The Gallery

Will they never leave? Why? Why do they insist on coming, standing there, staring, driving him deeper and deeper into his shell of isolation, of difference, of not fitting in?

He huddles there in the corner, naked, exposed, the subject of their mirth, their curiosity, their fascination, their scorn. He hides behind a sullen mask, longing only for the day to end, the lights to be turned off. The eyes to be turned off.

Those eyes, raking him over, dragging his heart and soul across the glowing coals of self-doubt. Those eyes, gawking at the shreds of his dignity caught on his rough knees and elbows, held fast in the caverns of the creases between his brows, bulging that damned outie of a navel. Those eyes, scraping and stabbing, poking, refusing him a moment’s respite, controlling him, tormenting him, seeking and finding, damn them, finding every weakness, every scar from yesterday’s eyes, and the day before’s and all the days’ before. Those damned eyes.

If only there were a way to blind them all! Then perhaps he could unbend, no longer needing to hide his most private parts from those eyes. And after he could move again — for he had no illusions that after all this time, he could simply stand and walk away — then he could hunt down the soul-twisted … things … that did this to him, caught him with some sort cosmic fly-paper and carelessly left him there to desiccate into a curiosity, a souvenir brought back from some long pilgrimage to sadism.

He wouldn’t hurt them when he found them. His gentle — and abraded — soul wouldn’t allow for that. But he would ask, no, he would demand to know why.

He prayed to god the answer wouldn’t be, “Because you were there.”

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