You asked me why.
“What have the benders done to ruin your life?”
I surrendered. I believed that it wasn’t about you fixing the world. It was about you fixing me. I told you I hated my parents. I told you about how they behaved, how they thought, how they treated me, and how they spat at me for not being the brave firebender they wanted.
I was honest.
I followed you through dark streets and alleys, through the rain and the snow. I took blows and strikes for you. Withstood cuts and beatings and uncouth slurs. I stood in the rain, watched the drops surrounding us shift into shards of ice, suspended threateningly at our faces.
I remember that in some small crevice of my brain, a voice assured me not to act. That I was better off dead. I didn’t listen to it. I probably should have.
It was a fluid, instinctive motion of my arms and wrists. I felt like I was opening my mouth to breathe for the first time in years. It wasn’t just an element. Something darker scraped at the inside of my skin, and exerted from my fingertips. A violent, blinding extension of myself. I watched as it drained their eyes into glassy stillness, as smoke crawled from their mouths. It was horrifying and overwhelming.
It was a power I had never grasped before, and would never grasp again. It was something I didn’t deserve. No one did. And I used it to kill them. I murdered them. For you.
I fell to my knees and stared into the smooth indifference of that mask. For what good it was doing me, I counted my breaths. I felt like crying. You were the only person left in the world and I had shown you the one thing I never wanted anyone to see. I was reminded by smoke and fire and death that I wasn’t the person you wanted. Just like my parents. Just like me.
You put your hands on my shoulders and said you were the solution. That you could cleanse me. I must have gaped like a fish. You asked me if I doubted the spirits. I never gave a glancing thought to the spirits. I never cared until right then.
I submitted. I laid my head to you and stared into the night. You pressed your thumb against my forehead. I held my breath. I closed my eyes. It takes a hollow man to not consider the consequences. To not admit there are consequences. To bundle up all of my shame and hesitation and give it to you without a second thought.
“It is done.”
And then I thanked you. I thanked you. I gave you a part of me I’ll never get back. You died with it. My parents have grown old with it. Our movement was empty without it. And I handed it away for nothing. And then I thanked you.
I was hollow alright.
I chose this. I wanted to be a victim. I had dreams of helping recreate the world. Maybe I never really wanted ‘equality.’ Maybe I just wanted the satisfaction of coming back home, ten years later, and breaking down the door to my parents’ bedroom to look them in the eyes and say “No. You’re not welcome here.”
Look how that turned out.
Now I wish I would have been someone different. I wish I could have loved my parents. I wish that they could have heard the vows I’d recite at my wedding. I wish I could be there to cry at their funeral. I wish I could have been the elite, knowingly crushing the non-bending mass beneath my feet. I would have been naive, ignorant, and evil, but I would have been happy.
And I'd have never met you.