William Brown

Part I: The Landscape of the Body

by Larry Greco Harris

Take any man who has lived past the age of 30. Strip him naked in the dark. Then with a small, intense flashlight, take a photographic journey up, down and across every square inch of the structure and skin of that man’s body. Hover over each aberration in that landscape, each added mark, each discoloration, distortion, wrinkle and tattoo. These are the doors that, when opened, tell the tale of a man’s life.

If the man is an ex-convict, a felon, there is some likelihood that he will point to a tattoo as the most significant of those markings. If not that, he may lift to the light some battle wound as a badge earned in a hard life where enemies were met and threats were addressed. Such markings, though meaningful, are not unusual.

What is unusual is one vicious little scar sunk into the body of William Lamar Brown—a mark inflicted not by an enemy, and not by himself. For William, it is a deep wound that tells a story of a deep regret—and also of love.

It all starts with William Brown being a great speller and ends with a vicious bite.

“At a young age I was what you would call bright. I’d win spelling bee championships a lot. And if I didn’t win (usually because I would get too cocky), it would crush me.”

William probably felt crushed when he didn’t win because he cared a lot about what his family expected from him. Though he knows they were supporting his efforts, he sometimes felt the pressure of their expectations.

“My family was really on me to do well in school because they saw my potential. My mom had four kids. They were all succeeding in school, but with B’s and C’s. Only one sister and I were bringing in A’s. There wasn’t any difference in her love for any of us, but she would hold up my report card to them and say, ‘You see William’s A’s? That’s what I want you all to bring in”

Far from being jealous, everyone in William’s family would cheer him on with statements like: ‘Look at you, William, straight A’s again! A’s in seventh grade, eighth grade, ninth grade! Come on, William, you’re doing it! Just three more grades to go!’ The expectations they were putting on me made me worry that I couldn’t live up to them. It was a lot of pressure.”

For a kid growing up in a gang-ridden section of Los Angeles, Straight-A William sure seemed to be the one boy who was on the right track to a successful life. But it didn’t turn out that way. Maybe it was that pressure of family expectations, maybe it was his youthful lack of defenses against the seductions of gang life, maybe it was just a teenager’s need for a manly quest.

Whatever the reason, by the time William enter tenth grade, the school books began to sit unopened in the corner of the room. In their place appeared the converse sneakers, the jackets, beanies and handkerchiefs of a gangbanging street kid. And it was also at this time that Kimberly Brown, William’s sister, sunk her teeth into William’s body and would not let go.

. . . this true story to be continued . . .