[dropcap]C[/dropcap]harlie always smelled bad, and he had oily hair. He never bathed, and neither did any of his six sisters or brothers. They were perpetually filthy, their clothes ragged. People looked down on Charlie because his daddy worked in a factory. Charlie’s older brothers, who’d all dropped out of school, worked in the same plant.
And that, by God, was life.
I only ever saw Charlie on Sundays. His family would sit in front of my family at church every week. His daddy wore the same outdated suit, and he’d bellow hymns like his hair was on fire. Charlie’s quiet mother barely moved her mouth at all to sing. Charlie’s older sister, who was far too pretty to be wearing that patched-up dress, would sing while rocking her baby brother on her hip.
Charlie just kept his hands in his pockets.
Even though he was my age, we didn’t have anything in common, Charlie and me. His life was different than mine. But I do remember him. And I think about his family often. I wonder how they’re getting along. I wonder where they live, or if they bathe. I wonder if his daddy still smokes cigarettes the moment he exits that chapel. I wonder about Charlie’s brown-eyed older sister, and if she ever got a new dress. I wonder about Charlie, too. I wonder if he still has messy hair that needs trimming.
I wonder if that college scholarship changed him.
I wonder how it feels to have the same folks who looked down on you, bring you their sick babies and call you, “doctor.”