I had this friend named Irene, Irene Hernandez, whose dad used to beat her up. She came to the youth group for a while and I guess caused a little bit of trouble for smoking weed, so the youth leader Brent didn't really like her. For a while he was meeting with her father, trying to sort things out between Irene and her dad, and at one point he came out saying that he thought Irene was making it all up and that he didn't think her dad was beating her up at all. But I was friends with Irene and I remember this one time we went down to see a baseball game and she brought her little brother. We had a really good time but all throughout the day at various times Irene would turn to her brother and say, “Remember JJ we never came here. Daddy can't know about this. If one day next month or something he takes you on the train and says, 'Hey it's your first train ride,' you can't say, 'No, Irene took me to see baseball.' You have to remember, okay, JJ?”
He would nod and say okay but of course he let it slip one time a few weeks later and Irene ended up with a black eye for a while.
I was on my way to the job site this morning and I passed this one street you turn down to get to the mall, and every time I go by there I remember the time years and years ago when I was driving down that road and right at that intersection thought I saw Irene Hernandez's mom walking up the hill with her work clothes on and in high heels and all. I thought about stopping and asking if she needed a ride, but I wasn't sure it was her and there was traffic all backed up so I just kept going. Later I asked Irene about it and she said that it was her mom and she had been having a horrible day and her car had broken down and she had to walk a few miles home in her high heels.
I still feel really bad about it. Sometimes I like to try and picture it in my head the way it should have gone.
Matthew Savoca was born in 1982 in Pennsylvania, and now lives in New York and PA where he works as a carpenter. Publishing Genius will put out his novel "I Don't Know," I Said in 2013.