|To the Victor, Baby!|
You'd think having the biggest dictionary in class would earn a guy some respect. Not so much. The first of my run-ins -- and honestly, the one that hurt the most, emotionally, happened in the 5th grade.
I've always been a pacifist of sorts. It wasn't as though I had anything in particular against violence, per se, I just thought fighting over the things kids were fighting over in those days was kind of stupid. I never liked fighting, and in fact, when the other kids would circle around a pair of dust-raising boys in the midst of battle (consisting mostly of rolling around on the ground together and not landing any hits that I ever saw), I was the kid trying to break it up and get them to shake hands.
Still can't believe people thought I was a dork.
So the first incident of bullying I can really recall happened after I stood up to a friend of mine. Or, somebody I had thought of as a friend before the incident, and later befriended again. Neither here nor there. What happened was this:
Actually, I turned around and backhanded him, knocking him flat on his rear -- and to this day, I'm unsure about whether or not I meant to do it. Either way, he got in trouble -- he was used to it. I got a slap on the wrist -- more discipline from school than I was ever used to. And by the next week, we were friends again, and Zach was more or less permanently a part of our group.
The second incident I remember had to do with a more ongoing issue with, oddly, another Kevin. This Kevin had been held back at least once (I still suspect twice -- he was that big, and that dumb). So we don't get confused, we'll call him K2. This guy was your classic small-time bully, not particularly to me, but to pretty much anyone who wasn't a close, personal friend. He wasn't often violent, and when he was, it was mostly shoves or trips. Mostly, he liked to point and laugh at people, steal their sandwiches, and generally make a nuisance of himself. I don't remember him ever blacking anyone's eye or giving too many wedgies, but it was mostly because he outweighed most of us by about 40 lbs and when he said "Jump," you apologized for not reading his mind and jumping sooner.
Until the Speed Ball incident.
|Also, the torture device of choice |
for a certain 5th-grade bully.
The toy was so popular that a good portion of indoor recess was spent waiting for your turn with it. Really, it was that spinning the globe around for an endless 15 minutes. So, like most of my classmates, I waited in line. On this day -- a day when the teacher happened to have things to do outside of the classroom -- K2 was in line behind me, and I had not yet taken my turn. I was, however, next. So K2 decided he was done waiting.
"I'm next," he said.
"I've been waiting," I said. "You're after me."
K2 didn't like being told no. The conversation broke down from there. He said things. I'm fairly certain I said less-than-complimentary things about him. He responded by pushing my face into the oncoming Speed Ball.
I haven't really explained everything about this toy. Not only was it propelled by one kid pulling two ropes in opposite directions, it was also made of plastic and, depending on who was doing the pulling, also pretty doggone fast. In this case, fast enough to tear a small strip of skin off my cheek. Really. I still have a small scar.
My own response to this incident was... less than pacifist. And this time, definitely on purpose. I grabbed him by the shirt, lifted up and out with every ounce of strength I had, and threw him over a desk.
Okay, I'm probably romanticizing that a bit. More likely, I pushed him very, very hard, and he simply fell over a desk. But hey, it's my childhood, and I'll remember it how I want.
I didn't get a standing ovation from my classmates. K2 and I didn't become the best of friends, nor did he develop a new respect for me. But he never bothered me again.
Of course, the real question remained: was I left alone because I had proven I could stand up for myself, or simply because I wasn't worth the effort.