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‘The Kid on the Skateboard’
A Mother Remembers Her Son

When Erique called me and told me that RJ had passed away I didn’t have the stomach to call his mother.

I called her youngest son, gave my condolences, offered to help and asked him to give his mother a hug for me, which was pretty damned weak.

That fact is, I felt like I had let RJ down. He had suggested we get together numerous times, was always glad to see me and I only managed to stop by about once a year and never just to see him, but for a general visit.

RJ’s plans had never really panned out and he didn’t have my knack for hanging onto jobs. That’s why I had to write The End for myself. I didn’t think his mother or brother even read my blog as we had been out of ouch for so long. I wrote The End for me, because RJ had always felt small around me, me being the guy running the neighborhood supermarket where he shopped while he couldn’t seem to hold down a job, and I never let him know that I always felt like an undead fiend around him.

I have walked by numerous violent crimes which I could have stopped and not raised a finger or even an eyebrow. A woman once fell flat on her face on the pavement behind me and I did nothing to help her [I’ve done this three times actually] just like the dozen dindus at the bus stop did nothing, because it was part of my mask, never getting involved, never caring, immune to getting sucked into unpredictable shit that might land me in jail. I let a retarded white guy stand alone going on midnight at North and Asquith when I should have walked him out of there. Just two years ago I let Eunice stand by herself at that Essex bus stop where many men have tried to rob me, even when she asked me with her pain-filled eyes to stand with her. Once on the street where we shared addresses, I walked right by a boy torturing another boy and did nothing. Survival discipline I have always called it, though it always feels so much smaller than that.

In contrast, RJ was not capable of walking by an injustice or someone in trouble without doing something. He fought the legal system for a decade and the school system for half that time, doomed from the start, spitting into the wind. He would argue with cops and get locked up just because he was right and the cops were wrong.

Well, Mary, who I have written of under other names, his mother, called me and thanked me for the article and said:

“What you wrote was perfect. He did save people. I remember the kid with the skateboard, some skinny kid riding his skateboard down White Avenue when these three hoodlums beat him up…

“If the attackers were Amish they must have left their buggy up over the hill.

“They were beating this kid, kicking him, strangling him in the street. I watched at my front door while RJ went out there and knocked all three of those guys out cold. He stayed with the kid until the ambulance got there. The EMT said that he saved his life. That was RJ, a fighter.

“The last two years the legal battles have been getting to him; he’s been losing weight, wouldn’t eat, even when I fixed his favorites meals. He was chain smoking. His stomach bothered him and he spit up blood, but he would never go to the doctor.

“The doctor said his body just gave out. Well, they can’t throw any more dirt on him now. As a mother I’ll miss his body, never be able to kiss him again. But the way I see it, he’s beyond harm—he’s certainly in a better place than Baltimore.”

Mary was always proud of being Italian, so I reminded her before we hung up a few minutes ago that the troubling fact that RJ had always been vocally proud of being a vigilante, that he was passionate about being the most hated thing a man can be in America, was quite an ancient reflection, because in ancient Rome you were not even a man unless you were vigilant.

Some men are born out of time.

Add Comment
LaManoMarch 30, 2018 8:31 PM UTC

Saying how you felt when you were around RJ is about the only valid way you can really express what he was like. Nobody but you knows how he affected you.

I'm glad there were people with his attitude around. Pass on to the condolences of a reader, wishing that he rest in peace, and the family's pain fade soon ....
Sam J.March 30, 2018 1:42 AM UTC

I'm very impressed with people like RJ.