He was a boy once.

The slings and arrows of life have a way of killing the child in all of us. Some quicker than others. He was no exception. Any little boy who is forced to stand over his father while he bleeds out from a gunshot wound on a city sidewalk… well, he learns real quick how raw life can be.

He was a boy once. Still is, at least from a distance. The eyes tell a different story, though.

Can you imagine what it’s like to be the man of the house at the tender age of seven? With a dad that’s six feet under, and a mom that’s three sheets to the wind any time she’s not working one of her three jobs to hold the two of them together? He held his father’s head that day. He ran his fingers through his daddy’s warm, sticky hair as his daddy’s eyes glassed over. He’s held his momma’s head on many a night, after she’s passed out on the couch in front of the television, ashtray full of cigarettes and a half-empty bottle of bourbon on the table. The pain will do that, you know. We all hold on to something in our pain.

He was a boy once. But he was forced to give up little boy things.

Superman is a fiction he never had time to indulge. G.I. Joe was a foreign concept. When he wasn’t struggling through school, he was at home with the doors locked, cooking his own dinner and washing his own plates. He learned to take messages on the phone for his momma. There’s a whole stack of them on the kitchen counter. He shines shoes down at the hardware store on Saturdays. He can’t relate to the boys his age, so he makes a few bucks spit shining a few strangers’ shoes. He’s gonna make something of himself someday.

He was a boy once. He’s been a man damn near all his life.

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