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October second was the first time my anger has ever taken a hold of me and driven me like a car. I sat there, tense, jaw rigid. My heart beat sped up, my stomach twisted itself into knots as I watched the scene before me in what seemed like slow motion. I wished to take the book in my hand and chuck it at his head. I restrained myself, realizing that, if I did, I could cause him harm, not that he didn’t deserve it. But I restrained myself and continued to watch the scene playing before my eyes. My anger soon overtook my restraint and I did something about it. No, I didn’t grab a knife and stab him in the heart; or take a hammer and beat the crap out of him; or even throw a full water bottle at his head, which I could have since there was one within reaching distance. No, I simply reached out for the empty water bottle on the table beside me and without a moments hesitation the bottle flew through the air. It missed its target. I aimed to hit him square in the chin to cease the horrifying noise being produced from his mouth. Instead my weapon hit the TV behind him, but it got the job done. It silenced the sound and reached out and snatched their attention.
“Rachel!” I heard Maggie gasp, but I wasn’t focusing on her.
No, my focus was on the boy beside her. The boy that only moments earlier had listened to Lolita and turned a cruel joke into a barbarous one; the boy who obeyed when Lolita, placing a limp hand to her chest, told him to copy and then try to lick his ear; the boy who then began laughing hysterically; the boy who, after Roger, in his extreme ignorance and stupidity, did the same and yet didn’t understand the humor, repeated the action, only the second time adding a dazed look and saying, “Derrrr…”; the boy who caused Roger to understand the barbaric jest and to begin cackling; the boy who caused Maggie to gasp in horror and begin describing kids that attended her school; the boy who, as she did, began to convulse and howl in an odd, heart-wrenching way; the boy who made the sound that stung my soul as Roger and Lolita laughed. I had sat there on those three stacked chairs wishing it would stop; the laughter, the mocking, Maggie’s descriptions. I just wanted it to stop. All of it.
“Shut up!” I shouted, forcing myself not to shake. “Do you think it’s funny?”
No one answered. Instead, they all watched me in shock.
I slammed the copy of Hangman’s Curse which I held in my hand onto the table, barely missing the glass plate which most surely would have shattered if the book had landed only a fraction of an inch to the right. I walked, rigidly, toward Nick. He watched me, his eyes hidden behind those precious black sunglasses he never removes and that stupid hat that Maggie had given him, but his whole face revealed his pure shock as the sarcastic and easy-going Rachel actually stood up to him. For once.
If I had sat back and thought about it, I never would have thrown that bottle. I never would have slammed that book on that table. I never would have stood up and gotten in Nick’s face. I would have been too terrified; too afraid of ridicule. But at that moment, the moment my relationship with my “friends” changed forever, I wasn’t thinking about myself or about what they would think of me. No, I was thinking of one person: Luke.
All I could think about was adorable Luke, the boy who could always bring a smile to my face. And the reason why? He’s mentally handicapped. He’s two years older than me and yet has the mindset and innocence of a three year old. He can’t talk, but he’s fun to watch. Sometimes he will, at random moments, think you’re the most fascinating thing in the world and just stop and stare at you, until he finds something else that’s more fascinating. He’s so innocent that Mrs. G has to make sure that, when he changes into his bathing suit, he actually leaves his bedroom with his suit on or else he will walk out in his birthday suit. He’s the type of person that has the same affect on every person. The moment you meet him, you can’t help but smile.
When Nick and Maggie and Lolita and Roger began mocking those kids – kids that, if you asked them, they wouldn’t even know their first names – I thought about Luke. No one who knew Luke would wish to mock him. These people I once considered my friends became ignorant fools when they felt the need to jest and taunt a person they had never even bothered to ask the name of.
If Luke had been in that room, would they have made the same jokes? Would they have been as loud? Would they have still laughed at Nick’s jeers?
Or would they have sat in the corner, whispering? Would they have stayed as far away from Luke as they possibly could? Would Maggie be as horrified as she sounded when she spoke of the kids at her school?
Maybe they all would have put on their clown make-up and acted like they thought he was as adorable and sweet and funny as I found him. Maybe they all would have held those plastic smiles in place just long enough while they were forced to spend time with Luke and then dump them in the trash as they left his presence. They would most likely remove their masquerade upon entering their cars or Maggie’s metallic blue pick-up and spend their ride home “freaking out” about the weird kid who couldn’t talk. Were the people I once considered my friends, could they be that cruel? Would they be that cruel?
Nick’s mocking felt like a round-house kick to the stomach because, even though he told me later- in what he believed to be an apology- that he was simply trying to make people laugh, their laughter was an unintentional insult to Luke.
I have a good sense of humor. You can ask anyone. But when it comes to “humor” at the expense of someone else, it’s far from funny. At that moment, when I stood face to face with Nick, all I could think was, What if Luke had been there? What if he had been in that room?
Luke wouldn’t have understood why they were all laughing. He wouldn’t have known that that cruel, barbaric joke had been unintentionally aimed at him. He wouldn’t have known why I threw that water bottle or why I yelled. I might have even scared him if he had been there.
But thank God he hadn’t been. Thank God he didn’t hear the joke or the laughter. He didn’t hear that bottle smack the glass screen of that TV. He didn’t hear my yell. But what if he had?
What I said to Nick then, as I stared at his sunglasses, searching for his eyes beneath the dark tint, I don’t know, word for word. All I know is that I reprimanded him for his mocking.
“I’m not,” he responded quietly.
“Then what do you call this?” I shouted, mimicking his over-exaggerated convulsions. “Do you think that’s funny? They can’t change the way they are! They can’t do anything about it! Do you honestly think that’s funny?”
For a split second, Nick’s visage showed a look of remorse. It then immediately vanished and his face hardened. “I think you need to leave.” He said, calmly, as if he did not care at all that he had been inordinately crass, a cretin. He gestured toward the door behind him. Maggie, Roger and Lolita sat there, glued to their seats, as if they dared not breathe or I would blow my proverbial top again.
I ignored his gesture, but I did leave, not wanting to be around those ignorant jerks for another second. I knew that if I stayed for one moment longer Nick would have left with a bloodied lip. I spun on my heel toward the door on the opposite wall and stormed out of the Florida room.
I hastily made my way around the property in search of Edwin and a ride home.
Park City, Utah
Poughkeepsie, New York
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