Trent Palmer sits across from me in the back of Mrs. Patterson’s seventh-grade English-grammar class. He is dark, unusually dark complexioned compared to almost all of the other adolescents in school. Moving through the hallways, among a crowd of third-generation Germanic and Scandinavian immigrants, he is an exotic, ethereal and appears to be almost other worldly.
This trait alone could have set him apart, but he also sports a jaunty limp whenever he walks, setting him further apart from the general, middle-school crowd. When Trent is standing straight, his shoulders do not match and, at the end of the one arm held closer to his body, his right hand curls into a permanent fist. With the diplomacy missing almost universally among all seventh-graders, I tell him it is a good thing he is left handed—attempting to be positive without succeeding at being even remotely socially appropriate.
In the back of English-grammar class, while Mrs. Patterson lectures from her desk in the far, front corner, Trent and I swap one-liners under our breath. He smirks at my quips, and I smile at his one-liners. We have a grand time. And, though I never speak of it, something inside of me loves something inside of him. I love his audaciously rare beauty, his gently skidding speech, his intellect, his brilliant white teeth and, most especially, that we are partners in our own secret comedy club.
Unlike the time I spend in the halls between or in other classes, I actually look forward to English-grammar class and the feeling of wholeness that seems to live there when I sit alongside Trent. No one seems the wiser about my feelings, including Trent. Then, my sense of wholeness comes to an abrupt end when Trent and his family move away suddenly.
Community gossip has it that Trent’s family felt he had been singled out for ridicule, the town was too small and that Trent’s intellectual needs were not being met by the district’s curriculum or teachers. I miss my friend terribly.
Yet, time has a way of gently erasing old hurts. And, the faces and names of middle-school friends become paved-over by the faces and names of those friends we make in high school and college.
Then, decades later, while reading about one of the posters put up in ancient, Roman-occupied Judea, calling for Jesus’ arrest, I read a description of Jesus as being dark, not overly tall, with uneven shoulders and that, if he is seen walking, he walks with a slight limp. From a distant well within my heart, an image of Trent and his radiant Light flood in. At the same time, I also remember some of the most awkward things I said to Trent which must have hurt him terribly.
Recalling how Trent’s one hand formed a permanent right-handed fist, I think if I were he in seventh grade, I would have wanted to punch God full in the face for making my body something less than perfectly symmetrical—especially given the width and breadth of Trent’s joyful Spirit and keen intellect.
My thinking at the time was this: If God had been paying attention, Trent’s whole, radiant and flawless Spirit would have been reflected in a perfectly symmetrical physical presentation for Trent.
But, as an adult, I realize that circumstances on the physical plane often do not work out that way. And, now, when I remember Trent, I know his physical presentation to be a perfect reflection of that which is most certainly of God.