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Excerpt from Lives Less Valuable

Dujuan (p. 63)

From chapter "Part Two"

Later, on the way home, what Dujuan remembers most is how good it felt to finally stop feeling, once the violence began. Until then he’d been edgy, holding down an anger that rose and rose inside of him. He’d snapped at Ray-Ray, and especially Simon, and he’d complained about the cold, but his anger wasn’t directed at them. Nor was it directed—specifically—at the man who eventually stopped to see if they needed help, whom they robbed and whom Dujuan beat—shrugging off Simon’s and even Ray-Ray’s attempts to stop him—more severely than he’d ever beaten anyone. Dujuan knew, even as he heard again and again the thud of his booted foot against the man’s ribs, and heard the grunting of the man’s involuntary exhalations—the man long since having lost volition—and even as he felt the solidity and rightness of the impacts traveling back up his own leg, that he felt no unique anger toward this man as an individual. He didn’t know this man, had never seen him before, and would never see him again. He didn’t care to know him. He didn’t care about this other’s pain. What he cared about was how good—yet at the same time painful—it felt to feel the texture of the air at the moment the man realized he was in trouble, and to draw out that moment, feeling the other man’s fear and tasting his questions, so tangible Dujuan could pluck them out of the air above the man’s head: Will I live? Will this hurt? How much will this hurt? Will I humiliate myself in the pain? He cared about the crack in the man’s voice, but only because it revealed a crack in the wall that in Dujuan’s mind separated the two men. Dujuan accepted his own rage, his own violence, as part of who he was, and as a necessary response to his surroundings. And he somehow knew, as certainly as he knew his sister was dead, that who this man was and what he represented—though Dujuan didn’t know what that might be—were based on violence against Dujuan and all he held dear. Dujuan could not have said how this was, but he knew it to be true. And so he beat the man, and continued to beat him.