Big Bad Bully. Me

by Regis Boff

When people look at me, they think either “bully” or “oafish and dumb.” I was always bigger than everyone else. Traditionally people my size did beat on the weak, so I have, over time, accepted their biases, I guess. I have often been the victim of smaller angrier people who seem attracted to me like light drunk moths bent on building momentary reputations. I also know that no one ever takes my side in a fight. It must be a rule.
The houses in my neighborhood were rigid and stood side by side like boxed No. 2 pencils. There was a tense, smelly intimacy about it. The boy living next door was older and smaller than me, but he was mean too.
One winter he started knocking me down and stealing my hat on our way home from school. I would come home crying, my cold red nose drooling. My bully would throw the hat on our little patio knowing that my dad, who worked at night and was home all day, would be sure to see.
My dad and I settled into this routine silently and shamefully, like fathers and sons often do. One afternoon after my bully had bloodied my nose my dad dragged me out by the elbow to get the hat. He screamed at the boy’s house that I was there to fight him. The boy did not come out.
Three years later that kid, who had grown no bigger, our friends and I, were playing in front of our house. We were wrestling. I was much larger and stronger now. I threw him down a hillside and broke his leg. Sure I was to be punished I told my father while he was reading his paper what I had done. He said without looking up, “It serves him right.”
As an adult I ran into this kid on a home visit, he too now a grown man. We sat and talked about growing up the way we had, never mentioning our unique history. He was sweet and gentle.
I was still big and he still small.
I grabbed his hat when I left and did not give it back.