First, we played peekaboo. Then, he started throwing pretend things at me. And then, pretend punching. Finally, he shot me, first with a pretend handgun, then, with a pretend machine gun. I pretended to die. Grotesquely, elaborately, loudly, at great length. Even after I died, the bullets kept flying. I begged and pleaded: can’t we be friends? Do we have to be enemies? He was having none of it. He kept shooting.
I stopped reacting, stopped giving him the satisfaction of his seemingly magical ability to hurt me with his pretend ammunition. But the bullets kept flying.
His mom tried: be nice to the man, she said. The hail of bullets continued.
The train approached my stop. I stood, extended my hand, and walked to the boy, smiling broadly. Warily, he shook it. And didn’t let go. I had to wrestle myself away from him.