This is going to be another of those confessional posts. You can either read it or not. You can take it on board or ignore it. I'm not even sure why I'm writing this; it's just a distasteful memory that came to me earlier today, when I was feeling melancholy.
I remember the first real fight I ever had. I was about fourteen years old, playing football with some friends outside one of their houses. Some other kids I knew from school approached us and told me that one of their number wanted to fight me. I didn't know him; I'd never even seen him before. But he wanted to fight me.
I didn't want to fight. I was playing football. I didn't even know if I knew how to fight, not for real. After about half an hour of these other kids trying to convince me to fight and calling me a chicken, I got pissed off and said Yes, okay. I'll fight him.
I walked out of my friend's garden and into the middle of the road. This other kid was tall - much taller than me. I'm short now, but I was even shorter then. I remember him coming at me, swinging wildly. I threw a couple of clumsy punches, and then it developed into a huddle. We both went down on the ground - I think I might have tripped him. I remember the impact against the tarmac; I remember I was on top. I was holding him down with my right hand, so I threw a punch with my innefectual left. The punch missed its target; I struck the road surface instead of his face, scraping my knuckles. I remember hearing somebody laugh. Then time seemed to stretch and distort. I swapped hands. I started punching him in the face with my right. He didn't fight back. I had him. After a while, I stood up. He stayed down, clutching his face. I kicked him a few times - in the body, not the head. Everyone else was quiet. Then, not knowing what else to do, I walked away, picked up the football, and went home.
I saw the kid the next day at school. People kept coming up to me asking if I'd seen his face, and did I really do that to him? He claimed that it hadn't hurt, that my punches were soft. So I approached him in the school yard, and called him on it. His face was a mess: all lumps and scratches and fresh bruises. One of his cheeks was swollen from my punches. There was fear in his eyes. He told me he hadn't said those things. He was so tall, but in that moment he was smaller than me. When I asked him if he wanted me to hit him again, he shook his head and walked quietly away.
The most disturbing thing to me now, as I look back on all this, is the memory of enjoying the fact that I'd done so much damage to his face. I'd marked him. I hadn't wanted to fight him. I'd even tried to talk my way out of it, but he and his friends had refused to back down. They'd wanted violence. So he got hurt. I hurt him. And that felt right. It felt just. There are consequences to everything we do and say. I knew that, even then. The state of his face was the consequence of him being such a fool.
I learned a lesson that day, but I'm still not sure if I understand what it was.