Unlike Theo, I have never been in a real fight before. I say "real" fight because in the third grade, I was in something. Something like a fight. An awkward skirmish on the school bus one afternoon. It couldn't possibly have been a fight because a) no punches were thrown and b) I was not written up by the bus driver. Everyone knew that if you got in a fight on the school bus, you got written up, and if you were written up, you got kicked off the bus. I was afraid of being written up. I was a good kid. Well, I was a scared kid.
My parents ruled by fear, and I existed in a constant state of terror that I would get in trouble. For all intents and purposes, fear of getting in trouble is the same a being good except your underlying motive is not to be good, it is to not get in trouble. I did plenty of bad things, but the moments I really remember from doing all those bad things is not the bad act itself, it is the panic of "Please sweet Jesus, don't let me get in trouble for this!" Then the hand-shaking, fist-wringing moments of trying to figure out how to stay out of trouble.
That fear ruled me growing up, and that fear kept me out of fights. When things got tough, all my energy turned to how can I not get into this fight because this will get me in trouble. And that was what I was thinking the day I got into "something" on the bus.
It all started when a slightly younger, slightly huskier kid than me sat by me on the school bus. I think his name was Ronnie, but honestly he lived on my bus route for such a short amount of time that I might be wrong about that. I'll just call him Ronnie for the purposes of this blog. I point out that Ronnie was husky, not to make fun of him, but to show we had some common ground. I too was a husky kid, or rather I teetered on the husky side.
When I was growing up the definition of a husky kid was simple. If you shopped at Sears and wore Toughskins jeans then there were only two sizes: "regular" and "husky." I always teetered. The regular jeans were a little tight for my densely boned frame, but if I tried the husky jeans, I looked like a circus clown. Although I never really wore husky jeans, I knew the husky kids were my brethren. If you're not old enough to have been through the shame of trying on "husky" Toughskins, consider yourself lucky. This was how it was for all jeans. You were either "regular" or some euphemism for a chunky kid. The best day of my life was the day Levis came out with "Loose Fitting Jeans." I finally became normal. But I digress.
Ronnie sat next to me on the bus and we hit it off. I don't remember quite what we bonded over (other than both being on the huskier side), but it must have been one of my two favorite things at that age: cartoons or Gobots, the cheap ripoff of Transformers for all of us less monied children who had to shop as Sears. Things were going great until suddenly Ronnie grabbed my backpack strap. That doesn't sound like a big deal, but then he proceeded to put it in his mouth and suck on it. Laugh and make all the sexual innuendos you like, but we were in second and third grade--who knows what he was thinking.
Regardless, he was sucking on my backpack strap, and I tried to make him stop. He wouldn't. I tried again. He continued sucking. I tried repeatedly, and he kept sucking. Finally, I yanked the strap away from him. Time stopped. Ronnie got a crazy look in his eyes. Suddenly he sprung out of his seat and attached himself to the top of my head like one of the face suckers in Alien, only he was straight up on the top of my head, not attached to my face. I don't know how this little husky kid did it, but he went from sitting to clamping his entire body on top of my head. Not only was Ronnie now attached to my head, but he had also started CRYING, so I had this weeping, husky mass attached to the top of my head.
I was totally panicked. This was a fight now. No two ways about it. I just got into a fight, and I was going to get into trouble. I tried to get him off, but he was hysterical. There was nothing I could do. I realized I had to fight back so I reached up and pushed him off of me as hard as I could. Apparently as hard as I could was pretty hard. There was some muscle under my husk, because he flew off my head and smacked into the window with a violent cracking sound. I checked quickly and the window wasn't broken. I looked forward on to the bus driver and she was eyeing us. "Oh Heavenly Father, please save me! I just got caught in a fight."
The bus driver slowed down and stopped the bus. Ronnie got up and went crying to the front of the bus. I knew I should follow. The bus driver stared back at me in that giant rear view mirror that can see everyone on the bus. I prepared myself of the worst. Then she opened the bus door. Ronnie got off. It was his stop. He simply stepped off the bus and kept walking. The bus driver closed the door, and continued on to the next stop. Other than a knowing glance, she never acknowledged what had happened between Ronnie and I.
That was my almost-fight. Kinda like the husky jeans, I tried it on, but it didn't quite fit. I could carry on with my life in a mildly uncomfortable state of fear, never having actually been in a fight. I was not in trouble. The only thing that happened was a husky kid sucked on my backpack strap… I sorta wish I'd punched him.