Monday, April 09, 2007

My Brief But Illustrious Pugilistic Career, Part Two

I was a fat kid. Not as fat as I am now (I've since earned it), but that kind of 12-year-old fat that just looks unfortunate in a t-shirt and shorts. It was the summer between my seventh and eighth grades and I was going to a park a few blocks away with my next-door neighbor. Let's call him Hunter.

We hit the park, which was just on the edge of the mythical Bad Part of Town. Baldwin, where I grew up, bordered a few different municipalities. Some of them, like Rockville Center, were just peachy. But others, like Hempstead and Roosevelt (hometown to Eddie Murphy, Howard Stern, and a whole shitload of criminals), were not so peachy. These were towns where you'd swear the Jim Crow real estate practices were still in full effect. The Stern family notwithstanding, these were towns entirely populated by black folks. And, while some of those families were completely upstanding and just people who wanted a better life for their children, some of them just didn't give a fuck and raised thugs. Or, probably more accurate, just let thugs raise themselves. We're not talking South Central drive-by-ville, but it could be a dangerous part of Long Island.

So, me and Hunter were in the park. Doing what 12-year-old kids do. Playing tag. Climbing in the jungle gym. Swinging on the swings. Whatever. And then we were set upon by a pack of Older Kids. Freshmen in high school, from what I recall. Seemed like 30 year olds to us. Led by a guy named Harold. Tall and skinny. Beginnings of a moustache. And they proceeded to pick on us. Mercilessly. They threw stuff at us. Pushed us. Shoved us. When we tried to run, they cut us off. They herded us to the entrance to the park, and then trailed us as we started to make our way home. We took the longest way home we could devise, hoping they'd eventually get tired and not actually follow us to our houses—thereby rendering our sanctums sanctorum vulnerable.

Never raised a fist that day. I was too scared to. I just went home...and never spoke of it again to Hunter, or anyone.

But I started working out. Lifting weights. Like a fiend. Probably more than a 12-year-old should. I didn't care. That wasn't ever going to happen again.

And it didn't.

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