My Last Fight, My First Fight
I walk down the grey tiled stairs, jumping the last three, push open the big metal door with the chicken wire in the glass and feel the hard asphalt under my feet. My lungs stretch with my next breath. Up ahead is Dave, and a gang of onlookers. I throw down the graphing paper from 8th period math. I hear the sheets splash down and scatter. I look at him, bluffing. He thinks I’m bluffing. I hear myself say, “Let’s go.”
Vito gets in the middle holding me back, giggling under his breath.
“Hold on. Not here. We need to go two blocks from school property.”
Then we all walk. My pack, his pack, the instigators — Vito the main one. We walk down the asphalt driveway that stretches from side street to side street, nestling in between the red brick building and the schoolyard. We walk. I look over at Dave. He’s walking tall. I’m walking in big steps. I want to be two blocks away. I want to start this fight, before I lose my nerve.
“You can’t walk away once we get there,” he yells from his pack.
“I don’t wanna walk away,” I yell back. I feel good. My saliva tastes like jet fuel. “Let’s go you punk bitch!” His eyes light up. Like an overactive dog. He must think he’s gonna kick my ass. Fuck him. I’ll kick his fuckin’ ass. Skinny ass punk with a bowl cut. Thinks he’s tough. Fuck him.
We keep walking until we get to Aberdeen and then cross heading towards York. Its not quite two blocks and we’re on someone’s lawn. He says something about me wanting to back down again. Something about my last chance. I punch him in the stomach. His eyes light up again. I find myself naturally in my fighting stance. The same fighting stance that I’ve held in Tae Kwon Do classes for the past two years. I feel comfortable though I feel my blood coursing through my forehead.
My knees are bent slightly and I duck and parry backward as he throws wild punch after punch. He swings his whole arm. It’s like one of those carnival rides where there’s a seat attached to a steel cable that spins. That’s what his wrists are like and the punches are easy to duck. After a few of these I advance.
I come in with straight punches. I land straight jabs to his stomach and then come around with reverse punches to his face landing just above his eye. I keep backing him up, landing some punches — others getting blocked. The ones that are blocked hurt. The bone of my knuckles hitting his bony forearms. I could care less. I’ve been waiting for this. In seconds he’s backed into some bushes. Yelling. But not from the crowd. The door to the house opens and a lady is screaming at us to get off her property. The onlookers laugh. Maybe I would too but I’m thinking about punching Dave. I have something to prove. Fuck him. That’s what.
We get off her lawn both of us moving together in a five foot perimeter. We move back out into Aberdeen. He starts swinging again. One connects on the side of my head. I’m alright. It’s the same only without headgear. We keep moving — swinging, lunging, staring.
I feel his confidence. It’s nothing. He doesn’t know how to fight, swinging his arms like a monkey, making faces. It’s all for show. It’s all to make him look tough to the next kid he picks on. He starts breathing heavier. He’s not in for this to go longer than it would take for a grown up to break it up. We cross the street, me landing punches. It feels so strange to fight someone because of conflict. This isn’t sparring. I don’t have to be Dave’s friend later at the Pizzeria, both of us in our white do-baks. I can hit him as hard as I need to. As hard as I want.
We get to the sidewalk lining the field and keep boxing down it. My ankle rolls and I lose my footing. Off balance, I lung forward and we wrestle. I feel his bony forearms bang against my chin. I bite part of my tongue. His wiry body is searching desperately for my neck, my head. I’m doing the same. I can just get his head under my arm and squeeze. A few hurried breaths and we’re in a mutual headlock. I hear voices. The crowd knows that this will go on forever. It won’t go anywhere.
“Break the locks! Break the locks!” they yell.
I feel hands on my back and arms pulling us apart. His arm loosens from my neck and I let go.
Back upright the blood rushes to my head and everything is really bright. White spots. But only for a second and then I see Dave bent over, hands on his knees breathing like he’s going to pass out.
“Is it over!?” the crowd demands.
I’m not winded. I’m fine. But he’s done. I can feel it. I look at Vito and he grins.
“Finish it.” He’s talking about the rusty razor blade in my jeans. The one I showed him in the bathroom today.
I’m standing with one fist clenched and think. The sweat on my forehead feels chilly as the cool breeze blows through the chain link fence separating the soccer field from the street.
I closed my locker and Jason was waiting for me. He was a new friend — someone I wanted to impress and he had instigated this, my first fight. He said something about how we needed to go because Mike and everyone was waiting. Time to fight was the point. But I didn’t know what to do. Moments earlier, I had wrapped my chain bicycle lock around my fist like I had seen in a movie. Then I put it back in. Stupid, it seemed. What was I doing? I could’ve called it off, but I was curious. And Jason was so excited that it seemed that this was the best thing.
We walked down the empty hallway to the stairway and then he pushed open the door and headed down the stairs. He had a spring in his step. When I got to the bottom and pushed the big metal door with the chicken wire in the glass, safety glass, there was a crowd waiting for me. Across the asphalt driveway was Mike — thick, Italian and big. We all walked. I was surrounded by eighth graders and high schoolers. Jason had spread the word well. One big guy, a high school freshman showed me the black eye he had. He told me that it was so black because the guy he fought knew right where to hit him. I nodded, throat tight, and breathed heavily. I wanted to please them because they saw me as a young prospect. A sixth grader willing to fight. I pretended.
We crossed Aberdeen and headed down Croyden, one up from York, to Jasons driveway.
Jason walked to the center of the crowd and make some jokes and we all laughed.
The crowd spread out into the street and Mike and I squared off. I didn’t know what else to do but push him and we pushed each other a couple of times and then I fell down.
“Ow!” The crowd laughed. I felt more comfortable making people laugh then fighting them. I got up and did something else funny, a funny stance, but nobody laughed. They wanted to see a fight.
I tried to push Mike but he was punching. He could knock me over easily and did a few times. Laughter came at strange seeming times. Eventually it was stopped, me still not having landed a punch. Me not having swung.
I looked at the high schoolers and older kids as they walked away. Mike walked in the center of the pack. Some laughed. The one with the black eye just shook his head as he rejoined his friends.
I turned to Jason. He shook his head.
The avalanche had begun. Blood in the water. There would be more fights.
I shake my head at Vito. He nods. Somebody from Dave’s pack tries to declare it the fight a tie.
“Break the tie,” Vito says.
I shake my head.
Then an outcry from the crowd. I look up the sidewalk and I see our principal turn the corner at the end of the asphalt driveway onto Aberdeen — grey polyester pants, white striped shirt and moustache. I’m off the hook. And then we all run away like cowards.
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Portland Fiction Project
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