a quarter century ago………

I was in Boy Scout Troop 876 with a kid named Jeremy Duke. Fast forward to 2011, and he is a shell of a man, a barely living ghost wandering around the streets of East Dallas.

Three or four years ago, I saw him walking down my street, and stopped him in his tracks.  I recognized him, and I told him who I was–he was taken aback.  He remembered me. He remembered Kevin. His father lives on the next block of Victor.  So we hung out a few times-he kept begging me to have a beer,  I told him I didn’t want to drink, but I did anyway.

And a few weeks later his father shipped Jeremy off to New Braunfels to live in Section 8 housing.

Jeremy didn’t want to leave Dallas.  The simple life he knew was here.  The store on the corner that sold him forties of malt liquor every day.  The public library where he could go to check out CDs to put in his portable CD player that he carried everywhere.  The DART stop was close.  But he went against his will.

So he goes to New Braunfels, a move that I thought was permanent.  Today, I see him again.  No, I see someone that looks vaguely like him walking down the street, talking to someone who isn’t there.

I pulled over, and got out of my truck, in the same exact spot I stopped him last time.  He still recognized me.  I gave him a $ 20, and told him not to spend it on beer.  But I know he will.

Today, he is very mentally ill.  He can barely talk, and when he does, it is a stutter, a drunken rambling of some iconoclastic thought that raced through his mind.  His teeth are missing or falling out.  He is homeless.  It’s 100 degrees, and he is dressed in all black.  He smokes the cheapest cigarettes available.

But when I look at him, I know we have a lot in common.  Boy Scouts, high school, hometown, even the same musical tastes. And now we are standing on the same street corner, 25 years after our Scouting days, as different as we have ever been.

I learn a lot from him, as much as the greatest teacher can teach:   to never, ever take anything for granted.  You never know when your whole world can be pulled out from under you.

We are all different, but we are really all the same.  When a fellow man needs help, you help him.  Knowing a guy like Jeremy can put everything in a new perspective.

I don’t know what happened first–did Jeremy give up on Society, or did Society give up on Jeremy?

And now he hates society.  And like the Aztecs, he believes it’s all over in 2012.

For his sake, I hope he is right.

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4 Responses to “a quarter century ago………”

  1. This is my favorite of your posts, so far. All of your pictures tell a story… but sometimes a picture needs to have it’s story written down. Great commentary on mental illness. You should write more often.

  2. Clay… wow… that is a great story… it left me thinking… your words are so true. I really enjoyed it… We are really all the same and sometimes we forget that could be us on the street instead of someone else.

  3. Lauren Melton Says:

    He is the one in the Cub Scout Uniform in 3rd grade.

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