Posts Tagged ‘PTSD’

“Look out!” Skeeter shouted, but the warning came too late.

“Whump!”

I heard the familiar sound of bone crashing into meat, muscle, and tissue reverberating through my head. Bright burning pain radiated through my retainer bent inside my mouth. Immediately, my school books dropped from my side and went crashing to the black asphalt of the Hamady High School parking lot, and I could see my attacker backing away from me, shouting “C’mon, faggot! Let’s go!” He was serious when he threatened me at lunch; the thought flashed through my head like a lightning bolt. So did another one – I’m gonna kill this mother fucker! Bringing my fists up to my face in a guard, I closed the distance between us.

Perhaps I should start at the beginning …

With the horrors of the Fat Boys incident behind me, I planned to ride out my sophomore year at Hamady High School with no more reminders of that terrifying night. I had discarded my love of hip hop and b-boy persona the way a snake sheds its skin and adopted the cultural affectations of a skateboarder/punk rocker. This brought the usual taunts from the typical sources; but by and large, everything was going relatively fine … until the arrival of a pugnacious young man whom we’ll call the “Golden Mullet.”

The Golden Mullet was more than a bad ‘80s hairstyle, he was also a recent transfer from some god-forsaken shithole such as Beecher, Burton, or the dreaded East Side. As his nickname would suggest, the Golden Mullet sported a puffy mullet with the same shade and thickness as that precious metal, and he had all the affectations of a typical ’80s bully: tight, peg-legged jeans tucked into high-top sneakers, left untied. Up top were the requisite band t-shirts, most often the likes of Motley Crue and Ozzy, with a pack of Marlboro reds rolled up in one sleeve.

He also had “the walk.”

Anyone who was ever tormented by a bully in the ’80s has seen “the walk.” This bizarre pantomime consisted of puffing one’s chest out and squaring the shoulders to make themselves as wide as possible. And it doesn’t stop there. Practitioners would curl their arms out at their sides as if they were a gunslinger in the Wild West, and they also kicked their feet as they walked, causing their heels to clunk hard into the floor as they proceeded down the hallway. All of this was set off with a narrowing of the eyes and tipping the head back so that they were literally looking down upon everyone they passed. Put all of this together and add in the occasional challenge of shouting “What?” or “What’re you lookin’ at?” and you have “the walk.”

Keep in mind, “the walk” wasn’t all fashion – it had function, too. By making themselves as wide as physically possible, the Golden Mullet and other high school bullies increased the odds that they would bump into their fellow students. This, of course, gave them the excuse to beat someone up … because if there’s one thing you don’t do, it’s make contact with this type of bully. Even so much as an accidental brush was provocation to violence because their precious reputations and gigantic egos simply couldn’t allow such a brazen “challenge” to go ignored.

So this is what landed in our neighborhood and took up residence on Mott Avenue. And the Golden Mullet wasn’t alone, either. He quickly fell in with another group of like-minded – and equally fashionable – Motley Crue fans who lived on nearby Doran Avenue, and an impromptu gang was formed. Being new to both the school and our neighborhood, the Golden Mullet no doubt felt the need to prove himself and establish his reputation as a person not to be fucked with. Since my friend and I had already had a minor beef with the aforementioned mulleted metal mavens, the Golden Mullet was eager to take up the challenge of beating up J.P. Ribner.

It was a challenge he relished all too well.

For months, the Golden Mullet threatened me in school. He also stood outside of Double D supermarket one chilly winter’s night and gestured for me to come outside and fight him. The only thing that saved me from having to confront him as I left was the fact that my mother was with me. I can only surmise that since the Golden Mullet was always close with his mother, perhaps he chose not to smash my face in front of mine. I breathed a sigh of relief that he found it in his heart to spare me the humiliation of being pummeled in front of Mommy Dearest.

Though several confrontations between us had been averted, I seemed destined to have to fight this rambunctious stoner, and the plain fact of the matter was, I was afraid. Call me silly, but I foolishly believed all his bluff and bluster of being the toughest guy in the world. I did what I could to avoid his challenges until one day, I could avoid them no more. And would you believe that it all started over a penny?

Walking back from lunch with my friend Skeeter, I saw the Golden Mullet coming at me at a rapid pace. The next thing I know, he makes a motion with his arm like he’s Ron fucking Guidry, and suddenly I’m being pelted in the chest with a handful of change. He said, “Go buy some lunch, faggot!” and the comment was followed by the laughter of his friends. Without even thinking, I quickly bent down, scooped up at least one of the pennies that hit me, and fired it at him, hitting him square in the eye.

Infuriated by the pain and loss of face in front of his friends, the Golden Mullet came chest-to-chest with me. A verbal torrent of threats and insults poured forth from his offensive mouth but I was too heated up to care. A teacher came around the corner and told us both to go back to class, and to be honest, I thought that was the end of it. Clearly, I completely forgot “the rule” – bullies can do whatever they want to me, but I can’t do the same back to them without getting my ass kicked.

Flash forward to 2:45pm, as Skeeter and I are walking home, talking about who knows what. We crossed a small, grassy hill and entered the parking lot proper, walking past a row of Regals and Cutlass Supremes that were jacked up in the back, with fat tires and Cragar rims. Apparently, the Golden Mullet had been hiding behind one of these vehicles, waiting in ambush. As I passed him by, he burst forth toward me and, without my seeing him, hit me in the jaw from behind before jumping back from me and dancing around, taunting me.

This was a HUGE mistake!

Without one single thought to the fear I once had, I charged the Golden Mullet and the glorious and chaotic mess of our infamous brawl began. I swung a right hook at him which, in my highly adrenalized state, completely missed his face. Fortunately, because I had some experience in the martial arts, I knew what a backfist was and I simply swung my right fist back and caught him underneath his eye. He went to kick me and I jumped back but not quick enough to dodge his shoe, which came flying off his foot and hit me in the chest.

“Hold on!” he shouted. “Let me get me shoe on.”

I kicked the raggedy high top back at him and told him to hurry up, which he did. We were back at it again and, in all the confusion, he somehow managed to grab my shoulders and take us both to the ground. A little something about me – I’m terrified if fights go to the ground. I wasn’t a skilled wrestler, and being on the ground leaves you practically defenseless if someone’s friends decide to get involved. I did the only thing I could do – I grabbed hold of his mullet with one hand and pulled his head back, then I shoved the index finger of my other hand into his eye and viciously scratched his cornea.

“Lenny! David!” he shrieked, beseeching his fellow members of the Mullet Militia. “Help me! Get him off’a me!”

On the one hand, I was bolstered by the fear in the Golden Mullet’s voice and it made me rip at his eyeball even harder. On the other hand, his friends Lenny and David were standing above me and either or both could’ve easily stomped my head to a pulp. To their credit as gentlemen however, they did no such thing. In fact, I’ll never forget what David, the older of the two, had said.

“You’re the one who wanted to fight him, so fight him!”

Somehow we struggled back to our feet but I maintained an iron grip on his bale-of-hay hair. I quickly circled behind him and put my arms under his arms and got him into a full Nelson, which was tightly secured with now two handfuls of his amazing golden hair. He froze, unable to break free of my hold, and I took full advantage of this by head-butting him in the back of the head seven or eight times, leaving him a bit wobbly.

“Let him go!” someone shouted. “Someone’s comin’!”

Looking over the Golden Mullet’s head, I saw high school principal Lone Wolf McSuede running toward us at full speed. I gave my erstwhile tormentor a hard shove and he whirled around and stared at me for a second, and all the fire that was once inside his eyes seemed extinguished. In that moment, he knew he had been beaten, and I knew it to. We nodded to each other, an impromptu agreement that each would be given safe passage out of there. We successfully evaded McSuede … until he pulled us into the office the next day and gave us both a three-day suspension.

But what does this have to do with what happened at the Fat Boys show, you might be wondering? Ironically, the connection between these two incidents occurred to me last Friday like a bolt out of the blue.

As previously stated, I was terrified of the Golden Mullet. He seemed bigger than me, and he definitely carried himself with more self esteem than I ever had back then. I was shocked that I reacted the way I did – jumping into action without fear – because it seemed so out of character for me. Knowing what I know now about Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, I can see that his initial punch triggered all the unresolved anger from that incident that I had been carrying around with me, and my anger overrode my fears. It was practically the same punch from the same angle, after all, and I’m convinced that there’s no possible way that a connection between the two can be denied.

His second mistake was backing off after that first punch. Had he just continued hitting me, there was a good chance I might not have ever been able to gather the presence of mind to mount a successful counter-offense. If he had followed through with his surprise attack, there’s a very good chance he could’ve dominated me and even knocked me out. That said, I’m thankful for his mistakes!

You readers will likely be glad to know that the animosities between the Golden Mullet and myself ceased not long after the fight. It was he who came up to me one day and said, “Look, you’re gonna say you won the fight, and I’m gonna say I won; but neither one of us has a problem with each other so let’s just bury the hatchet.” I shook his hand and the two of us continued doing skateboarding tricks in the school’s parking lot, not 20 feet from where we had fought a year or two before.

While this chapter has a happy ending, the imprint of the Fat Boys incident remained in my psyche for many many years to come, which you’ll hear about tomorrow in my fourth and final installment of: Fat Boys are Back … and J.P. is Under Attack!