Head down, looking at your shoes... goddamn, if only she knew what $10 more on shoes would have meant. Don't think that way. Fuck them. Fuck the stupid shoes.
"Yo! Deaf faggot!"
Keep walking. One foot in front of the other. That's what Dad said. Like a whisper flash, your right hand slips into your pocket and wraps itself around the thick, four inch bolt. No broken fingers this time. You need to play guitar. You can't break any more fingers.
A big clod of dirt hits your backpack and explodes. You are enveloped in the dust, breathing it, feeling the sting in your eyes. You try to convince yourself the tears are from the dirt. You know what is about to happen because it has happened again and again and...
"What's your name, faggot?"
They've surrounded you now. They are about your size, but there are six of them. You squeeze the bolt and start thinking about who you should hit first. The big one looks soft. It's the little mean one. The one who keeps talking. He's the one.
"You got one more second to answer me, you piece of shit faggot..."
You look up at the sky and sigh. Why? Why does it have to be like this? You think briefly of the motley crew of friends you had in Virginia. Fuck! You're so angry you're shaking and you know what's coming...it always does.
"Dude...you made the faggot cry...what's the matter faggot?"
"Leave me alone."
You're on the ground. There is a ringing sound in your ears. Now you realize that there were seven of them.
"Get up, faggot."
You think to yourself how stupid it is, but it is always exactly fucking like this. Get up so we can knock you down again. You wipe your eyes on your forearms and stand, slowly, time-lapsed motion.
"Now, what's your name faggot?"
Enough. Fucking shit. Enough already. You don't even care if they hurt you, you just want to get home where you can be alone with your books and records.
"I don't have a name."
"Good, we'll just call you faggot."
It's OK. You're used to the name. You used to wonder if it was true. You think about it. Does everyone question it? You wish you had someone to ask.
Someone pushes you down again and rips open your backpack. You lay on the warm grass and close your eyes. A kick to the stomach curls you into a tight ball. Your mind short circuits. If you had a machine gun. If you were braver. If you didn't have to fucking move all the time. If you weren't sized up on the first day of school. Wrong clothes, shoes, accent. You fucking hate it here and it has only been a week. And the week was spent waiting for the first day of school. You open your eyes and the boys are walking away, shouting.
"See you tomorrow, faggot."
The walk home is over far too quickly. You don't care that there is a beach here. You don't care that people come from all over the world to vacation here. You open the front door and try to make it to your room, but she intercepts you. She is smiling...too wide. A grand canyon of false cheer. You know it is hard on everyone, but you also know that it is hardest for you. You know that you have at least six years to go until you can just fucking leave...go somewhere and stay. She is holding a plate of cookies and a glass of milk and you want to knock the shit out of her hands. And Jerry Mathers as...the Beaver. It echos in your skull. A place inside of you turns dark and black and cold. You walk into your room and she stays where she is. You start to close the door. You cannot make eye contact.
"OK, not hungry. How was school, sweetie? Did you get any compliments on your new shoes?"
There are two choices, but you don't feel like opening the floodgates. It took most of the walk home to get it tamped down. The doorknob is loose. Of course. The door clicks shut and you can feel the pain from the hallway, but it pales in comparison to the demon song in your ears.
I don't have the words to express how I'm feeling after reading this, Dan. I felt the entire story, the hot sting of tears, the fall into the dirt, the determination, the acceptance of pain, the long walk home trying to gain perspective, the yearning for freedom and the captivity. I felt it all.ReplyDelete
Thanks Jo. I usually don't 'write what I know', but I know this very well.Delete
It’s clear that this piece is intensely personal, and yet its strength lies in its universality.
That four-inch bolt--for me, that is the central metaphor. That is the immutable force that protects the fragile fingers, that saves the mind and the soul . . . the one source of strength that seems to have been remembered through the years.
That young man grew up to make music, after all. Sometimes full of anguish, but always beautiful.
Thanks, Erin. True, and I am grateful for the reminder.Delete
This is, unfortunately, a familiar scene for so many. I wish the victims could see that it WILL end - at least for most of them.ReplyDelete
Thanks Yvonne. You're right. One of my greatest joys when I was teaching was being able to tell kids who needed to hear it that the bullshit would go away and things would get better.Delete