Confessions a 20th century ne'er do well: Drinking, fighting, stealing and other things one generally ought not do

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Here are a bunch of stories about getting beat up as a kid.

There was one kid I was friends with in grade school, but somehow we drifted apart. In later grade school, I was playing at a mutual friend’s house, and he made comments along the lines of “I used to be friends with him but I don’t like him.” Specifically for me to hear. At one point, I was running in the woods and tripped, falling flat on my face. “Good,” he said, running past. I wasn’t really impressed – I had been picked on by bigger and better kids.
We were playing some kind of tag game where this bicycle was base. I was holding onto it, and he came by and started trying to push me off of it. He wasn’t bigger than me. From there, it turned into fisticuffs. We ended up rolling on the ground, where he had me pinned. So I tightened my fingers where they were, which just happened to be right in this kid’s eye. He screamed, and cried a little. I don’t remember what he said, but he let me go and started ranting about how I shouldn’t have done that.
At the time, I had a rabbit foot keychain that I kept attached to my belt loop. We separated, and when he got a few feet of distance, he said, “So much for that lucky rabbit’s foot” and came swinging and kicking at me. Apparently, the rabbit foot was pretty lucky because an open palm on my end kept him at bay, knocking him to the ground.
I was more hurt (emotionally) and humiliated that this guy decided to pick on me than anything else (and kind of psyched that I essentially kicked his ass.) I went home crying. All I know is I had a dirt bike, whatever age that made me. It was kind of young.

In seventh or eighth grade, in science class, another kid who I had never really been friends with told me he could kick my ass. I told him he couldn’t. It kind of required a response, and it’s not like I could have agreed – that would have been like giving him permission! After school, right out front, he showed up to fight. Two whole classes of boys stood behind him, waiting to watch. I don’t remember how I got out of that (sorry) but I know nothing happened fight wise then, except my own terror – and humiliation.
Next, it was lunch time, and there he was with the boys from two whole classes behind him. (Nobody stood behind me). He walked towards me and pushed me. Stronger. I stood tall as I got pushed backwards. He pushed again. My heart was pounding. I didn’t feel like there was really any choice in the matter. I pushed back with all my might. He went back with my force, and then took another step back, winding up to chase me. The wind up, I think, was designed to give me a head start in running – which I took. I don’t think he really wanted to kick my ass, and I have no doubt that that’s probably what would have happened. I mean kicking someone’s ass is criminal. I’m fairly certain that on another occasion this same guy stole my bike, which I had been too lazy to lock – in my defense, most kids did not lock their bikes outside the school, and abandoned it in the stream, where the police found it.

In fifth grade, another kid from my neighborhood asserted his ability to kick my ass. I had no choice but to go outside the way he had (although maybe I did, but avoiding something like that only escalates things – I think some kids are averse to being criminals in the long run, and my running allows the fight to morph into a chase, which is more amusing for everyone and less criminal for him.) I walked out and in about two moves, he had me in a headlock with a bloody nose. Two other kids were watching. My mom was waiting right in front of the school with the car. I was an easy bleeder, so she didn’t suspect anything when she saw the bloody nose.

In eighth grade, we used to carry all our books under one arm. A bunch of guys kept grabbing my arm to make me drop my books. Finally, I let them fall and started swinging at this guy’s face. I missed. Twice. He put his hand on my shoulder, which I, heart pounding, threw off twice again, stepping into a defensive fighting position. The third time, I realized his gesture was meant to calm me down. As I walked away, two girls giggled to each other, for my benefit, “How do you swing and miss a face? It’s like trying to turn on a light and missing the switch.”

Another time, some kid stole my unicef money.

Another time, I got chased home by neighborhood kids throwing snowballs.

Another time, a neighborhood kid stood on my own jungle gym, throwing acorns at me.

Similar to the first story, there was one boy who was a grade older who used to pick on me in boy scouts. He was kind of a loser in retrospect, but what the hell did I care at the time? Like I had to time to differentiate the social status of one tormentor versus another? So he grabs me and holds me face down in the snow at some boy scout outing. So, like my fingernail in the first story, I just bit his hand. He pulled away in pain and started whining about how I was a pussy for biting him. I don’t know, I guess he should have kicked my ass for it if he was so tough. Another summer, somehow or other he got voted assistant scout leader for my little group. He harassed me a lot, once threatening to confine me to my cabin, as though he had such authority. Years later, we were both on the wrestling team. I remember he was given a varsity jacket out of pity, since he wasn’t varsity – like I said, loser. (I sucked at wrestling too, but I quit senior year, and would never have asked for a pity jacket!) Once, during drills, he threw me in a way that resulted in my breaking my foot. In all honesty, I think that was more my clumsiness than his intention – his clumsiness too, of course.

In eighth grade, I started lifting weights. No one ever physically picked on me in high school, and eventually I got big – people do outgrow beating people up.
Years later, I was visiting my friend Lou at Temple University in Philadelphia. We decided to go wander around near the Penn campus. At some point during this little excursion, we became pretty drunk, as was the nature of such visits. As it turns out, this guy who broke my foot went to Drexel, and we happened to run into him and his friends. He said hi to Lou.
“Who is this?” I asked, realizing that I was supposed to know the guy.
“This is so and so. From high school” Lou said.
I didn’t remember.
“Remember me? We were in boy scouts and wrestling,” he said friendlily, standing close to me.
“Wait a minute,” I said. “Didn’t you break my foot?”
He stammered, and his friends laughed and made ominous noises.
“Lou,” I said, punching my open palm and smiling. “This guy broke my foot during wrestling.”
“Didn’t you…” I turned and realized that he had retreated to the other side of his little group.
“He broke my foot,” I said with a laugh. “Lou, I should…” by then, the group had moved on laughing at the guy.

I happened to go to the same college with the guy who put me in the headlock and gave me the bloody nose. Pretty much from after that point he had left me alone, and I think we verged on friendly-ish in high school – as I said, most people moved on from it by then. We were friendly whenever we ran into each other on campus, but weren’t friends as such. On my 21st birthday, the same guy Lou came up to visit and we ran into this guy, who was very friendly upon encountering two former schoolmates. As it was my 21st birthday bar crawl, I was more than a little drunk, and this reunion sparked me to say, “You beat me up in fifth grade!” He basically just left – I don’t think this guy was scared, I just don’t think he wanted any part of such a conversation. What can I say? That’s what I remembered him for. It might have been a little wrong for me to hold on to that, but if he had lent me his skateboard in fifth grade, I might have remembered him for that.

Bad as it is for kids to pick on each other, I felt worse about bringing it up to this guy (not the other guy, that was fun). It was fifth grade. I suppose I shouldn’t feel bad – it’s worse that I still carried it around than that he had to hear about it. It’s just that I felt kind of maladjusted for carrying something like that around.


Anonymous Wes said...

That was a pretty cool post, Dave! Surprisingly interesting, actually, given that somehow it does seem sort of petty to hang onto that kind of thing. Not that I can't relate, since I remember little else about the people I fought with as a kid than our conflicts, even though I was close enough with many of them to invite them to my very exclusive birthday parties and whatnot.

(One of those kids even bit me at my own flippin' party -- it made me so mad that thinking about it two years later prompted me to slam him into a locker for the most shallow of reasons. I actually ran into him when I was at the RennFest with TAB, though of course I did not bring that stuff up. :P)

I think you should get a bunch of folks to share their experiences and then release a book of stories about people getting beaten up as kids. :)

8:24 AM, July 05, 2008

Blogger NJWT said...

It's so funny dusting off the cobwebs of memory. These fights or whatnot are so long ago, but even the incident where I ran into this one kid again has been slow in coming back to me.
If I remember correctly (and I may be conflating more than one incident), at some point in the evening, my friend Lou had me in an affectionate headlock and was saying something to the effect of "You've been my homeboy since fifth grade!" This may have served get me to remember what I had in common with the guy who had beat me up. Perhaps it was an alcohol fueled reaction that he hadn't earned his way into the reunion the way that 10+ years of friendship does.

9:23 AM, July 05, 2008

Blogger Walt said...

Good story Dave, you are starting to sound like this guy. If Sarah is willing we will kick your ass boy, and drink you under the table. She is not like other girls, she is a lot like me. Sure she is a little slow to respond, but that is because there so much on her mind. She really thinks a lot of you, and so do I.

7:14 PM, July 05, 2008

Blogger NJWT said...

Walt, I'm glad you and Sarah think enough of me to kick my ass and drink me under the table.

9:05 AM, July 06, 2008

Blogger T.A.B. said...

My question is: if you son (I'm presuming you have a son) encounters a similar problem in his youth with people beating him up, what advice would you give him?

8:36 AM, July 08, 2008

Blogger AddledWriter said...

Too bad you weren't a girl, so other girls could just psychologically torture you about your clothes!

8:13 PM, July 09, 2008

Blogger NJWT said...

TAB, I don't know. I hope to instill a sense of right and wrong and the confidence to stick to it - which includes defending yourself. But I guess those are big words.

What might you suggest? (open question)

7:01 PM, July 10, 2008


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