Like many others, gym class was the worst. Yes, I was nerdy, but the problem wasn’t that I wasn’t athletic. I was. I swam on the team year round and could hold my own in most sports. The problem was that I wasn’t popular. I wasn’t supposed to fit in or be part of the team. I wasn’t meant to be accepted. My place in life was to be picked last for the dodge-ball team. My place was to get hit out first, preferably with a ball to the face or some comically awkward fall.
Gym class was the worst, too, because of the locker room. A lot happens in locker rooms. Kids bodies are judged. And they judge. Some flaunt. Some learn to change into their gym clothes while never getting naked. Things are said in the locker room that wouldn’t fly in most other classrooms or anywhere with an adult. Those moments before and after class are a danger zone where anything goes, and, like Vegas, most things are never reported.
I don’t remember what I did to piss off one of the school bullies. I don’t remember what I was discussing with my friend, Kirsten, when the lock when flying between us. I don’t remember if they bully said anything at all or if she just threw, with all her might, a lock towards my head. She missed. I was lucky.
I remember for two more years looking at the dent in the locker. It was visible and deep. I remember looking at that dent and wondering what the lock would have done to my skull. I remember questioning if I would have been knocked out. Would I have been taken to the hospital? Could it have killed me? What if it had hit Kirsten instead? I remember imagining how embarrassing it would have been to be taken out of the school unconscious, semi-clothed. How awful it would have been to admit defeat to this bully. Someone, getting seriously hurt, would have been my fault.
I never did tell anyone about the incident. Kirsten didn’t either.
Two years ago, while goofing around on Facebook, I saw her face. The smiling face of the bully who had terrorized me. She is a Mom. She has some job as counselor for at-risk kids. She works in a school. I wonder if she remembers herself as a bully. Or if she ever thinks about the lock that could have killed me. Or if she worries about her own daughter being bullied. I wonder what good she could possibly do for at risk kids, bullied themselves.
Part of me knows that people change, that she could have changed, that she might be wonderful at her job and as a mother. The other part of me, possibly the stronger (and irrational) part of me, is still afraid of her.