The Blunder Years

I have been in a few fights. Nothing major. Mostly just a couple of blows thrown at each other.  In my junior high school, fights were an everyday occurrence. I mean, it was like part of the daily curriculum—math, lunch, gym, fight. Some kids fought to vent their aggression, Some fought to showcase their only marketable skill, and some kids, like Tom, just wanted to a slightly higher assignment on the popularity ladder by showing that they had the ability to defend themselves.

Tom and I began as friends. Well, friends of friends. He was friends with a couple of good friends of mine and on occasion we would all hang out. I thought things between us were pretty good. Well, pretty ambivalent on both ends. I didn’t care about him, and he didn’t care about me. Or so I thought.

One day a good friend came up to me and said, “Tom wants to fight you.” “Why?” I asked. “No idea. But he wants to meet up after school to fight.” Now I’m not saying this to sound like a tough guy, but I could handle Tom. If I was five feet even at the time, then Tom was four foot six at best. I had some weight on him, so even if I couldn’t take him in speed, I had him in reach and mass.

“Ok, I’ll meet him after school to fight.” It was on.

Even then I knew why he wanted to fight. He wanted to put on a show and he thought that I could oblige. Fine I thought, if he wants to put on a show, I’ll put on a show. Only he won’t end like he wants. I’m going to beat up Tom. And I’m not going to cry.*

The school day ended, and the show would begin soon. I wouldn’t run; I’d take on Tom, no matter who watched. I walked out of the side exit, and I could already see him. Tom was across the street, standing on the corner, waiting. He was smart, because officially that corner was off of school grounds. So there would be no reprimanding if any school officials saw us mixing it up.

Seeing him standing there, I was uncertain about my fighting prowess. Could I truly beat up Tom? If I feel no animosity towards him, would I gather the strength I needed to take him on? And it being so close to the close of school, would the audience be too large for me to comfortably take the stage? I then did what many generations of men have done before him.

“Come here and fight me then Tom”. I challenged him to meet me on my turf knowing full well he wouldn’t cross the street. Or at least, hoping he wouldn’t. But at least this way, I could try to come across that I wasn’t agreeing to battle because we couldn’t come to a consensus on location.

“No, you come over here and fight me.” Point Luke. He wasn’t budging and neither was I. We yelled back and forth for a while, but eventually both of us could see that neither would move, and frankly, the three other students who came for the fight got bored and left within minutes. The fight was over…at least for now.

Two or three weeks later Tom was at it again. He wanted to fight. And he wanted it badly. Seeing his true colors that last round made me realize that I could probably take him on and suffer minimal damage. So I agreed to the fight, and even agreed on the location. I honestly don’t remember how the terms of this arrangement were reached, but I do remember agreeing to them.

Fast forward to the fight. Tom and I are there, as are three other students. Three. 3. The Roman Coliseum that Tom had been hoping for was in fact more of a Dinner Theater in Pensacola. The first begins with the first act: the circling. Each opponent moves in a clockwise movement, keeping equal distance between each other, preparing for one or the other to increase or decrease speed and begin the attack. This lasts for ten minutes.

Act Two: The first strike. In many boxing matches this is a quick jab or smack to the jaw, to get a sense your opponent’s position. IN our case, I dropped my guard and Tom gave me a sweet bitch-slap to the cheek. Well played Tom.

Act Three: The finale. Now while you may not believe what I’m about to tell you, it is the truth. I dropped my guard on purpose. I let Tom hit me. I was tired of circling, I was tired of fighting and frankly I was tired of Tom. I figured I’d let him get in a quick lick and then I’d return the favor and the whole damn thing would be over. So after he hits me, and ran at him, and threw him into some nearby bushes. I began pummeling his stomach, hoping to put an end to this goddamn thing, but Tom keeps struggling. So I continue to hit him—nothing too powerful, just enough to show the crowd of three what I’m capable of, and to remind Tom that I’m not as easy of a mark as he made me out to be. And while hitting him in the abdomen did little to stop him, it did bore the crowd—apparently watching two pre-teens wrestle in a bush isn’t exciting enough to eat into their Contra time, so with a “Man, this is lame”, they left. Leaving me on top of Tom in the middle of a bush.

As soon as they left, Tom saw that his plan had failed. He hadn’t beaten me, he hadn’t drawn a crowd, and the next day at school, no one would care about our fight. And even though I was 12, I could see the anger, hatred and frustration in his eyes—and I could see that it was directed at himself. I got up, helped Tom to his feet and never spoke to him again.

In fact, after graduation, I have no idea what became of Tom. I’ve searched Facebook and Googled him, but nothing. I guess if you can’t move up the social ladder, the next best thing to do is abandon it.

*Were I not to beat up Tom, I probably would have cried. Were I to beat up Tom, I probably would have also cried.