When I met William three years ago, he reminded me of Francis Tarwater, the protagonist of the Flannery O’Connor novel The Violent Bear It Away, which I was reading that fall. Tarwater is raised in the woods by his great-uncle, a superstitious Christian who believes Tarwater will grow up to be a prophet. When the old man dies, Tarwater must re-enter society after being sequestered in the woods for most of his life, and he’s terrified. He trusts no one.
The first day William showed up to my class, he took a seat near the window and slouched down in his seat. From here, he could see the Brevoort Houses, where he lived. He had covered the front of his notebook with the word Brevoort and the name of a well-known Brevoort crime syndicate. His feline face was stony. In crossing the street to come to school, he’d entered enemy territory.
We soon learned that William was merry and affable, that when he trusted you, he loved you. Continue reading