As I paint the scene for these next events, I write about the fact that my school in this northern town was up on top of a hill that overlooked the city below. But I pause there, for a moment, because it would seem that every place I lived the school was up on a hill, citing the coastal city where it was down a hill. This is not a cliche of writing but the facts, and when I write that I had to walk up hill both ways to school in the next city I move to this is also not some old man’s lament on the younger generation but the actual truth. My children didn’t believe me until we took them there on a family vacation one year. I pulled the car off into a parking lot and getting out of the car I pointed to both sets of very steep stairs while exclaiming, “See! See!?” before getting back into the car and driving to our destination in another city. It was worth it, but whenever I reference that fact now, I am still met with the eye rolls. Kids today.
To get to my school back in this northern town I had to walk up an S-shaped hill. On one of the curves I used to pause for a moment because I could look down and see the store where my father worked. It was situated on the other main road of this town, the road that traveled out to the airport. The store shared the same large parking lot as the volunteer fire department right next to it. No other commercial store was around for a few blocks.
On this particular day the weather was calm, the skies blue, and the sun was shining. Leaving school that afternoon was fairly routine and as I started walking down the hill back home I became aware of the bully following me. He was increasing his pace to match mine in an attempt to close the gap between us. I increased my pace to stay ahead of him. He then sensed that I was on to his presence so he broke into a run to get on top of me right away. Like a gazelle I leaped into action and sprang forward, easily outpacing the bully. I didn’t make it down to the bottom of the hill. Almost, but not quite. Instead, I suddenly stopped. My fists were clenched, my body ceasing up and my eyes narrowing. I could feel my blood boiling and my body become as molten lead in that place. I stopped, stood up straight, and turned around to face the bully running at full tilt down that hill after me.
Seeing me and perhaps seeing the look on my face caught him off guard and he skidded to a stop. For a moment our eyes locked and I burned a hole straight through him with my gaze. Fear crept upon his face and in that instant he turned and started to run back up the hill. He was no match for me as I had years of outrunning bullies, winning numerous awards in track and field. I easily caught up with him, his heart racing as he was now getting out of breath. I grabbed him by his shoulders and threw him to the ground, jumping on top of his chest and pinning him to the ground, exposing only his head to my rage. In that instant the Ralphie scene from The Christmas Story was the next logical sequence of events. With murderous rage in my eyes, all the strength and power in my body was given over to my clenched fist being formed and raised above my head in celebratory glee for what was about to happen next. With the full power of a diesel locomotive my fist came tumbling down, screaming toward my bully’s face. His pupils widened in horror, his mouth open to gasp, empty of words but filled with fear.
Then in a screaming halt my fist stopped just millimeters from the tip of his nose. I couldn’t push it any further and only the hairs on my knuckles brushed against his nostrils. My fist remained suspended there for what seemed minutes but were probably only seconds, me trying with all my physical might to make the connection and end this bully’s misery – or mine. But I couldn’t, and with disgust I pushed his shoulders against the pavement and thrust myself off of his feeble body. He scrambled backwards, tripping to get up fast enough, clawing at the asphalt to give himself grip as he ran away from me back up that hill.
That was it. I may not have smashed my hand against his skull in the physical sense, but in my mind he was dead. They were all dead. In that brief interaction I had imploded. I ceased to exist. I had enough. I had enough of my social existence. I had enough of my family existence. I had enough of my spiritual existence. I had enough of this shitty world. I hated it all. And I would now begin a dark journey to feed this anger, to appease it, to stave it off. With a new resolve I got up and started heading home, unaware of the shadows lurking around me, but not giving a shit anyway.