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My Friend, the Murderer

The Kevin who took a steak knife to his ex's throat is not the Kevin I know.

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I feel like an animal, Kevin wrote me once. I feel locked inside a cage.

* * *

This month marked the four-year anniversary of all that happened, and still I wait for a letter that comes monthly. The envelopes are always stamped to indicate they originated in a prison, and when I stand in my foyer and hold them, I think, Friend. I don’t think, Crime.

It seems to me someone should be listening to him, even if that person is only me.

So I read with attention about each new cellmate, each new book, each new class, or the radio Kevin’s finally saving for so that he can again listen to music.

A friend or family member asks me what he was like, and it’s all I can do to just be honest. “He was one of my best friends,” I say. “He was normal. He made great salsa.”

The Kevin I know is not the Kevin anyone imagines. They know only the man in a jumpsuit, his hands shackled to his waist. We crave for things to be simple — a case of a bad man who was bad — but Kevin was my friend, and that night, he walked me home. He is both the man I remember and the one who now lives in prison. Our friendship isn’t one documented by the cameras, not by the news anchors or their scripts. Above all, I know this: It is not a switch one can simply turn off.

Write back, Kevin writes, and each month, I always do.


Amy Butcher is a recent recipient of the Olive B. O'Connor nonfiction writing fellowship at Colgate University and is a recent graduate of the University of Iowa's Nonfiction Writing Program. She is currently completing work on her first book.

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