Big Purple Pirates.
The Bully Pulpit
I was always big for my age.
I towered over all the other kids in school. I was the size of the fourth graders when I was in the second grade. By the time I was in the third grade, most of the sixth graders were afraid of me, and those that weren’t, didn’t really want to mess with me.
I thought I was cool, and courageous.
By the seventh grade I was huge. All the coaches and teachers urged me to try out for the football team, or wrestling. But that didn’t interest me. It wasn’t physical activity or violence I enjoyed. It was power. The power I felt at striking fear into the hearts of others.
By the ninth grade, I found I could even scare adults. This opened up a whole new world of opportunities for me. I was still a juvenile too. I had more than my share of ‘contacts’ with the police. But in most cases, you can’t be arrested for scaring people. Besides, I rarely hurt anyone, at least, not too badly.
It was funny, and fun.
At the beginning of my tenth year in school, I was the big shit. I was top dog. I lorded it over everyone, including the teachers. I had people paying for my lunch, carrying my books, doing my homework, polishing my shoes; I had it made.
Some people think, and I know this, because I hear people talk, some people think that it’s my parents fault. ‘It’s his upbringing,’ they say. Or ‘The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.’ I know what that means. But the fact is, my parents don’t believe how bad I am. They’re nice, honest, caring people. How they ever conceived a kid like me, I’ll never know. But I used it to my advantage. That’s what kind of person I am.
Then a funny thing happened. This puny little Chinese kid transferred into our school. That’s the way I saw him, and that’s what I called him. ‘Hey, you puny, little Chink. Where do you think you’re going?’ I blocked his exit from the bathroom: My usual method for quickly extracting a few bucks from the uninitiated. I leaned in close to him, ‘How much money you got, Chinko?’
And he says, “What you want to know for, Chunky?” I mean, you talk about lighting a fuse with a blowtorch. I was ready to put his head thru the wall. When I reached out to grab him, he grabbed my arm, and made me hit myself with my own, ham-like fist. Then he hit me with his feet: Both of them. I saw stars.
He knocked me unconscious. When I came to, all the kids I’d bullied for years were standing over me, laughing and pointing at me. And when I got mad and stood up, none of them were scared. The little chink was now their hero. We faced off, but I’d already had enough and made some lame excuse about having to get to class. Everyone laughed again. It was embarrassing. I was humiliated. I had no recourse. I couldn’t complain to the faculty, I’d been bullying most of them, too. The little Chinese guy was everyone’s salvation, from me.
I still had two more years till graduation. The little Chinese guy became my tormentor. He would make me step aside whenever we crossed paths in the hall or entered a classroom thru the same door. Now he was the bully and I was the victim. I learned what it was like to come to school everyday and fear for my physical safety. I understood what it felt like to be a victim, to be humbled in front of others. It changed my life forever. I learned the meaning of empathy and it gave me something in common with the rest of humanity. Until then, I knew nothing better.