i too am nathan phillips and i’ve seen this grinning boy. his face has floated before mine like a helium balloon once or twice in my life.
it’s harmless enough, his face alone, until you’re 12 and your glasses are too big because they’re all your parents can afford. the toothless smile itself is not a threat unless you’re 17 and your skin is darker than your girlfriend’s…
i’m nathan phillips too and i’ve seen this grinning boy. his face has hovered before mine like a phantom many times throughout my life.
the dispassionate stare is not so bad unless you wreck your first car and your dad puts it back together with mismatching exterior parts. and the upward tilt of his nose isn’t offensive until your clothes are different from the ones he wears.
i’m also nathan phillips and i’ve seen this grinning boy (who has been a girl) staring into me.
her casual demeanor doesn’t hurt until you’re drinking from the fountain and she kicks you in the ass for no reason at all.
i’m nathan phillips, y’all, and this smirking child is nothing new. he’s been here since before i can remember, perpetually pardoned for his superiority. and i’ve heard all the excuses: how boys will be boys and that i should “toughen up” and be the “better person” because it’s easier to make this my burden than it is to wipe away that smile.
and though flawed, the logic prevailed: my skin is thick; my spirit, tough. i’m a better person though i’m angry at the means.
i’m stronger. i am nathan phillips.
and he’ll always ever be a grinning little boy.