One day in 5th grade I was walking to my house from the bus stop, spring was upon us, and I hadn’t a care in the world. I was paying attention to a group of kids that looked like they had nothing better to do. They were just lingering in an area, no bus, no real reason to be there at all. I caught eyes with one and shortly thereafter realized my assumption was spot on. There were 6 boys initially, and one decided he had better things to do. So these 5 guys walk up to me, ask me a couple of questions just to break the ice I guess, then they jumped me. It was mostly punches, not a lot of kicks but definitely painful. When it was over, I finished my walk home and went upstairs.
Needless to say, getting beat up by 5 kids is not exactly a fun encounter. This was the second time in my life that I had been jumped. The first time was when I was in 4th grade. The bus driver dropped me off about 7 blocks from my house on Halloween, as if he didn’t know the game. Walking through territory that’s not mine, these 3 older kids saw me and felt I was that guy to mess with. Initially they walked past me, then one of them yanked me backwards by my backpack and upon landing on the ground they hit me with enough eggs to make a few omelets. I got up and proceeded on my way. I ran into my uncle James though and all he said was “walk with me young bleed”, I pointed the guys out and he had a couple of his young goons beat the brakes off of them on the spot. In the case of the 2nd time being jumped, I had to wait for my dad to get home.
I told my dad what happened, and he counseled me on looking like a victim walking down the street and various other things to toughen me up mentally. As a means of combatting that though, he gave me a doorknob in a sock. He said, “if any of them fuck with you, just hit them with this”. I took the doorknob and sock with me the next day of school and I hoped to see one of the kids solo to get some revenge. I didn’t see any of them for the rest of that school year. I stopped carrying the doorknob with me and I encountered them again in the last week of school for 6th grade. This time, instead of violence, I tricked them into believing someone was watching me from the funeral home I lived above. I invited them to walk with me, but they were scared. Luckily, one of them saw the curtain move, or thought they did, and they let me walk…with the promise of catching me and kicking my ass if I ran. I walked with a smile on my face the whole time. I walked in the door and my dad was there talking to one of his buddies. I let him know what happened and by the time we looked outside, they were gone.
Blame it on hormones, but that was the end of my victim days. I never became a bully or anything of that nature, I simply went above and beyond when people tested me. It’s a strange, yet effective defense mechanism. See, I learned early on, witnessing someone get their ass whipped really bad was enough to make someone think twice about testing the winner of said whipping. The strategy worked, I only got into a few good fights from 7th thru 12th and yeah, I won them all in convincing fashion. Not because I was tough, quite the opposite actually. I did this because I had no desire to fight. I took this strategy with me into adulthood too, but I didn’t really need it.
So, all of this leads me to the one time I got into a fight, won, and regretted the whole incident. In the Air Force, working on the flightline you develop really thick skin from verbal assaults. Every career field is male dominant and almost all of them think they’re the toughest guy from their town. One day we were riding around right before shift change, I saw this guy that I was cool with leave his backpack on the flightline. So I called out to him from the back of the truck, “yo, you forgot your backpack” thinking I was doing him a solid. He responded with “fuck you” and I brushed that off and said “nah, for real, you left your backpack right there” and he reiterated “nah for real, fuck you”. I immediately skipped the pleasantries and went to the invitation to throw hands. Much to my surprise, he agreed, then charged me. 3 quick punches to the face, he ducked down and I put him in a headlock. Then I swung him around and threw him off the back of the truck onto the flight line and said if he gets back on the truck, it’ll be way worse. It was effective enough that he didn’t get on, and he walked the 3/4 of a mile all the way back to the building after he picked up his backpack.
The guy was bigger than me, a couple years older, and really a good dude. When we got off shift he walked up to me at the dorms and apologized for starting the fight. He said he was having a bad day, earlier in the shift he found out someone close to him passed away. He thought I was messing with him for some reason and instead of thinking it through, just attacked me. We shook hands and in one of the weirdest displays of humility, he thanked me for what I did. He said “I thought I could over power you and kick your ass, but I probably deserved what I got”. Now, real time, I agreed with what he was saying, even graciously offered to kick his ass again if he ever felt like trying me. I never apologized for my role or offered condolences for his loss.
Regret settled in a few months after that when I was doing my soul-searching thing. I realized that had I just let his silly words go, none of that would have happened. It was my pride and ego and conditioning to overdo it fueling my responses to him. Furthermore, he was bigger than me, I could’ve left that truck with my own ass kicked because my pride wouldn’t let me let it go. With my conscience eating at me, I approached him several months after the incident and apologized. Initially he thought it was a joke because that’s not how we flightline guys operate. I told him that I was sincerely trying to be a better person and I had to get that off my chest. I’m not perfect though, he’s far from the last person I’ve challenged to a fight, but he is the last one that took me up on it. I’m still a work in progress, but I learned to continue that work for the greater good of myself and those around me.