Sometimes I think I’d like to get into a bar fight, just to see how it feels.
When I wrote about violence a couple of weeks ago, I mentioned in passing that I’ve never been in a fight, save that time a kid punched me in the head. He’d already beaten up my friend, so I got the bright idea that I would stand up to him.
We were behind the bleachers at a Clinton High School football game. I was in sixth grade and had never been in a scrap. This kid was a grade behind me but much bigger.
We circled each other for a few seconds, and then he reared back and popped me in the temple. I went down like Michael Spinks. Fight over.
I definitely could have taken this kid in a spelling contest, but that’s not how prepubescent boys settle things. This was my first experience with bullying, and it became a theme in my life.
A few weeks later, I was sitting on the back of the bus – my first mistake – when a classmate started jabbing me in the face with his knuckles. I don’t know why he did this, but he was always kind of a punk.
I finally had enough and lunged for him, but I didn’t land a punch, and then the bus stopped and it was time for all of us to get off. This happened right in front of the girl on whom I had a crush. Of course.
From then on, I managed to avoid physical altercations. I would occasionally get shoved or, more often, talked down to, and I never responded. And so I built up a reservoir of suppressed anger throughout my teenage years, and it has been slow to recede.
There’s a song by Travis Meadows in which he says “push it down, it comes out sideways.” My anger has definitely come out sideways more than once, usually when I encounter someone who doesn’t know how to drive.
To my credit, I don’t yell in anyone’s face or destroy things when I get angry. I’ve seen people do that, and it’s not pretty.
When I was in high school, my buddy Scott and I were hanging out at a friend’s house one night when we heard a racket out on the highway. This was outside Monroe, Louisiana, and it was late. And dark.
Naturally, we went out to investigate. A guy had blown a tire and spun out, his ‘80s model Camaro coming to a stop in someone’s driveway.
We quickly concluded that this guy was three sheets to the wind. We asked if we could help, but he declined. He seemed nice enough, despite his inebriated state, and then things went south.
He had a tire iron with which, we assumed, he was going to change his tire. Instead, he proceeded to beat the ever-living hell out of his Camaro. He swung the iron over his head time and again, cursing his car as he left quarter-sized holes in its hood.
Scott and I looked at each other, worried that this yahoo might decide to turn the tire iron on us. He never did, and eventually the police showed up and took him away.
And that right there is one reason I’ll probably never get in a bar fight. Getting hauled off to the hoosegow for losing my temper doesn’t seem worth it.