bullies and cowards

Percy. Kevin. Dennis. Erik. Smiddy. Justin.

I'm sure you've had your bullies. Some I stood up to. Some I didn't. Sometimes I was afraid, and sometimes I just didn't think it was worth my time.

This is a particularly sensitive topic with me. I'm a pretty prideful guy. I also don't take too well to being picked on. When was a kid at the playground in the sandbox, if you took my truck and didn't give it back I normally opted to push your face in the sand, take the truck back, and give you the evil eye the rest of the day. When life got bigger, faster, and a little more criminal, I didn't know if some of these bullies were involved in drugs or weapons or both.

Not that I think I was the target of gang activity. Well, Kevin I think was in a gang. Being scared is a hard thing to live with. Justin was a big redneck with an ego to match. He liked to intimidate the other kids in the classroom, and I didn't take to that too well. One day our teacher aske d me to bring a spray bottle of Windex up to her that was resting on the overhead next to me in the back of the room. I obeyed, and Justin said something smart to me as I walked by, so I turned around and sprayed him with the Windex. He took this as the most mortal of insults, and threatened to 'kick my ass.' (It's ok, I can swear on my blog when I'm quoting people.) He wouldn't stop saying it. He sat directly in front of me, and kept turning around and whispering it every twenty seconds. He was a good 6 inches taller than me and had about 50 lbs on me. I was so nervous and scared I didn't know what to do.

I went to a pretty rough high school in East Texas, and so I had no idea how far this fight could go. I knew the odds of it being him against me were fairly small; we had our fair share of gangbangers, drug dealers, petty thieves and other young criminals roaming the halls frequently. Rarely did two kids have a go at it and settle their differences. Quite often I got my friends and you got your friends and we all went for it. I didn't have any friends. Texan male bravado, the key ingredient to having a posse, was lost on me.

I suppose the Texan male bravado is present in more than just one form, as Justin walked right out the door and out of the hallways right as the bell rang. I doubt he wanted to do anything more than scare me. That didn't end my fears, though.

Because of a school schedule that alternated classes by day, I didn't see him again for two days. I remember crying to my parents that I just wanted them to find out where he lived so I could have them drive me over and we could settle our differences where I knew it would be at least him against me. I didn't want to wait in fear. I wanted to go and find him where he was then and there and finish it.

I hate living in fear. I hate being afraid. It is a great teacher, though. The lessons are complex, and thinking back to the experiences that teach them can be just as intense as living them through the first time.

I can't enumerate all the times I've been afraid or been bullied. Following suit, I can't say I can list all the things I've learned from each experience. One thing I am proud of, I can say that I am not a coward. It's so clear now that they were the cowards, not me.

So instead of hoping they're all drunk, dead, or in jail somewhere, I think I can learn to pity them. Not now, of course. That instinctual desire of vindictive vengeance is a little too strong. I don't wish them harm, but I do wish them to feel how I suffered-- not to pay for their crimes, but to understand them and feel compassion on me. At the end of it all, though, I'm glad I chose to handle it the way I did.

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