I tried to save the caterpillars. Once the boys found them, I knew what they would do. They burned the worms and ants they'd unearth in the soil beneath rocks. They fired whistlers at squirrels, at the flocks of pigeons in the park. Then they chased the stray cats down the block with Super Soakers and homemade slingshots. We were only eleven, but the boys were becoming more and more what they wanted so badly to be—destroyers of everything. They acted as if they were born this way.
It was me who discovered the caterpillars. Their cryptic colors, sharp spiny hairs. Their legs as numerous as fingers. Hungry, doughy faces. Eyes as dense and black and round as marbles. But I wasn't afraid. I'd let them crawl over my arms. I felt the tingling rhythm of their movement with all the cohesion of life and nature and existence. But the boys had seen me at the tree. And once they saw me, I knew that they would come.
Sunday morning. They were all at church. One by one, I gathered the caterpillars into an empty two-liter Coke bottle. I gathered as many as I could, luring them with branches. Later, I hid the bottle in my room. I hid it deep inside my closet, behind my rollerblades and worn sneakers that I'd outgrown. I didn't want Mom to find them. If she did, I would never hear the end of it. The caterpillars devoured the leaves I fed them. Some even escaped. I'd discover their shriveled bodies on the sun faded blue carpet of my room, behind the cabinet. Some crawled along the pale walls, the ceilings. It was the summer. The July sunlight burst through the windows. Some turned into butterflies. I'd open the windows. I'd let them go.
Louis lived two houses away. Our parents didn't talk much with one another, though they were polite. They smiled and waved hello. They talked about the weather. Louis and I could spend entire days playing Super Mario World in his room. We'd watch cartoons, the VHS tapes of shows he recorded. Then we'd play in his front yard, on his concrete porch until his mother would call him inside. It would then be time for dinner.
Dusk. The summer of seemingly everything around us. We'd build fires in his backyard. Light sparklers and smoke bombs. Louis once had a turtle named Raphael. Raphael died because Louis would forget to feed him, until he didn't feed him at all anymore.
I was the only one Louis asked to come to the funeral. Together we dug a hole in the yard, lowered the shoebox into the grave. Minnie Malone, a neighbor, had told Louis not to dig on the land between their houses because it was her property too. But Louis didn't listen.
We buried Raphael. Louis said the prayer he learned at St. Mel's.
"Thanks, Edward," he said afterward. "You're my best friend."
I stole the pack of Ninja Turtle cards from Louis. I couldn't help myself. He would fan them out on his porch, just to show them off. He chewed the stick of pink gum that came with the pack. I just sat there. I listened to the squishing of his saliva. The gum looked like it tasted very sweet. It always seemed that Louis had more than me. All the latest toys and clothes. The Nintendo games I so wanted, but because he had them. It was as if I were on the wrong side of fortune, and that it would always have to be this way. Louis knew this too, but still, he couldn't help himself from showing off.
Inside his house, the phone rang. His mother, Mrs. Delgatti, appeared at the door. She gripped a cordless phone. Her hair was big and curly. She wore a grey t-shirt and jeans. She was a woman of her excessive decade, and she was paying for it—she had gained a little weight when compared to the photographs of her on the wall. There was now a sag in her eyes. She glanced at me as she might have done a fixture on her front lawn. She didn't smile at me the way she did at Louis's other friends, his friends from St. Mel's. But I was used to this.
"Hi Edward," she said. She turned to Louis. Her voice, noticeably sharper. "Inside, now."
"Aw Mom, why?"
"Your grandmother's on the phone."
"Get inside or you're grounded."
Louis told me that he'd be right back. He told me to wait for him. I said that I would. But he left the stack sitting there. Something told me to grab the stack. Something told me to run. Back at my house, I hid the cards beneath the blankets of my unmade bed.
When I returned to the porch, I pretended not to know anything. I learned this from Louis. When he pretended not to know anything with his parents, he would often get his way.
But Louis cried. His father came out of the house to see what all the fuss was about. He slammed the screen door. The man towered over me, and pointed a thick finger at my face. He reeked of cigarettes. It was the scent of something like maturity. He had short brown curly hair, an unshaven face. His uneven lips were turned downwards. He was the opposite of my father, who was soft-spoken, who was often tired, a man who made it a habit of being reserved and kept to himself in the evenings. I couldn't help but be terrified of Louis's father. He spoke at me with a kind of intensity, spit splattering before me. There was no music in his voice, not a single note of the gentleness I was used to hearing from teachers who spoke to me in singsong voices, expecting the best from me, and even that was starting to wane.
Louis said he would never forgive me. I was told to go home, to never return, that I didn't deserve to be the friend of someone who had been so generous with me. He had shared his snacks. He had shared his ice cream cakes. He was right.
"You're not welcome here anymore," he said.
"Okay, fine." I tried to bury the regret in my voice.
When I got home, I looked through the cards, not quite glad for them. They no longer felt like treasure, or like something I wanted. That night, I could barely eat dinner.
"I don't feel so good," I said to my mother.
She placed a hand over my forehead. "I told you to wear a jacket when you go outside. See what happens?"
But the next day, I heard the doorbell ring. There was Louis. He acted as if nothing had happened. He said that he wanted to play. I thought that it might even be a trick. However beneath his arm, he carried a yellow box. He told me that his father had bought it for him—the entire deck of Ninja Turtle cards. That afternoon, he sorted his cards. He even ended up giving me some of his duplicates.
It was months later when Louis grew bored with the cards. He asked me if I wanted them. What else could I say, but yes?
Louis hated Anthony. Sometimes they'd try to get along. Occasionally they did, though it wouldn't last. Anthony lived further down the block. He was a grade below us, but he was also the same age. Louis constantly reminded Anthony that he'd been left back, as if he had been sentenced to life as an outcast. Louis didn't understand why Anthony always looked forward to going home. To eating dinner. Why didn't he want to stay outside? For Louis, there was more to an afternoon. There were always places left to explore, more of the block to venture. He teased Anthony, told him he was chunky like Prego sauce, and that his mother looked like Danny DeVito. Mrs. Buccalari had an accent when she spoke. Louis was also Italian, but his parents didn't speak with the same kind of accent. Anthony cried when Louis made fun of his mother. Then Louis would tease, "You cry like a girl."
One day he didn't cry. He picked up a stick, and threw it at Louis's face. It hit him on the forehead. Blood came gushing out.
Louis was taken to the hospital. He needed stitches. After that, he didn't speak to Anthony for what felt like months, but it was actually only a couple of weeks. I don't know why I never said anything to Louis. He made fun of my mother too. Her accent was strong. Her broken English made her seem like a broken person, and it was as if I'd forever carry some of this brokenness with me wherever I went as well. But Anthony wasn't like me. He wouldn't listen to what Louis had to say. He wouldn't do what Louis made him do.
Trevor and Danny were Louis's friends from St. Mel's. They lived in another part of Whitestone, with larger houses, closer to the river, the bridge. From time to time, their parents would drive them over to Louis's house, and drop them off along with their BMX bikes. They'd play basketball in the streets, have water gun fights. They darted across yards, pumping the newest models in the summer heat. Over the grass, they'd reenact the wrestling matches on WWF. WrestleMania. Royal Rumble. Louis always got to be Hulk Hogan because he wanted to be the hero. Danny was Rick Flair because he had a patch of white in his hair. Trevor was the Macho Man Randy Savage. They'd fight for the kid's-sized World Championship belt that Louis got from one of his excursions to Kay Bee's with his parents.
The fighting was supposed to be fake. But that summer I learned that there wasn't really a line between pretend and reality. Louis always made me the referee. He knew that Trevor and Danny wouldn't go easy on me, not like he would. But Louis also knew that at the end of the match, I'd proclaim him the winner. That went without saying.
Trevor and Danny would tease me for being Chinese. They sang songs, spat out the rhymes they'd learned from their older cousins. They'd pass those rhymes to their younger brothers. Louis wouldn't tell them to stop. Instead, he'd laugh. I'd never say anything. I wouldn't leave. There was nowhere else to go. But to have someone like Louis defend me—that would have been everything. He was a force, with all the means and privilege to be brave. When he didn't, those moments were left to my fantasies—me saying all the right things, at the right time, in a way to stave off injustice. Still I knew that Louis somehow liked me best. We discovered secret passageways he never told Trevor and Danny about. We drew a map of the block using colored markers. We scotched-taped the pages together, rolling it up like a scroll to be guarded with our lives. We snuck into our neighbors' backyards, built castles in the dirt. In these moments, it seemed that the entire block belonged only to us.
One day, Louis called me a Chink. Trevor and Danny burst out laughing. I looked at Louis. He glared back. He didn't even blink, entirely confident in his carelessness. Even then I knew that he would barrel through life until there was nowhere left to go.
"What are you going to do?" he challenged. He puffed out his chest before me. There was nothing I could do. I was at a disadvantage—it was only me against them, and at the same time, so much of me wanted to be like them, so already, I was against myself.
"Thought so," Louis said.
I begged Mom for the Easter basket from Woolworth's. Easter had recently passed, and they were on the clearance shelf like rows of some fantastical bounty. It was unusual for Mom to give in, but this time, she did. My basket was blue and wrapped in plastic. It was filled with chocolate, green plastic grass. There were plastic eggs. Pink and yellow and white. A plastic bunny. I was proud to have something that exuded such perfection. I couldn't even bring myself to unwrap it, and for weeks, the basket stood beside my bed like a trophy to be admired each time I came into my room.
My parents worked at the deli every day. They often left me and my brother, Vincent, home alone. Vincent was younger than me by three years. It was he who told Louis about the basket. He opened the front door and led Louis and Trevor into my room. They burst in with their palms out, demanding candy.
"What else have you been holding out on us?" Louis wondered. They rummaged through my room, my shelves, the closet. They left everything in disarray, my books, my clothes, though they found nothing else that they wanted.
They promised to take just one piece of candy. But they ripped off the plastic, and left with fistfuls.
I always knew that Vincent admired Louis more than me. Louis was the older brother he wished he had. Headstrong, decisive, no matter how wrong the decision. Someone who always seemed to get what he wanted. Birthdays at the bowling alley or the roller rink, pool parties in his backyard. Whenever Vincent would get a pack of gum, or refilled his Pez dispenser, he'd ride his green toy tractor to Louis's house, ring the doorbell, and offer some to him like tribute. Louis would be pleased. He liked the feeling of being in charge, and he was good at taking it. One word from Louis, and it was like law. I'd get some of what was left over. Sometimes my brother would forget to offer me some at all.
August. Louis started to kill cicadas. Back then, cicadas were plentiful. They invaded the neighborhood en masse. They sang all day in the baking sun. It would sound like sizzling meat. They flapped transparent veined wings, flew haphazardly from one tree to another, with eyes that were wide apart, to watch for predators. Birds, killer wasps. Armies of ants that would devour their injured bodies on the ground, wipe them off the face of the earth like dust. Cicada babies moved about, protected by the exoskeleton that was meant to shed. They emerged neon green and soft and vulnerable. Time passed, and they'd harden, thin and fragile legs that clung to the bark of a tree. They would lose their bright colors, until they became dark enough to blend in with the rest of the neighborhood. It was as if they were entirely absorbed.
Louis would set the cicadas on fire. He wanted to watch them turn black, he said. "Look, they're crispy now." He dug branches deep into their roasting corpses. As they burned, he swore that they made a popping sound, but I never heard anything.
"Listen, Edward," Louis told me. "Listen more closely."
He collected handfuls of cicadas. Trevor and Danny helped him. Even Anthony would help. Louis spared none, not even the babies. He used the lighter he'd steal from his father. Matches from the counter, or a magnifying glass from the science kit his parents got him. He'd hold down the cicada's squirming body to meet the beam of sunlight at just the right angle. Smoke would appear. I'd beg him to stop but he'd pretend not to hear me. I came to see that my begging would only motivate him further. So I stopped saying anything. I should have known better. Louis never liked being told what to do, especially by someone like me.
Louis showed Vincent and me our first R-rated films. They were always filled with guns and dead bodies and naked women and people constantly cursing. His room was next to his sister's. Her name was Jacqueline, and she had posters of 90210 characters plastered on her cotton candy pink walls to be worshipped and emulated to precision. She'd lock herself in her room, talk on the phone for hours when she was supposed to be watching us. Louis and I raided the snacks from the kitchen cupboards. His mother stocked them with Oreos, Frosted Flakes. An array of potato chips. We'd take them to the basement, make a mess. The basement was where Louis would host his slumber parties. Unlike Trevor and Danny, I wasn't invited to these parties. I didn't really understand why. When Louis grew out of his clothes, Mrs. Delgatti would stuff them into garbage bags, drop them off at our front door. She'd say that she couldn't think of what else to do with them except to pass them along to my brother. Mom would invite her in for coffee, but Mrs. Delgatti always had some place she needed to be. A hair appointment, to pick up dry cleaning. Get her nails done.
I don't think she ever once stepped foot inside of our house.
New Year's Eve. Vincent and I spent the day with Louis playing video games in his room. That evening, Mrs. Delgatti had planned a slumber party for some of his classmates. She had spent all afternoon decorating the basement. She filled it with blue and silver balloons. There was a chocolate cake with yellow frosting. They ordered thin-crust pizza from Domino's for the kids. An array of cupcakes was already laid out on a table, next to the synthetic glitter that they had planned to toss at midnight. Mom would have declared it all a waste of money. But Mrs. Delgatti never seemed to care about wasting money. It was always about having the best time possible in order to temporarily forget everything else.
I told Louis that my family didn't do anything for New Year's. His New Year's looked like it was going to be especially fun. I watched as the guests started to arrive, one by one. Parents mingled over beer, the crab puffs, the pigs in a blanket. I could see Mrs. Delgatti playing hostess, in makeup and diamond earrings, a fitted black dress and towering pink heels. She was good at it. She had a half smile when the sparkle of her eyes diminished slightly as they landed on me and my brother. We were standing in our jackets behind her guests, waiting to say goodbye to Louis. The other boys had come dressed in Polo sweaters and pants. Hair, slicked to the side with gel.
"Can Edward and Vincent stay?" Louis begged his mother. "I said please, what more do you want?"
Mrs. Delgatti shook her head. She put her high-heeled foot down.
"Vincent and Edward have to go home and celebrate with their own family. Maybe next year."
"But we don't celebrate anything," Vincent said. I told him to be quiet as I pushed him out the front door. Louis followed close behind.
At the porch, he said, "I wish that you could stay."
"I can't," I said. "My parents are already waiting for me."
Mrs. Delgatti looked relieved but she must have felt badly. She walked us to the end of the driveway and waited and watched on until we made our way back to our house.
"You didn't have to lie," Vincent said when we were inside. "God said not to lie. Even mom says not to lie."
I told Vincent that we'd celebrate New Year's together. I told him to rip the extra rolls of wrapping paper we had from the Secret Santa exchange I had done in class. Tear them apart until they were the size of confetti. Vincent had the idea to stuff them into empty egg cartons. New Year's would come and we'd toss them in the air. We rehearsed a couple of times because we were too excited to wait. Midnight was still hours away.
When mom told us to go to bed, we begged her to allow us to stay up.
"Louis's mom lets Louis stay up!" I cried, as if Mrs. Delgatti were the model for all mothers to emulate.
Vincent and I watched TV, mesmerized by Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve. Having never been up this late before, the night seemed denser, darker. More concealed than ever. On TV, the happy crowds bounced in a kind of unison of movement and concord. Eventually Vincent couldn't take it anymore. And then he was fast asleep.
The countdown began. The ball descended in Times Square. They were shouting 10...9...I tried to wake Vincent, but he couldn't wake up...7...6...My eyes were glued to the TV, at the people who screamed in winter coats...4...3...2...In the blink of an eye, New Year's came and went. I couldn't help but be disappointed. I'd expected something more, though I wasn't even sure what. On TV, I watched what seemed like millions of people jumping in the streets with glee. They embraced one another, ready to begin the New Year as if it would suddenly be different from the year before. But even then I knew that people, their circumstances, everything who they were, didn't change that easily, as if such a thing was merely like the flick of a light switch. Definitely not overnight.
Vincent and I were the only kids on the block who went to public school. In the mornings, the other kids left their homes in uniforms. Shirts, ties. Slacks, ironed to perfection. Black shoes that reflected the light. My mother walked us to school. She took us all the way to the front entrance of the concrete grey buildings. My classmates would tease us for having a chaperone, to the point where I started to walk ahead of my mother. She'd follow behind, clutching Vincent's hand. She called out for me to wait for her at the corner.
Most of my classmates lived farther away. They arrived in clusters, from apartment buildings on the other side of town. They darted across streets, against Don't Walk signs and beeping car horns. They defied traffic like they defied our teachers, all the rules.
I sometimes wonder how they survived all those red lights. I wonder how they survived all those big streets.
Last week, I saw Mrs. Buccalari on the bus. It was she who recognized me first. We said hello. She sat in the front while I moved toward the back. Her hair was greying, her back was more rounded. She had lost weight, and no longer matched the thick woman in my memories.
On days when it rained hard, or when a blizzard swept through the neighborhood, Mom would march me and Vincent to Anthony's front door and we'd ask Mrs. Buccalari if she could give us a ride to school. I hated having to ask her, but Mom wouldn't know who else to ask. My mom would sit in the backseat with me, thanking Mrs. Buccalari as if she were Mother Teresa.
Seeing her on the bus now, I couldn't believe that this was the same woman who could grab Anthony's ear, yank him clear across the yard when he forgot to take out the trash, or wash the dishes. She wasn't afraid to knock him on the back of his head each time he disobeyed her, make him cry in front of all of us. Louis taught me how to play Ding Dong Ditch. He told me to ring Anthony's doorbell, then run like the wind. I don't know why I did it, how I convinced myself I'd get away, that I could even run that fast.
One year, I tried to apologize to Mrs. Buccalari. I had meant it too. Sometimes you can apologize for something, but it doesn't make a difference.
Louis played Vanilla Ice from his boom box. The music radiated down the block. Anthony tried to do the dance, but Louis corrected him and showed him the proper way as if it were common sense: three jumps back, three faster jumps forward. Louis's other neighbor, Harvey, was a heavy man with thinning hair. He used to smoke cigars in front of his house. He was always telling us to stay out of the gutter.
We never listened. We rode our bikes up and down the streets. We went farther then we were supposed to, past the park, all the way to Northern Boulevard. I once felt that I had all these friends, and that it would always be this way. I sometimes wonder what ever happened to that feeling.
Then Louis showed us pay-per-view porn. We were in his den. It was the weekend.
"This is what my dad watches when the thinks that no one is around," Louis explained.
Two naked blonde women with high-pitched voices went at it, while a disproportionately unattractive man with a massive belly and a beard sat in his underwear, watching them. I couldn't see his eyes. He wore sunglasses. But he grinned profusely, and from time to time, instructed the women to give him more.
Louis turned up the volume. For a moment, we were engulfed by it all. It made me hate adults. It made me hate what people were capable of. The thought of Louis's father watching this made me hate him too. I imagined a day when I'd be able to stand up to the man, and he wouldn't be able to do anything about it. I'd be a force to be reckoned with, alter the landscape that had been wrongly laid out.
Trevor and Danny were laughing. Anthony's eyes were glued desperately to the television. Louis watched on with that newly cultivated removed look on his face—acting as he'd seen it all before, and was expecting something worse, far worse. Jacqueline objected. She tried to grab the remote from Louis's hands. She threated to turn off the TV, but we all knew that she wasn't really trying that hard. I closed my eyes. I felt like throwing up.
"What's the matter, Edward?" Louis said. He elbowed me at the side. "Don't you like what you see?"
Vincent and I were sitting on Louis's front porch. It was a Saturday morning. It was warm. It was April. The sky was clear. The neighborhood, quiet as if it was its own kind of desert. We were in the midst of a drought. Things had been uneventful for far too long. For a while, we couldn't think of anything else to do. We had played and won all the games we wanted to win. Louis's boredom was palpable. We all sat Indian style, slumped against the brick wall. Then Louis started to throw twigs at Vincent. Even after Vincent told him to stop.
"I can't," Louis said matter-of-factly. His face, deadpan. He continued to throw whatever was around, hailing it towards at my brother. "This is my property. This is my house."
"Stop it, or I'll tell on you."
"Go ahead," Louis dared. "Tell."
The next twig got stuck in Vincent's hair, and Louis couldn't stop laughing.
"Laugh, Edward," he told me, "It's funny."
But I couldn't bring myself to laugh.
Vincent bounced up. He rang the bell. He waited at the door, hands pressed against his waist in self-righteousness. Mrs. Delgatti came out, squinting as if she'd just emerged from a darkened room. She had one ear pushed against a cordless phone. With her other ear she listened as Vincent told her what Louis had done. Vincent had such a high voice then. And he talked so much more. He didn't understand that Mrs. Delgatti didn't feel like hearing it.
"If you don't like it, then go home!" she yelled. She extended her arm and pointed out into the streets, even though our house was the other way. "Nobody likes a tattle-tale."
Vincent tried his best not to cry. He started for home. He dragged his toy tractor, the plastic wheels scraped along the sidewalk. There was a moment when he looked behind to see if I was going to go with him. But I was too afraid to move. I felt like the worst brother in the world.
"And I better not hear anything from you either!" Mrs. Delgatti said to me before slamming the door. "Don't be a baby!"
Louis's parents didn't like babies. They thought that boys should be boys. Boys will be boys. I thought that Louis was the luckiest kid in the world. His mother and father let him get away with so much, as if they were in competition for his approval.
Another weekend, Louis's cousin came over for a visit. Her name was Angelica. She was a year older than us. She lived in Staten Island. We were playing in Louis's front yard. Trevor and Danny. Anthony, also. Mrs. Delgatti told us all to play nice.
But Angelica annoyed everyone. She demanded our attention. She didn't laugh at any of our jokes. She thought our wrestling matches were silly.
"You know it's all fake right?" she said. When we didn't answer, she seemed to squeal. "You poor poor boys." I'd never seen anyone talk to Louis this way before.
But Louis stood his ground. He rolled his eyes. He called Angelica a wannabe princess. She called us babies. She showed off her new outfit—a velvet black dress with ruffles and a matching polka-dot bow. Angelica said that she loved polka-dots. Louis reminded her that no one cared. She continued to prance around the driveway in her heels, showing off the different positions she was learning in ballet. She floated about, her arms flapping. "Look!" she cried. "I'm a butterfly! Look!"
"You're no damn butterfly," Louis said as he scowled from the curb.
Angelica didn't want to play tag. She didn't want to mess up her curly black hair, held up and sprayed in some precious style.
"I don't play games for children," she then said.
It was Louis's idea to play show and tell. He showed first. Then Trevor did. Then Danny. Even Anthony showed. Angelica laughed and laughed. And then it was her turn to show.
"We showed you," Louis said. "Now you have to show us!"
"Come on!" Trevor said. "I want to see. I want to see it right now!"
"No!" Angelica cried. She made a sort of smirk, wrapped her arms around her waist and arched forward.
"Look who's the baby now," Louis said, crossing his arms.
Then Angelica made a dash into the backyard. They chased after her. She stood with her back against the cherry blossom tree. They circled her. They closed in on her. It was Danny who first pulled off her jacket. Then Trevor held her arms as Louis pulled down the straps of her dress. Angelica clutched the filmy fabric against her body and shrieked.
"Stop it! My dress! You've ruined it!"
I don't know why she didn't run into the house. Why she felt she had nowhere else to go, except up that tree. She climbed as high as she could, but it wasn't a very tall tree. They could still reach her. They continued to grab at the rest of her clothes. There was the rip of the fabric. They pulled off her shoes, and chucked them clear across the yard. Their little hands grabbed to tear her apart.
"Edward!" Louis called out as he circled the other side of the tree. "Don't just stand there. Help us!"
I couldn't move. I watched Angelica. She shivered in the tree. She held on tightly to the limbs. But the boys continued to pull at her clothes. Louis yanked her tights down, and revealed polka-dot panties, and then her nakedness. They continued to touch her, their hands moved higher and higher. Anthony with his hands stretched out, reaching desperately. His eyes so wide, I thought they'd burst.
"Stop!" I screamed at the top of my voice. "Stop it! Stop it now!"
"What the hell is wrong with you?" I heard Louis say.
"No! Stop it," I kept yelling. "Just stop!"
But they wouldn't listen. Angelica's eyes stretched skyward. She managed to stay quiet throughout the commotion. Then I heard a sharp bang against the brick wall. Mrs. Delgatti had thrown open the screen door.
"What the hell is going on out here!" she screamed.
But I was already running home as fast as I could.
Louis's parents argued frequently. Sometimes Mr. Delgatti left the house. He'd be away for hours at a time. He would drive his Mercedes around the neighborhood. Then he'd drive farther out. One day, he moved away. The divorce didn't come as a surprise to Louis. Louis would only get to see his father on certain days, every other weekend, a couple of weeks during the summer. His father always brought gifts, a new video game, tickets to watch wrestling at Nassau Coliseum. It didn't matter. Louis was more determined than ever to kill things. Cicadas, worms. Caterpillars. He was killing them more and more now. No one could stop him. He didn't care. It was as if whatever part of him that was ever tender and pure was now gone for good.
Then Mrs. Delgatti sold the house. Louis moved deeper into the neighborhood, far enough where the front lawns descended all the way to the streets. We couldn't meet each other without having one of our parents drive us. Then we rarely saw each other at all anymore.
Once Louis said to me, "We were here before you, and that'll always be true." And then he was gone, and the days became quiet, and I would mope about, not knowing what to do with myself, because I had still yet to realize that I'd been set free.