Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Clenched Fist

When I was in fourth grade, I was a small, weak kid. I was the sort who looked like I was begging to be tied to a post and fed to ants. One look at me, and you’d know here’s a kid you could kick without fear of reprisal.

There was indeed somebody who was bigger than me who loved kicking my balls. I hated it, but because I was a newbie in that school and was not very confident about anything yet, all I did was grin or avoid large crowds as much as possible. But this particular boy so persistently hounded me until I came to the end of my tether; he was bigger, taller, and generally looked like he came from Hell. He’d make faces, interrupt my conversations about the amazing powers of Voltron and the Transformers, and eat my food. Worse, he had the entire class behind him; he was the kind of boy whom the teachers loved because he sucked up to them, and usually, when he’d fuck up, he’d cleverly pass the blame to somebody else—and that somebody else, at that time, was often me.

So there was a point I decided that, although I’d usually avoid physical trouble, maybe I should make an exception. Maybe I should give this boy a taste of his own blood.

One day, somebody sold me a metal ring for fifty centavos. The ring’s supposed diamond was just cheap glass, and when you’d remove the glass, what’s left were the little metal claws that used to hold the stone. It became a terrible little weapon. I would wear the ring in my quiet moments and promise myself the next time the fucker busts my balls, he’ll be sleeping with the fishes.

So one afternoon, I was on my way to school when I spotted him at the far end of the road. I felt the rush of blood to my head. I took out the ring from my backpocket and slipped it into my middle finger. I steeled my nerves and surrendered to the fact that it was probably my last day on earth. It all felt like suicide, like I was running headlong to something that would shatter me so utterly. But I thought, if this fucker makes the mistake of doing something that even remotely resembles oppression, God help me, but I would rip that face apart.

Then I clenched my fist, shoved it deep in my pocket, and walked on.

But for some reason, the boy disappeared; he probably made a turn that I didn’t see because I was so rapt in my thoughts of “righting what was wrong.”

I failed to see him at school that day. More strange was that, afterwards, he and I would be good friends. Well, not really good good friends, but something along the lines of I-Leave-You-With-Your-Shit-Alone-While-I-Bother-Other-People kind of friendship. I don’t exactly remember how, but I think it started the day he asked me to draw something naughty and I obliged.

Years later, that fellow would die in a freak motorcycle accident.

I would also forget about the ring for some years until one day, when I was about to enter college, I found it again at the bottom of a box that contained the knick-knacks of my childhood. Half-buried in lint, the ring glimmered faintly as old memories sometimes did. I picked it up, held it against the sun. The ring was still sharp; its little claws looked like the talons of a small bird. But it was still sharp. The cutting edge could still make you bleed.

For similar posts, see Backtracks and Fast-forwards.

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dementia said...

Wow! This is so well written. I can imagine how the events unfolded as you narrated the story.

OsakaWilson said...

At the point you put that ring on, I bet you no longer appeared to be "one of those kids" who are easily picked on.

PJB said...

When I was picked on at school I found humour was a powerful weapon. All I had to do was point out the bullies funny quirks to everyone, including his friends. Soon they were laughing at him not me !!

JB said...

Dementia, thanks.

OsakaWilson, you're right. people change the moment they make some decisions.

PJB, that sometimes worked, but it's usually tantamount to being in a cage with an angry gorilla. =p