This is one of those times when name changing to protect the innocent is part of the game. This post is about something very embarrassing, a time when I victimized another child. You all know who I am but there is no reason to chance that you may know who he is.
Junior High School is a tough time for most kids. When you’re the third smallest on line in size order you have the disadvantage of being on everyone’s radar screen. I was near the front in elementary school and even though kids from other elementary schools were added in junior high I was still one of the smaller guys.
I was twelve. I think the size thing was part of what led me to single out Jack (remember, not his real name). I feel like I often picked on him, showing my mean streak. I also don’t think I was the only one, just the ringleader.
One afternoon as we got out of ’44’ on the 76th street side I was walking behind Jack toward Amsterdam Avenue being nasty and taunting him about something. Well, I got mine, he lashed out with a big swing turning as he swung and landed one right on my nose. Oh yeah, there was blood.
This turned the mean me into the monster me. I don’t recall how we got into that position but after a brief struggle I was on top straddling him and I had his head in my hands. I know too that I was about to bang his head on the sidewalk when I jumped up and ran off.
I ran to Rudley’s, the after school hangout, and was cleaned up and iced. Lots of good things happened at that soda fountain. Stranger In A Strange Land by Robert Heinlein was all the rage and we were sharing water and groking all the time. But this day something else was happening.
There was never such violence again. I did carry a knife for a while in junior high until my dad found out and gave me the lecture which included “what are you going to do when you pull out your knife and the other guy pulls out his and knows how to use it?” The blade which was very long and thin and folded was secured from Levy Brothers, the stationery store on the west side of Broadway between 83rd and 84th. (There are several stories from there which will follow at another time.)
Occasional stupid and dangerous pranks occurred in high school where I was still one of the little guys. There, I hung with the football team as a sort of mascot for protection. I was lucky here too, I never physically injured anyone.
Suffice it to say that during the teen years up until 16 or 17 I was not always the most pleasant of people.