Once when I was in the fifth grade, I was a complete asshole – by accident.
In the way many soon-to-be middle schoolers (and youngest of five children) can behave, I am sometimes obnoxious and attention seeking. Generally, I try to stay out of my parent’s hair and spend as much time outside as possible.
We live on a cul de sac in a newish developed area of Nashua, NH. Our street is right off the main road, splitting the neighborhoods into bigger and better up the hill to the east vs. older and let’s say, classic, down the hill to the west. I go to Bicentennial elementary school a mile up the hill but another, closer school is just a few blocks from my house. So, because of its proximity and frankly, lack of a hill to get there, the neighborhood kids often hang out at the park across the street from New Searles elementary.
One spring afternoon, a group of us meet up to play a game of kickball. I get to the park and guess who is center of attention, handing out instructions and picking teams? David Kelly. David is annoying. Not just because he lives in an enormous house up on a hill that we have to pass by on the bus every morning, where someone inevitably shouts out “Ooh, David Kelly lives in that mansion!” (Also, how do we know what a mansion looks like, really? Then again, I do go to school with kids who own horses, so…)
Anyhow, David had dark hair and wears those stupid boat shoes that preppies wear without socks. And because I’m at an age where I both want to be like everyone else and realizing I never will be, his whole presence bugs the shit out of me. What is most annoying about him, though is his air of superiority. He isn’t a natural born leader, he just assumes he should be in charge. I have these feelings and thoughts, but don’t completely understand them or know what to do about it.
To be fair, I am also annoying. I really like hanging out with the boys and I don’t like that they suddenly don’t want to hang out with me anymore. This is around the time I’m told I can’t play touch football anymore. Something is changing and no one is going to honestly explain why we can’t keep playing together.
I become angry because David says I can’t be on either kickball team but I can be a cheerleader instead. (There is so much to unpack here but suffice to say I did try cheerleading in the 9th grade for one season of football so I could ride home at night on the bus with the boys from Away games.) He makes a joke about me while he’s standing on top of a wooden piling. There are a bunch of them that serve as the perimeter for the park. The pieces of round wood pilings are about the perfect diameter to fit two school children’s feet. We’re all messing around on them, jumping from one to another, and at some point I get pushed off, so I’m pissed. David is acting like he’s King of the Jungle. I’m back on the ground at this point, standing behind him while he’s laughing, maybe at me, and I think, Well, I’m going to push him off, too. I’ve been taking ballet and gymnastics for years, so I have a really good long-leg kick on me. I’ll just give a little karate kick to the butt and he’ll lose his balance. It’s like pushing him off but I don’t want to actually touch him with my hands because he is a gross boy. So, I go to do said karate kick on the butt except that day, for some reason, my legs fail me (or perhaps I could never kick as high as I imagined,) and I end up kicking him in the back of the knees instead. He buckles immediately and falls on the piling… no, falls down the piling – his back scrapes from butt to shoulder blades down the round edge. As soon as it happens, he starts to scream and I realize that I have done something very, very bad. I recognize real pain in his voice and someone is yelling to get an adult, someone’s parent is nearby, and someone else is asking if we are supposed to call an ambulance. And I run. I run faster than I have ever run in my life, back to my street, back to Clydesdale Circle, back home. Except I don’t want to go home because I’m already terrified of what is to come. They couldn’t have found out yet, could they have? So I go to my friend Laura’s house, first one on our street. She has this trailer in her backyard. A camper trailer, the kind you attach to the back of a car and it pops out on both sides. When her family isn’t camping, they have it set up in the backyard, so I run into it and start yelling for her to come out of her house. She comes in and I quickly explain everything that has happened so far. As we’re sitting there, we hear sirens, specifically a siren driving right by the trailer, which slows as it takes the turn down New Searles Rd. Laura is debating whether to call in her Dad and the next thing I hear is the screech of my Mom’s voice, calling my name from our back porch a few houses down.
“Chris!!! Christine Elizabeth O’Donnell, come home RIGHT NOW!!!”
I seem to have blocked out the rest of that night. On Monday morning, David arrives at school with a whole pillow set up – for his butt and his back. There were hundreds of little splinters that took hours to remove! He might be scarred for life! He’ll never be a professional athlete now! This is what I hear the kids whispering. They bring in the nurse a few times a day to check on him, and make sure he’s medicated for pain relief. Everyone continues to give me the dirtiest looks. Dirty, dirty looks. Even my 6th grade teacher is disgusted with me (I heard he was later convicted of gross inappropriate behavior that had been going on for years, but I digress.) Shame. Shame. Shame. That was the repercussion for thinking I could one-up David Kelley and embarrass him but instead accidentally maim him, possibly for life.
I was a total accidental asshole that day, and David, I am truly sorry.
(Except you WERE being kind of a dick to me but still. Sorry. Really. Inexcusable.)