While I was lying there, I could hear these kids playing outside the building, laughing and shouting and having the best time. I wondered what game they were playing, maybe jump rope or tag. It reminded me of the huge street football games my brother and I used to get together outside our house in Baldwin Hills, my friends and I facing off against him and the older guys. Those games had been so much fun, but that was a long time ago now. There was no way it could ever be that easy to be happy again, not after everything I'd been through. But those kids sure sounded happy. I couldn't stop thinking about them. I kept wondering, "Who are these people?"

Finally, they released one arm. I was exhausted, and my anger was starting to fade, so I didn't make a fist and punch any of the orderlies in the face. Instead, I scratched my itches and held on to my stomach when it hurt and kept listening to those kids. They were my link to the outside world and the possibility of a better life. A full day went by, and then they released the other arm. The whole thing had been pretty humbling, and I wasn't really feeling angry anymore, so I didn't threaten anyone. The next day, they released a leg. On the fourth day, when they felt confident that I wasn't going to hurt myself or anyone else, they released my other leg.

Finally, when they let me up off the table on which I'd been restrained, I was able to look out the window. The voices I had heard belonged to normal kids who lived in the neighborhood. There was nothing special about them or their circumstances. I was the one who had been given the charmed life, and the chance to live my dream of being an actor from the time I was seven years old. But they had something I had never had: They were happy, and they felt good about themselves. Now that I could see happiness right there in front of me, I wanted it for myself.

"God, I want what they have," I said.

Excerpted from Killing Willis: From Diff'rent Strokes to the Mean Streets to the Life I Always Wanted by Todd Bridges with Sarah Tomlinson. Copyright ?? 2010 by Touchstone. Reprinted by permission of Touchstone, a division of Simon & Schuster, Inc., New York. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.


Next Story