Fail, fail, fail, fail, succeed

John Collins

When I was in third grade, I had a friend named John Collins. I had never met anyone like him – extremely confident, good looking and charismatic. He not only had no fear of adults, he would openly mock them – and they seemed afraid of him. I would watch him, kind of scared but thrilled, jacked on adrenaline and never quite sure where things were going. I would later find out he was a psychopath, but at the time I fell under his spell and thought he was the coolest guy in the world. He ended up murdering several innocent people, including a family in a home invasion. But I digress…

I remember when I first met him in school, he showed me some condoms he had – they were each different colors, like the kind you would buy from a vending machine in a truck stop men’s room. I had never seen a condom before and I remember thinking they looked like balloons. We went to the school bathroom and put them on, real innocent kid stuff, then we wore them all day in class. It felt forbidden and weird, like I was entering a world I didn’t really understand, but it seemed exciting. I was nine years old.

After that we would sometimes hang out after school and go to his mothers apartment where we would drink her wine and generally get into trouble. There never seemed to be anyone home, his mom was divorced and probably working. He had a baby sister who would go on to pose for Playboy magazine and have an affair with the governor of my state. I remember seeing her picture when I was in my early twenties after he died and thinking how strange life was…

My parents clearly recognized there was something very wrong about this boy and forbade me to see him. Of course this just made me want to hang out with him even more. When I was ten we moved to a different part of town and I didn’t see him for a few years. I remember running into him as a teenager and he was using heroin. He looked like a homeless guy, real disheveled and dirty. Not so cool anymore, but I was still glad to see him. I’m not sure he even recognized me…

After the murders, he went to prison and was eventually killed there by some other inmates. He couldn’t have been more than 21. He represented kind of a turning point in my life, but I didn’t know it at the time…