I can’t remember his name. The kid so high up in the tree that none of us can see him clearly. This is Jersey, first grade, and the rest of us are playing ball in the street. We shade our eyes, peer into the tree, point out his progress. And then, in one thunderous rush, he is on the pavement. A boy posed as a pile of clothes.
His brother gives an unintelligible shout, springs onto his bike, and away. The rest of us stay in our positions and regard our friend. Unmoving. On the pavement. Charlie looks into the tree. “The top is taller than my house,” he says.
We’ve all climbed it before, but no one ever fell. Is he dead? What will we do if he’s dead? We move together, the kids in the street, and continue to watch the boy on the pavement. If we go any closer, we might catch it, whatever has happened. Bad luck or no luck or a coma. “Maybe it’s a coma,” someone says. We are fascinated by comas. How you can wake up years later and still be 6, when everyone else has grown old.
What is his name? In a moment his brother will return with Charlie’s father, and they’ll lift this prone boy, put him into a car, and drive away. No one will speak to us. I can’t remember how this story ends. I can’t remember what happened to the boy. I remember the sound as he slipped from the fir tree. His sudden, horrifying reappearance. When I read Auden’s poem about Icarus, I thought of this boy. It’s not that we didn’t notice, but that we were almost afraid to react. Afraid to seem too interested. Afraid it might have been us.