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I had a friend whose neck was too small for his head. Whenever he ran my heart runs to my hands. It was worse when he ran uphill. I was always afraid his head will roll off and his neck will be blamed — necks are supposed to hold heads steady aren’t they?
As we grew up, his head grew too. It didn’t bother to slow down even though it had outgrown other part of his body

.
“All the food you eat goes up!” his siblings said.
Headward!” other kids teased him from afar. They had learnt from a girl who teased him too close. He head-butted her and the girl’s life never remained the same again.

Humpty! Dumpty!” some others sang.
“You do not need a great fall
Just a strong wind to blow your head off
Even God can’t mold you together again.”

The songs always made him cry, and he cursed himself for having a head.
“Maybe it would have been better if I was born without a head.”

I interpreted it to mean, “maybe it would have been better if they hadn’t christened me Edward.”
“Some days I have the weight of the world on my shoulder,” he once told me. I believed him because it was true, what was fixed to his neck could as well be the world.

One day returning from school as I watched him sway with the wind I asked,
“Does it hurt?”
“What?” he wasn’t smiling.
“Your neck, does it hurt from carrying such load?” I regretted the words as soon as they came out. Curiosity can insult too.

Edward hated wearing caps. He said he preferred fresh air on his hair. But everybody knew the real reason, it was an open secret — no cap could fit his head.

My friend grew up to fear girls, “everybody notices me not because I am handsome but because I have a big head.” He was right, among a group of kids you see his head first. It was a candle on a hill that cannot be hidden. As his being ugly I cannot tell. He doesn’t look ugly, but the other kids can’t be wrong, or can they?

A Swing set in Black And White

Abandoned

Edward couldn’t learn in school. Teachers flogged him repeating the words, “One would think you would have a bigger brain.”
“Big skull no brain,” the other kids added theirs.
Often he found letters on his desk;

Dear Headward,
Why are you so dull? If I had your head, and I was dull, my dad will buy me an extra brain. Tell your dad to do the same, you have enough space for four brains.

Edward showed the letter to our class teacher, who merely shrugged and replied,
“Do you even have a brain?” He never showed anybody such letters again.
Learning became a difficult chore, he was too concerned with what the other kids thought than what our teachers taught.

There was no escape for him. At home his siblings didn’t let him rest, on the road, strangers pointed and laughed. Even in church, where he went to find peace, they insisted he sat on the back row. “That way, no one will trouble you for blocking their view,” the alibi coated with the love they gave.
Edward reached his breaking point when someone said to him, “Your mother died giving birth to you because your head came first.”
They never found out who said those words, Edward wrote it in the letter he left before he disappeared.
I have found it hard to forgive myself.I overheard the adults say, “Don’t eat too much o. You don’t want your baby’s head to grow too big. Remember what happened to Edward’s mother.”
One day, playing video games I got angry and let those words out.
“Even you too?” Edward said and left my house. It was the last time I saw him.

Many years later, I read Julius Caesar, and the final words he said struck me, “Even you, Brutus? Then fall, Caesar!”

Edward couldn’t have read Julius Caesar at that age, but I know I struck the killing blow.

 

***********

 

Photocredits : TheIncurableOptimist

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