Fear. Fight or Flight?

School Boys

(Photo credit: mikecogh)

Have you ever thought you were doing the right thing and in the midst of it  found that everyone was against you?  I think we’ve all been there.  Do you fight for what is right -in your mind- or do you go along to avoid pain?   Many adolescence live in constant fear of ending up on the wrong side of life.  

“So you are a gay fag,” concluded Jim with finality.  He strutted around the circle, his chest out, pumping his arms like a great ape with everyone high-fiving him.

Matt  slowly backed out of the circle.  He didn’t want to be part of this kind of ‘fun.’  No doubt his mind was replaying the way his own dad taunted him.

Bewildered and muddy-wet from the soggy ground Sam got to his feet, fighting to hold back tears.  A furious beast boiled up from somewhere deep inside of him.  As it emerged Sam felt eager to crush the wild brutes, his friends, in their cruel adolescence.  The beast roared through Sam with new emotions.  He wanted to trounce the heartless savages and destroy their vicious attempts to humiliate him.  Unable to say anything and still fighting back tears he stood with his feet rooted in the mud, ready.

“Oohh. He’s a fighter now!” Jim teased.  The other boys laughed

Pete joined Matt outside the circle.  He looked unsettled and anxious.  Still not comprehending Jim’s intent, Sam stood firm to meet another assault.  Jim moved in to shove Sam to the ground again, and in the wild, raw excitement Sam put up a single fist to meet Jim’s menacing encroachment.  He slipped the fist through and around, then in and under Jim’s wagging arms. The fist met Jim’s nose with a slap and a crunching sound.  Sam wasn’t a fighter but his fist didn’t know that and it was tightly clenched and unyielding when it met the cartilage in Jim’s nose.

Only one fist.  Only one punch.  It was done.  The fight lasted only seconds and Sam was the reluctant winner.  He stood trembling, his fist opened-up and dropped to his side.  Jim clutched at his bloodied nose and dropped to his knees, completely perplexed at how things had unfolded.  It had started as a simple tease, then it escalated to bullying and ended with Sam standing his ground and fighting back.

Jim whimpered and played the situation to his advantage.  He appeared utterly dejected and crest fallen; a wounded animal, taken down by physical violence.  Emotions whirled inside Sam, empathy for Jim who seemed to be struggling to maintain composure.  Astonishment and amazement that he was able to jab Jim in the nose with such speed and agility.  Distaste with himself for so quickly resorting to physical violence.  But the savage delight of victory thrilled him and overwhelmed all of his other emotions.  He looked down at Jim with wild excitement, drops of blood spattered on the wet grass.  He was triumphant, heroic.

It was a short lived triumph, a delusion of reprieve.  Sam thought for a moment that he was going to be spared further torment.

“What the fuck was that for?” exclaimed Pete, breaking into the circle and into the moment.  Anger burbled from his throat, and fear shook in the tremors between his words.   “He was just kidding around!  What did you go and punch him for?”

What was your experience?  What did you do?

2 thoughts on “Fear. Fight or Flight?

  1. This brought back several memories. I too often let bullies push me around, but when they bullied my friends, my reaction was so swift and surprising–to the bullies and to me–that I usually was left alone after that. It was the anger at the unfairness of it all that snapped something inside me. When I finally stood up for myself the bullies left me alone. I know I was lucky, and obviously wish that I had stood up for myself earlier.

    • Russ, it’s admirable that you stood up for friends, not everyone can find that kind of courage. There were times when I let my friends down -after all, as the author, I am everyone of those characters. I left out a lot of context in this clipping. All of those boys were friends. Jim and Sam and Pete and Matt were all friends. They found themselves in a situation that they didn’t know how to reverse and didn’t have courage to stop. Knowing right and wrong had little to do with stopping the runaway cart.
      Were you ever bullied by your friends? Sometimes those who are closest to us can be the most destructive; that was Sam’s experience. He thought those boys were his friends, but they all turned on him in a blink, even his best friend, Pete. Sometimes the worst bullies are teachers and parents.

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