The kid who disappeared.

October 15, 2010 § 8 Comments

I woke up in the middle of the night and I thought about him, the kid who disappeared.

He was riding his bike to school but never got there.  They found the bicycle beside the canal, but never a body.

We were sophomores at Princeton High when it happened.

I didn’t know him well, no one I knew, knew him well.  And as I remember it, when suddenly we were all talking about him, it seemed that nobody did.

We had seen him around. in the hall, in class, a tall skinny kid with curly hair, ironic and sarcastic.

Someone said he was smart.

Despite the abandoned bike, I never believed he was dead.  I imagined him on some kind of magical mystery tour, or, bolder than the rest of us, that he had left to start a new life somewhere else.  Both explanations seemed more plausible than death, which only happened to people two generations above ours.

For a while we talked about him and wondered, rumors churned.  But we had choir performances to get ready for, tests, games, and I had a rock band that was perpetually practicing.  For the rest of us, life was rushing forward, each the center of our own universe.

I haven’t thought about him for years, don’t know why he came to me last night.  The memory is pale, snowed under by deep drifts of time.  But I still see his face, unchanged.

It is the rest of us who have disappeared, vanishing into adult lives, our faces altered by experience and time.

My parents had those same frozen portraits in their heads, multiplied many times over.  The friends they lost early were killed in the theaters of World War II.  My parents always called them “boys,” and that’s what they were.

Forever boys.

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§ 8 Responses to The kid who disappeared.

  • Tgumster says:

    “It is the rest of us who have disappeared”; that’s the phrase that makes this blog universal. We have the luxury of getting lost in our lives as part of what life affords but frozen faced boys are forever caught in a careless moment


  • Jane Reilley says:

    James was starting off on a summer of biking around the country, a trip he had been planning for months. He disappeared within a few days of leaving his family home & was never found. He was extremely smart, witty & outspoken. In junior high he was well liked, ran for class office & won, challenged teachers when they were wrong which was rarely done back then. Growing up in a small Ivy League town nothing like that had ever happened to us & it still remains in my conscious.


  • “Disappearing”
    As I grow older all of my friends are “disappearing.” Right at this moment one of my childhood buddies is in the hospital in a coma. He is 72. Everyone says that he is old enough to die … me too. But what’s the rush?
    This old age reminds me of Audie Murphy’s book “To Hell and Back.” As an old person, I am now on the front line in the war of life. The snipper in the sky is picking off my pals one by one. They never see it comming.
    Sometimes they are only wounded with a stroke here or minor heart attack there.
    Each time a buddies bites the dust, I think, “What have I forgot to do today? Why am I wasting a moment? I’ve got to get busy and smell every rose, get every hug and kiss. I like laughing. I like hearing my wife laugh. I’ve got to do more of it myself. Time’s a wasting. That sniper in the sky may have me in his sights right now. Where’s my bulletproof vest?


    • Richard, Your comments always make me say, hey Ray, listen to this, and then I read what you’ve written to my husband. Then we either laugh (usually you are very funny), or, as is the case with this comment, we are amazed that your catalog of wisdom can be so broad as to include knowlege of the sniper in the sky and the location of the prettiest girls (bean suppahs). Thanks for hobo-philosophizing on my blog.


  • Philip Spitzer says:

    Hi Adrian

    As promised

    Cool evening




  • Nadine says:

    Zap was funny and brilliant. Big and precocious for his age. I use to sit next to him in Science Class at John Witherspoon Jr. High. He brought in the first porn book and we all read it during class petrified that Mr. Messersmith would catch us. The book was Candy by Terry Southern.”


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