“You don’t belong here.” The words echo in Ed’s brain. His own voice accusing him over and again as he walks through the old playground. So many memories and most of them had been good and that particular moment had been buried away for the better part of a decade, until last Tuesday. Last Tuesday the telephone rang, mom picked up the phone and never said a word. The phone dropped, mom hugged him, and dad walked in to tell him the news.
He was angry at himself right away, most of all for not being surprised. Nathan had always been withdrawn: a tortured, quiet boy. He never wanted to play sports or games. He never read. He never went out. He never got involved with anything at all. Nathan was not like everyone else, and the world so often let him know. It seemed like everyone told him he had no place until finally he agreed.
It has been years since that day on the play ground in the first grade. Ed was just going along with the group, making fun of the weird kid. He felt bad right way. Mom had always told him to stick up for those weaker than him and there he was being the bully. It made him sick to his stomach and he never did it again. Still, he never spoke up, at least not for Nathan.
Sullen, and sometimes angry Nathan had made it so hard to do so. So while Ed never again threw fuel on that fire, he never put it out either, even though he had a reputation for getting between his fellow jocks and the “dweebs.” He never included the boy. Not once had he suggested Nathan might be happy writing for the school paper, or starting a garage band. Never had one word of encouragement come from him to the other, and now it never will.
The words echo in his brain and the image of the boy with the curly, black hair staring down at the ground as they were spoken is burned into his mind’s eye. His head tells him that he is not to blame. His heart, however, pierces him with regret, keeping those words playing and telling him his head is wrong, and that is why Nathan is gone.
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- New primary school playground opens in Windham (wgme.com)