Tom wasn't one of the regular instigators, Clay thought, the guys from the nice neighborhoods who always seemed to trail him. Clay barely noticed him at all. If he remembered Tom, it was as the guy on the debate team, the guy with the blotchy white skin and faded blue Izod whose body looked like a hollowed out Thanksgiving turkey. He vaguely recalled Tom hanging around the lockers, listening to talks about how Kelly Brett looked in a bathing suit, or circling the wall where Clay and his friends smoked. But he couldn't be sure. Maybe it had been him.
Clay tried to finesse his way past, a move that usually worked, but Tom held out his arm. He grabbed onto Clay's shirt at the chest, twisted it into a ball. It was comical how everything was unfolding, how Tom's eyes looked as if they could burst through the air like spit cherry pits, how his voice cracked when he said How could you? How could you flaunt your indecency?
Clay's arm had already cocked back, but he couldn't pull the trigger, couldn't strike someone who, in different ways, was like him. He felt Tom's fingers working at the edges of his shirt, pulling the fabric across the triangle of black chest hair that flowered and strayed, the triangle that was suddenly locked away. Have some shame Tom said.
Clay watched Tom walk out of the locker room and into the hall. He walked with purpose, without turning his head. His presence filled the entire school. Although he barely remembered him, Clay felt like there'd never been a moment when Tom wasn't around.