You Can't Love Someone You PitySubmitted by Tom Sorrell at 2013-06-03 04:24:48 EDT
Rating: 2.0 on 7 ratings (9 reviews) (Review this item) (V)
Casey, 13, walks towards the front door of his junior high school. He looks up at the old brick building and shudders, knowing today will be a bad day. The young fool has no idea today will be his worst day - the one that will define him in front of God and his peers forever.
He crosses the threshold and descends a flight of stairs into the zoo. At least, that’s what it sounds like to everyone but Casey, who wears earphones with his music turned to 11 and bops along, completely clueless to the contents of today’s menu. He passes blue lockers lining the hallways and notices thousands of dents, fashioned by decades of abuse at the hands of semi-violent, angst-ridden children from the Midwest. The heartland. Iowa, maybe. Or Kansas. Anywhere, really. It’s all the same to Casey. And to us.
Casey, however, is not the same as us. He gets bullied. He gets pushed around. He’s little. He’s weak. He’s a born loser. Pathetic. And he’s a KID. A stupid, snot-nosed, moron of a creature. He’s 13 and he doesn’t know shit. He’s constantly reminded of all of this by his father Sal, a large, loud, overly-competitive man in his 40s who acts younger than Casey and hates the fact he has to share his wife with such an annoying little bastard. Sal hates Casey. In fact, he would be bullying him right this minute if it were his turn. But it’s not. Sal has all night to rant and rave and treat Casey like the piece of shit he is. Right now his peers have things under control.
As he nears his locker he notices people noticing him. “This is odd,” he thinks. “People never notice me. They must like my new shirt. Meghan is awesome.”
Both statements are true, Meghan is awesome. And so is Casey’s shirt. It’s a green Lacoste polo with a little red alligator on the front. Meghan gave it to him yesterday for his birthday. She’s 12 and the love of his life. The one he will compare every other woman to as long as he lives. She doesn’t see him this way. He’s her friend. Today’s events will make sure things stay always that way. He sees her and smiles, warmly. Fondly. Lovingly. Then he notices the look on her face. Worry. Grief. Pain. And something else ... fear.
Casey frowns and turns to his locker. WHAM! His neck explodes in fire and he dies. No, that’s just what it feels like, as if someone has just severed the connection from his spine to his brain. His forehead smashes into the locker in front of him and he sees stars, then nothing. A literal double-whammy. He should be dead. He’s not. His brain stops swishing around inside his skull and settles back into position. He tries to shake the cobwebs loose and turns to see his attacker. It’s his friend, Dylan, the biggest piece of shit he’s ever known. At least, that’s what Casey will call Dylan later, when he eviscerates him in fiction in a book about a delusional mind entitled, “I am a Sanitation Engineer, Not a Janitor.”
In this moment, however, Casey still calls Dylan a friend, though he’s not sure why and he thinks that’s about to change. Still, that doesn’t bother him as much as the fact that he can barely see anything. His vision is still blurry. WHAM!! A right hook catches Casey in the teeth, which is bad for Casey because he wears braces. Sharp, metal, painful braces that catch his cheek and tear a hole in it. Blood gushes out of his mouth. He reaches up and touches it, confused, and says something like “What the fuck is wrong with you, asshole?”
It comes out a little less succinct, not that it matters. It could have been a sentence rivaling the grace of In Search of Lost Time by Proust, and the next punch still would have been thrown. WHAM!!! Another right hook to the same spot. The cut opens further. The blood flow increases. Casey’s knees get wobbly. Everything slows down. Blurry. He notices people gathered around. They’re loud, but they say nothing clearly other than “Fight! Fight! Fight! Fight! Fight!”
Time seems to slow down and the noise of the crowd fades. He hears one voice, the voice of his father, loud above the din, saying the same thing over and over. “Don’t you dare get suspended, boy. I’ll make your life a living hell.” WHAM!!! Another punch from Dylan nearly breaks Casey’s nose. Casey staggers back and looks around, dazed, trying to figure out why his supposed friend would be punching him about the head and face in front of everyone they know and why those people would be urging him to fight. To brawl. To throw the fuck down and prove he’s a man.
“Fuck you simple motherfuckers,” Casey thinks, because he doesn’t care about their worthless opinions. They don’t matter. Only Meghan matters. And Dylan’s punches are nothing compared to the furious rage he would face were he to be suspended, which would surely happen if he threw a punch. WHAM! Another fist of fury hits him in the face. It doesn’t hurt anymore. Casey knows it could be worse. Dylan could be 40 and have 100 pounds on him, so he decides not to fight back. It doesn’t even matter.
WHAM! WHAM! Casey’s bored with Dylan’s assault and looks over at Meghan. Her eyes are moist and red. She looks at him, pleadingly. ”Do something!” she seems to say. “Do anything!”
Casey doesn’t even throw a punch. He thinks it’s the lesser of two evils, but no one else will ever know the truth. He’ll be labeled a coward until he dies. Meghan will forever see him as battered and bloody and ineffectual. A mouse. She will pity him, and you can’t love someone you pity. You can only pity them. But Casey doesn’t know this. All he knows is he gets to come to school tomorrow. His face may be bloody and his pride may be gone and his love may be lost, but he gets to come to school tomorrow.
And that’s a hell of a lot better than the alternative. At least to Casey. At least right now, as he settles into his desk for Homeroom announcements.