| Quote #1
These boys, now, were living as we'd been living then, they were growing up with a rush and their heads bumped abruptly against the low ceiling of their actual possibilities. (5)
Suffering comes in many forms. The boys in Harlem know that they have little chance of ever "making something" of themselves. They suffer from the limits that their circumstances have constrained them with.
| Quote #2
It was not the joyous laughter which – God knows why – one associates with children. It was mocking and insular, its intent was to denigrate. It was disenchanted, and in this, also lay the authority of their curses. (6)
Laughter as an expression of suffering, you might ask? Absolutely. This is the angry laughter of young men who are already hardened against the world.
| Quote #3
A great block of ice got settled in my belly and kept melting there slowly all day long, while I taught my classes algebra. It was a special kind of ice. . . . Sometimes it hardened and seemed to expand until I felt my guts were going to come spilling out or that I was going to choke or scream. (12)
People don't always outwardly express their anguish. The narrator's suffering is immense (it threatens to overpower him here), but he can't just fall apart. Perhaps his suffering is made even greater because this great, big block of ice just stays where it is. He can't get it out of his system.