“I’m going to kill you!”
That’s where we left off last, with Ryan saying those words to me. I don’t really recall the next few thinking steps I made. I was only 12 or 13 at the time. I just recall the fear I had and the belief that I really did think he meant it. I’m not sure, looking back, if I was just shell-shocked from all the past bullying or if I just felt that I was cornered and didn’t have any ideas on how to get out.
But somewhere over the next few days I made a decision. It is a decision I still think about. A decision made in fear and ultimately, in self-defense against what I felt was an aggressive, strong person. I decided to carry a weapon to school to protect myself.
OK, here’s where you start worrying. It has led to this. He is bringing a gun to school. Well, this was the 1970s folks. I couldn’t get a gun and taking a gun to school was not even thought to be done yet. What I’m referring to is a sharp file. It had a pointed end, but was a file for filing fingernails. Now I know some of your are laughing, but it was metal and pretty sharp. I realize now I couldn’t do a whole lot of damage, but at the time, I was not thinking that. I brought it every day with me. It sat in my pocket. I was paralyzed with fear.
I decided on another strategy as well. I decided to tell Ryan’s friends that I had a knife and if he came after me, I would use it. Well, needless to say, this back and forth between Ryan’s friends trying to tell me I was dead meat and me telling them I had a knife went on for several days. Then, the day came that I was dreading. I was still walking that path through the woods to avoid a bully seeing me. But Ryan had found out about that.
After a 30 minute walk around the path where I tried to hide from the bullies, I emerged at the point where I could see the road. And there, looking down at me was Ryan. I had no choice but to walk up to the top. I could hear him calling after me. I was petrified. I reached into my pocket and put my hands around the file.
“I’m going to kill you”, Ryan said to me, calmly, almost deadly to me. My heart was beating. I didn’t want to fight him. I was tired of fighting. I pulled the file from my pocket. At the top of the path, where it met the road, Ryan immediately threw down his backpack and took a swing at me with his fist.
I slashed with the file. My heart pounding in my ears. I slashed and it made contact with him. I saw the surprise and then the pain on his face. He screamed out in pain. I caught him by surprise. I was sick to my stomach about having done it, but it was done. While I had the element of surprise I ran down the road for the long mile to my house.
I turned and then saw Ryan running after me. He was angry and I assume in pain. I had no idea how much damage I had done. I just ran. I ran out of fear. I ran out of worry about what I had done. I ran because I figured if he caught me, he WOULD kill me. I was 12. I was terrified.
I ran the whole way home. There is no way I could do that today, run a mile. But I did then. He ran the whole way too. I recall my grandmother was at my house recovering from an operation. There was a large driveway up to my house that I had to go up. I ran up that yelling for my grandma the whole way. Ryan was right behind me. My grandmother must have heard me, because the door opened just as I got to it and I ran into the house.
There was Ryan outside the door. Yelling into the house. Yelling at me and saying I stabbed him to my grandmother. He was still screaming when she told him to leave. I looked at his side and he had a rip on his shirt. There was a little blood and he had a scratch from the file. But for me, I might have well cut him deep. I never wanted to have or use a weapon. I regret having it, but the fear was too much at the time.
Now I wonder if some of these stories of kids who were bullied and bring a weapon to school were feeling the same way, but took it to the next level. Is fear that strong that it can guide us to make these decisions? I have never carried a weapon since this day. I don’t own a gun. This is the big story. This, for me, was the life changer in my bullying days. After this incident, nothing compared to the fear I felt here.
What do you think? Do you think that fear can drive people to do things such as use a weapon and act in ways that aren’t natural for them? I am afraid that I do believe that this can happen and that we have to continue to watch carefully for signs of fear in our youth.
To this day, I regret having that file, pulling it out, and using it. I know I didn’t do much damage to Ryan. But I do have to tell you that Ryan did not bother me again. I had tried to warn him through his buddies. I had tried to avoid him through walking the path. But in the end, there was nothing I could do to avoid the confrontation. And so, the choice I made is one I have to deal with. To live with, the rest of my life.