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Grey Sparrow Journal

Issue 30, July 31, 2017
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AS A CHILD

 

by Corey Mesler

 

 

                As a child I was wispy. I was made of balsa wood and gypsum. I could not run fast or kick a ball. I was other. The rougher boys told me to hate myself and my body. I found them repulsive, like a disease of the skin, yet I believed their assessment of me. Once, in horrible and shameful desperation, I tried to make them like me. I ached to be part of their easy camaraderie. I envied their swaggers, their very ugliness. There was another boy. He was like me, un-athletic and peculiar, but worse he was also an unattractive weed. He wore his greasy hair parted sharply on one side and his glasses were thick like the glasses of old men. I forget his name. The rougher boys were merciless to him. So, I endeavored to join in. For one brief, misguided moment, I decided to be the bully instead of the bullied. I spat out, with impatience and ignoble heat, louder than I intended, “He wears pink underwear!” I don’t know why I came up with this particular witty construction. And the pack of toughs looked at me as if a clod of earth had found voice. And then the worst of the rough boys, the one with a pinched rodent’s face, hawked back at me, quick like a slap, “How do you know?” And they all laughed and spit and banged away, their doggish cackling echoing down the long polished school hall. The other boy and I looked at each other. There was pain in his eyes. He looked at me the way one looks at a pet that has to be put down. He pitied me. And I wanted to run after him and express my blistering regret. I wanted to tell him that I didn’t belong in their vile crew, that I was more like him. But, of course, I didn’t. I couldn’t. I was not made for such compunction. So, today, almost five decades later, I still have this foulness within. It corrodes like undercooked food. It feels like a growth, a child growing inside me. The child is puckered and hideous and bred from darkness. He is mine. I hold him and, at night, I call him by many names. I call him my own name and I call him the names the monsters invented, long ago, in the baneful rooms of their exile, from which they are still emerging, day by forlorn day.