Category Archives: My First Fight

A collaborative ‘zine project I am curating. It’s an attempt to get to the root of how violence affects us.

At the Urinals by Bryce Van Nye

So they have these little urinals at Fox Hills Elementary. It’s a small school, just outside

Salt Lake City, Utah. They’re just something you used to piss in; I’d never given them much

thought, until that day. You don’t have occasion to think much about them until you’re right beside

one, slamming and raking your tiny bloody hands into someone twice your size.


I was seven. A very silently damaged seven. You couldn’t put the mark on what was

wrong with me, but it was there. I was numb, just a little blond monster. I’d been emptied of my

personage– eaten up by uncle, and then cousin, until there was nothing left of me. No child, but

the convincing shell of one. I was playing pretend, and making it look like a small growing life.

I was at the urinal peeing. I had a hall pass, and because I had very little bladder control, I

owned a fancy free pass. Then this 12 year old entered, and stood at the urinal next to mine. He

looked at me, reached across into the urinal, and grabbed me. I froze. Everything went black, but

this time instead of withdrawing inward, and away, I flew out at him. Hatred oozed out of every

pore in my body. I have never felt so enraged in my entire life, either before or since. I don’t even

remember attacking. He was so much fucking bigger than me, yet still smaller than the others. It

did not matter, it didn’t even warrant a single thought.


So there I was clawing my way up his body, scratching and hitting him, as I rode his larger

body to the ground. I punched one hand after another into his face. I remember feeling his nose

break; it felt like a secret seed exploding into a full tree inside my tiny chest, with pure,

unadulterated, euphoric satisfaction. Then I was standing over him, kicking him as he cried.

They wanted to expel me, but I was gone again, I wouldn’t even say a word. The angry

voices were like a distant buzzing in my ear. When my mother arrived, she got them to leave.

With a calm voice while looking right at me, she asked what had happened.


“He’d touched me,” was all I’d say, and she knew what I’d meant. She cleared everything with

them, but I honestly don’t remember a thing about it.


I was buried again under walls, and was a ghost for many years to come. I could always

feel the joy as they pulled me off of him, that joy of release. Like a tree top poking up past the

piles of trash, that feeling of being free for the first time never quite left me. Of course I had no

clue as to just how far I had to go. Even now after so much work, it’s the fight in me that counts on

the darkest of days. I can only drown for so long before it boils back up. What I learned on that

day, is that I will not leave this life without a struggle. I will not be a silent victim.

The Knife, by Sarah Mello

I have a lot of good “conflict” stories from when I was a kid, but perhaps my favorite was when I pulled a knife on the neighbor boy @ the age of 6.

He was meaner than a snake, but I always played with him anyway. There were some creepy Pentecostal kids up the street who I would visit from time to time, but their parents would always try to convert me & I always left their house gripped with fear that the world was going to end at any second or that the almighty lord was going to come and take my parents for “playing cards for money and drinkin’ all the time…SINNERS!”

So, all I had was the neighbor boy. That particular day, we were at home with our babysitter. I remember him coming over and we went out into the backyard to play. He ended up whacking me in the eye with a chain from our swing-set and then, proceeded to make fun of me for crying. I have always been the type of person to take shit for the longest time…and then, one day, I’ll snap (we’re talking wind-blowing, people running away screaming, world-ending type of “snap”). This kid sent me over the flipping edge. It was ON.

I ran inside and I remember specifically picking out a steak-knife (because it was sharp). I didn’t intend to hurt him with it, I just wanted to show him that I meant business. I took it outside, picked up some leaves/dirt..etc and started to cut them up. He walked over and asked me why I had the knife. I remember looking at him and saying: “See how sharp it is? Look how easy I can cut this stuff up! You’d better leave me alone or this might be you!” Saying this scared the hell out of me, but I was tired of this kid’s I had to put on a good front. I remember feeling like the situation wasn’t real and that it was more comic-book-y/no consequences type of feeling. Which makes sense to me now when I hear stories of little ones committing crimes.

He ran off and I went back inside feeling super triumphant. I put the knife away and I didn’t say a word to the babysitter or my older sister. IN YOUR FACE NEIGHBOR BOY!!!

Well, about 30-45 minutes later, the cops showed up. His mother had called the police AND family services. I remember being completely gripped with fear and I honest to god thought that I was going to be carted off to jail any second. The cops and the woman from CPS came into the house and we all sat down in the front room. The babysitter called my parents and my dad (who was close by) came rushing home. I remember them all sitting there, staring at me like I was some feral child & talking about me like I wasn’t there.

Finally, the woman from CPS asked me what happened. Here was my chance to set the record straight:

“I was making a mud-stew in the backyard and I needed a knife to cut up some leaves and grass”

“Did you want to hurt Michael, Sarah? Did you point the knife at him or threaten him at all?” The woman asked.

“Nooooooo. Michael had to go home. I don’t know why he left.”

She then asked me to go find the knife that I used. So, I walked into the kitchen and (knowing the damn well that getting the actual steak-knife would just make shit way worse) found the most innocent looking butter knife I could find. I remember bringing it into the front room and feeling a wave of relief as the whole room started to giggle. One of the cops patted me on the head and told me everything was going to be okay. The whole room seemed to forget that I was there and they all started talking to each other. I just ran into my room, into the comfort of my stuffed horses and blanket shield. When I finally did come out of my room, everyone had gone.

My dad went over to their house and flipped out on the kid’s parents for calling the cops. The kid’s mom (think “truck-driver realness”) pulled a shot-gun on him…and so, the cops ended up having to come back! When I think about this now, the whole situation seems extremely fucked up, but at the time, it just seemed unreal and like I was watching it unfold behind the safety of some magic curtain that just sort of melted away when the danger ended.

I never played with the neighbor boy again and we moved not too long after that. Crazy shit. I don’t know what I learned from the situation, or that my life is any different as a result. I just remember thinking that violence or it’s consequences did not seem real; like a cartoon…or something I saw on television. I don’t think I would have actually hurt the kid with the knife. To this day, I have never had a bone in my body that would want to hurt anyone, no matter how evil they may be. I just wanted to SCARE him…and I did.

My First Fight Zine Project

My First Fight is a zine project I’m gathering together. It’s a collection of stories about people’s first fights, drawn from as wide a selection of humanity as I can get. Sometimes, first fights can be pivotal experiences, teaching lessons that last a lifetime. Other times they are pointless and forgettable. They may be funny, horrific, sad, or triumphant, sometimes all at once.

In a society where violence of all sorts is a very big problem, I became curious about people’s first encounters with it. I want to distinguish between one-way violence; abuse, police brutality and other state violence, etc. I’m interested in that moment when you first balled up your fists to injure another person. Did that moment change you? How? I’m hoping that these stories may provide some insight into how violence touches us in unexpected ways.

I am accepting submissions for this project. You can be anonymous, or use a pseudonym if you like. I’d like to put these up here with your permission, but the goal is also to produce a photocopied ‘zine. Send me your mailing address along with your submission and I’ll mail you a copy when it’s done.

Email submissions to