I settled in my belly and kept meltingthere

I read about it in the paper, in the subway, on my way to work. I read it, and I couldn't believeit, 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 facesand bodies of the people, and in my own face, trapped in the darkness which roaredoutside.It was not to be believed and I kept telling myself that, as I walked from the subway stationto the high school. And at the same time I couldn't doubt it.

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I was scared, scared for Sonny.He became real to me again. A great block of ice got settled in my belly and kept meltingthere slowly all day long, while I taught my classes algebra. It was a special kind of ice. Itkept 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 comespilling out or that I was going to choke or scream. This would always be at a moment when Iwas 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 greatgentleness and privacy. I wondered what he looked like now. He had been picked up, theevening 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 anywhereinside me. I had kept it outside me for a long time.

I hadn't wanted to know. I had hadsuspicions, but I didn't name them, I kept putting them away. I told myself that Sonny waswild, but he wasn't crazy. And he'd always been a good boy, he hadn't ever turned hard orevil or disrespectful, the way kids can, so quick, so quick, especially in Harlem.

I didn't wantto believe that I'd ever see my brother going down, coming to nothing, all that light in hisface gone out, in the condition I'd.

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