At the end of my last personal post, I talked about Ryan and his gang. As with many bullies, they surround themselves with a “posse” of other boys who are not necessarily bullies by nature, but are part of the gang that the bully uses to play off of. I can’t think of a bully situation from my life that didn’t involve other boys who would be part of that bully’s gang. I’d be interested to hear from you if you had any bullies that didn’t have other kids that supported them.
Another interesting phenomenon is that there always seems to be a short, little kid that is what I call the bully’s Loyal Lieutenant. This kid always seemed to have a lot to say. One of the best portrayals of a kid like this was in the movie A Christmas Story. I always get a funny feeling watching the bully segments from that movie, like Jean Shepherd got into my head and played out this story I am about to tell you in his life story film. But what it really says to me is that I was not alone in what happened to me.
So, it came that during lunch in 7th grade, one of my friends said that Ryan’s Loyal Lieutenant wanted to kick my butt. He was mouthing off that I was weak and that even he could take me. I know full well that he was goaded into saying these things and that Ryan and that gang put him up to it. This boy was much smaller than me and for the first time in my experiences, I knew if I had to fight him it wouldn’t be much of a fight. So, I told my friend to tell them that I didn’t want to fight him. That he wouldn’t win.
Well, of course that did no good. That just egged on the group more. I look back and think that Ryan must have been a really mean guy to push this kid to fight me. He had to know what was going to happen. Or did he really think that I was so weak that the little guy would beat me? I’m not sure what the thought was. As usual I didn’t want to fight, but then came the message that we would meet in the woods behind the school after school got out.
As a walker to school, I had no way out. I guess I could have tried to sneak out of school early, but wasn’t willing to do that. The biggest fear I had was that the rest of the gang would start punching me when we got there. I had some loyal friends of my own that were willing to come to protect me from that. That was a comfort, but I knew the fight was going to happen. It was inevitable.
So, school ended and each of us, with our gang of friends met up out in the woods behind the school. I am almost sorry to say that my friends were not much better then the bully’s friends at this point. But, it was better then no friends. We got to the clearing in the woods. I recall feeling a bit cocky and confident about this fight. I think, at this point, I had gotten used to the idea that I would have to fight to make these things go away. I am not proud of this, but at age 12, I doubt very seriously that I was thinking on a logic level. I just wanted to get this over with.
So, there I was facing the Loyal Lieutenant. The boy was a good bit shorter then me. His gang was goading him on. He looked at me and tried to goad me into the first punch. I told him I didn’t want to fight him and that he’d have to throw it. I recall this going on back and forth for a short time. Then finally his buds and my buds pushed us toward each other. He swung and the fight started.
He was small, he was weaker then me, I didn’t want to punch him. I easily threw him to the ground and pinned his arms with my knees while sitting on his chest. He couldn’t move. The fight was pointless. But now, the crowd of friends on both ends were incensed. They wanted to see the fight finish. I remember my adreneline flowing quickly and my heart racing. I leaned down to the Loyal Lieutenant and whispered to him.
“Just say ‘I give up’ and I’ll get up”, I said.
“No way”, the Loyal Lieutenant yelled back at me.
So, I did what the crowd expected. I punched him in the face. I wasn’t running from this one and I didn’t have to. I also didn’t like the way I was feeling. I felt like the bully here. But, he would not give up and his friends kept goading the fight on.
I asked him again, “Do you give up?”
“No Way!”, he replied.
I hit him in the face again. By this time my first punch had his lip start swelling. This one would cause his ear to get red. The next one started a black eye…
I started to feel sick. I was the becoming the bully here. I didn’t want to do it. Finally, the Loyal Lieutenant relented. He gave up. It was unfair. His friends weren’t being mean to him when I let him up. In fact they were trying to goad him into coming after me again. I gathered my friends together and we started to walk away.
“I’ll kill you Eisenberg”, Ryan the bully yelled to me.
I didn’t look back. Maybe I should have. Because in a few short weeks, I’d start to feel like Ryan meant those words he said to me. I started to believe those words through his actions and the actions of his friends. Then I would have to face the worst bully experience of my life and do something I vowed I would never do. The shame of it is that, in some ways I felt I had no choice. That story is upcoming in a future blog though.