Friday, May 23, 2008

Fight # 2: Brendan Hits The Girl Next Door

Actually I hit the girl down the block but you catch my meaning.

I was 7 or 8. I was playing with a whole group of kids across the street at the Hodges house. My neighborhood seems to have been drawn by Rockwell if he'd had the 1970's as his main aesthetic. It felt as if 20 or 30 kids would simply gather and roam about, playing whatever came into their heads at the moment.

The boys would split off and play some kind of sport, usually baseball or whiffleball. The girls would go do whatever girls do. Occasionally the sexes would mingle in some sort of make-believe activity. The infamous fight # 2 happened on one of these days.

A girl named Kristen had moved into a house 3 or 4 doors down. I remember the distance as being quite far but when I went back and visited I could have thrown a rock from my house to hers. In my neighborhood there were the mainstay families and then the Johnny-come-lately-don't-stick-arounders. Her family came and then moved (to London, perhaps if memory serves) in less than a year.

Just long enough for me to do something I regret to this day!

I don't remember how it happened. We were all congregated in front of the Hodge house, a little red ranch with a perfect square of a yard gently sloped down to the street. Right on the edge of the street in the right hand corner of the yard was a tall fir tree that served as a right field wall in whiffleball or an impenetrable fortress in war games. Since there were girls around this must have been a fantasy game of sorts.

Kristen and I didn't get along. I can't remember her face but in my recollection there lurks the faint whiff of pre-adolescent attraction. Perhaps it was mutual, I don't know. The enmity certainly was.

We squared off angrily for a forgotten reason. She hit me and I retaliated, knocking her backwards into the fir tree. In my mind's eye she was enveloped completely by the green, as if I'd buried her in it. How my mother knew what was going on from across the street I'll never know but she yelled my name and told me to come inside.

I burst into tears and ran across the street to our front door. I don't remember exiting or entering by that door very often, we primarily used the side door nearest the driveway. The front door had something formal about it and we weren't a formal family.

All of a sudden what I'd done was in a larger context. All of a sudden I wasn't an infant anymore, I was a human being who had crossed a line of decorum that was not tolerated. I felt like I aged 7 years from the moment my fist hit Kristen to when I threw myself on my bed face down and sobbing.

The next morning I walked down the street alone and knocked on Kristen's door. One of her parents must have answered but I have no memory of that. I do remember apologizing to Kristen and not being able to tell which one of us was more embarrassed.

Some people have stolen kisses that they remember from the time before their teens. Not me. Big man that I was, I beat up the cute little girl from down the street.

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