Lost in all the horrible politics surrounding his death is the story of a boy. Before he became yet another flash point in America’s painful and never-ending racial drama, Trayvon Martin was just a normal teenager. Here, at last, is the story of what was lost on that February night.

  1. He wanted something sweet, he wanted to get out of the apartment for a while. He slid open the glass door of the patio and slipped out into the steamy Florida twilight, an ordinary thing on an ordinary night.

    Trayvon Martin was three weeks past seventeen that day, which was the day a stranger named George Zimmerman shot him through the heart. He was growing so fast, he’d stretched out like a rubber band, 158 pounds on a five-eleven frame, so long and thin everyone teased him: Boy, you too skinny to take a breath.

    He was wearing the hoodie he always wore, lost in his music like he always was. People teased him about that, too. Next door to his uncle Stephen’s house, a modest ranch house where he often spent the night, lived an old lady who called him Mouse.

    Don’t you ever talk? Say something.

    Trayvon would just grin.

    He strolled down the narrow cement path between two buildings. Trayvon didn’t live there, he was just visiting, so it was all fairly new to him. Double glass doors faced the area from apartments on both sides, little white fences separated each little yard, central-air units hummed, televisions lit the curtains with their blue glow. Sometimes a Big Wheel tricycle sat forgotten in the path.

    The complex looked nice. The buildings were two or three stories, with neat little lawns with neat little borders. No visible garbage bins, a clubhouse, a little lake. Not as nice as the luxury complex just across the no-man’s-land where no one had bothered to build ...

Originally published in Esquire, December 2012