I think I may have reverted a little bit to junior high school, as my recent affinity to bathroom humor probably suggests.
But the truth is, it runs much deeper than my shared humor with that of a pee-wee football team. I have this walk from work to the main road that causes no little amount of apprehension for me. It’s not the length of the walk, or the perilously contaminated standing water. It’s the bullies. There is a gang of 8 year old boys that patrols the road, and I am their prey. Our confrontations have been few but memorable, very much like junior high. I remember being shoved into the library once by some 8th grade girls and threatened about something (I know, really?), and it never happened again, because, let’s be honest. It didn’t need to. Fear reigned in actual force’s place.
These boys know me by sight, which is impressive because the sheer number of tall, white, foreigners with sweaty backs is astounding in that particular area of town. I’ll never forget our first show down. I was walking down the path by the soccer field when I saw them. We made eye contact, and I knew it was too late. We started walking towards each other, and it was like the showdown between the Jets and Sharks, but I was alone. I almost started snapping. They began pushing each other more and more frequently and talking in giggled whispers into one another’s ears as we drew closer. I thought, “What is this? Did day school get out early or something? Why aren’t these kids fingerpainting?” I would have said those clever insults if I knew how to in Bengali, but I just smiled smugly to myself, fully confident of my victory in this encounter. I’m 25 years old and they hardly reached my waist. Then it happened. The unthinkable. The insult that cuts so deep as to paralyze you. We had just passed one another on the road when the skinny weasely one (don’t ask how I know, it’s always the skinny weasely one) turned and shouted the one word that could cut me like a knife. “ENGLISH!” I could hear the high fives and the hysterically high laughter as they ran off in victory. English.