Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Violence: A mini-autobiography

"I don't think I'd last very long in a street fight," I rather ruefully told my friend Teri.

She told me she wouldn't last long either.

"Women tend to be more mentally cruel to each other, don't they?" I said.

"Yeah, we are," she said emphatically.

Anyhow, it's not that I want to be in a fight. I was just bemoaning the fact that I'm overweight and out of shape. As for violence, I eschew it. It's everything I'm against.

"When I was in sixth grade, I was in a fight. It must've lasted an hour. Childhood is only easier in hindsight. Today, I'd just write people off, but back then when they said, 'You'll be a pussy if you don't do it,' that got to me. I was in a lot of fights in junior high because I was unpopular."

"Yes, we talked about that," she said, while sitting behind her desk with her computer and files and handy letter opener in the drawer.

I remember being in a fight and a school custodian stopped it, saying fighting didn't solve anything and it was stupid. We acted disappointed, but I was secretly glad because I was losing. That's just a vague memory though. The one that really sticks out was when I was in seventh grade. Me and this kid, Devin Lancaster, had been arguing in gym, our last class of the day. We were serving a volleyball over the net to each other and for some reason, maybe many, we were all pissy to each other.

"Well come on," I said. "Serve the goddamn ball."

"Hey," Coach Gaston barked. "Quit that swearing."

At some point, Devin came up to me and said, "I challenge you to a duel."
It was after school. We were behind some bushes to the north of the junior high building (It's long torn down now. Good riddance.) just past the sidewalk where the hoodlums smoked cigarettes before and after school.

He got the first punch and got a smug look on his face. A few minutes later, he was on the ground and I was winning not that that means anything. I remember looking up and seeing a big group of kids watching, but I don't remember any of those faces except one -- Aaron Doyle. He had a shitass grin on his face. He lived for this crap. Doyle was short, but stocky and and with muscular arms. He was the toughest kid in school and he let everyone know it one way or the other. Anything was a reason to fight. Someone chipped his eraser in math? That was a good enough reason to go fisticuffs. Real high-minded guy with his shitass grin.

The next thing I knew Coach Gaston grabbed my arm and with his other hand grabbed Lancaster's arm. He said to the policeman walking up, "Here they are, officer."

They don't give a damn

The officer talked frankly, but fairly, and a little about life as we sat in the police car, later to be hauled to the police station and picked up by our parents.

"Junior high is your toughest years especially the seventh grade," he told us. "I got in scrapes when I was a boy but later you realize that's not the way mature people settle differences. If you were adults,
I'd have to arrest you for disturbing the peace."

He said something that's stuck in my mind ever since.

"Those people standing around out there watching you, they don't give a damn if you get your nose broke and have to go to the hospital."

No, they really didn't. Fighting and blood and shit -- it was all entertainment for them. Cheap stuff for the likes of Aaron Doyle and his shit eating grin.

"So, how about it boys, do we need to go somewhere and put on the boxing gloves or have you got it out of your system?"

Neither of us wanted to go on. We were sapped of our earlier volatility. I wondered about Aaron Doyle. He'd probably be all up for the boxing gloves idea.

As I got older, I found the people I admired were the peacemakers -- Ghandi, Martin Luther King, Jr., Jesus Christ. People like that. I wrestled for Coach Gaston in junior high and high school, but in that arena, a pugilistic contest is an athletic event, "an art form" as Teri would say.

My adult life has been about peace. If I see two people in a disagreement, I'm usually the guy trying to defuse the tensions. This is not to say I've never fucked up and said cruel things to people. To my everlasting regret I have and I've prayed to God for forgiveness.

"I think violence is the coward's way out," I told Teri.

                          "Street Fighting Man" -- The Rolling Stones

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