FORTY

I WILL NOW TELL YOU ONE OF MY BEST/WORST STORIES.  It is true.  It takes place back when I was in 9th grade and is a story my 9th graders like to hear me tell.  A long time ago, I was in high school and had to go to PE.  Now, back in the day, when dinosaurs roamed the earth and I was young, PE was coed.  For some reason the powers at be thought coed PE would be fine, and as an added stroke of genius they put 120 of us in the same class.  

We would dress out, sit down in 4 lines of 30 kids and the two teachers who were in charge of us would put us into teams.  During this little story we were learning to play rugby.  Why anyone would think teaching coed 14 year olds to play rugby en mass would be a good idea is beyond me, but that's how it was.  

The field was divided into four separate games by orange cones.  I have no memories of the rules or rugby or of actually playing.  I remember wandering around at a leisurely pace hoping that gym would be over soon.  The two PE teachers walked on the outside edges of all four games, one on each side of the field, blowing whistles and shouting things I could neither hear, nor understand.

PE was one of those classes where everyone was thrown in together.  Jocks, nerds, cheerleaders and weirdos -- we were all playing rugby.  I had a childhood friend in the class with me.  We'd spent K-5th grade together and then separated during Jr. High, only to find ourselves in the same PE class.  Looking back on it now, she was cool before anyone knew how to be cool.  I remember her dark dramatic clothes, and wide sweeping gestures -- an artist in a sea of madonna wannabes.  She was above us, and we did not understand her.  I was intimidated by her, and frightened that if I hung to closely with her, the "cool" crowd would think I was a weirdo.  I was really intimated back in those days, and not ready to boldly embrace the real me.  Anyway, for whatever reason, I would only give Jana the briefest of nods in the hall.

Then came the day of days.  We were on the rugby field, and this really weird, creepy, kind of scary kid, picked up an orange cone, and began to use it as a megaphone.  For whatever reason, he fixated on Jana and began to talk about her through the cone.  He said vile, disgusting, humiliating things - broadcast for all the world to hear.  Jana shrunk into herself, and everyone else stood silent.  I'm not sure what came over me -- except maybe I was already tired of letting others dictate my actions, or maybe it was the way I could feel what Jana was feeling -- alone and humiliated, but I found myself face to face with Weird Guy.  I pulled the cone from his hands and told him, "Shut up."

Which is when he punched me in the jaw.  True story.

I felt my jaw pop, and thought, "Oh, crap!  I just got my braces off!"  My second thought was, "I can't believe he hit a girl!"  Which is what I said out loud to him in utter shock, "You hit a girl?"  I don't really remember pain, just surprise.

And then I kicked him as hard as possibly could, where my father had always told me to kick a boy who tried to hurt me.  I kicked him really, really, really hard.  He fell to the ground and turned kind of green.  Now, I don't have the equipment but I've been told that being kicked like that is quite painful.  The PE teacher came charging right through the middle of all the games then because she'd seen me kick him.  

The only thing she had seen was me kick him.

It is a testament to his weirdness that the only thing the PE teacher said to me was the following:  "I saw you kick him.  Are you alright?  What did he do to you?"

I remember nothing else of this incident.  I've asked my parents about it, and they say that yes we all met with the principal about it.  They tell me yes, it was a very big deal.  Yes, they all made sure I felt safe at school, and I think I might have even been switched out of that PE class.  But I remember none of that.  I don't even remember leaving the field that day, or how I answered my PE teachers question.  

I can, however, TO THIS DAY, remember the look on Jana's face as he spoke and no one moved to defend her.  It lives with me.

Alright, now here's where the story gets, kind of creepy.  Weird Boy drops out of school when we are all in 10th grade.  He is gone, and we all feel a little more comfortable until spring of our junior year when he is arrested, tried and convicted for the rape and murder of a 6 year old girl.

And that is the story of the time I get hit in the jaw by a murderer. 

I really wished I kicked him harder.

Sleep well.

--Jen

This is who I kicked, although he didn't have the tattoos at the time.

This is who I kicked, although he didn't have the tattoos at the time.