Once I got her screaming, I realized I had entered my first bona fide after school fight. Her name was Julie and she was grade eight, light years ahead of my neighbor Andrea and I in both social status and cup size, but damn if I was going to stand there and watch as her brick-flat palm slapped across Andrea’s face yielding a spray of blood and tears.
Like most fights, the bad-mouthing started on the school bus. Round about Mountain Park, Julie was on a roll, dissing my latest copy of Sixteen magazine with sophisticated cussing and some ungodly measure of lip curl. I might have known the meaning of what she said if I’d only attended public school all the years prior, but it was Andrea who knew, and Andrea who translated for me, and Andrea who agreed that Julie was nothing but a home-perm, test-cheating, meal-ticket-stealing, phony. And besides, what did Julie know about Sixteen magazine? Her mom wouldn’t even let her read it.
The scariest part was when Dana, our bus driver, grabbed my backpack before I dropped down the steps and looked me in the eye, saying: “You guys gonna be ok?” like he knew exactly what was coming our way. Already, Julie was waiting across the street, hip cocked. After that, adrenaline kicked in and precise detail was lost on me.
We scuffled in the side parking lot of the apartment complex where Julie lived, and the slap that nearly unhinged Andrea’s braces and sent me into a rage had no witnesses. The other kids who got off at our stop had turned up the street already. No body seemed to be around where Julie lived, and Andrea and I still had a good half-mile to go before we got to our street.
I went for the only thing I could grab while keeping a safe distance from Julie’s flapping arms: her precious, ivory, loose-knit, sweater that, as fashion trends dictated, hung below her butt and was about as baggy as a garbage bag. She retaliated by snatching at my Espirit school bag, which I quickly slung off. By then, Andrea was on the run, not bothering to look back and witness my heroic defeat of our neighborhood bully, but if she had, she would have seen precious Julie wrapped so tightly in the jumble of her own sweater, arms tacked to her sides rendering her defenseless, throat tossed back in exasperation as she cried out repeatedly: “Let go of my sweater!”
“Hah!” was the only thing I could think to say. And “hah” and “hah,” the two of us dancing wildly between parked cars, each stitch of her sweater stretched beyond proportion—not unlike my sense of power for that brief, undisputed, gloriously powerful moment.