In the fourth grade, I attracted a nasty bully.
Sometimes, before class, he’d stop by my desk, smile, then slap me across the cheek. My response was always to clam up, and he always got away with it.
One day, while I was standing on first base during a game of kickball, the bully ran over and pushed me down in front of my classmates. When I looked over to the nearby teachers for support, I saw the bully’s mom–also a teacher—laughing at me while I brushed the dirt off my pants. It ran in the family.
An important detail here is that the bully was much smaller than me, at least by a foot. But I was a friendly, awkward giant and absolutely never stood up for myself. He knew this about me because we were best friends in first grade. I used to spend the night at his house and, on one occasion, we stayed up late and danced to the Macarena. It was new and cool then.
Then one day he jumped on my back during a basketball game. He screamed at me and said he wanted the ball. So I gave him the ball by smacking him in the mouth with it. I told him it was an accident but it wasn’t. He jumped off my back and responded in a way that I still remember clearly: he clenched his teeth and shrieked like a bird before he turned and stomped away.
He didn’t pick on my anymore after that.
We went through eight more years of school together after the bullying phase, but things were different then. Sometimes I wished we could go back to first grade and be friends again. But he became a basketball star and I spent all my time playing music and our worlds never met again.
I looked him up on Facebook recently. I saw where he is in his life and I smiled. Good for him. Then I closed the tab and went on to other things.