Saturday, November 2, 2013

That time I lied and gave a boy a black eye...

I remember 8th grade as being a really difficult time.  All of a sudden, our teachers were mean and our work was super hard.  And then there was the school play, and the fact that every time you didn't do well on a quiz, teachers would say stuff like, "Careful, if you get held back you won't go to high school next September."

Being held back was the ultimate threat.  No one wanted to see their friends go on without them and be forced to make friends with a whole new younger class.  

My best friend at this time, Marie*, was having a really tough time in life as well as in her classes.  She'd never been academic, and in fact got special help for some classes, but not for history.  We weren't in the same history class, but somehow I caught wind of the fact that Mr. Smith was ready to fail her, unless she turned in all her assignments on time for the rest of the year.

I didn't know what was going on with Marie outside of school, but I knew that I wouldn't be able to deal if my best friend got held back.  So I started writing out my homework assignments twice--once with my name at the top, and once with Marie's.  I did this every day and gave her the assignments to hand it to Mr. Smith.  If he recognized my handwriting, he never let on.

Some time later was the school science fair, and Marie and I had decided to partner up for our project.  She was supposed to meet me at my house one day, but she didn't show up.  I called her house, her sister's house, her neighbors one answered.

Later that night, I received a call back from Marie's sister.  She apologized and informed me that Marie had been admitted to a nearby psychiatric hospital due to suicidal ideation with plan.  Apparently, a friend of ours, John*, had borrowed a jacket from Marie and found a post-it note in one of the pockets that had implied she was going to kill herself.  Marie was absent from school for maybe a month, but it felt like forever.

When she finally returned, things seemed somewhat normal again.  No one really discussed what had happened, until one day at lunch she was fighting with Paul* across the lunch table.  He kneeled on the picnic-table style seat and got up in her face.

"I wish John never saved your life," he said to her with a sneer.

I couldn't believe my ears.  Without a seconds doubt, I wound up and clobbered him as hard as I could. I'd never punched anyone before, but it was beautifully effective, connecting with his eye socket and launching him backwards off the table into the wall.

The principal had been standing right beside the table, presumably drawn by the noise of Marie and Paul's argument, so she had seen (and heard) the entire thing.  She sent me to the office, where I sat feeling justified and proud for about ten minutes.  I'd like to see them try to punish me for that.  I remember thinking.  I wasn't remorseful in the just don't say that kind of thing to people! Eventually the principal returned, took a look at me, and sent me back to class without a word of reprimand.  I'd like to think that was a twinkle of respect I saw in her eye...

*all names have been changed.

(As a side note, this guy joined the army and is now apparently a master of tae kwon do as well.  Needless to say, I would probably not punch him in the eye again today, regardless of how much of an asshole he was being.  But who knows.)

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