I’m astride my bike near the big park. G.D., the local bully/cool kid, calls out to me. I turn and look and our eyes meet. With cold inscrutable contempt he takes the rather hard “softball” he is holding and simply beans me in the face with it. He watches my anguished pain, humiliation and shock the way an infant watches milk tossed off the highchair tray, studying his universe of cause and effect, of pleasure and pain.
Time stands still. With a whooshing of surreal clarity everything telescopes back into sharp close-up focus. G.D. is almost unbelievably handsome, charismatic with intermittently smiling eyes and a star aura. He shouts at me to go get the ball—the ball rolling off down the street after it bounced off my face.
In a millisecond of calculation I picture retrieving the ball and having it thrown in my face again, the lesser toughs cackling like hyenas as my puddle of already liquefied self-esteem seeps into the nearest sewer. Like a refugee running from armed soldiers I make a break for it, blur-pedaling my green Schwinn stingray fastback with equal parts rage and fear, laughter receding behind me.