My Senior year in high school, I spent almost every lunch period hanging out with this gigantic dude (6'11") named Ranard Robinson. Ranard had this iconic red hoodie that girls would request to try on and be swallowed up into the absurd size of it. I've always had a desire to be much shorter than I am (6'3"), so I found a weird comfort in how much taller than me Ranard was. Around him, I was the little kid, the energetic sidekick to his gigantic, stoic presence.
Ranard and I would frequently walk off campus to a nearby office building that had a Chick-fil-A in the lobby, talking about classes, teachers, and how fucking good this (then) new rapper Kanye West was. We never really spent time together outside of school, so that walk was the time we got to know one another. I'm awful at small talk, so whenever our conversations hit a lull, my brain would default to asking a really invasive, personal question, which is a tendency I'm still wary of, but have learned to live with. I asked him what it was actually like being so tall, he said it was nerve racking to hear people whispering about him when he walked by. I asked him what it was like to be pretty much forced into basketball, he said he resented it but had no other choice. I asked him if he had ever experienced racism towards him, and he was silent. A minute or two later he said "yeah" in his deep voice, and I knew not to go any further. I knew that even if he had told me, I wouldn't really understand. I realized there are some things that can be explained or learned second hand, and some that cannot.