The kind of kid that tried backflipping on a trampoline but landed on his stomach, in front of everybody. The kind of kid with mutton chops down to his chin, and unwashed hair down to his shoulders—a look that even our dweeby English Teacher remarked the kid’s future self would regret. The kind of kid that in our high school Spanish class, when it came to describing weight[1], said his backpack was very fish[2]. We called him Suave backhandedly, acknowledging the kid was goofier than a cartoon drawn on a urinal stall by a cruel middle schooler.

The kind of kid whose idea of asking ladies for a dance was to do a rooster-strut he called The Flail that resembled an epileptic seizure, on the middle of the dance floor or in the street at 2am causing us to pause our party. We would shake our heads, beers in hand and occasionally invite him in.

The kind of kid who, when he did get drunk, talked about God and hell. The kind of kid without any sense who worried whether he could make a 15-minute drive on a quarter tank, not realizing that amount of gas would give him a highway hour easy.

In Psych. class one time, he wondered aloud what the Russian word for suffering was.

We loved our Suave. Well. We let him love us, which seemed to be all he needed.

He was the kind of kid whose torso got so used to being bent back, it made him lissome as a lizard and able to bear weight that we could not. The kind of kid whose unkempt hair warded away the relationships that marred us in our prime, landing us with children we didn’t want with women we weren’t ready to love.

The kind of kid whose willingness to play language’s fool inured him against pride and paved his way toward sagacity. The kind of kid who can juggle words with his tongue and wow, who still dances his frisson in the middle of a silent 2am street to the scherzo in his head—not a courtship spectacle as we thought, but a come-on to God to come down and incarnate the proofs of theodicy.

The kind of kid whose dollars are outweighed by his sense of how much gas he’s got in his car and whose always down for a drive into the heart of suffering where we now reside—a place where his jagged mind, roughhewn wit, and awkward gait makes those of us in that cold core feel smoother—not suave exactly, but certainly, milder and less alone.

[1] pesado means heavy
[2] pescado

Shaun Anthony McMichael

Shaun Anthony McMichael has taught writing to students from around the world, in classrooms, juvenile detention halls, mental health treatment centers, and homeless youth drop-ins throughout the Seattle area. Over 50 of his short stories, reviews, and poems have appeared or are forthcoming in literary magazines, online, and in print. He lives with his wife and son in West Seattle.