This sort of thing always comes as a bolt from the blue. You’re sitting there reading headlines. You read one that mentions a killing, in some place or another with which you are familiar, and you say to yourself, “I know so-and-so from there. Let me read a bit further.” And then you come to the part where names are mentioned.
At first, you don’t quite believe it. You’re like everyone else, used to news stories NOT being about someone you know. You stare at the name in print. Then you read on, gathering details and dispelling doubts. Finally, you accept that you know someone who has been charged with murder.
In the one instance, that of the convicted rapist, I always felt that the person was a bit unstable. I knew that he had done time, although I didn’t know the reason. I was a fast-pitch softball teammate of his, a decade ago, and I saw how he comported himself on the field; always with a chip on his shoulder, a disdain for his rival's talent (often accompanied by a sneering verbalization concerning same), and a hair-trigger temper. I had seen him involved in a fist fight with another teammate, following a playoff game defeat; I had stepped into it and had been the one who wrapped arms around the guy while someone else stopped the other participant from continuing. That he had been a prisoner wasn’t important, in the context of sports, any more than someone else being a school teacher or a lawyer. We rarely delve into personal background, being more concerned with the bottom line of whether or not a player can perform the tasks at hand. More than one good teammate of mine, over the years, has spent a while behind bars. I've never asked any of them why they were there. I always figure that's his business. If he wants to tell me about it, he will. This man had casually mentioned his incarceration, in an off-hand way, and usually accompanied it with a joke of some sort. I only found out about it having been a rape conviction while reading the story about the alleged murder. All things considered, my hearing that he may have killed someone was as shocking as any other news of a murder, but not more so. It was not entirely surprising to me to see his name in print as someone alleged to have committed a violent act.
On the other hand, the news that my second acquaintance is said to have killed his young son, and then turned the gun on himself, has had an effect similar to a punch in the gut. I wouldn’t have expected to hear such news in a million years of Sundays. I shared good laughs with this man years ago, broke bread with him more than once, and thought of him kindly. His passion was politics, and the two of us had met while I served on a political committee. He was unfailingly kind to me and I owed him a debt. He encouraged my writing talent many years ago, asking me to write and edit a monthly newsletter concerning political activities. I did so for about a year. That confidence of his, in me, was a great boost toward my now being a paid writer. The last time I had correspondence with him, he was absolutely gushing about being a father. The profile picture on his Facebook page shows him walking down a street holding his little son’s hand. The news that he killed his son, and then himself, was inconceivable. There it was in print, though, and no denying its existence.
Point? I don’t know that I have one. I would never have thought I'd find reason to mention these two men in the same breath, until now. That I find myself doing so...
God bless us all.