Thursday, June 16, 2011

Every Obscenity and Hate-Filled Invective

Another day. Another walk. Another human challenge. Today it was on a corner, near the high school. A beautiful summer day. Gentle breeze. Floral scents in the air. Athletic-looking people playing vigorous tennis. Students in small groups arrayed post-summer school, convening for the next phase of the day. Me, on the other side of the street. Then, a screaming boy. Standing with a small group--three or four other boys, perhaps a girl on a bike. The boy is screaming at someone down the street who I can't see. Hurling every taunt and challenge and curse and come-on, in the most hate-drenched language you can imagine. His friends (if that is who the people near him are) stay put but don't join in. The tennis balls thwack rhythmically in the background.
     And we have I, on the opposite side (subtle Paul Revere reference for those of you who, unlike me, did not have to memorize the poem in 5th grade or so ["And I on the opposite shore will be, ready to rise and to spread the alarm, through every Middlesex village and farm"]). Transfixed. Want to keep moving. But can't. Can't imagine (or can) what might happen next. "Please stop," I yell. He doesn't.

The screamer isn't bulky like the guy in the photo. Not muscle bound. Actually kind of slight. Kind of skinny. And also white. He continues to scream. He is actually somewhat creative in his insults, which is to say non-repetitive. He keeps upping it, working the theme and variations--how his opponent looks, how he walks, what he does, who he does it with.
     Finally, the tormented one takes the bait. So here comes another slight, skinny white boy up the sidewalk, matching insult with insult. He's with two girls, but the girls hang back. The first guy's friends stay put, neither interfering nor encouraging. Oh, I wish I had my phone.
     The two boys circle each other. The second boy's friends leave. The tennis players play. I wonder if these boys know how to fight. I wonder if they've ever fought before. Finally, the second boy runs at the first boy.
     "Stop," I yell. "Hey, stop." I won't take credit for this, but they do stop and look over at me, and the second boy drags himself away, an impressive display of self-control, I think, but yelling threats as he does.
     "That's the stupidest thing I ever heard," the first boy says (referring to the threats).
     "And that's the stupidest thing I ever saw," I yell.
     So the first boy looks at me and tells me to mind my own business, which is a pretty stupid thing to say, as he's made this everybody's business.
     I'm tempted to cross the street, get more involved, but decide no . . . time to move on. When I'm a few blocks away, a police car comes speeding up the street, lights flashing, siren beeping, stops at the high school, right at that corner beside the tennis courts (thank goodness; someone else called). But I'm too far past to see whether the sad, stupid, rage-filled boy is still there. Ugh. Ugh. Ugly.

4 comments: said...

My husband and I stopped for a hot dog and a rest at a local store. A mother and maybe a ten-year-old child shared some pop corn and pop close enough to hear their conversation. While mom talked on her cell, the child kept asking her to say good-bye to daddy. Her conversation continued until their food was gone. When she finally said good-bye to daddy, she announced that she had a lot to do at the store and expected her son to behave. She then helped herself to more pop, and left her mess to continue her errand. I could only wonder what would become of this little boy. Who would listen to him? So often, gangs and bullies are spawned by little boys and girls begging for parental attention.

Susan Messer said...

Thanks for stopping by. It's true that I wondered about that boy--where did all that rage come from? Certainly, the pain of having been ignored is one place.

Jim Poznak said...

Susan, you were very brave and noble to intervene.

Susan Messer said...

Thanks, dear. I always wish it were more graceful. But I do my best, I suppose.