William was a good friend of mine. He worked with me and was a security officer. We had worked together for a while but didn't really get close until football season arrived one year. My friend Daniel had just gotten into fantasy football and asked William his thoughts on a few of his decisions. William's face lit up with a glow of luminosity. He drew Daniel in closely and analyzed his football choices like a professor studying a favorite student's thesis.
We always knew William as a friendly guy whose face always seemed to default to "huge smile," but now we were privy to the wealth of knowledge dancing about in his head. He was a short, black man who always looked a bit like Charlie Brown to me. That round, shaved head of his talking the beautiful strategies of football just seemed misplaced accompanied by that dress shirt and tie. I remember watching him and seeing an exuberant twelve year old boy who values only two things: sports and friendship.
Week in and week out, he would correct Daniel's fantasy football choices to perfect results. Daniel would seek William out like a writer seeks out a muse. I would tag along just to be with a couple of friends.
My favorite memory of William was probably William's favorite memory. He played college football for a small school in Kentucky. I forget if he was a running back or primarily a special teamer, but he loved to tell a story about a kick return or a punt return that he made one night. As the shortest man on the team, it was really something to watch him run. He was dodgy and quick and had a way of catching opponents off guard. This one night, he caught the ball and went the distance. Ninety something yards, William took the pigskin to the endzone for his biggest night in his football career.
It was a home game and as he crossed the endzone for the touchdown, he heard the cheers of the crowd. But looking down and catching his breath, he heard laughter as well. Confused, he looked up to see what everyone was laughing at. As it turns out, his mom had been watching from her seat, but once he got the ball, in excitement, she ran down to the sideline and proudly ran the distance alongside her son. Of course, while he was dodging defenders, she was dodging coaches - and she made it to the endzone before William. She was dancing her own touchdown celebration while he was still making his way there.
His smile as he told the story was beautiful. One day, he brought in pictures of him in his team uniform. It made me wish for him that he was still active in sports instead of doing what he was doing. A knee injury turned even his small chance to stay in football into no chance. But if he was bitter, he never showed it. He took pride in his job and loved the community of friendship that we had. I wouldn't trade those days of talking with my friend for anything.
Several months after hearing his great story, his boss resigned and he posted for the promotion. He hadn't been there long enough though and so someone else would come in for that position. Feeling slighted, he left work that day early. I was off for a few days and got word later that William had been arrested and charged with the stabbing murder of his girlfriend. I think that there was some paranoid jealousy at play. He thought she was cheating on him and lost his head.
As the news report indicated, as soon as he realized what he had done, he called his mom and asked her to call the police. He waited and was taken into custody. A few weeks after, William committed suicide in jail. This was about five years ago and I still find myself thinking of my friend. He did a terrible thing by taking a young woman's life. Her family will suffer forever as they miss her. I also think of William's mother.
I knew William well enough to know how completely out of character his crime was. I bet that desperate phone call from her son still doesn't feel quite real. He was the guy quick with a smile and happy to be among friends and family. She once - in great happiness and pride - outran him on the football field, but now she has outlived him in life.
I know that she misses her boy. I do too.