The other day, one of my very best bloggy buddies, Heinous, did an ‘interview meme’ post. Another blogger came up with questions just for him and after reading his responses, I asked (and by ‘asked’ I mean ‘begged’) him to come up with questions for me. So, because he loves me (and by ‘loves me’ I mean ‘he wanted me off his back’) he did. He gave me six great questions, the first of which I answered below. Because the answer (and this damned introduction) was rather long, I decided to post the other questions/answers at a later date, so as not to overwhelm you (and by ‘overwhelm you’ I mean ‘bore you to tears’). I know you’ll all be waiting on the edge of your seats, right? Right. So… off we go!
What is the bravest thing that you feel you've ever done? Physically, emotionally, or whatever.
It was 1972. I was a happy little first grader in Mrs. Veith’s class at Franklin School in Kearny, NJ. I liked my classmates and my teacher and life was good. Until that day… the day that would be forever burned into my psyche… the day I accidentally knocked Patrick O’Brien down at recess.
Patrick was a little kid, much smaller than I. Blonde and scrappy, he came from a big Irish family and his older brothers (of which there were 4) were known for their foul mouths and quick fists. The youngest (and the runt) of the group, Patrick was a little trouble-maker, often stirring things up and then getting his big brothers to bail him out.
Anyway, as I said, I knocked Patrick down. It was a total accident. We were playing tag, running helter skelter, and I somehow clipped him in the mouth with my elbow (he was really short). Down he went; blood on his lip, fire in his eyes, and revenge in his little black heart. He didn’t cry (the O’Briens never cried) but he jumped up as I was apologizing and got right in my face (well, he got right in my collarbone), yelling, “You did that on purpose! I’m going get my brother after you!”
Uh oh. My blood ran cold. He had to mean Kevin, the only one of his brothers who still went to our school. Kevin O’Brien was a big, red-headed 3rd grader, quick and mean, and he ruled the playground. I was scared. Correction: I was terrified. Kevin was not known for showing mercy, even to girls. And you must remember, these were the days when kids solved their own problems; the days before they were instructed to run crying to teachers or parents because some other kid committed an unforgivable sin, like calling them a name. Tattling was not an option.
I spent the rest of the morning in a cold sweat. Every time I looked over at Patrick, he was glaring at me. He kept pointing to his lip (which had stopped bleeding after about 30 seconds), sneering evilly. I gulped a lot that morning. When the bell rang for lunch, I was first out the door. Only the last half of our lunch break overlapped with the 3rd graders’, so I knew I’d be safe on the way home, but I still ran like Satan himself was on my heels. I figured I could talk my mom into letting me stay home for the afternoon. Pfffttt. Was I ever wrong. So I took the long way back, using my best Agent 99 skills to get me back into the building through a side-door, undetected! I didn’t see Patrick until the bell rang and as he sauntered past my desk, he leaned down and whispered, “Just wait until after school.” I didn’t swear back then but you can bet that if I had, “Shit-oh-dear” would have been coming out of my mouth. A lot. I spent the rest of the afternoon shaking, my stomach in knots. If I’d been a smarter kid, I would have told the teacher I was sick so I could have gotten sent home. Yeah, hindsight’s 20/20.
When the 3:00 bell rang, I left the building with my classmates, hoping to get lost in the crowd. But it was like I was a reverse magnet that repelled everything around me… everyone scattered and I was left alone (I’m sure you’re wondering why I didn’t have any friends to back me up… I’m wondering that myself as I tell this story. I did have friends, I swear… so where the hell were they?! All scared of Kevin O’Brien, that's where!).
Anyway, I was nearly out of the school yard when I saw them coming toward me; Patrick in front, leading the way, a ‘you’re gonna get it now’ look on his sniveling little face; Kevin behind him; several other 3rd grade boys following.
I stopped dead in my tracks… and peed in my pants. I did. I was actually wearing a skirt, so it wasn’t readily apparent, but it did not feel good, let me tell you.
When they got to me, Kevin stared at me with his little pig eyes, smacked his bubblegum loudly, and bounced a small pink rubber ball on the pavement (the same one he bounced against the wall of the school every morning, trying to bean the little kids on their heads as they dodged past on the way to their kindergarten classes). He cocked his head at me and said, “This her?” Patrick, the little weasel, replied affirmatively. I stood there shaking, pee running down my legs and into my socks and Buster Browns, ready to just close my eyes and fall to the ground in a fetal position.
And then it happened.
I don’t know where it came from but I looked right at big, ugly Kevin O’Brien and I said (in a shockingly defiant tone that belied my Jell-O, pee-covered knees), “Look, I knocked him down by accident. I didn’t mean to do it and I said I was sorry. But if you want to hit me, then just go ahead and get it over with.”
Then I waited, not taking my eyes off his freckled face. Kevin looked back at me for what seemed an eternity, chomping his wad of Bazooka, bouncing that ball all the while, and finally said, “Nah. Forget it. I don’t wanna hit a girl.” Then he clipped Patrick on the back of the head and turned and walked away, followed by his gang.
And I ran all the way home to change my underpants.
And that, my friends, is by far the bravest thing I have ever done in my life!