Every few days or so, when his loneliness becomes impossible to bear, Rodrigo leaves his Manhattan high school and goes to Central Park. He wanders off the paved roads and makes his way to the secluded, wooded trails, just a few blocks from the housing project in Harlem where he grew up. There he drifts and waits. He might lean against a tree or roam along a trail. Eventually a man will show up.
My friend Tommy Crotty, who was a terrific basketball player in New York and went on to play college ball and be a cheerful husband and excellent dad before the idiot who just died in Abbottabad murdered him and thousands of people on September Eleventh, used to call every big guy he ever played with Meat.
There was a flutter in my rib cage, a somersault of uneasiness. I hadn’t witnessed such concentrated weirdness up close since my parents were alive: my father’s conspiracy theories and colon-cleansing elixirs; my mother’s ground-up lithium in a locket around her neck.
Four months into their seven-month tour, the mostly nineteen- and twenty-year-old marines at Patrol Base Fires in Sangin, Afghanistan, had seen enough violence to permanently line their boyish faces. Two of their platoon’s men had been killed by improvised explosive devices [IEDs], one of them blown literally in two.