SMOKE: School Fights
Originally published: 15 September 2005
I was never much of a brawler at school. I was too skinny. By skinny I mean rake-thin, with ribcage painfully etched into my skin and an almost hollow countenance.
I was bullied plenty, but that doesn't count. A fight is a two-way affair - bullying is completely one-sided.
I was still rake-thin until the end of my first year at varsity, but during those summer holidays I drank more beer than all the rest of human beer consumption in the last thousand years put together and emerged from the end of it 30 kilogrammes heavier.
My metabolism started working less efficiently than it used to (I think I destroyed it that night with the bottle of Tabasco I drank by way of a challenge), but I never minded - a big oke is better than a small one, from where I'm sitting.
I actually tried to take on my high school bully once, but it was a fruitless task.
He was double my size and with his pal had me restrained in no time, and continued where he'd left off - repeatedly kicking my thigh in the same spot, over and over and over again.
This went on for an entire winter - we played hockey together and after practice each week he and his mate would corner me in the changing rooms and spend 20 minutes or so repeatedly kicking my thigh.
It was a weird way to bully someone - normally bullies are all over the place. But these guys were systematic in the way they monotonously kicked the same place on my one thigh over and over.
It was brilliant - not only was the pain extreme, but the frustration at not being able to stop it was far greater. Systematic torture through repetitive actions.
I eventually reported Dibbo (the bully) and his mate to the vice principal of the school, but I was too young to appreciate school politics - Dibbo was a rich kid whose Mum was involved with the school; I was not.
The school did nothing, the bullying continued until the end of the season and the following year Dibbo was made a prefect and upheld as a role model for a thousand other kids.
Heh. Extraordinary - but true.
Anyways - the upshot of it all is that I was more a spectator in school fights than a participant, and while the thrill of expectation at a fight was great, that's where it always ended.
Fights were so tame and substanceless - these days kids are sticking each other with sharpened lollipop sticks or simply blowing each other away with shotguns, but back when it was all you could do to get a decent shove on and a swift lummy or two.
The whole Huckleberry Finn thing of drawing a line in the dirt and inviting your opponent to step over it for a knuckle sandwich was widely revered by school lads, and it was rubbish, I'm afraid.
A typical scenario would unfold as follows:
A crowd would suddenly form as if by magic - one moment there would a playground full of boys rushing about and the next it would be like a giant boy-magnet was switched on and everyone was sucked together in a rapid vacuum effect.
One glance from the far end of the playground would inform you of all you needed to know - a group of boys standing around in a cheering huddle means only one thing.
You'd rush over and try force your way forward to see and in the middle would be the two protagonists. If you were really lucky they'd be in the pushing and shoving stage, but more often than not they were still in Huck Finn mode.
"Step over this line and I'll smack you, bru."
The oke would step over the line. Another would be drawn, a foot back.
"This is the last time, bru - step over this line and I'll moer you stukkend."
The oke would step over the second line. At a loss for what to do now the first oke would start ranting on about the issue at hand, by way of avoiding the problem of having to land the first punch.
There might be a push, there may be a shove, but punches were as rare as hen's teeth.
Eventually the fight would dissipate as it became clear nobody was actually going to fight, and although you'd hang around until the last possible moment, desperately hoping for bloodshed, it very rarely came.
There was one good fight, though. Just one. Even though it was completely one-sided.
I wasn't the only bullied kid at school - bullying is far more rife than even the experts know. Not just the physical stuff - the mental humiliation as well.
One other such bullied kid was the class nerd - the typical, absolute stereotype of a nerd. Skinny, pale, with glasses, bad skin, bak ore and buck teeth.
Naturally he was picked on all the way through school and naturally he couldn't fight back. His tormentor-in-chief was a huge boy - a true biff - and one swat of his meaty hand would send the nerd spinning into infinity and beyond.
Until one day, when the nerd snapped.
My mate Grey has always maintained that the most vicious of fighters are nerds that snap, and I can concur fully with that sentiment. I've seen it with my own eyes.
We were in class, the bully made some taunt, and all the years of pent-up frustration, rage, humiliation and pain just triggered something in the nerd.
He leapt four desks in one bound - literally - and with the strength of a madman and the intensity of a demon he absolutely tore the bully to shreds.
It took the teacher (a hefty male) and four other boys to drag him from the screaming bully, and even so it wasn't easy. As they carted him away he was still clawing wildly in the air, trying to rip the face off his tormentor, and there was a froth around his lips and the most frightening look of implacability in his eyes that I had ever seen.
The bully was literally ripped apart. His hair was out in huge chunks, his face, neck and shoulders had the skin stripped off them and one of his eyes was bleeding from the gouging it took. He was covered in blood and crying like a baby - one of the happiest moments of my life.
It was the savage intensity of the nerd that was the scary part of it all - I've never seen someone lose it so completely before. He entered another realm - a place where those who have not been tormented will never know - and lost whatever little shred of dignity and humanity the bully had left him.
I don't know what happened to him, because we never saw him again. The rumour was that his parents had removed him from the school and transferred him somewhere else.
I don't see how he could ever have been OK again, and I promise you this - had nobody intervened that bully would have died a very horrible death indeed.
What made it a fight was the fact that the bully tried to fight back. What made it so one-sided was the fact that in those few mad moments that nerd had more than a hundred times the strength of the much larger bully. He had a strength that bully will never know.
The strength of humiliation and desperation.
All Smoked Out,