I saw Ray for the first time at the comic book store where I worked. This store was my first job, when I was still in high-school. I had to count the new comics as they got delivered, arrange them on the shelves, and make sure nobody stole anything.
So one day I was sitting on the chair eating fried rice and breaded scallops and Ray came in. He was looking through the spinner rack, a small thin teenager with a shaved head except for one long lock of bleached-blond hair hanging over his left eye.
My boss had whispered to me as I ate: “keep an eye on him.”
Later, after Ray left, my boss explained to me that when Ray was a little boy, he had come to the store and got bitten by a rat. The rat just jumped out from behind some boxes of crap and bit him.
And ever since that day, Ray’s growth was stunted. And he became a bad kid.
But later, me and Ray got to talking and we became friends.
One day Ray was at a Chinese restaurant on Coney Island Avenue and set it on fire with his Zippo lighter. He casually sat at a table, waiting for an order, fidgeting with the lighter; flipping the metal lid back and forth, back and forth. Then he just lit the corner of one of the plastic-covered menus. There was no reason for it. He wasn’t even upset at the folks at the restaurant.
He just calmly walked away as the table started going up in flames.
Ray told the cops that it was an accident. But he told me a different story: that he was a pyromaniac and just couldn’t help himself.
Anyway, the restaurant didn’t suffer too much damage, and used the incident and the insurance money to remodel.
But Ray was not allowed inside there anymore.
I don’t know what ever happened to Ray. I had left the comic shop to go work at the video store down the street; me and him had a fight over something, and then we just lost touch completely. The news on the street was that he and a girlfriend had gotten arrested for trying to rob a Dunkin’ Donuts with fake guns. I heard he stopped being small, and actually gained quite a bit of height (putting a lie to the “rat” story my ex-boss had told me). People said I wouldn’t even recognize Ray if I saw him.
I thought I heard from him once, online.
But I don’t remember.