Monday, September 12, 2011

Fond Memories

There was a year long period in middle school when my friends beat the shit out of me on an almost daily basis.

I wasn't the only one who suffered these beatings. We all had a tendency to take out our strange, suppressed, pubescent aggressions on one another. But sometimes I think I bore the brunt of it.

Most days after school, a large clan of us would trample down the street to my parents house, where an overwhelming lack of parental supervision left us free to run rampant. Here, our shallow seventh grade depths of lip gloss and ponytails gave way abruptly to an intense and terrifying savagery.

I can't pinpoint the exact origin of these group beatings; I don't remember how or why it all started. Instead, my memory is infiltrated with short, dreamlike clips of specific instances, like the feeling of suddenly coming to after having blacked out from drinking.

I remember the smallest one, sitting on my chest, gulping triumphantly from a two-liter bottle of Dr. Pepper, my favorite brand of pop. Two others had been assigned the task of wrangling my squirming, ungainly legs until I had been effectively pinned down to my own kitchen floor.

(In time, we had developed a highly efficient strategy for pinning down our victims. You had to start with the legs. Left unbound, they would thrash desperately and violently, and were liable to do any amount of damage necessary to become freed.)

Another afternoon, sunny and early fall, two of us waited for my sister to come pick us up after school and take us to the mall. In the time it took her to get there, one of my best friends pushed me backwards off a bench and whipped me repeatedly across the face with the straps of a backpack. I was left with a red, rashy mark across my face that looked like spaghetti sauce.

I don't want to play the victim. I know for a fact that time in the schoolyard I reciprocated in the same violent gist. And I remember the day I left a hand-print shaped bruise on another friends arm. There were plenty of times when I played the assailant, and not the assailed.

It's the sort of erratic behavior that could easily be attributed to an extreme excess of energy. Untapped aggression. Unchecked insecurities. As with everything, there had to be more to it than what appeared on the surface, and sometimes I still wonder if there was something about me, specifically, that caused my friends to act out like that.

I guess I'll never know, and it doesn't really matter now anyway. I think of it as the gnarly, twisted core of our friendship, and it's a good reminder to judge how far we've really come.

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