Going with Jack – by Renee

My first fight was in 7th grade. She was bigger than me, by like an inch. I was the new kid, still, after 2+ years. Catholic school. Uniforms. Green plaid uniforms. Everyone hated me. It was planned, we would go somewhere after school and fight. There was a group of us, but just me and her were supposed to brawl.

I don’t remember feeling anything leading up to it. Was I scared? Or angry? Was I embarrassed? I was “going with” *jack*. If I remember correctly, I didn’t do anything to her, but she harbored an irrational hatred towards me because of Jack. Going with Jack. We didn’t hang out. We barely even talked on the phone. It was simply an acknowledgement that we sort of maybe had a crush on each other, and maybe if we were a little older we might have had lunch together or held hands. There was something about Catholic school that severely stunted our emotional growth (and our math skills). It was not okay with some other girls that Jack and I were willing to acknowledge to ourselves and others that we were crushing on each other.

As I’m writing this I’m trying to think back to remember if I did anything to make her angry, I want to find a reason for her to want to fight me. But here’s the thing, from the time I arrived at that school on the first day of fifth grade, I was an outsider, I was different, I was the unknown, and it didn’t take long for something to trigger a reaction that lead to almost all of the girls in my class, and at least one in the grade above us, to decide to be collectively awful to me. Try as I might to find a reason for them to hate me like that, and for me to feel all of the guilt and shame that came with knowing there must be a reason, that I must have done something, there wasn’t one. I didn’t do anything. And I didn’t do anything to her. She was caught up in the adolescent group mentality (and possibly her own desire for power within that group) fed by the cruelty of a few (who probably had really awful childhoods) and I was forced to be amenable to her desire to pummel me out of my own paralyzing guilt.

She punched me. I want to say I didn’t hit her back, because even at that age I was a pacifist, and because my guilt is too great to allow me to physically hurt another person. But I swung back. And I missed. (which means I never intentionally hit anyone until my second fight – in my last year of college when Jimmy and I used our fists one night to get out all of the frustration and anger we couldn’t find words for). The girls who had followed us out there rallied around me, for a minute or 30.

I was in shock and they were too – no one actually expected there to be a fight. For all of the talk, nothing like this had ever really happened at our school, especially between girls. After the fight, after I got punched in the face, I just up and refused to go to school anymore. My dad finally pulled me out of there, [off the island,] out of that stupid green polyester uniform, and sent me over to the local public school, Pinole Middle School, where I quickly found friends (and better teachers, with a much more solid curriculum) and was easily accepted into the sea of angsty seventh graders. Some of those kids, the catholic school kids, have found me on Facebook. I don’t deny their requests (though, I should I suppose), maybe out of guilt, maybe purely out of curiosity. I do block them. Maybe that gives me some kind of control over our relationship; I can gaze, but they can only gaze my profile pictures. But I wonder how they remember us. If it’s different for them. What compels them to try to “friend” me.

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