He had saved his little sister’s life and he visibly wore his achievement on his skin.
His third degree burns weren’t 100% healed. You could tell in the pinkness of his black skin. They were everywhere. Patches that covered his hands and arms, his legs, even throughout most of his face with only his left side left untouched. It was obviously the first thing we all noticed as he stood in front of the class as our teacher introduced him.
His name was Alex and it was his first day of 2nd grade even though it was almost halfway through the first semester. He was nervous, I could tell by the way he shook his knee back and fourth, but he stood tall with his chin held high, holding a spider man book bag in his right hand.
He took a seat two rows ahead of me. I stared at him wondering to myself what could have happened. It wasn’t until days later that him and I were sitting together at recesses that one of the boys came up to him on a dare to ask him what had happened to him.
Fucking jerks. Kids can be a bunch of turds..
Yet, I stayed quiet. I wanted to know too so I too became a quiet little turd. He hadn’t even hesitated to answer and spoke slowly, perfectly:
His mother had been in the kitchen cooking. By her legs, there played Alex with his little sister. She had just gotten a new doll for her birthday and so he was entertaining her while mom finished with dinner, spaghetti. All of the sudden, all he hears is his mother scream and without thinking he grabbed to hug his sister. Without even thinking he had shielded her from what was to come. He felt the pain before hearing the pot hit the ground. His mother had accidentally knocked over the pot she had been boiling the water in, sending its contents spilling onto the boy. His sister hadn’t been at all touched by the scorching hot water.
I was mesmerized as he told his story. I could tell that the kid who had asked him didn’t know what to say. After Alex had finished, the boy simply rubbed his hair uncomfortably and walked away. We sat there on the curb quietly for a moment. It was a beautiful day. Clear blue skies with only a slight cold breeze, dead autumn leaves dancing in its movement.
“You’re like a hero.” I had broken the silence. He slightly shook his head.
“Heroes don’t really look like me.” He picked up a pebble and threw it. It skipped a few times across the parking lot before landing on a patch of dirt.
“What do heroes look like?” I turned to look at him. He seemed sad. He thought about his answer for a few seconds.
“Like my dad. He’s a police officer. He goes to people’s houses everyday to save people.” I pictured his dad, probably a handsome man in a crisply ironed uniform. Police officers were heroes to me back then and so I remember agreeing with him with a silent nod. But Alex was still a hero to me.
“Your dad is your dad. If you think he’s a hero than you are one too because he is your dad. He saves lives and you saved one too.” I simply said. I then picked up a pebble and threw it.
It wasn’t long before Alex made his group of friends and life as kids went on as normal. The following year I left private school and got thrown into the turbulent world of public schooling. I lost contact of all of my old classmates. This was a time before kids had cell phones let alone a social media page, and so I never saw Alex again. He wasn’t even in our class photo. He had arrived so late into the school year that he had ended up missing picture day.
Even though much time has passed, and all he really is now is a distant faded memory, I will think of this hero child from time to time. I wonder what the future had held for him, where he was, and what he was doing with himself. Had karmatic justice been served in his case? I most certainly hope so.