I read about it in the paper, in the subway, on my way to work. I read it, and I couldn't believe
it, and I read it again. Then perhaps I just stared at it, at the newsprint spelling out his name,
spelling out the story. I stared at it in the swinging lights of the subway car, and in the faces
and bodies of the people, and in my own face, trapped in the darkness which roared
It was not to be believed and I kept telling myself that, as I walked from the subway station
to the high school. And at the same time I couldn't doubt it. I was scared, scared for Sonny.
He became real to me again. A great block of ice got settled in my belly and kept melting
there slowly all day long, while I taught my classes algebra. It was a special kind of ice. It
kept melting, sending trickles of ice water all up and down my veins, but it never got less.
Sometimes it hardened and seemed to expand until I felt my guts were going to come
spilling out or that I was going to choke or scream. This would always be at a moment when I
was remembering some specific thing Sonny had once said or done.
When he was about as old as the boys in my classes his face had been bright and open,
there was a lot of copper in it; and he'd had wonderfully direct brown eyes, and great
gentleness and privacy. I wondered what he looked like now. He had been picked up, the
evening before, in a raid on an apartment down-town, for peddling and using heroin.
I couldn't believe it: but what I mean by that is that I couldn't find any room for it anywhere
inside me. I had kept it outside me for a long time. I hadn't wanted to know. I had had
suspicions, but I didn't name them, I kept putting them away. I told myself that Sonny was
wild, but he wasn't crazy. And he'd always been a good boy, he hadn't ever turned hard or
evil or disrespectful, the way kids can, so quick, so quick, especially in Harlem. I didn't want