He was big man. Intimidating to look at, but the nicest guy you'll meet.
He was taking classes part-time because he had a family and worked his ass off in between. He was often late, but always called. Always put in the extra time because he wanted to know this stuff. When his grades were lousy, he never complained. He asked what he did wrong. How he could do better.
He was about year into our program when he and a few evening students were still in lab. I told them about the time a stranger called my wife and told her he'd kill her if he found out who she was.
Big man's eyes widened. "I'd *69 that mutherfucker and be on his porch in five minutes."
The reaction, it was genuine. It was for real. I never knew that was in him. For a moment, it was right there in front of us. Probably something he didn't want us to see, but the story triggered something. Then he put it back inside.
"All this," he said, gesturing to the warm, gentle smile we were accustomed to, "it didn't always used to be this way."
He grew up in a bad part of Charleston. Knocked around the streets, gangbanged his way through the early years. For the first time, I noticed the small scars on his face. He talked a bit about it, but not bragging.
"Nothing scares me, man," he said, not boasting. Just stating a fact. Then got back to the business at hand.
It was behind him.