They approached him. His back was to the stone wall. The afternoon was deep October weather. They would let him go. Come on, new kid in school, sure, it was just---tradition. They would taunt him a little or form a circle with him in the middle, and push him around some and laugh at him. Maybe push him in the dirt, but it was here in the school yard, afternoon recess. They would have to go back inside at one thirty sharp. He looked at the ground.
All the grass long dead, skeletal leaf rapidly pin wheeling by, as the boy’s head canted to look at it in silent pleading. They were around him now, inches away, as the inevitable pushing him back and forth, round and round, began, as they smelled his panic. His fear drew them to him like magnets. They whispered, maybe to him, maybe he just overheard. “empty vessels,” “ so much better than,” “can a mirror be blamed?,” “if it breaks,?” “if it…….” He was pushed flat to the ground, breath in one whoosh knocked out of him.
Grimy hands on his freshly laundered shirt, a knee near his groin, hands on his rib cage, pushing in hard; he didn’t mean to cry, but he was 13 and the matter was somewhat out of his hands which were being, along with his fingers, hurt mightily. Their eyes, so close to his now, those eyes of theirs so mad, so crazy. They howled the way only their prey could hear. Should he bare his neck now and let them rip it open? The words were obscene and in between were, “you should get out,” “you won’t like us,” “you bring out the,” “worst,” and he knew he deserved this, knew all this endless first week at this new school, they had been telling him with his refuse-to-hear ears, that he deserved their derision, that he could look at their proper, prim, even handsome or pretty faces, then, in class, in the hall, and at lunch, and draw a straight line between them then and now, and know the forlorn hope of being ignored, questioned on everything he said and did, and made to feel even his breathing was offensive, so he would do nothing and say less, and be free in being a leper, was not to be his.
As they punched his eyes black, as they rubbed dirt in his face and spat into it. And someone said something, a horrid word it must have been, the loud jagged laughs it drew, as he felt scissors or a knife cutting, none too gently, his long blonde hair in which he had taken such pride. Come on, keep together, it’s a game and then I’ll be initiated enough and they’ll let me be…
As he tried to apologize, god, I was just trying to be friendly, trying not to be some lame kid, I thought I could get it right, I’d read enough, seen some films….and then they pulled up on him by his rotted rope belt and he fell against them, as a part of his brain seemed to break off. As they just kept pushing his head at the chin, sharply upward, and pressed and slammed the top of his partly bald, bleeding scalp, downward. As his brain stopped and his heart stopped as something sharp ripped into his chest, as one said, “mirrors reflect,” as another said, “mirrors can’t help it,” and there was such joy in their faces, green mottled burned tortured awful faces, as they held him by his scrawny shoulders for a moment; they, his self-appointed mirrors, as life left him, and they let him crumple to the ground, as they kicked him for a time.
Later that cold always October deep day, they sat on the playground scorched gray dust blown hillocks, cavities, and, were, as their savaged brains confusedly told them they still were, not aware of their various bodily limbs and parts eaten off or into, and waited for some other child coming down from an oblivion that had once been a city, one at a time or more, and they would gather them and they would be what they were and always would be to them. Teachers.
Though, of course, eventually they would meet a mirror.