I’ve told this story before. When I was a kid, around 10 years old, I had a bully who tormented me like it was his full time job. While most kids are staying up doing homework or wondering what they’re going to wear to school the next day, I was frantically trying to figure out what alternative routes to take for the sole purpose of avoiding a massive beat down. The fact that I kept the personal hell I was going through from my father was the only victory to be had: Despite the fact that the kid was twice my size and a teenager, that wouldn’t matter to a man who’s motto was “It doesn’t matter if you win or lose, just know that if you lose don’t bother bringing your ass home." Well, that victory was short lived, as my father - who had unexpectedly come home early from work - saw me approaching the house balling my eyes out from just being on the business end of a size 8 Puma sneaker.
He very casually walked outside and asked, “Why in the fuck are you crying?" I proceeded to inform my father of my current predicament, and even pointed to the young man who just got finished stomping me like he was trying to make wine and shit. I think a small part of me hoped that he would act out of character and immediately fix the situation like any normal Dad would. But true to form he said, "I’m not letting you back into the house until you fight him, straight up. Get going now!" So being the awkward kid that I was I turned around, walked up to the Bully and very clumsily announced "I’m going to fight you now!" What proceeded was a 2 minute thrashing where I was slammed to the ground, punched in the face repeatedly, and kicked in the stomach just for good measure. I was certain that the savage beating that my old man just witnessed me take would be good enough for him. I mean, I had landed a few punches, that had to count for something, right? Wrong. In a classic case of moving the goal posts he now stated, "Forget what I said, I’m not letting you back into the house until you win the fight.” You know, I’ve cried a few times in my life. I’ve shed tears over women that I’ve truly loved leave me for what I’m sure were better suitors. The waterworks were on full display as I watched Breast Cancer try to take my mother’s life. But the cry that followed my father saying that had to be the most desperate and soul crushing cry that I’ve ever had.
It was truly fight or flight time. So I turned around, approached the bully and through the incessant blubbering managed to get out the words “Let’s go again." He quickly tackled me into a neighbor’s yard that had these bricks that strategically outlined a bed of flowers. Desperate, as soon as I got free of his grips I picked up one of the bricks and threw it with all my might at the bully - striking him squarely in the face, knocking a tooth out. As he writhed on the ground in pain, I picked the brick back up and kept hitting him in the face with it - to the point that my father ran out and had to pull me off of the young man. I still remember my father ushering me to the house and saying, "That’s what I’m talking about James! I’ll be damned if I’m raising any fucking faggots!" As much as I wanted to bask in my father’s approval, I was aware, even at that young age, that this was a turning point in my life - and not a particularly good one.
29 years later I found a therapist who agrees with my prepubescent assessment. Since that moment I have lacked the ability to walk away from physical confrontations of any sort. I don’t say any of this to come off as a bad ass, I can and have gotten my butt kicked like anyone else - but regardless of the odds, 1 on 1 or 5 on 1, if anyone ever had any ill intent for yours truly they were getting the fight of their life that night. With absolutely no hesitation. But finally at 39 I realize how it’s not only detrimental to my health to continue with this approach, it’s also selfish - there are actually people out there who care about a guy who occasionally threatens to rip out a larynx or two. So I’m learning to walk away from dangerous situations. No more bullies. There is no father standing behind a screen door with a beer in his hand. Just a single, childless bastard who wants to live a few more years so I can change all of that.
It’s a process, but one that I know will bare fruit. The ability to walk away has translated to other areas of my life as, not as life threatening as the aforementioned situations, but the end result being just as good for me when it’s all said and done. So yeah, you may not get as many entertaining stories of unrepentant violence coming from me in the future - but this breathing thing is rather addicting. But I can’t promise you that no one will get fucked up during this transition though. I’m just saying.