One day when Ren was nine years old he was passing time with a neighborhood boy he considered one of his better friends, Christopher, or Chris as he was called back then. They'd had sleepovers, shared trite, youthful secrets, and their mothers, especially Ren's mother, seemed to take a particular pride in their friendship. She could often be heard telling people, including Chris' mother things like
"You know Chris is just so pleasant. He is one of Ren's best friends and it is just so wonderful to see them play." The neighborhood was nestled amongst large oaks and pines. Chris' father had recently built him a tree house with a ladder to get up and a rope-swing to get down. The fort was the envy of all the neighborhood kids.
The afternoon was crisp, cool in the shade, warm in the sun. Ren had spent the night and they'd spent most of the morning digging up the yard for some sort of magical river they had divined in their imagination. When Chris' father came outside he was incensed at the series of trenches that had been ripped through the half-acre landscape.
“I spent two days building you that fucking tree house and what do you do? You dig up the whole goddamn yard! That's the 'thanks' I get uh?" He proceeded with a vituperative scolding that did not stop at his initial grievance but continued into a captious laundry list of shortcomings. To his father this was but a symptom of a much bigger disease: Chris' inherent idiocy and thoughtlessness. Within a minute of the diatribe, something inside Chris had died. He fell silent in embarrassment and shame. The light in his eyes dimmed as the curtains of his imagination closed.
Chris walked crestfallen towards the tree, climbed up the ladder and sat up there feeling small. Unfamiliar emotions slithered through him. Poison was being manufactured in his heart. Following suit Ren climbed up the ladder without a word, took the rope swing between his legs and lept from the platform without a word. As he swung back he could see Chris climbing down the ladder and as he swung out a second time he saw Chris on the ground looking upwards with a long, sturdy stick in hand. His eyes had a focused determination as they locked onto Ren's swing the way a cat's eyes lock onto a bird's flight. The quiet air felt heavy like it was hinting at suffocation. Ren suddenly felt uneasy and confused. He swung silently though, as boys do not have words for such feelings. As he approached the nadir of his second swing out, he felt his inertia met with blunt force. Time slowed. He was bewildered wondering what he had hit. A murder of crows bolted outward and upward from the tree as if to avoid the same fate.
When Ren's swing approached the far end of it's pendulum the pain and the horror began to set in. There below was Chris, stick in hand, readying for another strike. Ren's body swooped down and met the stick with its full velocity. As the rope lost momentum the swings lost their rise, setting him up to be an even easier target. But he was still moving too fast and too high to jump and so for a third, fourth, and fifth time he was beaten. Amongst the truculence oak leaves fell softly to the ground.
Ren could hear the stick breaking the wind and he could hear the solid smack it made against his small, proud body, the percussion of violence that he would never forget. It was the sound of betrayal, of anger wrapped in friendship. This was the sharp painful contrast of being loved and being hurt by one single source. Ren's clear, blue eyes welled up with tears. His beautiful long eyelashes yielded to the weight of his sorrow. Ren was speechless and oddly so was Chris. Finally, Ren's heart broke open spilling sour and bitter candy.