I don’t know how on earth I did it. How I could ever muster the will. How my heart took such a beating. How I took so many knocks, so many kicks, and still extended my hand to comfort you in your exhaustion. Your empty words sliced my skin, your silence stung like bitter cold. How faithfully I must stand for love, to resist retaliation. To take blows to the face and then soothe the shaking hand that struck me. Poor, sweet, boy. Only broken people break people. Take it out on me. It’s alright. I have the strength you envy, so I understand your spite. You throw me the hot coal tossed down the line of cowards. You know my hands will burn, but at least you know yours won’t. I wrap my fingers tightly around the bundle of vengeance. My skin sizzles in service and I swallow the heat to protect the next. Only a cold token will leave my grasp. I pity you, and so I give you this gift. Go on, tire your fists on me. Let me do that for you. Exhaust your pain. I see it— you can’t unleash it on the others, their feeble bones would crumble. You revel in your strength because you swing hard enough to blacken my eyes. But the true strength lies in the one who will neither flinch nor fall. Mourn my bruises, the so-called victim of your wrath. But darling you are the one who’s in pain. Run back, little boy, parade your tattered knuckles. I won’t tell anyone I left my hands at my side.