[caption id="attachment_61" align="alignright" width="194" caption="Today I Am A Man"][/caption]CHAPTER 1
I’m not going to say it was a fair fight because it wasn’t supposed to be. You use whatever advantage you have because you never go into a fight hoping to lose. Still, the odds seemed even: I was about one-hundred and sixty pounds to his one hundred and thirty, but he was taller–close to five-foot nine and I was only five-foot five. He had youth but I had experience. He was fifteen and I was fifty.
I waited for him on the sidewalk by the schoolyard, wondering if he would have his buddies with him. If so this could go either way: when kids get a whiff of blood, anything can happen. Not that that was going to change my mind.
At 3:20 P.M., the school bell rang on schedule and my heart began to thump like the first time I took a drag from a cigarette, or unhooked a girl’s bra, or stole something from the corner store. To calm my nerves, I went over my plan in my head one more time, envisioning the outcome before it happened. I even rehearsed what I was going to say, something brief and to the point just before I put him down to make sure he’d have something to think about afterwards. There he was, coming out the main doors with his friends, some of whom had even been in my house. But today they were hanging with the wrong kid. Just as well, maybe they’d learn a lesson too. Close in on him right off. Watch his feet. First shot to the nose. Then when he goes down, put the boots to the motherfucker. Advice that had been jangling around in my head since childhood.
I moved in from the side using the surge of home-bound students to cover my approach. Just a few more steps . . .
“Todd Holloway? Do you know who I am?”
“Yeah,” he answered, as if I barely mattered in his world. That would change in about two seconds. I cocked my right arm and drove my fist straight into his nose. I chose this spot for two reasons: first, to cause the most amount of pain, and second, because the first one to land a punch in a fight generally wins. Instinctively, the kid brought his hands up to stem the flow of blood gushing out of his nostrils, which left his mid section unprotected. That’s when I buried my other fist deep into his gut, knocking the wind out of him and sending him to the ground in tears. Not such a big man now, are you? His legs thrashed out at me, more to keep me away than to do any damage.
Then I turned to his buddies and stared each of them in the eye to show them I wasn’t afraid. I heard one of them call me a “fuckin’ bully,” but instead of rushing me he knelt down to help his friend while another ran back into the school to report the assault.
When I knew for sure that young Holloway wasn’t getting back up to fight again and the others weren’t in the mood for a swarming, I turned and walked home to dinner. Two hours later I was having pasta and shrimp with my wife, Linda, and our three children, Daniel–fifteen, Jesse– twelve, and Amy–seven, who all took turns complaining about how much smarter they were than their teachers, when there was a knock on the door. I opened it to find two police officers.
“Steven Goldman?” I nodded yes, at which point the first officer informed me that I was under arrest. I heard my wife gasp and the kitchen chairs scrape the floor as the family came running, in time to witness the second cop snap a pair of handcuffs on my wrists.
“What the hell is going on here? What are you doing to my husband?” Linda demanded frantically. And who could blame her? Nothing like this had ever happened to anyone in our comfortable little family before. I had never been arrested nor broken the law, so my wife had every reason to be freaking out.
But instead of answering her questions, the first cop simply stated in a dispassionate and officious voice that I would be allowed one phone call after I was taken to the police station and booked. With that, they led me down the front steps of my home to their cruiser parked in the driveway, which made me a witness to the next scenario I had anticipated with regret. A visit from a police cruiser in this neighborhood was as strange as a visit from a flying saucer, and as such, it brought the nosy neighbors out to gawk. It wasn’t me I felt bad for, but my family, who was going to have to face some strange looks and uncomfortable questions for the next while from people we had counted on as our friends for over twenty odd years.
As the police tucked me into the back seat, I thought I caught a whiff of something that if bottled probably would have been marketed under the name “Deep Shit.” I distracted myself for a moment by imagining what the label on such a perfume bottle might look like, until one of the officers brought me back to the present.
“Do you understand these rights as I have explained them to you?” That’s when I caught the eye of my son, Daniel, who stared at me, looking pale as a ghost.
“Yes,” I replied.
There are markers along our paths, life-altering moments where we must make a choice to take one road or the other. Looking back at my family standing there helpless and bewildered on the driveway, I knew that what I had done that day had not only changed the course of my life, but theirs as well. I also knew that I would have done it again given the same circumstances, which led me to wonder whether this was really just an awkward misstep, a stumble along a relatively smooth journey, or rather the fulfillment of my destiny? Had my up-to-now pleasant little drive down the road of life hit a speed bump, or was that bump actually a series of connecting cause-and-effect dots that had been put into play almost 40 years ago?
If so, then everything from then until now had simply been a pause in the action awaiting the inevitable. The funny thing was, the ironic thing was, they called me a bully, which was the furthest thing from the truth. I was the kid the bullies bullied.