When we were growing up, my younger brother and I fought a lot, with our fists and with our feet. I’m not sure why, but we just did. Maybe we were following the harsh example of our dad, whose understanding of discipline involved using his belt. No explanation was ever given, just an order to turn around, drop your underwear and lay down on the bed. I got the belt a lot. I don’t remember my mom ever hitting me. Her understanding of discipline was to send me to my room and tell me to wait there until my dad got home. I don’t know if being hit with a belt taught me to be good, only that I learned to hate the sound of my dad walking through the door.
My fist-fighting eventually extended past my immediate family, which I guess was bound to happen. One day my two brothers and I were getting to know our new friends down the street. Laurie and her family had recently moved to the neighborhood, and I don’t know why, but Laurie and I got into a fight. I remember hitting her in the face, sending her eye glasses flying through the air. It didn’t take long for Laurie’s mom to meet my mom, and I was marched back to the scene of the crime to locate the missing glasses. It took a while, but they were eventually found, dangling from a branch in a near-by tree.
I got mine, though, a few years later. One dark day while I was doing time in junior high school, I must have said something bitchy to one of the mean girls, because after school her older sister beat me up. I never even saw it coming. I was just told that someone wanted to talk to me across the street from the school, and so I went. There was a group of teenagers standing around, and when I approached them they parted and out stepped Cherie, a tough girl who wore lots of heavy make-up and big rings on her fingers. She walked right up to me and said, “Sorry to do this to you” and that was it. I tried to fight back, but she was on me and my ass was kicked. I was beyond hurt and humiliated. Later that night, I remember trying to eat my dinner, which consisted of a fried hamburger patty and fried potatoes with ketchup. The ketchup stung the cuts in my mouth and I was miserable. Cherie called me and told me how sorry she was, not for beating me up, but because she had forgotten to take off her rings.