Soon after my final fight with Ryan, my father got a new assignment in Washington, DC. We moved to Fairfax, Virginia from Lexington, Mass. I felt that I could get away from the bullies and start a new life at age 13 in a place far away from those kids of my past. I was happy to be moving.
We moved into a very nice house in a new neighborhood. I immediately met some other boys my age that I would be going to school with and we seemed to hit it off and become fast friends. This was all very good and I could tell that these kids were a bit different. They weren’t as rough as the kids in Lexington. That made it better.
The kids in the neighborhood and I formed a little band as I started to learn guitar. That was a nice escape from the past and music was certainly something I wanted to have as an escape. We had fun in our little band. As school started, I seemed to find some friends. But, I found quickly that the friends at school were not the neighborhood ones. As the school year continued the neighborhood friends and I drifted further apart. The little band broke up and the bus ride home wasn’t as much fun.
I can’t say I ever really got “picked on” like the old days, but one day, when I got off the bus, the neighborhood boys that were originally my friends started to push me and trip me up. Nothing big, but they were definitely not just being funny. I just didn’t see it coming. Luckily, at about that time one of the neighborhood girls and I had become friends and she yelled at them and told them to grow up. That ended it with those boys. But it also ended my friendship with them.
That was the last time I recall getting picked on. I pretty much found my friends and they accepted me. But, I still carried the burden of the old days with me. Then, one day I had a chance to experience the other side of the fence.
A rumer had started circulating that a boy named Herb and a boy named Mitch were going to fight after school. It was a big deal and you could feel the energy vibe throughout the school. I could have walked away, not gone to it, but I was feeling like, for the first time, I was on the other side of the bullying. We all knew what would happen. Mitch was a lot bigger than Herb and Herb would lose.
The rumor mill was so big that the school got wind of it. This was the early 80s and schools were not prepared to break up a gang. And that’s what they had. At the end of school, just about every kid left and crossed the street to a dirt area where the fight would be. It was a huge crowd. We made a circle and the school administration could not break in. I remember watching all this, feeling like I was distanced from it and just witnessing. Then I saw the two boys. It was obvious to me that Herb was in a rock and hard place. The event had been so built up that he had to show up. He had no choice.
The two boys circled each other in the middle of the large crowd. There were shouts from the mob to fight. It started to get pretty scary. Herb put up his fists and then Mitch lifted his hand made a fist and brought it down on Herb. Then it was over. Herb was down and that was that. It was anti-climactic and just plain ugly. I wanted to leave and needed to leave. I walked home by myself, the whole time wondering why I went. I knew what Herb was feeling. I had been there before and I didn’t do anything to help defend Herb. I was just glad it wasn’t me. Sounds selfish, huh? Well, it probably was and I was 13 and just feeling like I wasn’t that kid anymore.
To be honest, there wasn’t another fight I recall that year. It was much quieter in Fairfax, VA and I pretty much laid low and didn’t make much noise. I had my friends, I had my music, and I kept to myself. It worked out for me. But, at least on that fateful day, it didn’t work out for Herb. I still think about that once in a while to remind myself that I can’t let that happen again, if I can help it.