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I knew this guy in college. I was in marching band with him, and although we were around each other a lot, we weren’t friends. He was “a guy I knew”. But isn’t it strange that you think you know someone, someone on your periphery, only to find out that truly, you didn’t know shit about him. This guy was on the periphery, the outer edge of the solar system of friends, like Pluto’s moon or David Faustino. Nevertheless, we all thought we knew exactly who he was.

Who he was, you see, was a short, shrimpy, asexual kid with glasses and the personality of a poker chip. He played the cymbals in band, and that’s pretty much where it started and ended for us. Playing the cymbals in marching band is the social equivalent to being an ugly designated driver: not only can you not drink, you also won’t get laid. Not that the trumpets were turning down strumpets, but still, there’s a hierarchy, and right after the drummers (the REAL drummers), trumpets were a strong second. Cymbals got laid at approximately the same rate as Screech from Saved By the Bell. Anyway, this guy was among that sad lot, and we treated him accordingly – meaning we kinda tormented him. We called him Popeye, because he had the height, the size, and the facial features of said cartoon character.

Popeye later fooled us all by dating and subsequently marrying another band member, an Amazonian black woman whose name I won’t mention, no matter how funny it is. It’s really, really funny, y’all. Let’s put it this way: I knew another girl in the same college named Rotaurus, and the other girl’s name is funnier than THAT. She was easily six feet tall, and probably 175 pounds of pure muscle. Do you remember the old Godzilla movies from the 50s and 60s? Where Godzilla would be fighting Mothra in the fakest-looking fake city in the history of Lego-ass looking fake cities? Do you also remember the trademark roar Godzilla had? We did that roar whenever she walked by, but we made damn sure she was out of earshot when we did it. No one wants to get their ass kicked by an Amazon. Popeye and Amazon were the oddest of odd couples: he was white, she was black; he was short, she was tall; he was practically anorexic, she was beefy. Any one of these differences was enough to draw massive stares in tiny Clemson, SC, but they had all three, and they thrived. They even got married. That’s where my personal knowledge of them ends, and the truth begins.

See, this is the problem when you think you know everything there is to know about a person. You get surprised, really surprised, when they do something you see as uncharacteristic of them, when in reality, it’s totally in line with the REAL person underneath the veneer, the secret inner core that only he or she sees; the subpersona that only gets revealed to a select few. This subpersona is what drives us to do the things that other people struggle to identify with, or even understand. This lack of depth perception is what makes us wring our hands and wail when that “nice boy” does all sorts of horrible things to other nice people. Had we taken the time to try to get to know him, it’s possible that his subpersona would’ve manifested sooner, in an environment he saw as a safe one, thus allowing the opportunity for help.

In this case, though, I never knew the guy. He was just a guy I knew.