Maybe it at least tidies things up in your mind. Maybe it draws it out, rips the scabs off of it and causes you further torture that could have been avoided if you didn't bring it up again. I don't know.
A few years after my snowball fight with David Sheppard, David was involved in an armed standoff situation with the cops that ended badly. I heard the story from my brother and from a kid in school, and of course the story was on the news too. David attacked his brother and their mom with an ax handle in the family's home. (They lived four houses down and a bit around the corner from us.) The brother and his mother escaped from the house and called the police from the neighbor's house. David grabbed a gun that was in the home, and he fired at the police when they arrived on their street.
My brother was a very animated story teller. I remember his description of these events. I remember the crazy look on my brother's face and his bulging blue eyes and the way he brought his empty hand to his temple clutching the imaginary gun and the spasm that followed as he reenacted David's final deed of that day. The kid at school who relayed the story was named Charlie. Charlie was always late for school. I guess this all happened shortly after school began. While walking to school that morning, Charlie saw all the police in front of the Sheppard residence, and I don't know: I guess the cops made him go the long way around or they told him to quit gawking and get the hell out of there and go to school or something like that.
I don't know. Does everybody have stories like this? Or am I weird: am I one of the few -who- for some reason hangs on to these stories, unintentionally or intentionally, these fucked up stories: absurd, pointless, tragic events that happened around me that pop up in my memory? My memories are not the worst -- for sure I know that. I've never been in war. I've never been the victim. I've never had anything really bad happen directly to me. But weird stuff has happened around me. I don't know. Has anything like this ever happened around you? ...where you weren't quite involved, but you were close enough to it that it surfaces now and then in your memory this many years later? You know what? Something even worse than this happened with our next door neighbors, and I doubt you'd believe me if I told you, and I don't even want to tell it because - what's the point - and I don't even know what the point of any of this was. These things just happen in the world and sometimes they happen near you and sometimes you just hear about them on the news or in a blog or something.