“It’s easy. They hate you because you’re different” she said from behind my sketchbook.
I had forced it on her, for her to practice her drawing. She claimed to have no artistic ability, but gentle coaxing had brought out a clumsy yet unique style that I secretly envied. If she wanted, she could be great.
Her pencil scratched over the cheap paper, an almost crystalline scraping sound bridging the silence between us.
“I don’t understand.” I said. “ How am I different? Why would they hate it?”
She giggled and continued sketching. “How about this? You tell me.”
I sighed and settled into Amy’s game. Never a direct answer, never a direct question. Always a riddle. I looked over the sketchbook into her eyes, but they were focused on the paper. I was hoping to see a clue, some indication of where I should start, but she revealed nothing.
“I don’t know. I’m smart, I guess.” I said.
She nodded agreement. “Certainly an understatement. You skipped grade four.”
“I’m good at things.” I felt this was what she was hoping for.
“Yes. Good at sports. Good at music and math,” she said as she lifted the sketchbook for a moment, “and good at art. You’re good at everything, aren’t you?”
“Not everything. I’m no good at fitting in.” I answered.
She just laughed, and ignored it. “You’re good at everything, and you’re awfully cute.”
This time I laughed. “Says you, and you’re obviously blind. What would cute have to do with being different, anyway?”
“It sets you apart. You’re a golden boy. Blond hair, blue eyes, athletic. Terrifically good looking. Smart, good at sports, a gifted musician. A gifted artist. All these things set you apart, make you different. Don’t roll your eyes at me.”
She dropped the sketchbook, but stayed curled up on her chair, knees tucked beneath her chin. I wanted to tell her I could see her underwear, wanted to diffuse the suddenly oppressive weight of this conversation, but she continued on before I had the chance.
“You’re all that. And you’re broody. You think deep thoughts and puzzle them away. They’re like moths that cannot fathom the lamp. They are attracted to the beauty and light, they need to be close to you.”
“And then they get too close, and fear they’ll be consumed, burned away and lost. So they hold you at arms length, close enough to bask in your light, far enough that you cannot hurt them.”
I opened my mouth to interject, to tell her she was wrong, but she pressed on.
“Your nature keeps them from you, and they hate you for it.”