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Biggest question mark I have about the whole year is about the driver, the driver of the car that killed Alicia that night. I can't move past it because I can't get the beats right in my head. I'm a writer, I'm a storyteller. And the missing part is I don't know how to name this person who was driving the car. What is he? Is he a killer? Is he a victim? Is he an innocent bystander? How would the law name him? It feels overly forgiving and falsely altruistic to call him a victim. It feels damning. It feels like a goddamn witch hunt to call him a murderer. He's not a bystander, exactly, because he, too, was injured. And he's not my friend. He's not even an acquaintance. I've made up who he was in my head. I tell myself he must be such a thoughtful and emotionally entouched adult because of what he went through at that time. I tell myself he must have gone to therapy and talk to someone about how he feels the whole community hated him after that. And he must have become a spiritual person who got in touch with something immaterial to help him explain to himself why he was chosen to be the driver in a car that killed someone that everybody loved.


And he must have atoned in some way for what he did. And I told myself, Be mature. It's not about you. It's not your shit. You're not Alicia. You're not dead from this. You're not Alicia's parents. You're not her sister. I've told myself a million different things to try to just rush past the only honest thing, which is that I am angry at this person. And if you're asking yourself, why are we bleeping this person's name out? It's not really to protect him. I think on some level, Hassan was to protect me because I am still hurt. I am still sad. I am still jealous. He was the last person to be with my friend, and she trusted him, and then she died. Here's Hassan, who was the closest person I knew to him in high school.


He was a smart, funny guy. He's a joker, happy-go-lucky type, similar to me. We're sitting there listening to the teacher or listening to the loud kid who acted out in class. I didn't act out. He wasn't much of a person who acted out either. We might be the ones sitting there and they might say something quietly under our breath that we thought was funny and maybe a few other kids around us would laugh at or something like that. But he was a funny, smart kid. He seemed as much as a 16-year-old can be worldly, but he knew about certain things that I had experienced and knew about because I had already lived in three or four different countries and was from somewhere else. That gave me a different perspective. There wasn't as much distance in talking about that stuff with other typical American kids.


And they were from India? Yeah. India, okay.


The best thing I can say about it really is I'm just a big-hearted person. When we were all 16 and the cruel jokes we all made towards each other and the shit-talking we did all the time. But he was the person who would look at you and see you whince a little bit and go like, I just hurt your feelings a little bit. Let me chill. Let me stop.


We've gone too far.


He had a high emotional quotient. He was an empathetic person.


Yes, absolutely. He was a nice, kind person. And he had a condition with his hair and with his head. And so he always wore a fitted cat backwards. And you're not able to help feeling insecure about something like that when you're that age. That was there. He liked the Simpsons. He liked basketball. And I was like, You're okay in my book. I think inevitably that's something that changes your life forever, being involved in something like that, that changes not just your life, changes who you are as a person to some degree forever and ever. It's almost like when people say a light has been dim, a light in the back of someone's eyes or something like that. Like I said, was always happy-go-lucky, goofy, want to joke all the time kid. I almost felt like he lost a little bit of that after, if I'm right, totally understandably.


I heard Hassan. He was a nice guy, smart guy. Happy-go-lucky. Indian dude with Alapesia, a brown guy at our high school two years after 9/11. I could feel then, and I even feel now, that's not an easy way to live as a high schooler. It seemed like he was someone with a good enough heart who, because of circumstances that were not his fault, had a hard time in our very American high school, and he stuck out like a sore thumb. I remember looking at him before any of this shit happened because he did stand out. And Hassan says that his light might have dimmed after Alicia died. But if I'm being real, I remember there was a dim light over him already. It was like the dim light of awareness. You know those kids that you went to high school or middle school with who it felt like they had been through something. Now that I think about them as an adult, I always wonder, was there a weird parent? Did they lose somebody? There's a light on behind the eyes, but it's at 50 %. And that's how I remember. And I hear, Hassan, I trust Hassan as a judge of character, but it just is not sitting.


It's not sitting and it's not settling. Why did she want to date the guy that smoked cigarettes outside the school? He certainly stood out, but he didn't seem vulnerable. In a way, he felt more like an adult than the rest of us as I remember him. And even now, as I think about seeing him as a kid and feeling that lived-in presence that he had before, but especially after Alicia was gone, I can't sort out how much am I projecting onto him that is really just anger. How much am I using the one tool that I have, which is storytelling, to make a story about this guy who I just don't want to like. And I'm sitting in the anger now. I'm sitting in the feelings, the resentment. But it was 20 years ago, and I can't possibly compare the feeling that I feel now to what I was processing and what I was watching all these other 16-year-old babies processing at my high school.


If you will remember, they had the banner for Alicia in the cafeteria, and there were.




People that wrote angry messages.


To the.


Driver of the car.


Tell me about that. On her banner. I forgot that. Yeah. Oh, man. I pray I wasn't one of them, to be honest. There was somebody that wrote.


Fuck and then his first name. It was one of those situations where it's like, man, why her? She seems like the model person, the model friend. She was smart. I remember her being a really good artist. There was so much potential there. She was just getting started. It's not to say that her life should have been valued more than anybody else's, but if it had to happen, why to her? Obviously, the story with her, she passed in the car accident. She was in the car with someone else. He was driving. I remember because of how affected you were by her passing, I remember being angry at the other kid.


He was.


Someone that I knew, didn't know him super well, but everyone knew who he was. I remember being upset with him, thinking you killed my friend's friend, that thing.




Is wrong. I mean, it wasn't something that obviously he didn't do on purpose. And I remember not being the only person that felt that way. I remember a lot of people just being down on him and blaming him and things like that. And as I reflect on it, honestly, he's pretty strong for getting through that because especially nowadays, mental health is a huge thing and you just never know. I'm just trying to think if that happened nowadays, I feel like the way that people treated him, I could see how one day he could wake up and be like, You know what? Fuck it. I shouldn't be here. I shouldn't be here and take his own life for that thing. I vividly remember instead of, okay, you have a two-person car crash, one person dies, instead of taking him in and embracing him and trying to get him through what happened, instead, I felt like we pointed the finger at him.


It was feeling bad for Alicia and her family and everyone and people like you who were friends with her and feeling bad for my friend too and feeling bad for her as well. That's really what it was. I did see it, some of that negative energy, not like in person, face-to-face, someone talking to or anything, but I did hear a couple of people express negative feelings towards him personally. I remember feeling bad about that. I never understood the incident, the accident, to be something to even say the word fault, you know what I mean? It just felt bad. I could totally understand your loved one, your friend, something happening to that person and feeling like it was unnecessary. It's not like she had some condition or something and this person was involved in it and just feeling something towards that person. I could totally understand it, but I don't think it was ever lost on me. This is just a tragic, terrible mistake. And this is a thing for him, too.


I remember as a kid, there was this distinction between the feelings I actually had, the feelings I thought I was supposed to have, and then there were communal feelings. You walk into the cafeteria, you walk into this room full of some sobbing, some seething teenagers. And it's like you got to choose out of a bag which affect you're going to take on. So much of it felt like performance. It was like we collectively were deciding what we were going to do with Death as kids. But like everything in high school, the kids that actually have the information aren't the ones that took the lead. It was the most performative who took the lead. It was the most popular. It was whoever was closest to her at that time, and I was one of them got to have their moment on the stage to show everybody else. This is how sad we are. This is how angry we are. Let's show them. But there was another death that year that I'm still trying to wrap my head around. And that was the fight between two teenage girls that broke out outside of my high school after a Friday night football game.


Dr. Goodman, my old principal at Blake, she remembers the details that night crystal clearly. So I had to go back to her to get the info.


As I remember it, the game was beyond standing remotely, just hordes and hordes of students from all over the county.. Sherwood is a rival of ours. And the game is basically over to blow out, but not totally over. We're walking up the hill from the football stadium, and there's tons of kids and families and just people walking up that same hill. And when I get into the parking lot, what I really remember is seeing there were some girls in a mix-up, but this part is such a blur of both memory and also, I think, other people's stories of what happened that I'm not exactly sure what happened. But I do know that a van speeds off, and I remember looking at a couple of bodies on the floor, but one of them is in really bad shape, and I've never.


Really seen.






Before. There's chaos happening. One of my close friends gets into a fight a couple of feet away from me. He ends up in a police car. Everybody goes running off all these different directions. To get to the end of the story, a girl was stabbed and killed. That's about as much as I know. Do you remember? Do you know what happened? Yeah.


I do. What happened was there was a girl who attended. Sherwood. She did not go to the game. Her little brother was playing in a baseball league down on the far field, and there were stories about her with a baseball bat. It was because her little brother was carrying his baseball bat coming from the game. He was a little guy, maybe eight or nine. Okay, she was picking him up. The other girl attended Rockville High School. She had a sister who showed up at the game. The girl who attended Rockville, who was the sister, was coming to avenge her sister, who she perceived as having been wronged. So she came looking for the girl from Sherwood.




Sorry, I'm trying to make sure I'm following.


So the girl who came to pick up her little.


Brother, her.


Sister called- No, the sister of the other girl, yes.


Her sister comes-.


Who's 15, comes to the game looking for the girl from Sherwood, not knowing that she didn't go to the game. So what happened was, and I had to show the superintendent the surveillance tapes later because of what happened. The girl who came up from the field had a pocket knife on her. She was confronted by the girl from Rockville, and it was off-camera. It was in front of the building. The girl from Sherwood pulled out this knife and literally had the world's most unlucky thing imaginable happen. She just stabbed once. The paramedic, who was a Blake parent, he told me she blood out internally before she hit the ground. What? People thought she had a seizure.


That's what I thought.


Yes, because that's what it looked like. When the girl from Sherwood thrust, and then she ran off. She left. That was the van or whatever the car was. The girl from Rockville and the dad, who was the paramedic, they tore her shirt to do CPR, and in four-inch letters, she had sexy bitch tattooed across her chest. So this is at 15. Teensager. Yeah, at 15. Nobody in the crowd knew she was dead at that time because you couldn't tell. There was no blood, none. The girl from Sherwood served 18 months. She went to jail.


Eighteen months? Yes. Oh, man. I thought she was.


Still away.


No, no, it was- But that was as a juvenile- She was a minor. Here. As a juvenile and considering the circumstances, they were pretty shocked that she got that. I mean, she was like an honors kid. She had never been in trouble before. It was an unbelievable nightmare.


I think I have to say here, without even the slightest bit of irony or disbelief, that could have been me. I could have been the stabber, and I could have been the deceased. I was a black honors kid. I went to school in this county. I also got mad when my ex-date other people. When people say that could have been me, sometimes I think they're being facetious. Sometimes I think they're stretching. Sometimes I think they're trying to be overly empathetic. No, no, no. That was me. I was the kid, seething. I was the kid with repressed emotions who felt free and combative in a circle full of people. For example, when I was outside the school because my parents weren't watching me. My teachers weren't there, couldn't fail the test in that moment. I could just get it. And thank God, it never came to that for me. But God also knows there were some times that it almost did. My friend Isaac, who I have been close to since I was six years old, he knows my temper. He also knows I have a smart ass mouth, and he's also seen me get jealous and almost fuck up my life.


I would gladly love to paint this picture for your audience. Please. Ladies and gentlemen, for a long time, I was notoriously known through in house parties. My mom was very gracious enough to allow me to have a loose leashin a sense. I threw one of my best parties and I invited all my friends. That was the thing to do was to drink, and Smirnov was to drink of choice at the time, and Bacardi. But nonetheless, the party got so turned up, I had to start kicking people out. And as we're exiting the party, man, this gentleman with this, I want to say with these girls walking out-.


No, he was-.


Yeah, he was walking out with a girl. The girl was my ex-girlfriend.




That's the difference. And Chad wasn't liking that. Chad was not feeling that, because as I was walking out, I was trying to say goodbye to you, and I was hearing the exchange of words. And the last exchange of words was from him and then you. He said something along like.




Blah, blah, blah. That's why you hate him. I ain't feeling you or whatever. You Trump ass, bitch ass nigga, whatever. Typical. Chad like fashion. Even though he is not physically capable of winning a fight, he can slash your fucking feelings with a thousand swords of his tongue. I've never seen someone's throat just cleanly slit with the words that you decided to choose. It was like, Motherfucker, I'm this shit. You ain't nothing. You will never be nothing. No one will ever remember he was nothing. You just completely reduced him into a microscopic peasant of the universe just by just throwing these words at him, Who the fuck do you know at this party? Who are you?




Was astonished.


It's funny, but it's not funny.


Yeah, I was astonished.




Funny because he was.


Bigger, he.


Was tougher. He was from the other side. He was from Baltimore. I'm told that he had a weapon in the car. Yes. And so it ties into a couple of things that I want to talk about. One is, as you said, I am not a large man in stature. I was even at that point in time, I was probably 5, 6, 115 pounds, something like that, as a junior senior in high school. But I've always-.


You always had a bark.




Always had a bark.


And I always.


Had the.


Thing right there, waiting in case somebody was going to try something with me, which is what I'm talking about, which I think came from, particularly in that year, feeling like you're on the basketball team, but you're the little guy. You're the guy who doesn't play that much. You're riding coattails to the success of this team. Or, yeah, you date this girl and she's smart and she's pretty, but you're this little nerdy light-skinned nigga. At the end of the day, I could take your girl or I could beat you up, or whatever. And then being at home, it never really felt like enough was enough. I never felt like I could get enough A's on a test, or I could do enough to make somebody be like, Damn, you're good enough.


I wasn't a one-dimensional person at that age. I don't think anybody is. There were times where I was carefree, joyful. The excitement of my parents telling me my friend gets to sleep over, I remember the moments when I'd be so excited I would start dancing. I remember when I got an N64 for Christmas, and I literally did a version of the song from Fuck, do you know? Saturday Night Fever. And I was like, Ha, ha, ha, ha.


Ha, N64.


I did that as a kid. I did a little dance with it. But sometimes I'd be walking around like a little clenched fist. My friends in college used to call it my cool face, which was basically I'd be a kid walking into a new place with a couple of my friends, a school, a parking lot, a basketball game, a teen club, whatever. And I would have my face clenched like a little bald fist. I was little. I was skinny. I had a big ass head. I was frail in body, but not in spirit. I wanted people to look at me and think I could defend myself. As I walked around like a little clenched fist, there was a tension I was creating on purpose with the world around me in some ways. And when you walk around like a clenched fish, sometimes as my mom reminds me, when I found out that Alicia had died, I behaved like a clenched fist.


I found out that that had happened, that Alicia had been in that accident. And so I just rushed home. So you went in and told your dad because I wasn't home, and you punched a hole in the wall. Do you.






No, I have no memory of that at all. Where? In what wall?


I think in your room. You punched into the wall, your dad told me, and you were obviously very, very, very, very, very upset and rightly so.


I do remember I was at home that day, and I heard you on the phone, but I could tell that something was wrong.


How could you tell?


Just what you said. I think you said, I could kill him, or something like that. You were really upset with the guy that was driving the car. I heard it, and I said, Oh, let me go up and see how things are going. When I got up there, you were laying on the bed, prone, face down. And you said, So-and-so killed Alicia. I said, What? I said, What do you mean? He said he was driving the car and he ran into a pole and he said, I could kill him. You sat up and he just punched the wall and punched a big hole in the wall. I knew at that point you were really upset. I stayed up there with you and we just talked. And then you said you need to go out and just get some fresh air. I let you go and you walked around and came back. So that was that day.


My dad is a thinker. He shows love with action. He fixed the hole that I put in that wall while I was out on the walk. But I think he wanted in some way to hide from me what I was capable of when angry. And it worked. I forgot. And I think he wanted me to not feel guilt or shame for expressing that anger because anger is not really allowed, especially for us. You know what I mean? I remember my dad not making any of this about him. He never took the moment to preach to me. He didn't take that moment to force a message down my throat, which I think is the inclination for a lot of people in moments of tragedy. I think he was in shock like I was. He just fixed the wall. And then naturally, Alicia's dad had a different experience, Arturo. I remember very clearly watching Arturo deal with Alicia's death. I knew a bit about his life. I knew he had immigrated to the US. I knew he had started a business and was a doctor. And I had been in his house many times, and it felt good there.


He was a father of two young ladies and married to a very special woman. And I just thought, how cool this guy who is so understated and confident and gives such a gentle and kind and supportive presence to these people in his life, and it never undermines his toughness in any way.


Artura, I remember you at that wake. I hugged you and you were crying. And it was my first time experiencing an adult man crying. I'll never forget it. I hold on to it now. It was selfishly, I'll speak on it, it was very freeing for me. It was a way for me to see a different form of strength than what I had seen on television and even in my own house. It was just human. It was so human. I remember you felt like a leader back then. Now as an adult, I remember thinking back on, I am witnessing leadership. We just saw my friend to Shiel, I don't know if you guys remember to Shiel, he played on the basketball team with me. He just lost his two-month-old daughter a few months ago. We all came home to be with him. I saw him do the same thing, and we talked about it recently in the car, and we talked about seeing you do that back then. Could you share with me just a little bit what was guiding you at that point in time? How were you choosing who to be every day and how were you making decisions?


Actually is a very, very, very good question, because when I look back at that evening and everything that transpired in the first 24, 48 hours and thereafter, I wonder if I could do the same today. Because the events, of course, go, Alicia leaves, we can't reach her. At that point, panic sets in. But what are we going to do? What's the name of the boy? Family. Let's try and find out an address. Let's try and find out a number. Let's try and get in touch with them. Still no word of her. Ultimately, after calling hospitals, et cetera, I finally said, Let me go to the boy's home.


In the middle of the night, right?


Yeah. Alicia passed at 11:23. This is all taking place after midnight. I go there and at that point, the officers come in. I say, You know what happened? They say there was an accident. Can I go to the crash? No, you may not. They asked for a picture of her. The family had the yearbook, so they gave her the yearbook. It was four o'clock in the morning when we've had the call saying yes, there was a positive ID. Four o'clock in the morning is when we finally find out, yes, Alicia has passed. What are we going to do? Where are they going to take her? That morning I called a pathologist and I said, whatever donations tissue-wise can be made, I would like them to take place. They went ahead and did that. Alicia was a donor, and as much as she could, we also said, What are we going to do about Veronica? Veronica is in Siana, Italy. We have to get her back. But before we get her back, we have to tell her. That was probably between the two of us, the hardest thing we were going to have to do that day.


Veronica was.


Spending a semester abroad.


She had just started.


Yeah. Shortly after that, Luis said, We should probably open a scholarship in her name. Okay, let's do that. I'll go ahead and fund it. Not a problem. We're trying to get Veronica back. We have to make all the travel arrangements. We're going to open this scholarship.


Both of us were.


Trying to.


Okay, this happened. What are we going to do.




Make something good?


That was my thought. Let's do.


Something good out of this. And that was the scholarship.


We're having to notify friends and family. And the palms. And the Palms? Yeah, I recall someone called.


Here- So it was a Saturday, there was going to be a practice and we were in a carpool.


So whoever called is that we're going to go in there and pick Alicia out of there. I said, No, I don't think Alicia will be going to any more practices.


Lulu and Arturo are like family to me. As much as I feel angry at the driver because it feels like he didn't protect our friend, their daughter, by some associative property, they should be within their rights to feel angry at me because I didn't.


Thinking about how learning Death at that age was formative, one of the things was it immediately created this.


Catalog of my.


Last few interactions with Alicia. One of those was her telling me she was going to go on a date with this dude. I remember thinking to myself to ask questions about that or something to examine it a little bit. And then in a light way, after she passed, I did start running back the tape on, Man, what if I had asked this question? Or what if I had thrown a little shade on the dude to make him less appealing? Or what if she was dating me instead of him? Maybe all of this would be prevented.


As I was making this show, I had to put together a list of names of people for our team to reach out to: classmates, principals, family members. And I wrote down the driver's name and I put a big red circle around it so that the whole production team knew not to reach out to him. If we were going to reach out to him, it needed to be done so thoughtfully, and it had to come from me. As we got closer and closer to reaching out, it started getting more and more real. And I started to literally stay up at night thinking, What if he says yes? What if I have to sit across from him for an hour or two or more? And what if I have to ask him, Did she scream? What if I have to ask him, Do you have dreams about this? Do you remember it? Do you remember me? But the truth is I don't feel ready to ask him yet. And as I think about reaching out to him, I realize the insecurity that I feel here touches on a bunch of insecurities that I've been carrying for what feels like my whole life.


In the next episode, I'm going to go back to high school to try to figure out why I've always felt like I'm straddling a hundred different worlds and a hundred different personalities. How living under the expectations of so many different people made me lose sight of exactly who I am.