J. Griffin Hughes
How to Win a Fight Without Fighting It
image source: RM Images
I didn’t feel particularly bad-ass that day. Really, I was just tired, and that tiredness worked itself into a grim acceptance that apparently made me formidable.
The new building that they added to the middle school my 8th-grade year regularly choked with between-class traffic, the kind of dehumanizing squeezing-together of bodies you find during the daily commute of major cities. Considering the carnage seen on the LA freeway, the kid who started bumping into me from behind and muttering, “Come on, move! Move, motherfucker!” could be considered relatively mild-mannered.
My frustration with him did not come out of pride, nor a sense of self-defense. I just couldn’t stand how stupid it was to keep shoving when I had just as many solid bodies right in front of me, stopping me from going anywhere. Frankly, I would have loved nothing more than to get the hell out of his way and let him annoy someone else except that, laws of physics being what they are, that was impossible. I had nowhere to move to let him pass. And if this idiot didn’t get that, someone needed to explain it to him.
As much as I could, I turned back to him and said something to the effect of, “Hey, we’re all just as stuck here.” It wasn’t like I was calling him an asshole, just appealing to the commonality of our suffering, but probably in a way that implied he was an asshole. Some people think it’s all about them when everyone else is having just as shitty a time.
My appeal did not impress him. He promised to kick my ass when we got outside. Maybe it was because I was about a head taller than him or maybe I just couldn’t muster the effort to care. Recently broken-hearted and only occasionally transported from existential uncertainties by repeated listenings of The Hitch-Hikers Guide to the Galaxy radio show, nothing this kid could do to me was really going to increase my suffering.
Outside the building, I waited for him. Other kids walked past, continuing to class. On a patch of grass beside the walkway, I set my backpack on the ground so it didn’t weigh me down for the fight, but it wasn’t like I “put up my dukes” or anything. I just stood waiting. He said he was going to do something. I offered him the opportunity. A couple of his friends joined, apparently not to assist with my beating, just there to see him in action.
This girl though, she didn’t seem to like his odds. She read my disinterest as confidence. “Whoa, look at that white boy! He is gonna mess you up!”
That was nice to hear, surprising too. Something flashed across his face. Now, he really had to kick my ass or else lose face, but I think he doubted himself. He postured. He stalled. He bounced around me, saying, “Come on! Come on, fat boy!”
This fight wasn’t my idea though. It was his. So, I picked up my backpack and moved on. I still had to swap out my books for class.
As I knelt in front of my locker, he came up behind me. There are a lot of vicious maneuvers he could have pulled with me on the floor and my back to him. Instead, he kicked me in the butt, repeatedly -- not hard enough to hurt, just enough to be annoying.
I stood and turned and said, “Are you going to do anything?”
Some insults must have followed. But none of them stick with me now. He chose the better part of valor, and we never had a rematch or even looked each other in the eye again. To his credit though, he kept his word; technically, he did kick my ass