He walks with raised elbows, as if they were resting on fence posts to either side. Baggy jeans, old shirt with faded green-and-white horizontal stripes. Eyes downcast, following his footfalls from below salt-and-pepper hair. Despite his smile you read great loneliness. Everything about him says, resignation, as if some primordial defeat has left him reconciled to the fate that nothing will be his, nothing will change, and no-one will ever know.
The cruelty of children. The weaker kids, less agile or less intelligent, singled out for abuse that never ends, day after day, until they believe it themselves.
In my neighborhood the victim was Brian, a nice kid, inoffensive, but socially and physically awkward to the point that some of us suspected he really was retarded. I remember our meanness being more subtle, and probably more damaging, than the ordinary verbal kind. It was always as though we couldn't wait to be away from him. That in our judgment he was too slow to bother with, and not worth waiting for. In memory I picture him downcast and isolated; I have no mental pictures of him smiling.
In the lunch room he sits alone at a great round table sized for twelve, empty chairs on all sides.
© 2002-2017 Mark Phillips.
All rights reserved.
This writing is fiction. Please don't confuse it with reality.
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Published 1/04: Big Bridge.
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