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I remember the first time a bunch of older kids in my neighbourhood jumped me. Sunny day, breezy weather, wood chips, poison ivy, and pigeon crap everywhere on the ground. I was no more than ten years old. It was the first time my mother ever let me go outside by myself. She told me to stay close to the front door, where she could check on me. I did not listen because I wanted to play with the other kids in the neighbourhood. I saw five kids playing catch with a football and approached them. I asked them if I could play and one said, “No, get the fuck out of here.” The rest of them laughed and heckled.
I stood there shocked because I did not understand. I thought to myself, “What did I do? Why don’t you like me?” The initial sting wore off after a few seconds, then I started walking away, but it was not quick enough because one shoved me in my back and I fell to the ground. I could barely see past the tears in my eyes, but another one joined in and kicked me.
I regained my balance, but at that point they were pushing me back and forth. They slugged me a few times; the last one to the gut knocked the wind out of me. I dropped to my knees; one of the boys kicked me one more time, then they walked away laughing and resumed playing catch. I grimaced so much that I was surprised that my face did not get stuck. I rose to my feet again, breathing heavily, sniffling, and walked home. I entered the apartment where my mother was cooking dinner. My twin sister was playing with her dolls; my older brother and father were watching a movie.
My mother turned around, looked, dropped the wooden spoon, and ran to me screaming, “What happened?!” I released all my tears because I couldn’t carry them anymore. The internal anger simmered in the pit of my stomach and escaped through my ribcage. The tears and stutters were minimal, due to my father.
My father approached me and said, “Stop crying. Are those kids still outside?” I replied, “Yes.” He looked at my brother and said, “Go get the boxing gloves.”
He wiped the tears from my face and said, “Stop crying, you’re okay. It is not your fault. If there is one thing I will never accept, it’s you not protecting yourself. I don’t want you fighting, but sometimes you have to defend yourself because you’re going to encounter those type of guys your whole life, and you have to stand up to them. So, let’s go.” My father took me outside and made me box all of them, even the oldest one out of the group. He was 13. I gave him a bloody nose. After that, they never messed with me again, but it wasn’t the last time I had to defend myself.