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Photo by sanjoy saha on Unsplash

Part 1 is here.

He was heavier, and his hairline started further back, but the smile hadn’t changed a bit in twenty years. That smile had haunted me for more than half my natural born life.

Edgar terrorized me from kindergarten to junior year. He’d been blessed with a mutant thyroid and was always twice the size of everyone else his age. He hit puberty somewhere around the second grade. It happened overnight, too. One morning he just walked in and was six feet tall and had hair on his balls.

He’d strut around the locker room naked waving his hairy nuts in our faces. He was the meanest bastard I’ve ever known.

He went on to become a high school football star. His pictures were in local sports pages every weekend. Girls squealed when he walked by. Boys cowered.

Edgar had everything going for him — popularity, athleticism, a rich family, but none of those things ever really fulfilled him. No, Edgar’s true passion was the torment of his others.

I was an easy target. My father was a drunk, my mother was dead, and my coat sleeves came up two inches short of my wrists. Plus, I was poor, so no one gave a shit what happened to me. “White trash” was a term I heard a lot. So, that was how I became Edgar’s favorite object of torment.

To his credit, Edgar was no dumb brute. He had an aptitude for cruelty that bordered on genius, with the subtlety of a true artist. He once had a cheerleader pretend she liked me, record our phone conversations, and play the tapes at parties. That gag alone ruined any hopes for a normal life.

By tenth grade I accepted that I’d never have friends. I resigned myself to simply survive until the end of high school. That wasn’t enough for Edgar, though. It wouldn’t be enough for him until he snuffed out every last remaining shred of my dignity.

For weeks, I offered no resistance. Still, Edgar probed deeper. He wanted to find the last live nerve left in my heart. Near the end of sophomore year, he found it.

I was walking to class when he shouted across the hall that the reason my mother killed herself was because she’d given birth to a retarded son. Without a thought I charged him, backpack still slung over my shoulders.

I swung wildly, only vaguely aware in my blind rage that he was hitting me, too. I didn’t even notice the security guard pulling me off Edgar until he put me in a wrist-lock.

Slowly I regained my awareness. First thing that came to mind was that nobody was wrist-locking Edgar. The whole school had gathered around us. The guard said something about me being on drugs.

Edgar stood there with that goddamn smile. He was rich, and he was a sports star. He could do no wrong.

Me? I was just some loser with bad teeth and short coat sleeves.

All at once, the cold realization hit me that this was how life was going to be, forever. It wouldn’t end in high school. It wouldn’t end after. It would just keep on going. The world was rigged for me to lose. The other team had home field advantage, the best equipment, and all the referees on their side.

I started to cry. It started with a little sob, but then degenerated into all-out bawling. I couldn’t stop it. I just stood there blubbering like a little baby.

Edgar burst out laughing. The other kids followed suit. Even the security guard snickered.

I ran. When I got outside, I kept running. I ran until I got sick, then I ran some more. I didn’t stop running until I was miles away from that place, and I never went back again.

In one or another, I kept running for a long time afterwards. It took years for me to stop. I gave up feeling sorry for myself, and I learned how to fight, literally and metaphorically. I got some education and I got into real estate. Things worked out very well for me from there.

I made something of myself, but I never forgot Edgar or that day. Nobody ever really forgets things like that. Not really. We just find deeper places to hide them.

Now, by some incredible coincidence, there he was: Edgar Beavers, bane of my youth, sitting at the far end of the bar smiling that goddamn smile. It was like the gods were rewarding me.

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I’m not in the Matrix. I AM the Matrix.

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