Wings


“What are you looking at?” asks one of the girls. 

“Nothing,” he says. “Nothing.” His milky blue eyes stare at her briefly, then he puts a smile on his face and turns away. 

His name is Angel, and he is their PE teacher. Every girl at school knows that he stares at them, especially when they are in the swimming pool. There’s nothing criminal about that, nothing inappropriate at all because they are not naked, their dark blue swimsuits are simple and decent, and everyone who has eyes looks at them. His eyes don’t bulge, and his mouth doesn’t hang open, but still his stare goes through their brain cortex and their limbic system, corkscrewing its way to the most primitive, most unerring parts of their brains. And they know what he wants. How can they not? 

Angel is in his early forties. He is an unremarkable-looking man; his face with a thin moustache is unpleasant, flaccid, and his skin of some lifeless color makes the girls dread him. He walks slowly, always very slowly, and there’s something sticky about his walk, about his every motion, something greasy. It’s difficult to put it into words. 

Of course, they hate him. But they can’t do anything to protect themselves; they can’t complain. What are they going to complain about? One of them has tried to, though. 

“Has he ever touched you inappropriately?” she was asked then. “Has he ever made you do anything you didn’t want to? Has he ever made an inappropriate comment?” And so on and so forth. 

The answer was no, no, and no. It all happened almost nine years ago. Police had a warrant to search Angel’s house then. They opened every drawer and every box. They riffled through his photo albums. They seized his computers and videotapes, looking for child abuse images, but they found nothing. 

He is careful. He never tries to grab them, or peep in girl’s locker rooms as they are getting dressed, or pull his pants down in front of everyone, or do whatever other perverts supposedly do. If he did any of those things, he’d go to jail. But he waits. He’s patient. He’s persistent. He waits for his time to come. They can see it in his eyes. 

He’s built such a strong wall around him that he is invulnerable. They’ve tried to hurt him this way and that. They steal and spoil his things. They say they hate him and call him shitty names, but he just shrugs when he hears. Blinking innocently, they give him a mandarin and, when he eats it, tell him they picked it up from the dirty floor in the bathroom. He doesn’t care. Each tiny insult slides down smoothly. 

But this is a bad neighborhood. Street gangs, drugs, organized crime. Violence, a lot of it. Most of the girls don’t have fathers to protect them, but they have brothers. Brothers. Oh, brothers can help. They enjoy street fights, and they carry knives with them all the time. They are reckless. When law-abiding people see them far ahead, they usually walk diagonally to the other side of the street. 

“But,” says one of the brothers and sniffs his nose a few times, “he must be strong. He is your PE teacher.” 

“He is just an ex water-polo player,” says his sister. “He is not young. He hates confrontations. He can’t be too strong. And he stares at me!” 

“At you? At you only?” 

“At every girl in the pool. At every girl at school. He even stares at us when we are wearing skirts and sweaters. Even when we are wearing jackets. I always feel his eyes: in the swimming pool, in the gym, in the hallways, standing in the food line. He is a freaking pervert. You should stop him before he strikes.” 

“All right,” the brother says, sniffs again, and smirks, thinking of something he loves. He loves pain and sharp metal things: needles, razors, blades. The skin of his wrists is latticed with scars. “Tomorrow night we’ll teach him a lesson.” 

“A good lesson,” she says.