By Bryan Wang

While Jun Chen lay motionless and silent and Andrew murmured, “Oh Christ, Oh Jesus Christ,” and Bobbie screamed, “We only meant to scare him, jackass,” I reflected on how the situation would have differed had I been alone, unchained from the others, free to act as I saw fit without regard to the expectations of Andrew and Bobbie or anyone else, or what I perceived to be their expectations (for instance, the expectation that when the Hackett brothers pulled into my driveway in their beat-up Corolla, I would walk outside and greet them with a dopey smile rather than hide inside the house; when Andrew scowled and called me a pussy, after they detailed their evening plans and I hesitated for a moment, I would throw open the door, scrunch into the back seat and say, “Ride on, cowboys”; when Bobbie turned around, his jowly face all grins, and asked, “Where should we start, Kemo Sabe?,” I would suggest cruising Taylor Street to have some fun with Jun; when we passed him near his apartment on North Taylor and neither Bobbie nor Andrew recognized him, I would say, “There’s our outlaw”; and when they badgered poor Jun into the car, I would flick him a cheesy thumbs up and wink to put him at ease), for indeed, my actions during this regrettable incident, although performed by my body, were not directed by my mind or according to my purposes, but by the alignment of these expectations; and it was the need to fulfill these expectations—to demonstrate to Andrew and Bobbie that I was anything but a pussy, that outward appearances can deceive, that I was worthy of their company—that compelled me to join their joyride, instructed me to lead them to Jun, shoved Jun out of the car behind the Big & Tall Menswear shop in the Village Green strip mall, discovered the section of lead pipe and placed it in my hand and, when its bulk proved unwieldy, wrapped my other hand around it as well, and raised the club and brought it down not once, not twice, but twenty-one times on the only other Asian American in town: a man who had also spent his life stared at and mocked and pitied and ostracized and in the end merely reminded, day after day, of that immutable and undeniable flaw, not unlike the hunched back, the deformed and unfinished body, the grotesque face and the mask that covers but does not conceal, a flaw that forever deprived him of anonymity, of associations untainted by prejudice, of self-assuredness and self-acceptance; and despite this, despite their culpability in all that had transpired, what Andrew and Bobbie Hackett believed as they fled the scene was that I, Derek Wai, the lanky oriental kid they once had bullied but then respected, even liked, had simply gone berserk, and then they tore off into the night to leave me and Jun alone.