Throwback Thursday: Sticks & Stones

Image Description: A black-and-white ink drawing of two dark-skinned hands holding each other. The hands are framed in a diamond/square, where each side of the diamond/square is made of different things. On the bottom, the left side is made of a long stick and the right side is made out of stones, rocks, and pebbles. On the top, the left side is made out of a sword (specifically a tabak/machete from Bicol, Luzon, Philippines), and the right side is made out of a robotic arm. The font has the title “STICKS & STONES” twice, following the borders of the diamond/square. Lukayo’s signature in English and basahan/baybayin is inside the frame, near the side made out of stones.

Content Warning: sui* ideation, bullying, violence

Sticks & Stones (Original 2008, Updated 2018)

[sung in the original “sticks and stones” rhyme]
Sticks and stones may break my bones
And words can cut and hurt me
But if I know I’m not alone
Then my strength won’t desert me
[/end song]

She is sitting in a bathroom stall, holding her insides in
Cradling her guts in her arms, waiting for the slaughter to begin
She knows it’s too late
They’ve got her surrounded
There’s nothing left to do
But let the crowd in
And take her
Down

He’s standing by the door, getting ready to gear up
He puts each armor plate in place, helmet down, fear tucked
Deep inside metal and machine
They can’t touch him here
Covered up, unseen
To face them
Down

How did she get to this place? She wonders.
It began with a swarm, of dead flesh and stark hunger
Ambushed, slammed, pushed—she started fighting
Drew her sword, steel flashing bright lightning
Cut them to pieces but still they kept coming
And now she’s grown tired, tired of running

How did he get to this place? He wonders.
In a suit of mecha, marching down the street like thunder
They launch missiles at him, but they bounce off his shields
Damage done to the outer core, so he adjusts his data fields
The enemy gathers their forces, amassing might and clout
He has to come out sometime, and so they’ll wait him out

All alone she kneels, the blade pressed to her skin
Cuz she’d rather die with dignity than let any of them win
She’d rather let her blood run out and cut off her own head
Than let them make her just like them– unrelenting, cold, undead

And the tanks, the jet fighters, the bombs and the blasts
Hound him through city rubble, shields failing at last
In one final attempt, he seeks refuge in the forbidden
Hoping they won’t follow, hoping he’ll stay hidden

And she comes out, a warrior, ready for a final sacrifice
And he climbs out of his robot suit, confused and wide-eyed

She says: “What the hell are you doing in the girl’s washroom?”

He says: “Why are you standing there holding a knife to your wrist?”

And they look at each other and see the bruises, the blisters,
His broken glasses, the trash in his hair, the scrapes on her fists

And they look at each other, and slowly, so tentative
She reaches out her hand, and he looks at it, contemplative

She whispers, “Don’t worry, I’ll protect you, I know how to fight.”
But he shakes his head while he squeezes her hand tight.

“I know what’s outside, and what’s waiting for us
It’s not like the movies or anime or the comic books
Sometimes the grown-ups don’t come, sometimes we’re left on our own
Sometimes there are too many zombies and robotic drones
And I know we’re just kids and we’ve done nothing wrong
We just look different and sing and dance to different songs
But sometimes you have to stop running,
Sometimes you have to stop fighting
And hold your head high
Sometimes you have to be the example,
by ignoring their lies

Cuz sticks and stones may break my bones
And words can cut and hurt me
But if I know I’m not alone
Then my strength won’t desert me.”

And with that, they walked hand in hand, outside.


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