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|Eddie’s eyes blazed with desperate hatred as his words echoed off the dank walls. I stood stunned, feeling my power, my strength seem to drain away, useless, my bragging words being thrown back in my face, the damage they had caused laid out and plainly visible. My God, what have I done?
“Eddie, you have to listen to me,” I started softly. “You’re right, these guys are jerks. I can’t guarantee you that they won’t beat you up again. I can’t guarantee that other people won’t hurt you because of what you are.”
“Then what’s the point, Supercub,” Eddie said, his voice more quiet, slower……quickly he reached down to the floor, picking up a nearby wire. “It doesn’t matter, does it? I kill them…..and then I follow. All it takes is crossing this circuit.” His eyes softened, becoming almost wistful. “No more pain, no more problems.”
“There’s a lot of point, Eddie. Trust me on this one.”
“Maybe for you, Supercub. No one can hurt you. No one can beat you up because you’re gay. But for the rest of us –“
“Eddie,” I said, choosing my words with surgical care, “you’re right. I am invulnerable and, like you saw, I can take care of myself in a fight. But I hurt the same way you do inside – fear, rejection, all that.”
I looked at him. “Sometimes I wonder if it’s worth it too. It hurts that I wasn’t there to help when those guys beat you up. I hate that I can’t stop every accident, that I can’t save every life. But Eddie…..if I stop caring, if I give up….no one gets helped, no one gets saved, nothing gets done.”
He stared at the floor as I continued, desperately trying to reach into him, to touch what I knew was still there. “You’re an electrical genius, Eddie. I couldn’t have wired this place like you did in a thousand years – I blow fuses plugging in Christmas trees. You did it, and you did it with nothing but leftovers. That’s amazing and it’s something not many people – heck, no one else could do.”
I looked at him, his face dirty and tear-streaked, the picture of a teen driven to the edge. “And I can tell you this….your family cares about you. Your mom cares about you – in fact, she called me this afternoon, asking me to help find you.”
His eyes met mine. “She was crying, Eddie. She knows these guys hurt you before, and she was terrified that even worse might have happened.” I saw his shoulders begin to slump. “And I came looking for you, Eddie….not just because it’s what a hero does….but because I care about you. I don’t want to see you die – I want to see you grow up, become an engineer, fulfill your dream, regardless of what people do to or think about you.”
I sucked in my breath. “Eddie…..I was wrong. I was pissed at what these guys were doing to you because I’ve seen it before and other of my friends have gotten hurt….and I let my mouth get out of control.” Hanging my head, I continued, “But….hurting them because we can….is wrong. For both you and me. If we’re powerful enough to hurt them….we’re also powerful enough to help them.”
He looked back at me, his eyes again welling with tears, as I talked on, “What these guys did to you, Eddie, was wrong, dead wrong. But they’re people too, and they deserve to live. Everyone deserves a chance to do better – you and me included.” I held out my hand to him. “Help me, Eddie. Help me help them – and you.”
He started to sob. “Supercub….I don’t know….I can’t—“
“You CAN, Eddie,” I said, reaching out, putting a hand on his shoulder. “You CAN.”
Together we walked over towards the first bully, his voice halting, then growing stronger as he directed me on how to cut them loose.
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