I grew up in a rough neighborhood. A seriously rough neighborhood. And even though my parents forced me to take several self-defense classes every week—including Karate, Kung Fu, Jui Jitsu, Taekwondo, Wing Chun, Jeet Kune Do, Akido, kickboxing, sumo wrestling, Ninjitsui, and full contact Samarai sword fighting—I’d still end up being bullied, every single day, on the way back from school.

I’ve lost count of the amount of times this would happen, but it was like a ritual. Every day, Donny “Big Shoes” McCafferty, Vinnie “The Hat” Esposito, and John “What the fuck are you looking at?” Smith, would be waiting for me on the corner of Fifth and Elm, cracking their knuckles, spitting on the sidewalk, and adjusting their crotches every two couple of seconds whether they needed adjusting or not.

My first encounter with them still haunts me to this day: McCafferty grabbed me in a headlock, while Esposito inserted two hooks into my nostrils, and pulled on my nose until it was approximately 32 inches long and looked like a piece of string.

One time, they shrunk my entire body to the size of a pea, sealed me inside an envelope, and posted me to a family in Addis Ababa.

While I was gathering up my nose, Smith attacked me from behind, and started to pluck several hundred hairs from my head, a follicle at a time, with a pair of pink tweezers. It happened so quickly that I could do nothing to defend myself, and was left with pattern baldness that spelled out the phrase, “The mind knows not what it knows when your nose grows to your toes.”

I started to cry, at which point they licked my tears away, one after another, produced a painting of Queen Elizabeth the Second, and forced me to get down on one knee and propose to it. It was only once I agreed to peel a bumblebee while singing “The Star-Spangled Banner” that they finally allowed me to run home.

This was my first encounter with the Surrealist bullies, but it wouldn’t be the last. Over the next few months, I was subjected to every form of abuse that their unfiltered unconscious minds could conjure up.
One time, they shrunk my entire body to the size of a pea, sealed me inside an envelope, and posted me to a family in Addis Ababa.

Another time, they tied me to a massive eyeball, which was glued to the belly of a giraffe, and forced us both to dance to Irving Berlin’s “Putting on the Ritz.”

But all of that was nothing, in comparison to the time they made me dress up as a luxury penthouse apartment, legally changed my name to “Thursday,” and forced me to make love to a Cadillac called “Susan.”

Slowly but surely, I was losing my grip on reality. In fact, I didn’t even know what reality was anymore. One day, however, I was heading home from school, ready for my daily humiliation, when McCafferty appeared from nowhere, and simply grabbed me by the neck, like he was nothing more than a normal, every day bully.

“Hey, loser,” he said, without a hint of Surrealism. “We’re gonna rearrange your face.”

Rearrange my face? I thought, with a faint glimmer of hope. Are they going to hurt me? Punch me? Kick me? Is that really all they’re going to do?

The answer to that was “No.”

They had indeed abandoned Surrealism, but had decided to take an interest in Cubism instead. It seemed that they were quite literally going to rearrange my face, and there was nothing I could do about it. They were, in their own words, planning to go “Picasso” on my ass.

Year after year, I was at the mercy of whichever way their artistic sensibilities took them. In my relatively short life, I’ve been hurt, disfigured, and humiliated in more “styles” than you could possibly imagine—Impressionism, Dadaism, Pop Art, Italian Renaissance, you name it, I’ve suffered for their art.

On the other hand, I lived through it, and you could say that I’m a stronger, more focused human being as a result.

You could say that, but you’d be wrong. I’m a wreck.

The bullies, on the other hand, have gone on to be very successful within the art world. McCafferty is now a curator at the Guggenheim, Espisito works at the Prado in Madrid, and Smith works as an art dealer in Paris.

Me? I work Nothing Over a Dollar in Panama City Beach.

That’s right. Not every story has a happy ending.

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