I couldn't tell you when Troy Jenkins died. It is fitting, in the end, because I cannot remember when he was born. Of course I wasn't there at the birth, I mean I cannot remember the date of his birthday, a fact I used to know. He was born in 1977 I am moderately sure. I think it was a summer month. I know nothing else, and these are guesses.
He died in 2003. I am sure it was a spring month. End of semester, an ubiquitous concept to a college student.
He died in Iraq. There is some confusion as to what was up. He could have been the victim of a child bomber. More likely, he was the victim of a kid's ignorance as far as knowing it was a bomb that she was playing with. Possibly it was something more along the lines of a clean-up operation that went awry. The story I prefer was the one that Troy leapt upon unexploded ordinance and took the bulk of impact, resulting in the injuries that killed him.
I prefer this one, if prefer is the right word, because once Troy, my brother Daniel, and I talked about whether it was morally right to leap upon a grenade to save the lives the others involved. Danny said that it was too close to suicide, and therefore morally wrong. Troy and I chose the other path. I am a coward, I feel, and would likely never have been able to do such an act. Troy apparently was a lot more courageous than I was. That speech was a premonition. Somehow the cirlce seems more fitting this way.
Troy met me in the fourth grade. I disliked him at first because of his name, which I had understood to be Trey. I believe that I had disliked someone named Trey at my old school and my nine-year old mind put the two together. I was relieved of this prejudice after a few short months of hanging with him and we became quite close. Best friends. It is a term that is everywhere. It somehow never quite diminishes its impact.
Troy and I designed a biosphere before I ever saw the term in the news. We were off by a notch or two, but then we were twelve. We planned to submerge a school bus with an air pump and see what it would be like to live underwater. Troy and I passed code back and forth. Simple, stupid codes1, but we began to to develop better ones. We passed unreadable notes in class. We became quite good.
Troy showed me my first porn. At the time, I was not impressed. I failed, at thirteen or so, to note the importance of lesbians. Troy gave me a cigarette. I was not impressed. His dad and my mom were friends, passing. For a southern person of their era, a passing friend met past the age of twenty was a miracle.
Troy and I had something of a falling out of a girl named Virginia. She was one of my first actual crushes but Troy got to her first. I was too slow. There is only one relationship I did not screw up by my paucity, because I knew it was worth going for, and I am married to her. Troy hid fries in his pocket one day. Troy told me he was disappointed in me when I got saludictorian. Troy was not exactly a model citizen. Model citizens don't harrass a girl's parents because she has had an operation that kept her from having sex. Troy was not the kind of person I would have respect for if he was not a beloved friend.
Troy said I had what it takes to do something with my life. He said he was waiting. I was so thrilled to finally be nearing my college career, three years behind schedule, so that I could have something that I thought would make Troy Jenkins proud. I had not heard from Troy since graduation. Eight years.
In eight years there had been lives. Troy was married. Had two children. He had been in the marines and the army paratroopers. He had moved a handful of times. He had been wounded in Afghanistan. He had went back into service as soon as they would allow. I had been in and out of college. I had read a lot. I had chased after stupid relationships. I had screwed up monetarily. I had only held dumb jobs. I had made friends, and then had screwed up all except a few close friendships.
I felt so petty when Troy died.
A lot of us have lost childhood friends. A lot of us have lost a loved one. A lot of us have life changing experiences. I recognize the fact I am in no way unique. That is not what I a proclaiming. Not in the least.
I did make me think, though. It made me face the fact that sometimes little childhood conversations come back to live inside the now. It made me realize how much I was doing what I was doing to make him proud. It made me realize that I no longer had that luxury. It made me realize that wife and family can be just a statistic when your country needs to spend you like currency. I am not saying the war is wrong, was wrong, or anything of the sort. I am not saying it was right, is right, etc. I am just saying that it is a powerful, changing thing. It was a step we made. We don't get to ever go back.
Troy was a damned fool in class. He was a good man. I was neither. Troy made people laugh. Half the time I felt people were laughing AT me. Troy charmed people. I made friends. I did the best I could. I wanted recognition. I am sure Troy did as well.
I never met Troy's wife. His kids. I don't suppose I want to, anyhow. I never saw his life outside of Evergreen. I know his house that I played at so much as a kid is gone. Wasted away. Screw it.
Troy Jenkins is fifteen years old to me. They killed a fifteen year old in that war. He died protecting his family from nuclear war. He did nto die to liberate Iraquis. The idea that he would be fine with either definition for the war is ludicrous, even if he would have been. He was never given the choice. None of those that died with him ever were.
I cried. This is almost a given. I miss him. If he was alive, I would likely have never met him again. I might not ever really had thought of him again, except as a background happiness.
I don't know if he would ever be proud of me. I am no longer trying to impress Troy Jenkins.
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This article was written by W Doug Bolden on May 12, 2006.
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