by Luke Strickler
They say pride cometh before the fall, and right about now I feel like I’ve fallen down a pantheon of self esteem stairs. I was cocky, quick to judge, something you certainly capitalized on in the seconds following my rhyming retort. You started with a threat, I answered with a quip, and low and behold, here you are, having made good on your word. I see now that your sticks and stones were more than enough to break my bones, and quite frankly, that it is far more than I can handle.
From this crippled puddle you see before you, I can truly say that your words aren’t a concern of mine at the moment. I care not for your abuses or their threat to my honor. My chief thought right now, top of my to do list and first thing on the docket, is figuring out how I will recover from such a series of substantial physical blows. My bones are broken. Broken mind you, not by natural causes or by freak sports accidents, but by the sheer force of common sticks and stones.
Have you ever had a stick broken on you at such a strength and angle that it shatters the strongest component of your body? I imagine not, what with the adept skill you’ve shown here today, but I ask that you humor me for a moment, and see this from my perspective: immobilized, writhing, and regretful.
A stick. A standard piece of wood taken from a usual tree, not more than two inches in thickness, comes at you from an incline you hadn’t thought possible, with a speed you’ve only seen matched by that of a planter freefalling outside your Midtown apartment window. Your reflexes are, begrudgingly, similar to the comedic pace of Norm MacDonald. Slow, steady, reliable, but unable to block unexpected assaults from well-trained assailants.
Now you’d expect to feel pain when this feral plank splits your calcium in two, but instead you find yourself flooded with a Nile of shame. After all, you had just lessened this man’s sticks and stones to that of a footnote, choosing instead to stake claim in your unshakable confidence. Well let me tell you, as that stick comes back round, gunning for your femur like an Axis skydog in ’44, you being to ask yourself if ego’s worth the insurance premium.
Of course you never have time to answer, not before you’re struck by an entirely new feeling. One that brings with it the grit of the city while maintaining the gruff of the country. I’m talking about a stone, connecting to your face, splintering your cheekbone straight through your freshly flossed molars. For a second you think those are just teeth you’re eating, but then it dawns on you, it’s your words as well.
And what dull words they were. A simple rhyme you filed away on the playground, regurgitated in a moment of, admittedly, unequivocal panic. Your whole life, education and the pursuit of knowledge have guided you, pushing you through books and graphs and seminars of networking techniques. Now it has come back as your undoing. You realize now that you are a tragic hero, and yet you are unable to celebrate your thematic completion before another fibula is smashed to ash.
So let me just say, clearly and from the bottom of my now murmuring heart, I was wrong in assuming that your sticks and stones would be irrelevant so long as I maintained composure in the face of your words. Looking at my bones, you may very well see them as a metaphor for my persona. Intellectualism brought to its knees by the pragmatism of the common man. The events that transpired here are personally appalling, but as a world weathered man, I know that it is my duty to learn from them.
Firstly, no longer will I make my replies in rhyme. Childish and unforgivable, a rhythmic response was surely a clue to my lack of preparation, leading you to confidently engage me in the quick brawl I’ve suffered here today.
Secondly, I shall accept and recognize the danger of sticks and stones. Though they may be nature’s litter, cluttering the forests and fields of planet Earth, in the hands of a seasoned journeyman they are as dangerous as any mace or brass knuckle one may buy.
Thirdly, I will no longer pick fights with strangers as I wander the many streets of America’s cities. When you first approached me with a steely, “What the hell are you looking at?” I should have replied honestly, telling you of how I was imagining the plight of the everyman upon seeing your unkempt blue-collar features. This was my mistake, and mine alone. You cannot be judged for acting within your nature, but in my shame, I replied with hostility and aversion. For that, I am sorry.
Truly, I have seen the error of my ways, and accept this defeat with grace. And while I may have alluded to being numb to this before, I would appreciate it if you stopped insulting me now, as your words are beginning to effect me more than I had originally led on.
Luke Strickler is a writer in NYC, and a person everywhere else.