“So there was this bully, back in middle school.” The young man lay in a hospital bed, one arm in a sling. Two reporters sat on a nearby bed and took notes. The photographer had already left. A nurse hovered in the background.
“And the bully had a gang of true believers. The bully also had a lot of rules, and if a gang member broke a rule, he’d get beaten up and kicked out of the gang.
“One of the rules was that you could never take a picture of him or draw him or describe him on paper. I once asked a gang member why, and he said the leader wanted an air of mystery.
“When I first moved to that school, I had a small camera, and I took pictures of everything. At lunch one day the gang walked past my table, first time I’d seen them, so I snapped a picture. The leader — the bully — stopped, backed up, grabbed my camera, shouted, ‘Nobody takes pictures of me!’ and threw the camera onto the concrete and smashed it with his foot.
“I was sitting there crying, and one of the gang members came back and sat next to me. He said, ‘Guess you didn’t know the rules.’ I said, ‘What, about not taking pictures?’ He said, “Yeah. It’s a gang rule. No member can take a picture of him.’ I said, ‘But I’m not a member!’ He said, ‘Doesn’t matter. That rule applies to everybody.’
“So now it’s years later, and I’m at tonight’s opening of the art exhibit. There were a few sketches of the Prophet Muhammad, which apparently you’re not allowed to draw if you’re a Muslim. Now, the artists weren’t Islamic, so you’d think the rule doesn’t apply to them. But suddenly those gunmen show up and start shooting at everyone and yelling ‘Allah who—’ whatever, and I get a bullet in the arm.
“And I’m lying on the floor, bleeding, and for some reason I’m not wondering how bad I’m hurt or if other people got out okay.
“Instead, all I can think about … is the bully.”