High school freshmen in the locker room, changing as quick as possible, so as not to be standing around in underwear for too long, but it was just long enough. Our indentities and our defenses were in different place in that room than anywhere else. Perhaps it was the absence of any female energy, or the sweat and testosterone, or the fact that we were taking off our pants. Probably it was a combination.
I recieved dirty looks for wearing combat boots and having dyed hair, but it was here, with the boots sitting next to me, my plaid pants hanging in a locker, my dress shirt replaced by a t-shirt featuring the schools logo that it would actually be discussed. At this moment it was apparent that I wasn't so different than anyone else and the question could be asked. "Dude, why the hell do you dress like that? You're going to get your ass kicked."
I didn't have a good answer, but I'd shrugg lace up my cheap K-Mart sneakers and get ready to go out to a grass field where I'd avoid getting involved in whatever game was taking place.
The truth is I'd not intended to be as big of a misfit as I was. I'd moved up from southern California where freak was in and where I had older relatives who had established already that I was by virtue of my last name fashionably weird and not just weird. Being an actual freak and not just playing one was new and I was not having an easy time with it, but I was devoted with a religious fervor to maintain what I saw as my individuality, my very soul, my hairdo and boots.
Matt was in my P.E. class. Matt was a freak of a different sort. Matt would not follow a fashion trend that might expose him to ridicule, even as said trend became the norm. Matt wore jeans and t-shirts with the name of a sports team on them. Matt wore name brand sneakers. Matt tried hard in P.E. class but was only an average athlete.
Matt decided he could excell by picking on me, an easy target. "You look like such a fag." Matt was not approving of my hairdo which I was tending to after running a few laps.
"Yeah? Did you want to ask me out?"
"Fuck you fag?
Why don't you shut up?"
Why don't I shut up? This was not the kind of clever banter I enjoyed. "Well, if you don't want to hear my voice why talk to me?"
"I said shut up."
"No, you didn't. You asked me a question, which invites an answer, which is the opposite of asking me to shut up."
Matt blinked twice. "Fuckin' Fag!" I didn't respond.
I put my gym clothes in my bag, laced my boots and went to class. Matt continued to give me shit, and even pushed me a few times while we were playing football. Some of the other students started tackling Matt hard or shoving him when he came near me.
They weren't friends of mine but they saw Matt being an ass and they saw me not provoking it or responding to it. Matt's ploy to move up a rung on the social ladder had him plummeting to the bottom. Picking on someone who isn't fighting back is not cool behavior. Matt seemed to get this, at least partially and he backed off.
Mike R. was one of the few friend I'd made and I wasn't surprised to hear that Matt was picking on him now. Mike R. collected Garbage Pail Kids, was into model trains, wore sweater and glasses and was the dictionary definition of geek. He was also smart, funny and would become a fairly popular kid within a few years when geek became chic. Mike did not want to deal with Matt the way I had. Mike wanted to kick his ass.
I was sitting in front of the school waiting for my mom when Matt walked by, laughing with a friend. It was rare to see Matt with a friend and he was over stimulated by the attention.
"Hey faggot." He greeted me as he passed.
"What?! You talkin' shit Scott? You got a smart fucking mouth."
"Thanks. I'm sorry to say I find your mouth rather dull." And with that Matt smacked me across the face. My eyes teared up and rage showed in my face as I glared at him. I also tear when serious drama happens, and I don't know why, but I get it from my moms side of the family. I'm not a pussy, it just happens.
"What are you gonna do faggot?"
What was I going to do? I was trying hard to do well at this school and in this town. I'd been in trouble all my life and I'd had several opportunities to start over.
I was determined not to blow this one. I looked away. Matt smacked me again.
I rose to my feet. My hands curled into fists. I saw my mom pull into the parking lot. I walked away from Matt and got in the car where I managed to keep from crying until after I convinced mom to drive away from the school.
"What's going on? Do you want to go back and I'll talk to him?"
Oh sure mom. That would help. She meant well but she obviously didn't understand the dynamics of high school society.
"No that's alright. I'm dealing with it." My poor mom felt helpless. Hell, I felt helpless. Matt was empowered by having smacked me. He didn't mess with me, but he was louder in the locker room. He laughed and smiled more. But he had no grace or charisma. The louder and more confident he got the less the other kids wanted to do with him. Matt was growing more bold while simultaneously, more desperate.
Mike and I and the other couple of kids in our geeky clique made our way to the bike racks. Mike saw Matt standing in front of his bike.
"This is it. I'm going to kick his ass." Mike informed us.
"Hey Matt, Mike wants to fight you." Dave announced, thinking he was doing Mike some kind of favor. Matt looked at Mike, whose willingness to fight obviously scared the hell out of him. So he turned his attention to provoking me.
"Yeah? Well I want to fight your faggot friend. What' the matter? Is he chicken? You chicken Scott?"
I was easily a half foot taller than Mike and weighed a good 30 pounds more. But I'd been passive up until now and even next to scrawny, bespectacled Mike I seemed a safer target. But I was done. I'd had enough.
"Sure Matt. Let's fight. Let's go across the street so we don't get busted." I marched right past him, determined and sure footed. Matt's face regsitered his surprise. There was no turning back now.
Matt joined the group of kids that followed me out to the grass strip at the edge of the school. I was full of confidence and anticipation. I'd waited a long time for this and now I was actually looking foward to it. Matt was getting scared. I turned to face him.
"Alright. Kick my ass Matt." He swung at me, a clumsy loose punch, which I ducked, hitting him in the midsection with a tackle. Once on the ground, my wrestling skills made for a one sided fight. I flipped him over, hooked and arm behind his head and then with my back to him I put all my weight bearing down on his chest. I squeezed the headlock tight.
"You done you little asshole? Can I let you up now?" I asked.
Matt answered with his best incredible hulk impersonation so I punched him in his face. I waited for the resultant thrashing about to subside and asked him again if I could let him up. Again he answered with clenched teeth and growls so again I punched him in the face. A teacher now appeared over us.
"Let him up." he demanded.
"I want to but he keeps attacking me. Get a couple of guys to hold him back and I can let him up."
The teacher actually got it, much to my surprise and had two jock types grab Matt while I got to my feet.
"You calm the hell down." he yelled at Matt. I gave the authority figure my name and then walked to my friend Jim's mom's car to head for home.
"Yeah, get in that whore's car." Matt yelled after me. Hearing this, Jim started to unfold his six foot two frame from the car. His hands were balled up into enormous fists. He would kill Matt.
"Jim, I got it." I told him as I bolted out of the car. Matt would have no idea the favor I was doing him. He stared like a deer in headlights as I approached rapidly. I punched him in his face for the third time, putting him on the ground.
The teacher grabbed me, and the jocks stood ready to grab Matt should he try to get up.
"I'm leaving." I said shaking free of the adult's grip.
By the time I reached my house my mom had been called and informed that I was suspended and was not to come to school the next day. Mom was pissed at Mr. S, the school principal, for suspending me before talking to me, and more pissed still when she confirmed that it was the kid she'd seen smacking me. She understood when I told her that I had to do it. I stayed home the next day, and the following morning my day started in the principal's office once again face to face with Matt.
"So, you want to tell me what happened?" Mr. S asked.
Matt offered up the standard get out of jail answer. "Well, I think we just had a misunderstanding. I'm sure we can work it out now."
"Well that's a very mature attitude Matt. Scott, does this sound reasonable to you?"
"No. It sounds like bullshit. This guy has picked on me all year. Ask coach how many times this guy has slammed me in PE class. Ask Mike R. how many times this guy has messed with him for no reason at all. Matt is a complete asshole and I finally had enough." My language had Mr. S turning red as he tried to get me to shut up. I was on a roll and there was no stopping me.
"I even walked away from this pathetic piece of shit slapping me in the face, in front of my mom. He's had an ass kicking coming for a long time and he left me no choice but to do it."
"Matt?" Mr. S gave Matt an opportunity to respond. Matt had the advantage. I'd blown it, yelling and cursing. Another slick calm answer and Matt would be going back to class while I went home for another couple of days.
"I... I don't get along very well with other people." Matt blubbered, tears streaming down his face.
"You don't try!" I hollared, jumping to my feet. "You call people faggot and you pick on people and you brag and act like an asshole all the time."
"Scott! Go to class. I'll talk to Matt."
"HELL NO! You suspended me because I stood up for myself after a year of this guy harrassing me every day, making sure my life sucked. I want my suspension off my record and I want to be allowed to make up any work I missed."
"FINE! Now go to class!" Matt had his face in his hands, still slobbering as I walked out the door. For the rest of the year Matt was quiet in the locker room. He didn't try quite as hard on the field. He was defeated.
I did feel a little sorry for him. When enough time had passed I extended an olive branch by saying hello when I passed him. He just looked away. I still was not the kind of faggot he wanted to be associated with. Fucking little asshole I hope he dies!!! :] calling me a faggot, nah, he was still a dick througout high school, I think he dropped out in the middle of his senior year though...