I’ve been in three physical altercations in my life. One of my three skirmishes was a win, one was a loss and one was a draw. Only one is a story worth telling. I’m not counting the time my grandparents’ neighbor’s kid punched me in the nose, after which I was rewarded with a swing set.
In 1989 there was no such thing as a cyber bully. The bullies back then had to bully you right to your face. I was in 7th grade and had been playing the violin for a third of my life. I took it seriously. When I moved to Floral Park from Bayport the year prior, I made friends through playing in the orchestra at school. We stuck together when we graduated to Jr. High and migrated to a new building (which housed grades 7-12) for school. We were excited by the new musical opportunities that middle school offered. Some of us were even chosen to play in the chamber ensemble which rehearsed after school as well as occasionally during our free class periods.
Once during a midday rehearsal, a big (and I mean big), mean 8th grade girl from the wrong side of the proverbial tracks happened upon us in the band room. Her name was Kim. We had seen her before, she knew one of the girls in the ensemble through their moms or something. She decided what we were doing was deserving of much ridicule. I thought, yes, we know, practicing classical music during study hall when you could be outside learning to smoke cigarettes or making out with boys isn’t cool.
I told her she was interrupting and she wasn’t talented like us, so she should leave. She stayed and taunted us, not at all impressed by my self-righteousness. She made fun of our instruments, called us names and wouldn’t go away and let us concentrate on the Brandenburg Concerto we had been practicing. I decided I would be our champion and ordered her out once more, this time acknowledging her zoftig build with a well spit lard ass to punctuate my request. I may also have suggested that she return to her remedial classroom and leave the smart kids alone.
She responded by telling me she was going to kick my ass using a rotational neck movement that caused her head to make very wide circles around the area above her shoulders. It was a classic display of attitude.
I responded with mocking and a similar movement, Why do you move your head when you talk? (apply Long Island accent).
That’s it, after school, 3:00 – I’m gonna kick your ass!
Whatever. I figured she was full of it. Girls don’t kick each other’s asses. They might say it, but they don’t do it. She stormed off, determined.
My initial confrontation with Kim happened during 4th period and by the end of 7th period word had spread that there was to be a fight. It was orchestra nerd vs. poor outcast white-trash girl. It was going to be epic. Really, we were both nobodies, so I didn’t think there would be a crowd gathering.
By 9th period I was nervous, I wasn’t admitting it, but I was. I’d been hearing about the 7th grader who was going to get her ass kicked all day and though I was a heavy weight smart ass, I had never been in a real fight. I didn’t even know what I supposed to do.
I made a plan. I would run out of my last class, grab my books and hightail it out through the back hallway to the bus.
When the last bell sounded I shot out of social studies like a prized thoroughbred. I ran to my locker. I opened the combination lock in record time and grabbed every book in there, lest I waste precious time figuring out which subjects I actually needed. When I slammed the door to my locker and spun around to sprint to the door, Kim was there. Older, meaner and right in my face.
Let’s go, she said.
I’m not going to fight you, so good luck with that. I was making a last ditch effort to rise above it.
What are you, scared?
Then she pushed me, hard. She sent me straight into the metal wall of lockers, shooting a sharp pain from my shoulder down the length of my arm. I looked around to see if there was someone to run to or scream to or tattle to. There wasn’t. As I suspected, our fight had failed to draw a crowd and my string posse was no where to be found.
Just as I regained my balance, she pushed me again. Slam! Right into that damn locker wall. This time I used the momentum from my ricochet to spring myself forward and further down the hall. I started to run. I was an orchestra nerd with asthma, but I was faster than her.
I made it to the back doors where two older boys stood, they must’ve been at least juniors. One of them opened the door for me and as I ran through it I pleaded with them not to let her pass. Just give me enough time to make it to the bus. It was right there, on the bus I’d be safe, but as I turned around to check my back, I saw the boys pull the double doors open. They let her through.
Crap, I’m not going to make it, I thought. I slowed down too much trying to form an alliance with those guys and they just want to see a fight.
Then she was on me. I was too slow. Before I could think, I felt her fist slam into my right temple. It fucking hurt. I’d watched people get punched in movies thousands of times and it didn’t look like it hurt this much. I’d even taken that nose punch when I was 5, but it was nothing compared to this. She was angry and powerful.
As I tried to figure out how to make a fist, she hit me again. Right in the same spot, harder. Tears came out of me so quickly, I thought they were blood. I thought my face must look like the third act of Rocky. She shoved me one more time for good measure. I fell to the ground, right onto my knees, tearing a hole in my jeans. With that she was gone. She had proven her point, there was no reason to stick around.
I walked the rest of the way to the bus stop drenched in tears and shame. Everyone on the bus had seen. Everyone. I was physically hurt and so embarrassed.
No one on the bus said a word. It was mostly Jr. High kids that rode it. My friend Jen let me sob silently in her lap until we got to her stop, she assured me my face was intact. When I got home I called my mom. She called the school.
The next day I had to go to the assistant principal’s office and tell my side of the story. Kim was walking out as I was walking in. She looked even angrier than she had when she was punching me.
That was the last time I saw her. She was expelled the next day. Apparently, she was already on some kind of list. A list of bad kids? She had behavioral issues and had a couple of prior incidents. There were no more chances for her. I was glad she wouldn’t be around, but I couldn’t help feeling a little bad for her.
I survived my loss. I took a couple of punches that ultimately bruised my ego more than my face. I was still a heavy weight smart ass, but I chose my battles more carefully after that. At least I got my first 15 minutes of High School fame out of it.
I wonder how Kim did at her next school, if there was a next school.