Sunday, August 29, 2004

Handcuffed to a Chicken

Intentionally inflicted violence causes a very special kind of sorrow in its victim. There is a pain beyond the physical which leaves you alone and remote. Everything must be internalized. You are reduced to a condition which will always defy explanation and understanding. No matter how far you reach, there will never be another hand to grasp.

I grabbed that along with my lunch-box on my way to school every morning. So I was happy when a group of boys showed some interest in me, and only thrilled to find myself spending early grade school with them. I was struck by how easily they comported themselves, and also afraid of the way they seemed to ignore feelings I think important. But it was fun, very fun to run with some guys, and it was exciting to see how teachers would exchange smiling glances for small infractions. Gathering whirlwinds of self-confidence we where.

One crisp fall day we jostled our way to a lower field during recess. Acorns crunched under foot in air mighty with leafy wetness. I was smiling at something, and then there was this kid. Someone among us had decided that he stood in opposition. I don't remember any significant words being exchanged, but there was suddenly pushing. Memories of playground loneliness fresh in my mind, I enjoyed being a member of this unified force. As the kid backed off a bit one of us taunted him: he evoked the notion that the kid was very different from us, and I saw how the kid's face changed.

I had spoken to this kid several times before joining my new pack. He was introspective and bright, and we had shared opinions in class. When I found a tick on my leg in gym class once, he must have sensed my apprehension when he said "I know, you don't think of it happening to you. But it's just a bug, pinch it off ". I liked him.

So now things have escalated, and pushes progressed to headlocks. Scuffling, red faced determination bearing down. Then spit and blood spatters. The kid was down face up, a knee planted on his chest, and three blows landed crosswise on his cheek. It was just then that his eyes met mine, and I saw in them a yearning to understand, a plea for intervention, a knowledge of a heck of a lot more than I was willing to admit to him or anyone else. All in far less a space of time than it takes to blink an eyelash.

But the most horrific thing, the barbarity of the scene was this: I stood there like a statue as someone just like me poured their soul out. Then a teacher blew her whistle and it was over in a a flash.

Soon afterward the pack and I drifted apart, and I could never become friends with the kid. At the end of that year the school we attended closed for ever, and we all went to others in our respective neighborhoods. Just like the playground whistle, it was over.

If only there was some forebearing. I didn't know that the kid's pleas would issue into my dreams for the rest of my life. That hardly a month would go by when I wouldn't find use for the advise he gave me in gym class. That forever afterwards my arms would hang at my side like meat in a butcher shop.

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