trigger warning: violence, the r word
He is standing in front of me, head wrapped in a bandage, blood peaking through the gauze. He is telling me, wanting me to really hear him, that he was hit in the head with a two by four while being called a retard. I almost, when writing this, changed what he said. I almost used 'the r word' ... but that's not what he said. He said 'retard.'
He tells me of being in fear.
He tells me how much it hurts when people assault him ... with two by fours, with words like retard.
He is there, incredibly, to give me encouragement. I am on break from a lecture I am giving on bullying and teasing. He walked up and waited, mannerly, for me to finish talking to someone else. Then, suddenly, he is in front of me. He is telling me about being hit. He is telling me about being wounded. He is telling me about being frightened. He is thanking me for telling the truth. He wants me to know how bad it can be.
I am shattered.
He leaves and I gear up for the second half of my talk. His voice rings in my head: they hit me with a two by four, they called me retard. He presented these two things as equally damaging, equally hurtful. He didn't separate one into violence and the other into simple name calling. They were the same.
He was struck.
By a two by four.
I see the blood in the bandage.
He was struck.
By a word.
I hear his voice, battered and bleeding, tell the story.
I finish the lecture. He comes and shakes my hand. I thank him for his encouragement. He thanks me for not being silent.
He doesn't understand the silence.
He doesn't understand why people don't speak up and speak out and say what needs to be said.
Hitting people with two by fours is wrong.
Hitting people with words that blister and burn and draw blood is wrong.
Those that say, "I didn't mean anything by it," "I was only joking," "It doesn't mean anything - are lying.
Because two by fours hurt.
And so do words.
When will we understand?