I have a knot on the outside edge of my right hand, below the little finger. It’s been there for years. If you run your finger along the edge of the hand you can feel the bump, like a BB under the skin. If you press hard it hurts. I don’t remember how it got there, but I think it is a splinter that was never pulled out, and has dissolved long ago and been surrounded by scar tissue. Splinters will do that if you don’t get them out.
Fall of 1965 High School 2nd Year
The intersection of A&B hall, between classes. Chaos. Two hallways, eight feet wide crossing at right angles. Several hundred students; short- tall-fat- thin- boys- girls; moving in four different directions with ten minutes to get to the next class.I am halfway thru the intersect of the halls, at the head of my clique, chasing our quarry. There are four of us. I am leading this band of fools. I am the head fool.
About ten feet in front of me is our prey. She is what you would call painfully thin. Her face is striking; it is not pretty, or even pleasing. If you lay a straightedge on her chin and forehead, her nose would not touch it. It’s as though her face is dished in. Her nose is too small to hold up her glasses, which are big and round; giving her a goggle-eyed look.
We are chasing her because it amuses us. We have composed an ever-expanding narrative of the Medusa like power of her gaze. When we gather between classes, or after school, on weekends, we talk of the terrible effect the merest glimpse of that face will have; freezing the blood, boiling the fluid of the eyes, sterilizing the victim. We are very creative; we revel in the brilliance of our creation.
I am struggling to keep her in sight, she’s about 5’4″, can’t weigh 90lbs. and she slips through the mob more readily than I do. I turn to my gang and spur them to keep up; We’re loosing her! When I turn back she is looking over her shoulder, straight into my eyes. Fear and pain cover her face. She is frightened. She is hurting. An image flashes thru me of a painting I saw once; a fawn on the ground with an arrow in its ribs; its head stretching back to grasp the arrow in its teeth, its eyes radiating terror and pain.
I stop dead, in the middle of the hall, the crowds flow around me. Untill that moment I did not believe she was even aware of us and our game.[That is not offered as an excuse, but to demonstrate my cluelessness.]
My cohort catches up with me, flushed with the chase.
” Where is she?”
” Have you lost her ?”
I turn and look at the kid I grew up with , my best friend from the third grade on.
” She saw us.”
He looks puzzled. I put my hand on his shoulder and lock eyes with him.
“She saw us”.
He looks into my eyes and the shame flows down my arm and onto his face. He turns his head and looks down the hall where she has disappeared into a classroom. When he looks back at me I understand why he is my best friend; his thoughts are on his face and they shame him too. He turns and heads off to class.
The other two look at me but see nothing in my face they can read, so they say ” next time” and leave me in the middle of the emptying hall.
As they walk away, I begin to assay myself. I am 6’2″-190lbs.-I am confident that I can lick anyone in the school. First string tackle on the football team; when I hit someone, they move. Smartest guy in most of my classes; always has the answer. Natural born leader; people almost always follow where I lead. Have at least four very pretty girls who compete for my attention. I have taken all of those abilities, all of those gifts, and used them to inflict undeserved pain on the most harmless creature in the whole school; because it amused me.
It amused me.
In the following weeks the dynamic shifts. The hunter becomes the haunted. I can’t seem to avoid her; before or after school, between classes I keep running into her. At first she still has a frightened pursued look, but gradually it evolves from puzzlement to curiosity and finally to something like triumph on her face whenever she sees me. For the remaining two years of high school she never loses that look when she sees me. It is strangely comforting to me, like a penance, levied and paid. I take a small pride in her apparent confidence. A very small pride.
Some say that life is a straight line; from birth to adolescence thru adulthood to death. Some say it is a circle; that everyone you see, all that you do, comes around again eventually.
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Summer of 1984