Youth is tyranny. Youth is cruel. I certainly was. As a kid, we would often hang unflattering nicknames on each other, often in relation to some physical abnormality, haircut or speech impediment. A kid with a preponderance of saliva in his diction became “Slurp,” another with Bozo-red hair endured taunts of, “Red on the Noodle, like a dick on a Poodle,” and another child who used crutches became, “Gimp,” These nicknames as cruel as they were, stuck.
In 7th and 8th grade this kid moved to our neighborhood who had a glass eye and not one of the top of the line ones. Naturally, he became, “Eyeball.” He was a big, gangly doofus and he became the butt of many cruel jokes.
At a certain point, he became complicit in his own humiliation. He would shoot marbles with his glass eye. One time actually losing it to another kid, only to be further embarrassed by having his mother go to the kids house to retrieve the orb. At other times, he’d pop it out and drop it into girl’s drinks to freak them out and elicit laughs from the friends he wished so desperately to cultivate.
One time, at a school carnival,I got on the Salt and Pepper Shaker ride with Eyeball. I shouldn’t have. I’d watched Eyeball eat every piece of shit they served at a Catholic school Carnival; cotton candy, funnel Ccakes, big pretzels loaded with salt, and an Italian beef sandwich. Sure enough, after two vicious high-speed spins on this ride, Eyeball heaved his whole grease-load all over me. It was the most foul, toxic shit you could imagine and promptly after getting off the ride, I pounded the shit out of Eyeball.
I’ve never felt right about it. To this day I’d like to apologize to that guy for beating his ass for getting sick, for calling him “Eyeball” and for joining in the thoughtlessly cruel laughter of other boys when he’d embarrass and debase himself for our amusement. I never knew this kid’s real name; I only ever called him, “Eyeball.” The sadness and cruelty of this statement speaks for itself.
One of the things I’d always loved about Marvel Comics was the nature of one’s “super-powers” were often rooted in the pain of childhood. I hope wherever “Eyeball” is, that time and life have treated him with more kindness than I did. This one is for him.
This piece is called, The Witness.