If there was one thing Jamie learned from school, it was that people were ruthless. That, and the ground always comes faster than it should. Physics may say there is a formula, and that the speed of one’s fall is calculable, but Jamie knew otherwise. He knew that every time Greg pushed him down, the ground always met him faster than he could get his hands out to stop the fall.
It had been a hard lesson to learn, but one he needed to in order to survive in this new town. Back home, every thing was a lot simpler. He had friends he had grown up with, teachers who liked him, and parents who loved him. Life may not have been perfect, but it was still simpler. Although the shift from elementary school to high school became a very significant turning point in Jamie’s life. While some were worried about what classes would be like, or whether they could fit everything in their locker, Jamie’s transition was much harder.
When some people move, they move from one side of the city to the other, or maybe even to the nearest town. But not Jamie’s parents. After long nights of loud arguments heard through thin walls, Jamie’s parents had decided to move from one side of the country to the other. His high school transition happened in a world almost completely foreign to him, surrounded by people who knew each other and not him. Thank God they at least spoke english.
Another lesson Jamie learned, was that if you weren’t part of the herd, you were vulnerable to predators. Short, stocky, grade eleven predators, with small minds but thick fists. Greg
Greg was two years older than Jamie, which to him meant he had two years worth of beatings to catch up on. Greg’s schoolwork may have been terrible, but when it came to beating the snot out of Jamie, he was like clockwork. Every Tuesday and Thursday after school, Greg would find Jamie on his way home. Jamie would try and out maneuver him, but Greg had the home turf advantage.
Sometimes Greg even threw in some extra time on a Monday or Friday if he was in an especially gracious mood. But never on a Wednesday. For some reason, Wednesdays were a time of peace. A calm in the eye of the storm. Why it happened, Jamie never wondered. He figured that as soon as he started to question why, so would Greg, and another day would be added to his schedule.
Today was one of Greg’s charitable days, and Jamie found himself staring into the beady eyes of a predator, hungry for an extra helping of beat down. Jamie knew running was futile but he edged closer to the high brick wall of the alley, hoping to make a dash towards the gap between them.
“Jay-mee!” Greg chided him. Closer now, very slowly now, he kept his eyes on Greg, “Come on Jay-mee! I just wanna play Jay-mee.” You mean with my entrails. The thought seemed all too real. Getting closer now, maybe he should make the dash, “Jay-mee! Come be my friend! I don’t have many friends Jay-mee-”
“This is a shitty way to make friends!” He took off, closing the gap between them and turning to run down the alleyway perpendicular to the prior one. Jamie ran, and ran, and did not bother to look back. He didn’t need to. He knew what he would see.
However, one lesson Jamie had actually learned in school was that alligators, when on land, are surprisingly faster then they may first appear. Two fat fingered hands applied a significant amount of force to Jamie’s back. His arms had been two busy pumping for their lives and were caught off guard. As always, the ground arrived too quickly for his hands, and met his face instead.
The asphalt was unforgiving and shredded Jamie’s palms, arms, legs, and the better part of his cheek. He heard footsteps haltingly run past, and slowly return, circling his head and midsection. “That wasn’t very nice Jay-mee, running away from me” a beat-up running shoe swung back and swiftly collided into Jamie’s ribcage. A squeal of pain hurdled past Jamie’s teeth, “...all I wanted to do was play-” Greg’s voice crescendoed as as another shoe connected with Jamie’s gut. Jamie wheezed and tried to curl up as tight as he could. So this is what it felt like to be eaten alive.
Greg rounded back around Jamie, “All I wanted was a friend Jay-mee,” as Greg’s leg lifted one more time, a simple thought crossed Jamie’s mind. Amidst all of the pain, amidst all of the other thoughts that could have possibly occupied his mind, one question stood out from the rest,
“Why do you do this?”