For my little brother/A Rough Encounter
|For my little brother by Enoch Leung
A Rough Encounter
A Rough Encounter
"Well well, looks like the two freshies have become friends with each other, haven't they?"
I looked up. Our conversation had been interrupted by none other than Goliath himself. This time, he brought some of the other boys with him. A few were short but squarely built, boasting arm muscles that put even Goliath's to shame. Some of them were tall like basketball players, towering over and intimidating all the younger inmates. Most were about a head taller than me, their shirts off to reveal any tattoos or battle scars they had. All of them had rough faces that, no doubt, were used to scare children into doing what they wanted done. I've seen people of the like before; the Wingz was home to such nasty-looking people as well.
"Got a problem with that?" Ricky asked. He began to stiffen again, like he did when he got angry. I jabbed him with my elbow to try and communicate my message, but he wasn't getting it.
Goliath scoffed. "You think we were going to just ask you for water and leave it at that?" He looked at his cronies. "We saw you chilling together, chatting and crying. Must be some sad storytelling, hmm?"
"Emotional," one of the boys mocked.
"Yeah, go and cry like a bitch would when she's clearly asking for more." A few of them began to mock our tears, wailing: "It hurts! It hurts!" A fake tear. "Uh...! Uh...! God, I can feel it touching my brain when you fuck me!"
Ricky got up. We were sitting on the shelves, so he managed to make himself the tallest head in the cell. "Who are you to judge?" he seethed. "You don't know what we've been through. If anyone has to hear what we have to say, don't you think they'll naturally get a bit emotional? I've got a brother and a sister to take care of, and I've starved myself so they could be fed. We've been trying — fighting — to find a way out, while all you do is rove and sniff Rugby. You don't know what it's really like out there, for while we're all down here, you're high up there. You'll fall, maybe not today, but definitely someday, and you'll fall so far and land so hard back into reality you'll regret everything you've done to avoid your problems. You'll regret this very day that you got together to try and sucker me into being your slave for the rest of my life!"
His speech, meant to intimidate our oppressors, unfortunately failed to do its job. Instead, the boys laughed.
"Hoo, he's talking now! I thought you were mute at first."
Goliath smiled smugly to himself. He approached my friend — my brave, perhaps a little bit incautious, friend — and pretended to be scared at his new height. "Your mother sure gave you a big mouth. Too bad she couldn't give you a bigger brain." He cracked his knuckles. "So you say you're hardened enough to run this place, huh? Sure, we'll step aside if you want to get high so badly." He looked around. "You'll just have to bring us all down."
"Yeah, Big Mouth. You have big muscles?"
"He's got a thick skull. Too bad it won't save him from a fist."
"Fist? Just look at the scar on his face! What, you've been hit with a bolo or something?"
"I have," he said quietly. "My own father gave it to me."
"For what?" a tall boy sneered. "You got caught fucking with his bitch?"
Ricky's breathing was heavy. It was the same "charging bull" breathing he usually had when he was angry and ready to fight. I poked him. "This is a really, really bad idea..."
"Giving in is worse," he responded.
"This is crazy! We may as well think of a way to get out of here instead of picking fights with the other boys."
"It'll take a miracle for that to happen... I'm not about to let these people kick us around after everything we've been through."
Goliath had begun removing his shirt. Sprawled across his chest was a tattoo of a Chinese dragon, its mouth open, spewing forth a flurry of flame. Under the tattoo, slightly obscured by his abdominal muscles, was a light reddish burn scar. "You think I don't know what you've been through?" He pointed to the scar. "When I was seven my drug-addicted father ran a hot poker into my stomach. Hurt like hell. You think that scar on your face makes me cry for you?" He laughed. "You've hardly scratched the surface."
The rest of the gang had also begun preparing for a brawl. Many were following their leader's example, removing their shirts to reveal whatever they had underneath. Others were simply drawing up, making themselves look bigger and tougher than they originally were. No... all of them were already bigger and stronger and tougher and older than us. I felt like burying myself in my own body again. Two weak, frightened boys versus six strong, robust teenagers. Well, I was frightened.
"You're a cockroach compared to us," Goliath said mockingly.
"I'm a small being with a big soul," Ricky responded unwaveringly.
"And a big ego."
"You're the one with the ego here!"
"That doesn't make you any more of a saint as standing in a garage makes you a car, kid."
"I'm not just defending myself. I'm fighting for my sister and my brother. I'm fighting for my deceased mother. I'm fighting for my friend and his own fragmented family." He looked around. "I'm fighting for everyone else in here, all the people you find contentment in making the lives of a living hell. I do what I feel is right, and that's why I stole in order to feed my four year old brother. Even that wasn't enough sometimes, and I starved myself so he could eat." The cell became quiet. Even the thugs seemed to have hit the pause button. "I've been cut, beaten, and rejected, but that hasn't stopped me. I'll keep going until the day I drop dead bleeding."
"Then we'll make that day today!" Goliath snapped.
Ricky shoved him back. The bully was so surprised at his ferocity that even he stepped back, but not for long. "I won't let that day be today, or anytime soon," Ricky said. "You might leave me bruised and abused at the end of the day, but it'll take strength you don't have to get me to call it quits. I may not win, but I won't lose."
Goliath raised his fist, but Ricky managed to duck and dodged the attack in time. He swung back, but the hulk grabbed his wrist, halting the punch. He could have simply broken the wrist right there, but he, perhaps seeking a harder, more gratifying battle, pushed his opponent back instead. Ricky fell, but immediately got back up.
I had enough. I tried to drag my friend out of there by the shoulders. "This is way too dangerous, Ricky. Let's end this before someone loses an eyeball."
"Stay out of this Garrett, or you'll get hurt." He didn't even look at me.
"Me? Getting hurt? Look at what you're getting into! Imagine what sort of damage these guys can do."
He turned his head, pointing to the scar on his face. "Pain? Damage? I've been through worse."
"You gonna fight for your new friend, kid?" one of the boys asked.
I hesitated. I didn't want to jump head-first into a situation I knew I couldn't win in, but at the same time I did not want to abandon my close friend.
"I won't complain if you don't fight," Ricky said, reading my mind. "In fact, it's better if you didn't fight at all."
"It's best if we all just dropped the fight..."
I felt like I had just talked to a wall. Goliath landed a punch on Ricky's jaw; he retaliated by going straight for the neck. The two engaged in a tight clinch, but try as he might, my friend couldn't overpower his opponent. Goliath took him down, letting his head hit the ground with a dull thud. He crouched over him and began punching Ricky's head, over and over non-stop. Ricky brought up his hands to defend himself, with limited success.
"That's enough!" I said.
Ricky kicked desperately and tried to slither out. He created some distance between Goliath, but the other boys got to him before he had a chance to stand up. Each of them took turns kicking their victim, who had curled up into a protective ball to shield himself from the blows.
I intervened again. "Leave him alone; you've taught him his lesson already." I dove in and grabbed Ricky by the shoulders. "Let's get out of here."
He brushed me off. "I-I'm fine."
"No you're not..."
Goliath came over and pushed me aside to gain access to Ricky. "You're fine? Well so am I." He grabbed him by the shirt and hauled him upright. "By the time we're done with you, your abs will be so strong you can do a sit-up while hanging upside-down." He curled his hand up into a fist and rammed it into his stomach. Goliath turned his head to look at me. "Remember this? This is how you looked!"
I watched Ricky suffer, a sickening feeling in my stomach. He had doubled over and was struggling with each breath. He was coughing violently, and I knew that he would soon cough out blood, like I had. Whatever hope or idea he had of standing up against his aggressors was now gone; he had stopped fighting. That's probably how the police got him after they whipped him with the baton, I thought.
Goliath grabbed his victim's face and forcefully turned it to look at him. "Consider me impressed," he whispered in a dangerous tone. "You're the first person in this cell to have stood up against us with such fury. You're pitiful, but you do try." He shook Ricky vigorously. "Hope you enjoy your stay here, because we're going to make your life in here an absolute living hell. Just so you remember who's in charge here!"
He relaxed, but did not let go. He signalled to his cronies. "Jack this motherfucker up. Jack 'im up till he's too weak to wiggle his pinky." He released the boy and backed away, letting his friends do the rest.
They crowded around him, forming a human palisade that obstructed the view from the outside.
"Jack 'im up!"
"Yeah, screw 'im over!"
"Let's just do somethin' with 'im already, aright?"
The sickening sound of fist and foot meeting flesh. All the other boys who hadn't already done so shielded their eyes, unable to take in what was going on. I should have done so too, but for some reason I watched on. The attackers continued their assault, stooping down briefly to pick up their victim, who I presumed had slid down to the ground in pain. The longer I witnessed the scene, the angrier I felt. I was surprised to find myself clenching my fists in rage. Normally, I would've bolted and hid in a corner until it was all over, unless my brother was the one being attacked.
He's not your brother...
But I saw a part of myself in there, inside that palisade, being kicked and spat on repeatedly. He ran in front of a knife, went great lengths to find food for his starving siblings, and befriended me in prison, and this was his ultimate reward. To say he didn't deserve it was an understatement; it completely disregarded what he did do. Prison was bad enough. What do these boys know about him? Have they ever stopped and wondered what it would be like to walk in his shoes for a day? Would they still bully him the way they were now if they did?
God... why do you let this happen?!?!
I rushed forward, pushing and forcing my way through the human wall. I got to Ricky, who was bruised and bleeding, and threw his arm over my shoulder. "Enough is enough — we're getting out of here."
He didn't even fight me. The boys were jeering and hurling insults at us. "You couldn't have been serious in willingly getting into this kind of trouble," I said to him.
"I've been through worse," he rasped. "Nothing hurts more than being rejected by your own parent. These boys can't possibly top that. No physical pain in the world can match the pain I felt the day I left home!"
"Good riddance," Goliath shouted out to me. "Remind that pest not to get on my nerves again, and I won't hit 'im. I'll just scare him into doing what I want done."
To my surprise, the battered body in my arms stiffened. Again! I quickly cupped my hand over Ricky's mouth and nodded to the bullies, who weren't too eager to let the flames die down. "I'll keep him out of trouble."
Goliath smiled smugly as he descended from his comfortable perch on the shelves. After a while, the other bullies took their attention off us as well. Soon, the tension began to wind down as everyone else let out the breaths they had been holding, almost glad that it was all over.
I turned to Ricky. "Don't be ridiculous. It's the small things that add up and hurt the most. Just because they're all less painful compared to your father doesn't mean you can just let it happen to you. Even if I walked through the fiery depths of hell, I still don't want to have to go through the hells of earth, even if they're nothing compared to what's down there. You can't keep doing this to yourself. I know you're trying to be strong, but this is making you weak!"
He shook his head. "I'm doing this because of my brother and my sister. I wouldn't let myself get hurt if I was the only one in the equation. But... nobody touches those two. Nobody!! They're all I have left. Those bullies can have the two for their own pleasure over my dead body. I'll show them that it'll take a lot more than that if they want me to back down."
"Your brother and sister aren't here right now," I seethed. "And even if they were, would you really still do this? What would your brother and your sister think if they saw you getting kicked, beaten, and tortured in here? You can't protect someone from pain by causing them more grief. I know you wouldn't hesitate to jump off a cliff to save your family, but getting roughed up in here isn't going to help them if they're being held at gunpoint right now. You suffered a knife blow for a reason; if you hadn't gotten in front of that knife, your mother or your sister could be dead right now. They're not going to die if they only get insulted in here."
He tried to speak, but he gave way to his own emotions, and he burst into tears. I relaxed myself and helped him down, using the shelves for support. He continued to cry, his loud sobs clearly audible from around the cell. I knew the bullies could hear. I fought the temptation to look at them; I didn't want to see their facial expressions. My friend's crying took me back to the last night I spent with my brother. He had thrown his arms around me and emptied buckets of tears into my chest. I had bored down on my teeth and tongue to keep from crying myself as I tried to appear strong to him, let him know that I could do it, that I was tough enough to make this difficult decision.
I'll come home to you alive...
I bit down hard on my tongue, so hard I tasted blood. Oh, stop reminding me about all these things! But his crying kept bringing those memories back, over and over again. I looked at him and for a moment thought I was seeing my brother, wishing from the bottom of his heart that I would come home, and how I wished I could put my arms around him and make it all okay.
|For my little brother by Enoch Leung
A Rough Encounter