When I first came to high school I couldn’t say the word. It was somewhere inside me, but something scaled, pointed down towards my stomach, so that when I tried to pull it upward it lurched against the grain and scraped my esophagus. When I finally coughed it out, it was pallid. It flopped weakly on the floor in a pool of blood and bile. My throat ached for days after. The next time it came out clean, still sickly but able to crawl around the room and touch the other boys, shocked when they passively succumbed to its pressure. It looked at me and bared its teeth, more bone than face, and I saw now that it had learned its strength. My throat was raw but recovered in hours. Mine was still different than the other boys’: theirs were upright, standing so I smelled chest. Theirs bear-hugged and fist-bumped and did so without affection. I continued to spew it until it stood strong, capable of confrontation. Even when its fitness peaked I would still taste blood in its wake.