“Give it baaaack!” she screamed as he yanked the scarf from her hand and whizzed away on his skates.
From where I stood, I could see his devil smile as he was encircled by his dark band of friends who congratulated him on his successful mission of disrupting us. It had been going on all afternoon.
A group of us had decided to spend our warm February Saturday at an ice rink in our neighborhood to visit and get some much needed fresh air after being trapped in school all week. We weren’t interested in catching the attention of the boys who shared our sixth grade classroom, but they were determined to annoy us. We had spent almost every waking moment with them and didn’t want to be around them for a minute longer. This was way before selfies and the idea of making oneself the center of attention. We preferred the idea of enjoying life and the freedom of just being ourselves without putting on a show for the world to see.
We wanted to be out in the sun, talk about silly things, laugh and enjoy a small slice of freedom before the school bell would soon ring before we knew it. But, the creeps who were on the ice with us that day had other plans.
It brought this group of six creatures great joy to skitter by, call us names, grab hats off of heads, and rip off gloves from unsuspecting fingers just so the chase would be on. They knew they could out-skate us as they laughed in response to the shrieks of their various victims.
I had taken notice of what they were doing and kept myself aware of where they were at all times. Attempts were made to take some of my winter wear, but they were unsuccessful as I would turn away just in time so they would come up empty handed. However, I did have to hunt down a few of these perpetrators to help my companions retrieve their stolen items. We were dealing with a bunch of immature idiots whose brain development had not yet reached its full potential. If you have ever read the book, “Lord of the Flies” it was playing itself out in real time in a public park.
As the day wore on, our desire to stay waned and we were exhausted from trying to avoid them. We had positioned ourselves in the farthest spot away, but they kept on with their stupid games. We decided to give it up and go back to the warming house for our boots. Noticing that their prey was departing, the six of them skated directly in front of us and formed a line. The six of us formed a line and linked arms. We weren’t so sure what they had planned except we were no longer going to passively stand by and let them torture us.
“Don’t cross this line!” one of them commanded.
He took the heel of his hockey skate and etched a line between us and them. He returned to stand by his friends while leaning on his hockey stick.
It gave new meaning to the phrase Cold War as each of us refused to back down.
“And, what if we do?” one of the girls asked.
“Just don’t you dare!” a boy shot back.
“Who says we can’t?” another girl asked.
“We do!” a boy said.
To this day, I don’t know what prompted my actions, but I unlinked my arms and skated to the edge of the border. All eyes were on me as I deliberately put the toe of my skate directly over their line.
I locked eyes with the leader who had so brazenly decided he could tell us our coming and going. His eyes changed from wide to an angry squint and he let out a hair raising howl that indicated his burning rage toward my rebellious act. My body was moving before my mind had taken a chance to process what was happening. I saw him lunge at me slightly, but I had escaped his wrath by being one step ahead of him.
As I glided on the ice as fast as I could, his presence behind me was apparent with loud sharp breathing sounds. The muscles in my legs were burning, but I knew if I paused I would be overtaken. As in any race, it is a known rule not to look back at your competition, but my curiosity took over. I thought,
What is he really going to do to me if he catches up to me?
I glanced over my left shoulder just in time to see his hockey stick above my head like a hatchet. And, then, I was flat on the ice with a searing, throbbing pain by my eye that was unbearable. Instinctively, I shielded myself from further physical punishment, but he had apparently skated off after clubbing me down.
“Are you okay?” I heard a friend of mine say in my ear.
I was not moving after being violently smacked, and I wasn’t sure I wanted to see the damage that had been done to my face.
She coaxed me to a kneeling position and looked at my injury.
“I think you better go home right now.”
I could tell by the look on her face that she was shocked but trying not to scare me.
There was no blood, but the pulsating sensation in that particular area was increasing especially as I got up and wobbled to the warming house.
I quietly changed and made the walk home. When I came into the house, I immediately burst into the tears I had been holding in. I had not wanted to look like a sniveling cry baby in front of my friends and worse yet, the boys.
Through the tears, my mom tilted my head from side to side making her medical assessment.
“Who did this to you? How did this happen? The skin isn’t broken so you don’t need stitches. You need ice on that right now.”
While I tried to control my emotions, she began cracking ice out of the trays to make an ice pack.
“Who did this?”
“A boy,” I replied.
I explained the entire story.
“I think we need to call his parents.”
“No,” I said.
“I just don’t want you to.”
By this time, my dad had come into the kitchen to see the greenish purple bruising that was forming around my left eye.
“Who gave you the shiner?”
“A boy and his hockey stick.”
Both he and my mom insisted on trying to call the parents, but I wouldn’t let them.
Two days later, I was back in school sporting a swollen eye with a horrible color to match. As I walked past the boy who had inflicted this upon me, I saw him put his head down in a shameful way. He did this every time our paths crossed in the hallway, and in the classroom, he never made eye contact with me at all. I think he had expected my parents to call his and probably was waiting for the inevitable punishment to follow.
It was apparent that his rash actions had led him to live with the black clouds of guilt and remorse. Without a verbal apology, I could see this in his body language toward me. His daily misery was almost worse than my physical injury. The boy who had been so in charge and intimidating a few days prior was now under the crushing weight of knowing he had hit a girl like a coward from behind.
I didn’t speak of it, and other than the ones who knew about it, no one else was aware of who had done this to me. Even though I kept it to myself, one boy of the group repeatedly teased me and called me ‘brusier’ every chance he could. While the other boys would laugh, the one who had caused the pain would look away, and I would be made fully aware again of his inward acknowledgment that he regretted doing this to me. In the past, he would have joined in on the merriment, but his heart had changed on some level.
Sometimes, the act of hurting someone and the regret can be punishment enough. Often, there is no way to go back in time to undo the damage, but going forward, a decision can be made to treat others better. At his young age, he probably didn’t know how to deal with the struggle of being sorry, yet, not wanting to look weak in front of his friends.
The black eye healed but a scar remained that has now been lost in a sea of crow’s feet. As I apply mascara or eye shadow, I can faintly see the mark that was made so long ago from my act of courageously crossing the line.